Tom screws in last pieces of corner van studwork

DIY Van Framing – How You Can Build Strong Timber Studwork for Your Van Walls & Ceiling

| Our Citroen Relay Van Build

What is van studwork?

Studwork or a ‘stud wall’ is usually a timber or metal frame used to give strength to your structure’s walls and ceiling. More specifically, van studwork will offer strength to your van, offering a secure frame to build your interior from and attach it to. For this reason, van studwork is a key part of your build.

If you’d prefer to watch, here’s our video…

Why is van studwork important?

Studwork or framework in a van build is especially important because it provides stability where it may be lacking. In a house, the studwork is important for elements such as walls and door frames, but a house doesn’t move like a van does. In a van, your studwork, and everything attached to it, needs to be able to withstand a great deal of movement. You want to be able to drive with confidence, on a bumpy road or on a motorway, knowing that your home is nice and solid.

How to start your van studwork?

We’ve never done anything like this before so the first step was to figure out where to start…

Firstly, we looked at several other van conversions to see what kind of van studwork they had used. Then we considered what fixtures we’re planning to have which would define the framework or studwork we would need.

We have Nate Murphy’s van build guide too, which is a great place to start. But it doesn’t mean you can’t then customise your build as you go and as you grow in confidence.

It’s great to look at other conversions, but simply copying what someone else has done isn’t necessarily the best option – because they may have a different van or layout.

Close up of a lap joint in the van studwork

Utilise your van’s unique shape

Every van is different and has slightly different internal structures or ‘ribs’ and plenty of nooks and crannies. We knew we wanted to create a framework using as much of these internal ribs as possible, whilst also ensuring that we maximised the space and didn’t build too far into our workable living area. But you also need to consider space for sound deadening, insulation, and the vapour barrier. So, Tom ensured that the timber studs wouldn’t protrude any further than the existing metal ribs.

Top Tip: Vans are not perfect rectangles. To ensure that your timber fits within the contours of your van, you can employ the use of narrow horizontal slices to give them some flex. This means you can use longer pieces of timber, have less joins and greater strength. 

End ceiling piece of timber studwork with narrow slices for flexibility
Tom screws in last pieces of corner van studwork

How we built our van studwork?

  • Tom began by planning where to put the first battens or studs. There were a series of horizontal hollow ribs in the van, so he started with the horizontal studs. Measuring and cutting the lengths and then drilling holes and screwing directly into the hollow ribs. These horizontal studs are the only ones actually attached to the van. Top Tip: Don’t glue anything in until you are 100% happy with the van studwork or framework.
  • Then, he measured the lengths for the vertical studs. Held them against the horizontal studs and marked where they met. He used lap joints to connect all the timber studs, giving the whole frame more integrity and strength. What is a lap joint?
  • Tom used a Bosch mitre saw to cut out the lap joints, then screwed the vertical studs in place. (Still no glue).

Top Tip: Having all the vertical battens span the full height of the frame, (running from ceiling to the floor) means they flex or contour to the shape of the van. This means less joins and added strength to your frame. And, when you fit your wall it will also contour with the van and sit flush with your van studwork. 

Finally, glue your van framing together!

Only once the van studwork was complete, and Tom was happy with how it all fitted, did he go back to glue the frame together. This is important because it allows you room for adjustment and flexibility to change anything. Tom’s confidence grew throughout the process and he figured out slightly different ways to improve his technique as he went. So, leaving the gluing until the end allowed him to replace any studs he felt weren’t strong enough etc.

Tom used Soudal Fix All for any ‘wood to metal’ fixings and wood glue for ‘wood to wood’ fixings. He then used elf-tapping screws to fix them to the wall (ensuring the screws didn’t penetrate the exterior of the van.)

Close up of a corner piece of studwork with glue and screws

Window & mattress recess

Your van build may not require it, but we needed to create a recess in the wall. This is for our small sliding window and for our bed. We needed a little more foot room because we want a double length mattress.

It was important to us that we only have a recess in one wall because any kind of recess means less insulation. We didn’t want it to be a weak point in our insulation, but we wanted a longer bed so it was a compromise we had to make.

Tom used thinner pieces of timber to build another smaller frame within the main studwork. When it comes to attaching the plywood and tongue and groove cladding we can build into that recess to give us a little more length. (More important for 6” Tom than for little 5.3” me.)

Close up of a piece of timber studwork with narrow slices for added flexibility

Bulkhead studwork 

The bulkhead studwork followed the same principle as the walls, except to ensure a flush fit of the battens, Tom had to cut angles into the timber. He also cut narrow slices into the vertical studs to give them added flex to fit the contour of the van. 

Ceiling studwork

For the ceiling studwork we utilised the van’s existing horizontal ribs. We screwed long battens in and connected them to the vertical studwork via angled, corner pieces.

To find the angle you need for the corner studwork, you can either do as Tom did, and slice sections off the end of your batten until it sits flush with your corner pieces, or you can get an ‘angle finder’.

We wanted to ensure that the studwork covered all corners of the van so when it comes to installing our cladding, there are studs in place to screw into. At either corner of the van, the internal ribs are set back slightly, so Tom ensured they lined up with the rest of the corner stud pieces by joining two small corner pieces together. Gluing them with wood glue and then screwing them in place.

At the back of the van we required a length of studwork but a rib didn’t exist. You can’t simply screw upwards into them as this would go through the roof of the van. Instead, Tom screwed through the side into a back cavity in the van.

As with the wall studwork, Tom used Soudal Fix All for any ‘wood to metal’ fixings and Wood Glue for ‘wood to wood’ fixing, then self-tapping screws.

What do I need?

Here are some key products we used. (As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)

Thank you for reading our blog, we hoped you enjoyed it and we certainly hope it was helpful. If you did, and you haven’t already checked out our other blogs, please stick around. Or find our videos on our YouTube channel, where you can leave your questions and comments, and follow our van build series.

FAQs

How do you create a frame for a van?

Start by deciding where you need the most support. i.e. for your bed, kitchen cabinets or cupboards… Then, use the internal metal ribbing of your van as much as possible to secure your studs or ‘battens’ in place, creating a framework to eventually attach your walls, ceiling and fixtures to.

How do you fix wall battens for a van conversion?

We screwed and glued our studwork to the horizontal ribs of the van. Then, using lap joints, we secured vertical studs in place. Screwing and gluing it all in place to ensure it’s strong and stable for building on.

What screws or glue do you use for studs in a van?

We used self-tapping screws, then once we were happy with the framework, we glued all the studs in place with Soudal Fix All for ‘wood to metal’ fixings and wood glue for ‘wood to wood’ studs. 

How do you attach a plywood wall or cladding to a van?

In order to install your walls and ceiling in your van build, you need to build a strong internal frame to fix them to – this is your studwork. This means you can attach your ply lining, walls or ceiling (ply or tongue and groove) securely and build your kitchen cabinets, bed, seats and cupboards and have something to attach them to other than the metal ribs of your van.

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