Cedarizing and Flooring / by Ray Phung

The last couple steps that went into this van conversion are the wood panels that went on the majority of the van and the flooring.  Both were installed after all the electricity was wired and the furniture built.  I really wanted the overall look to be a "cabin-on-wheels", and I love the look, feel, and smell of wood.  So choosing these finishing looks was easy.


Shopping for flooring, I looked specifically for darker hardwoods to match the walnut counter top and provide a contrast with the lighter colored cabinets and wall paneling.  There are several options for hardwood, including laminates, vinyl, engineered hardwood, and hardwoods.  After getting samples from Home Depot, we decided on Acacia wood.  It's darker colored and has a large, interesting grain pattern, with contrasting pieces in the planks themselves.  I also chose the engineered hardwood, which is really particle board with a wood veneer at the top.  These are cheaper and easier to maintain.  The laminate and vinyl options are even cheaper, but has a notably fake look them.  

To minimize the amount of flooring I would need to buy, I waited until the cabinets and bed were built to install the flooring.  Who needs to have nice hardwoods in a closet or underneath the bed?   I calculated the square footage of the open spaces to be around 27 square feet or so.  The rule of thumb is to add 10% for waste.  I decided to purchase my flooring at Lumber Liquidators. flooring came in a 31 square foot package (vs 19 sq ft packages at Home Depot).  Though cheaper per square foot, I would need to purchase twice as much and have a ton of waste. 

I was originally going to let the floor float (sans gluing or nailing).  However, the guy working at store suggested i glue it down due to the small of amount of wood going in.  Normally in a house, the weight of the floor keeps it down.  I am glad I listened.  When i test laid all the pieces down, i was able to move the entire thing.  Not good for holding up to the rigors of adventure.

Best shot of the floor i could find.

I was too busy dealing with glue to take process shots! 

After laying out and cutting all the flooring, I stacked them neatly in the order they were to go down.  Then, I put an S-shaped pattern of glue on the bottom of each piece and laid them down.  Each subsequent piece snaps together.  I used 1/4" scrap wood around the furniture to ensure adequate expansion gap.  Laying the flooring was pretty easy and was done in one evening.  

Cedar Paneling

Cutting paneling via box miter saw

The cedar paneling came from Home Depot.  This stuff smells pretty amazing.  It was intoxicating cutting and putting it up.  The packs had six, eight foot pieces in it and fit together via tongue and groove.  This stuff is pretty brittle, so be careful.  I definitely broke a few pieces accidentally stepping or kicking it.  Also, each pack had some that were warped, so go through them carefully.  I looked at each pack to make sure all the tongues and grooves were in good shape.  

The paneling took some time to put up.  Each piece had to be cut to size with a box miter saw, pilot holes had to be drilled, and panels were screwed into place.  Earlier in the build (right after Insulation), I attached 1/4" poplar ribbing all over the body using self-drilling wood-to-metal screws.  This was to provide something for insulation, paneling (behind the shelves), and these planks to attach to.  I used 1/2" #8 stainless steel screws and finishing washers to attach the paneling.  In hindsight, I probably should have used longer screws, as some of them had to be replaced by 5/8" screws because the threads didn't reach the ribbing in places.  

On the ceiling, where two pieces had to be joined, I cut the planks to ensure that they attach to at least two points in the ceiling.  After the walls and ceiling were finished, I used leftover scraps to put a face and sides onto the bed.  When all the paneling was done, I had very little waste.  Probably a small bucket worth of end pieces.

Midway through paneling the ceiling

Ceiling Complete! 

Lessons Learned:

  • Learn to use a table saw.  It makes ripping (long cuts) way easier.  
  • Drill pilot holes to prevent splitting thin pieces of wood, and do not over tighten screws
  • When gluing floors, make sure you park somewhere flat. My street is slightly sloped.  When the flooring sat on top of the viscous glue, it started doing a moving-tectonic-plate scenario and started sliding around
  • For paneling, get your hands on two drills.  That sped up the workflow considerably.  One for pilot holes one for screws

Cedar paneling above the bed

Above the sliding door