We're an affiliate.
We hope you love the products/services we recommend on Just Van Life! So you know, there is the possibility we will collect a commission should you make a purchase via any of our links. This will in no way affect the purchase price. Thank you for your support, we really appreciate it!
When doing up a camper van conversion there are a huge number of decisions to make. The choice available can be overwhelming at times, especially when you factor in how many different choices need to be made.
We have rounded up a selection of the most popular flooring material choices for you. We have weighed the pros and cons and told you what to look out for when making your decision.
What Do You Need To Consider When Choosing A Flooring Material?
There are many things to consider when choosing what flooring material to use in your camper van conversion. Many people will solely consider the aesthetic they are after, although this may not lead to them choosing the most practical option.
You must consider the durability of the flooring material. You will be walking and standing on the flooring a lot, and it cannot break under the pressure. You should also think about how much moisture the material will absorb, as this can affect the structural integrity of the flooring.
The weight and thickness of the material should also play a role in your decision. Your camper van can only hold up a certain amount of weight, and you need to factor in the weight of the flooring into your calculations.
As well as this, you need to consider the height you will lose on the inside of the van as a result of installing the flooring. Some floor types need a subfloor installed too, and this will further reduce the height available.
Particularly if you walk around barefoot a lot, you will need to see how your chosen flooring feels underneath your feet. Do you prefer flooring that is warm or cold to the touch? Do you need slip resistance or cushioning?
You should also take into account the R-value of your chosen flooring material. This is a measure of how well the battier resists the conductive flow of heat. This is occasionally written as RSI value too. The higher the R-value of the material, the better it will insulate your van.
The final consideration is your budget. How much money are you willing to spend on the flooring material? Be aware that purchasing your cheapest option is not always smartest, as they can be poorly constructed and may need replacing much sooner than a slightly pricier option.
Prepping The Floor
The first step to laying a new floor for your camper van conversion is to pull out all of the seats, the underlying rubber mats, and the hardwood subfloor panels. You will then need to clean the exposed floor of the van and check for any damaged areas. Keep an eye out for cracks, holes, and rusted areas.
If you notice any of these, now is the time to fix the problems. Laying flooring on top will only make it harder to repair the damages later down the line. It’s often a good idea to fix the flooring by welding.
If you keep hold of the original wooden subfloor and rubber mat, and they are still in a good condition, you can replace these in the van. If they are not suitable for use, you will need to create your own versions of these before installing your flooring material of choice.
Why Do You Need A Subfloor?
A subfloor lies underneath your flooring of choice and provides a solid, level surface for your flooring to rest on. It is best to use ½ to ¾ inch plywood for this task. You should run furring strips underneath and fasten the subfloor to the metal base of the van.
The furring strips allow room under the flooring for insulation. This is good if you plan to use your van in colder climates.
Without the installation of a subfloor, your flooring is likely to crack, warp, or lift up. The subfloor will also help to protect your flooring from any moisture on the base of your van which could allow mold to grow.
Carpet is a popular floor covering choice in homes, so it would make sense that it could be used in a similar manner in a van conversion. It is cheap to purchase offcuts of carpets that can be patched together to make a whole floor covering material.
The downside to carpet is that it can be difficult to clean. If liquids are spilled on the carpet the fibers will absorb the moisture and it can be almost impossible to restore the carpet to its former state. Damp carpet can also quickly become very smelly.
A great alternative that allows you to get the best of both worlds is by installing a small rug. This can be removed and shaken out to remove debris, but will still provide you with some cushioning for your feet.
This comes in the form of a continuous roll of vinyl. You will need to cut it to size prior to installation and glue it to the ground. There are no seams throughout the flooring, making the barrier impervious to water.
It is cheap to purchase and relatively lightweight. It is a durable choice, although less so than luxury vinyl planks/tiles.
As the flooring is all one piece of material, it can be highly inconvenient to do spot repairs without ruining the entire floor. You will need to use an adhesive substance to attach it to the ground, which can be messy.
You should opt for one with a low VOC (volatile organic compound) content, as this will reduce the toxic fumes in the air.
Laminate flooring tends to be relatively cheap to purchase, making it a popular choice for van conversion flooring. It is very hard-wearing and durable. It is also super simple to clean and does not require the installation of a sub-floor layer.
There are a large variety of designs to choose from, allowing you to style your floor however you like.
Laminate is not known for being particularly water-resistant. The flooring is very susceptible to absorbing moisture which forces the material to swell and begin to grow mold. It is also a lot slower to install than other flooring options, such as vinyl.
Cork is a funny material, in that it is soft yet durable and solid. It is incredibly environmentally friendly and a very sustainable flooring material. If you are looking to renovate your van in an eco-friendly manner then cork is a great choice for flooring.
It has an R-value per inch of 3, basically double that of vinyl. This makes it highly insulative for sound and heat. It is also a material that is resistant to fire, water, bugs, and mold.
Cork is a pricier material than most, but as the floor area of a van is limited it may not matter. You can purchase cork in sheets that are simply glued onto the floor, or planks with tongues and grooves allowing them to interlock.
You must seal cork prior to installation to prevent it from incurring damage throughout its lifetime. It is likely that you will need to reseal your cork flooring approximately once every 2 years.
Interlocking Foam Tiles
These are similar to the tiles you will see in gyms and children’s playgrounds. They are not the most aesthetically pleasing flooring option, but they are incredibly easy to install. The tiles are also cheap to purchase and very lightweight.
These tiles can be wiped and vacuumed easily, making cleaning and maintenance a breeze.
Luxury Vinyl Plank Flooring
This product is also sometimes referred to as luxury vinyl tile. It can come in a variety of designs, meaning it is easy to choose a style that suits your aesthetic. Some come complete with a tongue and groove design, making installation a breeze as there is no need for an adhesive.
This is known as a floating installation. The tongue and groove design will also prevent moisture droplets from seeping underneath the floor.
You can also find versions that are installed by peeling the backing off and sticking them to the ground. These are about the same level of difficulty to initially install, but much harder to remove. They are also made using pre-consumer materials, making them a less environmentally friendly option.
You should take note of the wear layer of the luxury vinyl planks you opt for. This is the upper protective coating of the material. The thicker this layer is, the more durable (and expensive) the flooring will be.
Rubber is a thick and durable material. It provides a lot of insulation from heat and sound and is not too much trouble to lay in the van.
The downside is that the thickness of the material makes it very heavy. If you are nearing your van’s weight limit then this is likely to push you over the edge.
Linoleum is a non-toxic, anti-microbial, and hypoallergenic flooring material. It is also water, fire, stain, and static-resistant. You can purchase linoleum flooring as a glue-down floor type, or in a form that can be installed in a floating manner.
This material does not emit any VOCs, making it a better choice for your health. Linoleum is also made from naturally renewable materials, meaning it is a more eco-conscious flooring material.
Linoleum is not a very durable material and can easily sustain damage from dents and scratches on the surface. If you are regularly exposing the floor to sunlight, you are likely to notice the color beginning to fade. Some linoleum has a protective coating that is designed to prevent this from happening.
Linoleum is a material that cannot handle moisture well. It is very susceptible to absorbing moisture meaning that it is a poor choice for humid and wet regions.
Hardwood flooring is a truly classic and timeless flooring option. If aesthetics are your only concern then this is a fantastic choice to add a touch of class and luxury to your van. It will also remain warm when you touch it, making it a great insulator for the wintertime.
If you have other considerations, you will quickly come to realize that hardwood is probably not your best flooring choice. The flooring is very heavy, which can massively weigh down your van and reduce your overall fuel efficiency.
As well as this, hardwood can quickly become scratched and dirty. Van life is tough on the flooring, and hardwood may not stand up to this well.
Hardwood can also absorb a lot of moisture. This can cause the planks to warp, swell, and bow, ruining the flooring of your van. It is a thick material that will add a lot of height to your flooring, making the interior of your van smaller. It is also typically much more expensive than other flooring options.