I converted my 2011 Toyota Sienna minivan into a beautiful camper for long-term road tripping and future van life. In this entry, I want to provide step-by-step instructions (as best I can) for anyone wanting to borrow from this build. I've also included a price breakdown and a supply list below. In addition to this post, check out my YouTube video of this build for visual instruction.
Instructions For Build
remove third row seat with socket wrench
removed third row seats belts and seat belt assemblies
remove second row seats (these just pop out, no wrench needed)
The rest of the original van construction is intact, and the build is constructed on top of it.
To avoid removing the seat tracks for the second row seats, I built a platform flooring using the 2x4’s as support. See video for placement of 2x4’s.
Once 2x4’s are in place, the cargo areas needs to be built out BEFORE the main flooring is put down.
For the cargo area, I placed crossbeams horizontally and vertically along the compartment that used to hold the third row seats (constructing a support skeleton to hold the flooring and maintain the storage space).
Lay one 4ft x 8ft full sheet of plywood down over the main floor area. This will cover the entire floor of the van, leaving only the side wing areas to be covered (see video for details). Secure plywood to 2x4 support beams with wood screws.
For the side wing areas, make a template out of cardboard, and then, using a jigsaw, cut out pieces of plywood to match. Secure plywood to 2x4 support beams with wood screws.
Measure out and cut two square openings over the cargo space using a jigsaw. Keep the pieces, though, as those will be the doors of the cargo area.
Lay vinyl flooring (I used a one-piece flooring so as to avoid peeling) and secure with double-sided carpet tape. For the side wings, use the template you made to cut out the wings to cut the flooring to size.
Install hardware on cargo doors and attach with hinges. Congratulations! Your camper now has a completed floor.
A note on the overall build: essentially, I constructed a shell that fits over the original van. The shell will support itself (for the most part) once constructed. Don’t worry, at this point, about how the walls will stay up. They will, keep building.
Using cardboard, cut a template for the walls of the camper, marking off where to cut the holes for cabinet doors/shelving/windows (see video for details). Note: the walls are not symmetrical, so you will need to tweak the templates a bit. I did fine just having the one template and adjusting it accordingly, but you could make one for each side if you wanted.
Using the jigsaw, cut your templates out from the plywood.
Shelving: I decided to cover over one of the rear windows, so I built two different boxes into the walls. The passenger side is fully enclosed with a box shelf made of plywood that attaches to the main wall via wood screws. The driver’s side is half-enclosed, leaving the window open to allow light in. Same setup, the shelving is attached directly to the main wall via wood screws.
Once shelving is attached to walls, stand the walls up in their proper floor at the sides of the main flooring. The walls will rest just at the edge of the main flooring. Be sure to push the shelf boxes back into the window caverns in order to ensure a proper fit.
The cabinet is made by creating a large three-sided rectangle with a floor in the center. This rectangle gets secured to driver’s side camper wall and directly into the floor.
Once the rectangle is secured, attach the back of the cabinet as a single piece of plywood that covers the backs of both the rectangle and the length of the wall (see video). This is what creates two cabinets, the one large rectangle and one on the side.
Using a jigsaw, cut out the spaces for the cabinet openings.
Building and Attaching Shaker-Style Cabinet Doors
The cabinet doors are made out of 5/8 in. plywood and 1 in. x 3 in. boards.
To begin, measure the frame of the doors, making sure that the frame overlaps the cabinet opening by 1/2 inch all around. Then cut the boards accordingly.
Using a pocket hole jig, make pocket holes on each of the vertical pieces of the frame at the point where they will align with the horizontal pieces. Line the pieces up square with each other, and using wood glue, press them together.
Next secure the first corner by clamping it to the table and drive the pocket screws into the holes you just made. Wipe away the excess glue. Repeat for each corner of the frame until you have a finished frame.
For the middle of the doors, measure the plywood to fit over the wooden frame you just built. Be sure to leave enough of an overlap to secure the back panel to the frame (using 1’ wood screws).
You’re now ready to attach your hardware to the doors and install the doors on the cabinet.
Sizing and Installing Overhead Wall Supports
Measure the 2x10 board to fit across the horizontal length of the van, just behind the front seats (see video). The goal here is to cut the shape of the top edge of the board to mold to the van ceiling. For that, you’ll need to use a compass.
Once your board fits nicely against the top edge of the van, secure it with screws to the inside molding of the van (again, see video for exactly where I placed these screws. This is one of two areas, the other is the rear of the van to secure the edge finishing, where I screwed into the original van). This support beam should now be secure.
Screw a 2x4 to the overheard support beam you just mounted so that the 2x4 runs down the length of the driver’s side van wall. Screw the 2x4 into the wall in a few places in order to secure the walls to the support beam and keep the entire structure stable. Repeat on the other side of the van.
All that's left now is to apply the wooden planks, or wall covering of your choice, to the walls, and finish off the back edges of the walls (see last section of video for where to attach 1x2's).
3/4 in plywood x 3 panels (2 for wall, 1 for floor)
1/4 in plywood x 1 panel (cabinet)
5/8 in plywood x 1 panel (cabinet door inlays)
2x4x8 x 9 beams (wall braces, cargo support, floor support)
2x10x6 x 1 (front crossbeam support)
1/2 in decorative shelving wood x 1 (cabinet and bookshelves)
wall planks x 3 boxes
jab saw (optional)
sawhorse x2 (optional if you have another way to create a bench to saw on)
pocket hole clamp
hardware for cabinet doors and cargo pulls
1 quart primer
1 quart paint (cabinet doors)
1 quart paint (shelf boxes)
Build supplies (excluding tools)
all wood: $400
planks for wall covering: $60
butcher’s block x2 pieces: $210
vinyl flooring: $80
Jackery 1000 with 2 foldable solar panels: $1700 (but I bought on a special offer and paid $1200)
Alpicool LGT50 version (fridge/freezer combo): $359
note: I already owned all my kitchen/camping gear, so I didn’t make any purchases here for van-specific supplies.
bedding, including mattress covering and decorative pillow: $75
led lights: $20
flower rug: $80 (but I had a discount code, so my cost was $40)
fridge rug: $10
window coverings: $50
all other: $20
*this is definitely a section you can spend much less money on. I’ll talk about this in my upcoming “How To Scale a Van Build To Fit Your Budget” video.
I hope this is helpful. If you have comments or questions about this build, please leave them on the YouTube video for the fastest reply. Happy building!