Adding flooring to the van is all about layering:
In a basic van build, you have an insulation layer, then a subfloor layer, and then a finished layer.
The insulation deadens sound and keeps the van warm, the subfloor keeps everything sturdy and flat and allows you to build up from the ground, and the finished layer is what looks good!
Here are a few flooring options and my professional opinion on how to install them.
Step 1: Insulation: Floor insulation is tricky—the more you insulate, the shorter you and your friends need to be. Some people like to frame up the floor and add foam board underneath the subfloor. I would only do this if you are doing a lot of winter camping or if you plan on running electrical wires and plumbing under the subfloor. My guess is that most of you don’t fall into those categories. In my first van, I simply used reflective foil under the subfloor. I could definitely feel cold seeping up through the floor during the winter months, but it wasn’t too bad. Now I start with 2 layers of this stuff: moisture barrier (green side) facing out:
Click on the photos for more product information.
It adds some insulation and helps reduce road noise. This is the best product I have come across but there is room for improvement and if there is another product you like, I’m all ears.
Step 2: Subfloor: Go to the hardware store and ask for 3/4” OSB subfloor. Most vans require 3 sheets. Cut them to fit your floor and and make sure all 3 sections are sitting flat. Get ahold of a piece of scrap 2x4 at about 3-4 ft and a big heavy hammer. I like to stand with my heels on the subfloor and toes on the scrap 2x4 to pound the grooves together. Hammering the subfloor directly will ruin the tongue and grooves.
Step 3: Decision time. Pick your flooring material. I’ve used both laminate and vinyl flooring and they both have their pros and cons. Vinyl is cheap, durable, low profile and super water proof but it’s hard to get clean edges in exposed areas and it’s not fun to work with. Laminate flooring feels more like wood and is easier to make clean edges but it’s about 4x the cost and takes longer to install. Personally, I’m undecided on what I’ll be using on the next van. Either way, pick up your flooring material at the hardware store. You will need about 75 square feet.
Step 4: If you decided to go with vinyl, install it in one big sheet. Cut your sheet to size with an exacto knife then roll it up and apply the adhesive with a trowel. The adhesive needs to sit for about an hour and should start to turn clear-ish before you lay down the flooring. You’ll need this:
Step 5: If you’re going with laminate flooring, some folks like to install it now but I’d recommend waiting until after the cabinetry is finished. This will reduce costs and keep the flooring free from construction debris and abuse. Use a scribe (the gold thing on the getting started page), to cut the boards to shape. Tap the grooves together with a hammer and scrap wood. Cover edges where possible with a base board or 3/4” round trim.