Best Vanlife Flooring: Vinyl Vs Laminate Vs Hardwood
If there’s one thing every van build needs, it’s great flooring. Your van floor does more than provide a place to stand — it limits noise, prevents water infiltration and keeps you from getting too hot or cold.
Due to the importance of flooring, installing it is usually the first step of any van conversion. If you think this process seems overwhelming, you’re not alone. Installing your van floor is one of the most difficult parts of vanlife. Fortunately, this guide will cover all four steps you need to apply camper van flooring:
- Choosing materials: There are several factors to consider when choosing van flooring, such as cost, durability and appearance. We’ll go over some options to help you decide.
- Insulating your van’s floor: Insulating your van’s floor is essential for minimizing heat transfer, protecting you from extreme weather conditions, and reducing the amount of heat you need to produce to keep your van warm..
- Installing the sub-flooring: The subfloor provides a flat, solid surface to work on and secure your finished flooring to. It also protects the van’s metal floor from scratches.
- Installing the flooring: This is the final step in van floor installation — it involves attaching the finished flooring to the sub-flooring using screws or a strong adhesive.
Once you’re done, you’ll have a strong, polished floor that you can enjoy for years to come!
The Best Flooring for Van Conversion
There are several materials that can be used for sprinter van flooring, each with their own unique pros and cons. Read on to discover the best flooring for your campervan.
Vinyl flooring, commonly known as PVC flooring, is one of the most popular floors for both vans and houses. It’s available in two main types: Luxury Vinyl Tiles (LVT) and vinyl sheet flooring.
LVT is designed to imitate natural floorings (such as hardwood, ceramic tiles or wooden planks). It’s both easy and quick to install, making it the go-to-option for many van lifers. Vinyl sheet flooring, on the other hand, is a large, continuous and flexible sheet of fiberglass, cushion-backed flooring. While it’s not as aesthetically pleasing as LVT, it’s more affordable.
- Highly durable
- Strong stain and water resistance
- Easy to clean
- Available in many styles (such as sheets, tiles, and planks)
- Slide resistant
- Not environment-friendly (usually made of non-recyclable materials)
- Difficult to remove or repair once damage occurs
- Can be expensive (especially LVT)
Should I Get Vinyl Flooring?
If you’re looking for floors that are both practical and aesthetically pleasing, van vinyl flooring is a great choice. This floor type is fairly thin, which means it won’t take away too much space. Moreover, the floor will not lose its aesthetic value or become damaged when exposed to water. It’s best for people who spend lots of time in their vans and need quality and functionality.
Laminate flooring is an inexpensive, hybrid flooring solution that merges a particle board wood base and a transparent wear-resistant layer. It was first developed in 1977 — since then, it’s grown in popularity due to its relatively low cost and durable surface.
- Affordable (costs around $26 per square meter)
- Hard-wearing surface with excellent scratch resistance
- Unique, appealing designs that resemble the appearance/texture of natural wood
- Easy to clean
- Low moisture resistance compared to vinyl flooring
- Can be difficult to install
- Cannot be refinished like natural timber
Should I Get Laminate Flooring?
Laminate flooring is popular thanks to its lightweight material and affordable price point. However, it’s susceptible to water damage and can swell or grow mold when exposed to moisture. If you spend lots of time in your van, or if your vehicle is frequently exposed to water, you might want to avoid this floor type.
When evaluating different flooring options, you may come across hardwood flooring. Although this is a popular choice among homeowners, it’s not ideal for van life due to the following reasons:
- Difficult to install
- Poor water resistance
While van wood flooring may look luxurious, its high weight, burdensome installation process and low water resistance makes it impractical for vehicles.
How to Insulate Your Van’s Floor
If you plan to spend lots of time in your camper van, then you definitely need to use good insulation on your van floor. Designed to reduce heat transmission, insulation will help you live and travel comfortably during harsh climates conditions. Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of insulation and how to apply it to your van.
Does Your Van Build Flooring Need Insulation?
Insulation involves blocking cracks and crevices in your van’s floor to prevent heat from leaving or entering. It offers the following benefits:
- Reduces outdoor noises
- Minimizes heat loss in cold conditions
- Prevents overheating in warm conditions
- Lowers hearing and cooling costs
Without insulation, it will be nearly impossible to travel in harsh weather conditions.
What Materials to Use to Insulate Your Van’s Floor
You can install insulation yourself by gathering the right materials — we recommend using either Reflectix or foam board insulation. Let’s examine both these van flooring options more closely.
Reflectix is a shiny, reflective and flexible insulation material that resembles bubble wrap. It’s usually made of aluminum foil or aluminized polyester. While it’s similar to insulation, it’s actually a thermal barrier — rather than slow down the transfer of heat, it aims to block it altogether.
- Does not degrade with time
- Highly effective in warm climates
- Thin and lightweight
- Non-toxic and non-carcinogenic
- More expensive than other insulation materials
- Can become an electrical hazard (potential for wiring faults)
Foam Board Insulation
Foam board insulation is a strong, rigid insulation material made of foam plastics. It’s generally sold in sheet-form and comes in a variety of sizes.
- Fitted with a reflective foil (which improves insulation properties)
- Can be water resistant
- Has a high R-value (or strong resistance to heat)
- Needs to be installed with a moisture barrier
- Not environmentally friendly
- R-value decreases with age
Which Insulation Material Should I Choose?
Many van lifers have found success with both Reflectix and foam board insulation. The material you use ultimately boils down to your own preferences — foam board insulation tends to be stronger, but Reflectix is thinner and usually easier to install.
How to Install Flooring For Van Conversion
Once you’ve decided on the floor and insulation type, it’s time to actually install your van conversion flooring. Start with the insulation, add the subfloor, then finish things off with either vinyl or laminate flooring. Let’s go over each step in deeper detail.
How to Install Van Insulation
Here’s a brief guide on how to install van insulation:
- Prepare the area: Start by cleaning the van life floor. This involves stripping the carpet and padding, then scrubbing the area. Be sure to treat rust stops and fill any depressions with silicone.
- Fit the floor with furring strips: Furring strips are thin pieces of wood (or a similar material) that help create space for the insulation. Lay them out into a grid, then attach them using screws.
- Cut and place the insulation: Measure the area where you’ll apply insulation, then cut the insulation and then place it into the grid openings.
Once this process is done, you’ll have an insulated van bottom. Of course, you can’t stand on this, so you’ll need a subfloor to go on top.
How to Install a Subfloor in Your Van
The subfloor is the solid surface in your van where you attach finished flooring. It’s usually made of plywood and protects the metal bottom from moisture and mold growth.
Plywood is the most common material used in van subfloors — not only is it durable, but it also has a high strength to weight ratio (which means it can absorb impact without breaking). As an added bonus, it can last for long periods of time. Here’s how to install a subfloor in your camper van:
- Empty your van and clean the floor to remove dust and debris.
- Clean off any rust spots and cover any holes on the van build floor.
- Add a sound dampener (optional).
- Create a cardboard template of your van’s floor.
- Using the template, cut out plywood.
- Transfer the plywood to the van and secure it with bolts or adhesive.
How to Install Vinyl Van Flooring
Are you interested in applying vinyl van life flooring? If so, follow these steps:
- Gather your materials: You’ll need vinyl planks, cutting tools and screws/adhesives.
- Prepare the area: Prepare the subfloor by sanding any uneven spots. If there are depressions, fill them with a floor-levelling compound.
- Measure the area: Measure the floor so you know how much wood you need.
- Apply planks: Cut the vinyl planks to the desired size, then connect the flooring planks from end-to-end using a tongue-and-groove system.
- Arrange the planks: Lay the connected planks on the van floor (be sure to keep the end joints at least 6 inches apart). Cut smaller pieces to cover any protrusions (such as door frames or floor ducts).
- Attach the planks: Once you’ve cut and fitted the final planks, secure them in place with screws or a strong adhesive.
How to Install Laminate Flooring
If you’re interested in applying laminate flooring for camper vans, follow these steps:
- Start the foundation: Start assembling the first row by placing down laminate flooring.
- Begin the next row: Using a saw, cut another piece of laminate flooring in half, then use this to start the next row.
- Secure the flooring: Use a T-lock system to lock the long edges of the laminate flooring pieces together.
- Cover any missed spots: If there are irregular spaces, use a cardboard template to trace them. Then, cut the flooring pieces and put them into place.
Should I Cover My Van Flooring?
So, you’ve applied your insulation, completed the subfloor and topped it all off with your new flooring. What next? If you like the feel of wood, you can leave the floor as is. Alternatively, you can cushion it with one of the following van floor lining options.
Van Rubber Flooring
If you want an inexpensive, quick cover, consider rubber matting for your van floor. You can purchase different van conversion floor mats, then arrange them across the van.
Van Floor Carpet
If you want something more soft and luxurious, consider installing a carpet for your van floor. Keep in mind that this will be more expensive than rubber van flooring.
Enjoy Your Gorgeous Van Floor
There’s no denying that applying new flooring to your van takes time and effort. However, the end result is definitely worth it — a strong, long-lasting and insulated van floor is a must-have for any van lifer.
If you have any questions or need some campervan floor ing ideas, don’t hesitate to reach out. We’re here to help your van adventure to go as smoothly as possible!