Storage in a campervan is both scarce and sacred. Building as much storage as possible is frequently a top priority to the van converter. Campervan overhead cupboards are a fantastic way to use up an awkward space and create a lot of storage capacity! In this article we will walk step-by-step through an illustrated guide on how to build campervan overhead lockers.
In the 2023 Roaming Home study, we found that 73% of vans have overhead cupboards installed.
I'm Shane, I've been teaching people to convert campervans for years; I'm the author of Roaming Home; The Comprehensive Guide for Converting Your Van Into a Campervan,writer of The Van Conversion Newsletter, instructor of The Van Conversion Course over at Udemy. And full-time vanlifer for 4 years!
So let's jump in and learn about campervan overhead lockers!
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Design the campervan overhead cupboards first
Before hopping into building campervan storage, it is essential that you mock it up on paper or with CAD software first! Here is a full guide on campervan design that will help you get started. I highly recommend Vanspace3D for designing your campervan interior - it's an awesome drag n' drop CAD tool specifically for van conversions.
How to Build Campervan Overhead Cupboards
Campervan overhead cupboards are very common. They are a useful way to fill up an awkward space and give you a lot of storage! So let's look at how to build them!
Step #1: Support beams
First, screw two 2X2 pieces of carcassing timber to the side of the van. These will be the support beams for the campervan overhead cupboards. Make sure to screw these into the vertical furring that holds up your van walls (cladding). In my long wheel-base Ford Transit, these were each 120 cm long. Learn about campervan cladding here.
Step #2: Create front frame
Next, create the front frame for the campervan overhead cupboard. You can use 2X2 timber for this. The length should match the length of the support beams from the previous step.
The measurements I used for the front frame was 120 cm X 35 cm.
Step #3: Cut separators
Then, cut out a few separators from plywood for the overhead lockers - these create different compartments within the locker. Two separators (creating 3 compartments) should be sufficient for each campervan overhead cupboard.
You will need to make four cuts in each separator into which the front frame and support beams will slot. The base of the separator should be 30-40cm (Typical depth of an overhead locker).
Step #4: Attach front frame and separators
Next, screw the front frame to the top of the van; again make sure to screw into the furring that supports the roof cladding. At this point, you should also insert the separators between the frame and the support beams.
Step #5: Install a base for the overhead cupboards
Cut a square piece of plywood to match the dimensions of the underside of the campervan overhead cupboards. Then screw the base into the support beams and front frame.
Step #6: Install an end plate to the campervan overhead lockers
Next, cut two end plates for each end of the campervan overhead cupboards. I used pineboard for this as it matches the 'vibe' of the van.
You can use a scribe tool to get the end plate flush against the wall.
Step #7: Install a door on the overhead cupboard
There are many ways to build a door for your campervan overhead cupboard, you can explore your options in this article on carpentry for campervans. I chose to use a length of pineboard cut to size. I attached the pineboard to the front frame of the overhead cupboard using brass box hinges. I installed magnetic catches to keep the door shut tight when driving, and installed a nice door handle!
Some people choose to also install gas struts to keep the campervan overhead locker doors open while they are using them.
And that's all there is to building campervan overhead lockers!
Here's a quick tip: You're likely going to be building TWO overhead lockers (one for each side of the van), so batch your work when cut lengths of timber!
Don't forget to subscribe to The Van Conversion Newsletter for everything you need to get started with your own van conversion (I'll send you a free wiring diagram when you join).
If you're looking for some guidance with your van conversion, you might be interested in Roaming Home; The Comprehensive Guide for Converting Your Van Into a Campervan. In the 380-page book (or ebook), you'll learn directly from me how to convert a van into your dream home - no prior experience needed!
Until next time,