5 of My Biggest Van Conversion Mistakes

By: Scott Adamson
/ March 3, 2023
The internet does an amazing job at showcasing vanlife and van conversions as if it’s fun and easy ALL the time…

If you’re about to kick off a van conversion project, be warned that you are going to make a lot of mistakes and there will be times when you want to give up.

So, in an effort to keep things real, I’m sharing a few of the mistakes I’ve made on my second van conversion (so far).


1. Cutting the Vent Fan Frame in the Wrong Place

I still shake my head when I think about this mistake…

Cutting holes in your brand-new van is one of the more stressful tasks of a van conversion. After mapping everything out numerous times, I found myself cutting my vent fan frame in the wrong place.


In all my excitement of kicking off my van build, I cut my vent fan hole right in the center of the van.  What I completely forgot about was the rooftop carrier I was going to be adding to the van that would mean by vent fan had to be positioned slightly to one side of the van.

All was not lost… I simply extended the hole to the appropriate side and patched the mistake up. I’ll also be using Raptor liner on the roof of the van which will help protect things and cover up my patchwork.  No harm done!

2. Not Using Enough Upholstery Glue

Next up on the list is a mistake I made early on in my upholstery phase. I’m not an expert in this department, so I’m not surprised to have run into a few snags along the way… 

In short, while applying the marine vinyl to my ceiling panels, I didn’t use enough contact cement and eventually, the materials started to separate from the panel. Not a big deal, I know… But it drives me crazy. 

Crazy enough to fix it one day? Probably not…

I consider it a constant reminder that people make mistakes.

And since I don’t want you to do the same, my tip is to make sure you apply a lot of contact cement to both the material and the panel. Don’t forget to wait for it to dry completely before sticking it down, or you’re OCD will never let you forget it.

3. Not measuring my induction cooktop cutout properly

Surprise! Another “measure once, cut twice” mistake.

It was time to cut the hole in my countertop for my induction cooktop. I was sure I measured the cutout properly… Until I went to drop in the cooktop and watch it slip right through the hole.

As it turns out, I traced the entire perimeter of the cooktop instead of the inner frame that would allow it to sit flush with the counter.

To solve it, I had to use some wooden blocks and screws to fix it in place. Again, not the end of the world but something to watch out for.

4. Imperfectly Fitted L-Track

I was always fascinated by the L-track. I mean, it is just so versatile and could be used for various purposes. So, when I had the chance to use it in my Sprinter, I didn’t hesitate.

Those who have worked with it know how hard it can be to fit an L-track as you need to screw it into the van’s frame carefully, or things can get messy pretty quickly.

Although, for the most part, I did well, then there was this one place where I had to drill in bigger holes to make the L-track fit. As a result, the L-track didn’t match the frame and looked pretty weird.

But once I had my things up and hanging there, it covered the imperfection, so I wasn’t bothered about it anymore.

5. Just Enough Door & Drawer Clearance

In my van build, I’ve built a lot of drawers and cabinets across from each other. Once everything was in, I realized that some of the cabinet doors come extremely close to the cabinetry across from it. If I could go back in time, I would measure things out a bit better to allow for a bit more clearance.

Similarly, when I built out some of my drawers and measured everything that would be going inside (such as my cassette toilet), I forgot to account for the width of the door hinges in some cases.

Thankfully I was able to re-work things a bit, but it was a good reminder that when you’re building out a drawer or cabinet and measuring out what is going to go inside, make to consider the space that the cabinet components take, such as the door hinges.


Needless to say, when you’re converting a van yourself, you will find yourself making this face a whole lot:

But, like I always say, if you don’t try to enjoy the process then what is the point of any of this?

I made a few other key mistakes in my van that I break down in this video, so don’t forget to check that out.


Also, subscribe to my YouTube channel for more such content and updates!

Scott Adamson
Wanderful Idea Guy
Coffee drinker, adventure seeker, below average photographer.
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