Vanbuild : how to make a simple bench (weekends #10 and #11)

It’s official, we’ve worked on the van for 3 months now. We started end of September and we are now starting January. A lot has been done but I can’t say we are any close to finishing. Working on weekends and weeknights slows you down and so does the cold. We’ve watched so many youtube videos of vanlifers doing their build in record times but that’s not our case. We are slow but for the best! The results are making us very happy.

Obviously with our recent trip to Mexico and our family visiting us for the holidays, we have not progressed as much as we would have wanted but we are still happy with where we are! Quick update this week on our finished ceiling, our seating bench/fridge box and our side door. If you’d like to know what there is left to do, head to the end of the article !

This article will be a quick DIY tutorial on who to make a box that will be strong enough to hold a 30pounds (15kgs) fridge as well as our weight when we sit on it.


You will need :

  • 1/2 inch plywood (not less otherwise it won’t be strong enough)
  • Nails
  • Hammer
  • Hardware such as hinges and a magnetic lock
  • Paint/Stain
  • Jigsaw

Step by step :

  • Measure your box to size and mark your 5 sides with a pen and a ruler
  • Cut along your marked lines with a jigsaw
  • Sand your plywood for a better finish
  • Assemble each side together using nails and a hammer
  • For a nice sturdy top piece, we suggest you cut the piece at 2 inches so you can install hinges nicely
  • Assemble your top with the hinges and some extra support beams (those beams are made to avoid the screws to go too far through your wood because they are usually bigger than 1/2in)
  • At the bottom of your bow, screw a few support beams that will be the anchor to your floor
  • Paint and/or stain your box
  • Sit on it to make sure it supports your weight!

It’s really that simple. The thicker the wood you use, the heavier and sturdier it will be :). Bobby and I aren’t really tall or big so I would definitely suggest a thicker plywood for bigger people!


Doing the ceiling was not at all the hardest part of the build. It was easy enough to create support beams along the metal around the van (fixed with metal screws) and to fix our stained wood slats on top of it. The only real challenge we encountered here is that the ceiling is not the same width at the front and at the back of the Promaster. I don’t know if people have the same issue with other van models but it’s ok. Obviously, our last slat had to be MEGA CUSTOMED. We had to take measurements every 5 inches to make sure we would follow the natural curve of our walls. Only that last piece took us a while and a lot of sanding but it’s all done now.


Also we finished our side door ! We gave it a farm-ish vibe with white paint and black screws. I really like it! What do you think?

To fill the hole in your side door like this (and avoid paying a lot of money to add an extra window), you will need 1/4 in plywood and some framing lumber. First, you’ll have to create a frame supporting itself on the metal of the door (picture 1). Then you should insulate the area (picture 2). To cut your wood panels to size, we suggest making a template (we did ours on paper) and cut along your template with a jigsaw.

The next step is to sand and paint your pieces in white to then fix them to your frame. We chose to do 3 pieces, not as an act of genius, but because we are trying to reuse as much wood as we can from what we already have. In that case, we had a 22in x 4 feet board and our window is 24in by 4 feet. To account for the 2in missing, we created a frame (1 piece at the top + 1 piece at the bottom) that would allow us to make the whole construct strong and secure.

That was a quick article but we are heading into planning what we have left to do in the van :

  • Shelving/cupboards (1 over the bed, 1 over the kitchen and 1 under the bed)
  • Partition wall between the cab and the kitchen
  • Kitchen space (including water system and stove)
  • Table (in front of the bench)
  • Hammock chair
  • Flooring finish
  • Garage layout (shower on the back door, space for extra water/gas containers etc)
  • And of course a ton of small finishes (curtains, covers for metal parts we might not care to see, decoration, painting…)

As you can see, we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel but we still have a lot of work to do!


Bobby and Coco

Pin it on Pinterest !

2 responses to “Vanbuild : how to make a simple bench (weekends #10 and #11)”

  1. Can you please provide more info about this fridge. (I have the same and need some parts, so maybe can find that in the same place you bought it). Thank you in advance

    Liked by 1 person

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