A No-Build RV is a thing – DIY Conversions Without Carpentry

Diving into full-time RV living can be an overwhelming thought. It is certainly a total life change in a person’s life. But, have you ever wondered if there was a way to take baby steps into RV living. Car camping is one way to ease into the outdoor nomadic lifestyle. That would qualify as one of those baby steps. But, if you are a little more adventurous and want to take the next step, there is the opportunity to do an RV conversion on your own that doesn’t require carpentry. 

There is no manual for DIY RV conversions

A white full-size van that has been converted into an RV.
2014 GMC Savana RV conversion | CheapRVliving via Youtube

There is no manual anywhere that says that in order to move into full-time RV living you have to build new cabinets into an old trailer or bus. Nor does it say anywhere that carpentry skills are needed. In fact, with the ability to turn a wrench or screwdriver, you have every skill needed to turn a van into a functioning mobile living headquarters, without having to build cabinets or fancy walls. 

There is a Youtuber who has a channel called, Van’s Van and Travels. She started out her RV adventure about a year ago. She has a 2014 GMC Savanna. It is a full-size van. The most complex part of her build she had help with. She had a ladder rack installed on top of the van and then bolted some solar panels on that ladder rack. The wires for the solar system were then run inside to her 100 amp/hour AGM deep cell battery, her inverter, and her solar charge controller. The only other notable exception to the no-build DIY RV is that she did have somebody install an automatic fan in the roof of the vehicle. 

The rest of the RV conversion involved no carpentry

The rest of the build was easy peasy and involved no carpentry. She put a large recliner in the back. It’s oversize and reclines fully. So, it is her bed as well. Everything else was off-the-shelf stuff she purchased at the store or online. For example, she has a large 55-gallon chest freezer, a one-burner stove, a twelve-volt capable television, slide-out plastic storage drawers, and a shoe holder that she hangs off the passenger seat for extra storage. She also uses a couple of empty milk crates for storage behind the recliner. Who knew a carpentry free DIY RV was a thing?

Remember, the Youtuber is taking baby steps toward full-time RV living. She wasn’t ready to buy or build a fancy rig. She was, however, ready to start somewhere. And, that’s what she did. Want to see what her van turned out like? The tour of her van is in the video below. It starts at the 6:42 timestamp. Check it out. 

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Insulation is a concern

There is one thing to keep in mind regarding this no build DIY RV conversion. That is that this build is probably not warm enough for winter living. The van owner does not have insulation that can be seen. In fact, a good look in the video of the inside of the van shows bare metal walls. So, if you are considering trying this for winter living, keep proper insulation in mind. Nobody wants to wake up having their nose hairs crystalized, or their toes numb from the cold. Also, if you prefer a proper bathroom, then this is not the setup for you. She uses a 5-gallon bucket lined with bags.

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If your goal is warm-weather RV living and do not mind the rudimentary bathroom bucket, then this no carpentry DIY project might be the next baby step for you. Aside from the solar and battery system, pretty much everything else was off the shelf. This means an easy transition. No manual needed.