February 21, 2018

Van Life 5: Home Made Cabinets VS Purchased Cabinets

You have three choices when it comes to furnishing your van:  buy ready-made interior components manufactured by your vehicle company, buy units manufactured for home/office use, or make your own.

RB Components for Sprinter Van kits and accessories
Wayfarer Vans for ProMaster van kits and accessories
see your dealer for options available for your make and model

I was fascinated by some video’s posted on the YouTube Channel:  Into The Mystery 13.

These videos shows how to make strong, lightweight cabinets from 1/2″ EPS (expanded polystyrene) foam insulation, and fiberglass screen.  The foam cannot be compressed- it is used underneath concrete in home building applications, but the foam is flexible, and that is where the fiberglass screen comes in.  The fiberglass screen has tensile strength (doesn’t stretch) and it is glued to the EPS foam to create a stronger board.  You can actually use any material that doesn’t stretch or has tensile strength like canvas, aluminum screen, etc.  When adhering the two materials together, it is now strong enough that it does not bend, nor can it compress.  You adhere it together with  Glidden Professional GRIPPER Primer and Sealer.

The down side is that the composite sandwich that you create is bumpy, and it doesn’t hold screws well.  That means you have to plan where your screws will go, and put in pieces of wood into the foam board.  The video shows the details.

He tried a number of variations of this composite foam sandwich, looking for something lightweight that was easy to make.  Some of these trials included:
*Foam, canvas, wood glue.  (didn’t like how the finished product looked)
*Foam, aluminum screen, glue.  (didn’t like using the aluminum screen because it was easy to cut yourself with it)
*Foam, 1/8″ plywood, glue. (didn’t like that you needed power tools to cut the plywood, and it was a much heavier final product)

The final product he chose was the foam board, covered with fiberglass porch screen.  The advantages were that you can cut it with a knife, and you don’t need any power tools.

First, you create a template for your cabinet using cardboard.  Then, you will trace the template onto your 1/2″ EPS foam board, and cut the foam board with a knife.  Using Gorilla Glue, glue the pieces together and use drywall screws to hold it in place while the glue cures.  Replace the foam with wood in the spots you will be putting hinges, etc. that need more strength.  Just glue the wood pieces in.  (see video)

The inside of the cabinet joints are reinforced with 2″ strips of fiberglass screen, adhered to the foam with Glidden Professional GRIPPER Primer and Sealer.  Once that dries, you coat the interior panels of the cabinet with the Gripper, and cover the panels with the fiberglass screen, and put on more GRIPPER until it is well sealed.  Once it drys, you will apply another layer of GRIPPER over the entire screened surface for maximum adhesion.  Once it is all dry, trim excess screen as shown in the video.

Once the inside of your cabinet is made, you will cover the outside surface with GRIPPER, and cover with fiberglass screen, and again apply a coat of gripper over the screen.  Once it is dry, apply a second coat of GRIPPER to the outside screen.  The final step is to trim the excess  screen, and clean up any rough spots.

Make sure you watch the full video for all the details.



  1.  crumple up brown paper in hand size pieces
  2.  mix Elmers Glue and water (40:60 ratio)
  3. different ratios give different looks, so experiment and see what you like
  4. dip paper into glue mixture
  5. place onto your surface
  6. once dry, seal with polyurethane (add more layers for different gloss looks)
  7. SEE VIDEO FOR DETAILS – how to use stain, maps, and other materials for different looks

Counter top laminate can be used as a final layer instead of the paper bag technique.


So, watching these videos got me thinking about building codes for some reason.  I was on the ENERGY.GOV website, exploring different types of insulation and it says if you are using foam board or rigid foam insulation (like the EPS 1/2″ insulation talked about in this post), that …… “Interior applications: must be covered with 1/2-inch gypsum board or other building-code approved material for fire safety.”

The EAA Aviation website has an interesting article on Building Composite Aircrafts, which uses foam insulation sandwiches (among other things) for airplane construction.

Personally, I like the idea of making my cabinets out of foam board and screen.  I like a nice professional look to things, so I think I will opt for a thin laminate or other wall board of some type as the top layer.  It might make it a bit heavier, but will give a nice finish to my cabinets.

8 lbs for a 8 x 12 foot plastic sheet

8 lbs for a 8 x 12 foot plastic sheet


About Angela

Angela Fiebelkorn is a non-denominational minister, and a New Consciousness Teacher affiliated with the Crimson Circle. She has been teaching classes on spirituality and metaphysics since 1996.

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