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Boulder, CO

A guide to the wilderness of the West.

Wood Paneling

I found a bunch of old barn wood for free off of craigslist, restored it, and made it into wood siding.  I wanted the van to feel cozy, like a cabin.  It was way too much work, but in the end worth it.  Or you could just go buy siding/paneling.  The wood paneling looks much better than straight plywood or other lighter plastic materials.  I was willing to sacrifice the weight for the aesthetic.  


  • Wood (search craigslist or find other wood paneling at the lumber yard)
  • Nails
  • Sandpaper
  • Danish Oil


  • Saw
  • Sander
  • Nail Gun

Find Paneling

I found an old craigslist ad advertising a bunch of free barn wood.  The description was vague, and I couldn't get a response through email so I just headed down to the location to look around.  It was a new home build and they had torn the old barn out back down.  I jumped the fence and found a pile of wooden planks.  I sorted through most of it, taking the straight, thin boards.  Score!

Free barn wood

The heist.  I should've taken more.  In the end, this wasn't quite enough.  

prepare paneling

This was the hard part.  The barn wood was in rough shape, and a lot of it was cover in a thick coat of paint on one side.  I needed a planer to thin the boards, but something burly enough to handle a job this big isn't easy to find.  I bought an old planer off craigslist.  It worked alright, but took too long and eventually the knives would dull.  In the end, I paid a carpenter friend to take the boards to his workplace with an industrial planer, which was much faster.  We got them down to about 1/2", a little thinner would have been preferred. Sanding and staining with danish oil followed.  Lastly, using a router and square bit, I put a thin indent on each side of the board to split each panel up.

Old school planer, ripping the boards to size, and the finished product.

Before & After


I needed something to nail the boards into, so I framed out the walls as best I could.  My van is a like a bubble, nothing is straight.  I used strips of plywood and drilled into the frame of the van where I could.  The Econolines aren't set up that well for this.  

This was my first attempt.  You can see where I added strips to try to even things out.  

The other wall.  Much better, even though I didn't panel this wall because the cabinets were going here.  I cut a piece of plywood to shape and screwed into this framing though, which worked out well.

And the ceiling


Starting from the top or bottom, I used a nail gun to install the wood paneling.  Decide where you want breaks in the wall, and make a pattern if you like.  I just went with it, making things up as I went along.  For the ceiling find a friend, it is nearly impossible by yourself. The corners got a bit tricky, but I was able make some angled cuts on the table saw that fit nicely.  

Finish work.