Many would love to be able to build their own caravan, but how viable is it?
You’re going to be required to know about carpentry, and possibly a bit of plumbing and electrics, but it’s perhaps nothing that an enthusiastic amateur with enough spare time (and possibly an engineering friend) can’t conquer.
Building rather than buying has its benefits: for starters it’s a lot cheaper, and you also get to make it bespoke to your exact needs. Plus, building your own home on wheels entirely from scratch is undoubtable going to bring an enormous sense of pride of accomplishment!
For those looking to attempt it, here are the basic raw materials you’ll need:
• Wheels and an axle
• Galvanised steel
• Angle iron
• Hardwood panels
• Thermal panels
• Multi foils thermal insulation
• Aluminium sheeting
• Marine plywood
• Flexible plywood
• Electrical wiring
• A hitch
And here’s how to build a caravan in 19 steps:
1. Begin at the base. Build a chassis using galvanised sections of steel, with angle iron for reinforcement. Each chassis will be designed differently, however the basic shape rectangle should look something like the image below.
Axles, wheels and towing hitches etc. can be got from most breakers, however one piece of advice is to buy a cheap old caravan (which can be got for around £100). That way you can salvage the fridge, sink, and everything else as well.
2. Mount the axle onto the chassis via a pair of spring hangers, which bolt to the chassis and the spring.
3. Next screw and bolt a pre-treated tongue and groove wooden platform to the chassis. This is similar to the floorboards in your house, however the base of your caravan must be watertight. Marine plywood is more expensive than chipboard, however it’s much more durable and so should be the preferred material. Treat it by sanding and then and brushing with latex paint.
4. Use galvanised steel to make the wheel arches, or buy them from a store (you can get them for as little as £20). Screw them to the bodywork, which may need trimming a bit in order to fit them on.
5. Make and erect the frames from wood. This is one of the trickiest parts and you have to make sure all four walls of the caravan match up before attaching it to the floor, otherwise the whole thing is likely to tumble over like a deck of cards!
Be sure to have a strong blueprint for the design before attempting this stage.
6. Assemble the walls and sections to the frame. You’re going to want to enlist help from neighbours or friends for this part.
7. Clad the inside of the walls with marine ply and then cover the exterior of the frame with insulation panels.
8. Add wiring looms to the walls and feed out a single output where the generator is going to be.
9. Next, add a layer of aluminium to the outside of the walls, which will strengthen and stiffen them up.
10. Add the roof frame to further strengthen the structure. If the roof is curved, you’ll need to add a jig.
11. Construct the rest of the roof. Just like the walls, this should be made of large sheets of flexible plywood on the interior, plus multi foils thermal insulation and aluminium sheeting on the outside.
12. Add metal strips to cover the joins in the aluminium and screw in with soft chrome screws.
13. Add floor insulation, placing the thermal layer on top of the tongue and groove base.
14. Cover the floor thermal layer with sheets of ply, and add carpet (optional)
15. Wire in the electrical fixtures and fittings, like plug sockets and lights.
16. Begin to fill your caravan with all the mod cons you desire, like an oven, cabinets and a kitchen counter, a stainless steel shower tray, a bathroom toilet and a sink etc.
17. Add shelves and cupboards. A tip if you want your interior to look sleek and solid, whilst not spending much money or adding too much weight, is to use plywood. You can iron on edging strips which makes the wood look like solid timber.
18. Fit on the windows and doors.
19. Finally, give your caravan a name, then hitch it to your tow car and you’re away!