Last Updated on December 31, 2020
Anyone working in the trade industry who drives a van will know the concept of racking.
For those who are unsure, it is essentially creating shelving and storage units within the interior of a van’s storage area.
This is particularly useful for keeping your tools organized and helping to make you work more efficiently.
They are remarkably easy to fit and you do not need to be a talented carpenter to make them.
If you struggle or do not know how to proceed, we suggest contacting a carpenter or van conversion expert.
What do you need to consider?
Building storage areas inside your van will mean that you are constantly transporting a heavier load than your van is used to. Vans are made for transporting heavy loads and tend to be able to carry somewhere between 500 and 800kg.
While breakage is not a major concern, your fuel consumption will increase the heavier your vehicle becomes. If you are on a budget or have poor fuel efficiency, this is a factor to consider.
It is important to ensure there is even weight distribution in your vehicle. This will reduce the likelihood of damage being incurred. It will also help to protect the suspension of the vehicle.
You need to be careful with what you install in your vehicle. Your van insurance and employee liability insurance can be invalidated if the racks are not compliant with safety standards.
We advise calling your insurance provider before you begin to rack out your van. This will ensure you do not end up having to pay out of pocket.
What do you need to transport?
Before you begin construction we advise sketching out a rough plan of your racks.
Take note of what you need to transport regularly and build accordingly.
If you have a lot of long tools we suggest starting by dedicating an area to these.
Maintenance and Organization
Pay attention to what you use regularly. These should be easily accessible. If there are any tools that require waterproofing or additional protection, ensure there is storage space for them according to their needs.
You should measure out the interior of your van and design the racking accordingly. It should be easy to organize and clean as necessary.
It is wise to store heavier tools and supplies close to the doors. This will make it much easier to remove and replace as you use them.
What material will you use?
Wood and aluminum are the most common materials to build van racking from, but steel is also used.
Wood is the easiest to customize and construct with but is much heavier than the metals. Wooden racks are usually made from 1 or 2-inch plywood.
Aluminum racking is very light but this often comes with a high price tag. They can be adjusted and welded in place. This means that if you need to adjust your design after construction, it is easy to do.
Steel is a much cheaper option than aluminum and will last for a long time. The only problem is that like wood, it is a heavy material – around 10-15% heavier than aluminum. It is also very flexible.
Flat bed with rear and side-door access points
There are many different ways to go about this, but the basic concept is the same.
You will need to use something such as long plywood planks to line the base of your van’s trunk. This is then covered in flat planks of wood to create a higher flooring unit with space underneath.
If you need extra space to store awkwardly shaped tools, such as long spirit levels, lay these on the floor and create storage areas around them. Build these up to the height you require.
Screw a flat, false floor of plywood on top in sections. Leave some areas unscrewed to create removable panels for additional storage.
Make use of Construction Scraps
If you have any loose sections of PVC piping, consider gluing these to a scrap plank of wood to create a storage pot.
This could be used for brushes, tubes, or anything that could easily get lost.
Vanguard Storage Boxes
These are fully lockable boxes and often have additional security measures such as anti-jimmy systems.
They will help to prevent your power tools from being stolen out of your van as you work.
You can add many customized aspects to your van racking.
A good idea is attaching some spring clips to the walls that can be used to hold a multitude of items.
Some ideas are loose worksheets and screwdriver storage.
Pre-built or Complete DIY
You can purchase van racking that simply needs installing, or you can make your own fully personalized racking from steel, wood, or aluminum.
There are benefits to both, but if you have the necessary skills and time, we highly recommend making your own racking.
This will dramatically increase the storage space in your van by allowing you to store awkwardly shaped items on the roof.
You will first need to clean the roof so that the roof rack stays on well. The roof of your van is likely to have channels in the top. These may have holes already drilled to attach roof racking. They will likely be filled with plastic caps to keep rain out.
Cover the channel where the racking will sit in mastic sealing tape. This will keep the interior of the van sealed from water damage. Insert a T-Bolt into each hole, the head running parallel to the side of the van.
When the bolts are all aligned, push a length of 2N aluminum profile to the roof of your van. Ensure the bolts fit through the holes in the aluminum.
Twist each bolt 90 degrees from the inside of the van to lock them into place. Secure with a nut and large washer and repeat along the length.
This should pull the aluminum tightly against the roof.