A friend of mine recently converted her van into a small RV. She came to me and asked for a solution that would allow her to section off the driver’s seat area from the cabin, creating a room.
We looked at curtains and other ideas; I suggested a sliding accordion door. When we looked at how they function, she agreed. The only problem was, none were manufactured for such a small space. She challenged me to design and build one. I’ll share what I learned with you. It wasn’t hard.
You will need:
- · Accordion door hardware
- · Accordion door track
- · Fabric, if desired
- · General measuring and marking tools
- · General woodworking tools
- · A door latch, if desired
- · General purpose adhesive
- · Metal screws or pop rivets and equipment
- · ½” wide wood for the section frames- we used Oak
- · 1/8″ plywood for the interior of the frames
- · Hinges for the section folds- mortise hinges work best
- · Paint or stain, if desired
- · Wood trim, if desired
- · Wood adhesive
Measure The Space For The Accordion Door
She wanted a door that was mounted on both the top and bottom of the van. Obviously, the measurements were different because the roof of the van curves. She decided to have a solid curtain attached along the curve and the doors would close along an equal distance.
Figure How Many Folds Your Door Will Have
The track that was ordered for the space measured 60″ in length. That’s five feet. Since five is a wonderful number to divide, my friend decided to have door sections six inches wide. That would mean two door sections for every foot, for a total of 10 door sections. She would need to order the appropriate number of hinges and hardware for the top and bottom pivots.
She and I searched high and low for unusual hinges; we were rewarded with nearly two dozen handmade hinges from the 1800’s. She placed them on one side of her door frames and on the other side, she used them in the middle of the frames with modern hinges on the tops and bottoms. The modern hinges were painted to match the frames; they nearly disappear to the eye.
Install The Tracks
The tracks installed in the ceiling and floor of the van with pop rivets. She has a friend who works on RV’s for a living; he was intrigued by our project.
Make certain your tracks are placed far enough away from items to allow the doors the ability to move freely.
Build Your Doors
Each door frame was made using Oak that was ½” thick and cut 1″ wide. We made a rabbet joint on one side of the frames and cut the 1/8″ plywood to size as inserts. Small cove trim was cut to size and placed over the frames to keep them in place.
Place the pivot and pivot lock hardware in the tracks and measure carefully to obtain the right length for your doors. Make a frame from scrap wood first and test your work; if it fails, you can try again. Use that measurement for your chosen wood.
Attach The Hardware To The Doors
The doors were leaned against the tracks with the trim pointing inside the van. Each section was carefully marked for the hinges and the hardware.
The hinges were attached on the inside or the outside of the doors depending on how they were to fold. Throughout the process, it helped to manually move the doors or stack them against the wall as they would be with the doors open. We followed the manufacturer’s directions to attach the hardware; it wasn’t hard.
We attached the hinges to the doors using wood screws. Touch up paint was used to match the screws to the antique hinges.
Attach The Door Latch
We attached the door latch in the center. Two sets of panels created custom doors that rival expensive cabinetry. We put the whole thing together for less than $200.
The doors were stained to match her interior décor. We used scrap wood trim to hide the metal tracks on the roof and floor of the van.
- · Build a standing frame and use fabric inserts instead of wood for an inexpensive and lightweight room divider.
- · Purchase an accordion door or hardware from a used building supply store and save money.
- · Remember, the thinner the panels, the more pivoting hardware and hinges you will need.
- · Build frames using plywood and fabric: you can use canvas fabric as the hinges.
Unfortunately, she will not allow photographs of her van’s interior; she likes her privacy. Anyone can create an accordion door for any space that needs to be separated.
Source: The author of this article has over 40 years of experience in diverse subjects and skills such as DIY, home improvement and repair, crafting, designing, and building furniture, outdoor projects, RV’ing and more.