Van Build | Ceiling

Here is another great chance to add some personal flair to your van. Could be a wacky rainbow tapestry or a cosy cedar paneling, the choice is yours to suit your style!

If you’re a little out there and feel some sort of crazy tapestry is what you desire, setting up a cheap subroof may be ideal as you can cover this in any way you like. This can be done by cutting thin sheets of plywood and securing them to the ribs of the ceiling. Installing a subroof is also ideal if you’re struggling for inspiration. Allowing you to leave the roof bare while continuing with your build. Then finally, when the inspiration strikes, you can return and finish off your personal design.

If you want that cosy log cabin feel, paneling will most likely be the best material for you. A subroof is not required, but that’s not to say it’s out of the question. Although to save weight, you may want to mount the paneling directly to the ribs or use thin battens as studs.

My Design

It’s no secret that we love the snow. Our idea of heaven is sitting in a cosy log cabin with a glass of red (or a bottle), cuddled up around a fire. This made our decision easy, there was no way we could pass on paneling. Although we did have to pass on the indoor fire.

Untreated Pine was the wood of choice as it was the cheapest option and looks great! We used clear stain due to the fact that keeping the natural lightness of the pinewood was our aim. As was mentioned earlier, we wanted to save as much weight as possible. So instead of installing a subroof, we mounted battens along the ribs of the ceiling. This proved a bit difficult when it came to avoiding the cables. We had to make small angled pieces that wedged against the wall.

Battens on the roof

Installing The Paneling

The next step was to cut the first panel, this proved very difficult as well. Measuring the curves of the wall was nearly impossible and cutting proved even harder. Consequently, this took several attempts but luckily we bought a couple of spares! The only resolution to this dilemma seemed to be patience and care.

Once the first panel was installed, the rest just flowed. Measure length, cut, and nail it on. That simple (remember to drill holes for lighting cables along the way). Even cutting around the roof vent was straightforward. Mind you, the cuts don’t have to be perfect as your roof vent will come with a cover to mount on the ceiling.

First panel installed on roof
Roof half installed
finished roof install


As seems to be the trend with our build, there is something we would do differently, and this time it’s staining. We installed the panels before commencing this step as we didn’t think it was necessary, however best practice would be to do this prior to installing as both sides will be coated. Luckily we have had no issues with swelling or any rubbish like that.

Onto the method. First, you will need to cover the nail holes with a suitably coloured putty. With a tip from a friend, we found the easiest way was to use your finger. Firmly, push the putty into the hole and then smooth over. While this is easy to do, it’s also very time-consuming since there are about 10,000 holes! After filling all the holes, we left to dry overnight before staining. This step can be skipped if you aren’t too worried about seeing nail holes or screw heads on the ceiling.

Staining is an easy process. Apply with a standard paintbrush, making sure to follow the grain and allow to dry (we allowed 6 hours as per directions). When it’s dry, the wood grain will become rough after the first coat. Lightly sand with a fine grade emery paper, again following the grain, until smooth. When the ceiling has been fully sanded, re-coat with stain. Continue repeating this process until you are happy with the finish. All up, we applied 3 coats.

Candace staining the roof

The ceiling turned out great and is probably the stand-out feature in little old Percy. Many thanks to our carpenter mate. If it wasn’t for him, We’d still be trying to install the first panel.

This took a total of three days to complete. Mainly due to sourcing the material and waiting for paint to dry… literally.

Finished roof with candace cleaning up

Parts Used:

  • Pine Panelling
  • 10mm Battens
  • Sell tap screws
  • Nails
  • Water based Stain (clear)
  • Putty (pine color)

Equipment Used:

  • Circular Saw
  • Jigsaw
  • Nail Gun
  • Drill
  • Drill Bits
  • Hammer
  • Very fine sand paper
  • Paint brush
  • Tape measure
  • Level
  • Pencil

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