Installing a ceiling in your van conversion is one of the easier parts of a van build. For the most they are straight and don’t have the complexity that comes with other parts like walls. The ceiling in a van conversion can also really help add some polish to the build.
From the type of material to use to key considerations, this page is designed to help walk you through your van conversion ceiling.
Van Ceiling Layers
Like walls, the ceiling in a campervan conversion is made up of different layers and there are important things to consider for each of them. Below we dive into the layers and their respective purposes.
The ceiling of a camper van is the most susceptible to heat transfer. Heat rises and can be lost through the ceiling and it is also the part that gets the most direct sunlight and can transfer heat to the inside. Having ample insulation is important to ensure the heat transfer is minimized to maintain consistent temps inside.
The ceiling is the easiest part of the van to frame out. This is also one place where materials can be attached directly to the van support beams. However, there are quite a bit of holes in modern van support beams and we still recommend installing furring strips. More on this below.
This is the visible part that will be seen inside the van. Material options are discussed in detail below. Ultimately the purpose of this layer is to provide a nice finish for the inside.
This step is optional and totally up to you. Coating the ceiling material can add a layer of protection and change the tone to achieve your desired look.
Van Ceiling Materials
There are several options to choose from for van ceiling materials. Here are a few of the common materials used for van ceilings.
This is a great option if you'll be painting your ceiling and the quality of the material is not important. Sheets are large and light so installation can be quick.
Shiplap or Tongue and Groove Planks
This is probably the most popular choice for DIY camper van ceilings. The planks look very nice both finished or bare and give that cabin in the woods feel. Planks can be purchased in 16ft lengths and are flexible for easy installation. Each plank does require fastening so you’ll use more hardware and they are often thicker than most plywood resulting in more weight.
Aluminum Composite Panels
ACP provides an extremely smooth finished surface for that ultra clean look. They also have a foam core that can provide that extra bit of insulation that is crucial in campervan ceilings. Be wary though, these panels can get pricey and quite rigid.
Fastening your ceiling material to the support frames of your campervan is relatively simple. Here are the two options for doing so.
Self Tapping Metal Screws
If there’s anywhere in a van conversion to use these, this is it. The van ceiling supports provide evenly spaced fastening points. As mentioned above, there are lots of holes in modern van support beams so you have to plan a little more to ensure metal is hit.
Wooden Furring Strips And Wood Screws
This is our recommended method. Wood strips ensure ceiling materials can be fastened where needed without risk of hitting a hole in the metal support beam and having to hunt for solid material.
Things to think about when planning van ceiling
Here are a few additional things to consider when planning your campervan ceiling.
Everything you put in your campervan adds additional weight. From the screws to the refrigerator, it all needs to be accounted for. This is especially important for items mounted up high. Adding very heavy things up high can change the center of gravity and impact the handling of your campervan. Using lighter ceiling materials is a good way to ensure your van handles property in corners.
Most van ceilings are flat but ones like the Ford Transit curve at the front. It is important to consider any curves in the ceiling and use a material that can be easily bent to match the curve. Thicker materials are more rigid and will be harder to shape the way you want.
Another thing to consider is where any holes will be located on the ceiling of your conversion. Fans, lights etc should be considered when choosing a van ceiling material and considered when planning.
Check out our DIY Camper Van Knowledge Center for more info to help you with your camper van conversion.