Ceiling and Wall Paneling – Camper Van Build 4

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In today’s post, I want to show you what we did for ceiling and wall paneling after we completed the ceiling and wall insulation from the previous post. First we chose to go with a Pine Tongue and Groove Plank to serve as our wall paneling. We felt like planks would be much easier to deal with than big 4 X 8 sheets of 1/4 or 1/8 inch wall paneling. The planks turned out to be a breeze, well mostly. 😉

Tools and Supplies Needed

  1. Measuring Tape
  2. Pencil
  3. Pine Tongue & Groove Planks
  4. Circular Saw
  5. Sand Paper
  6. Power Drill
  7. Scissors
  8. Roberts Double-Sided Carpet Tape
  9. Short Sheet Metal Screws (length & weight will vary)
  10. Phillips Screwdriver
  11. Paint Thinner

Astro Camper Van Ceiling and Wall Insulation

After working with insulation for a few days, it was such a relief to do something different to the van. Well, part of the relief may be that installing planks is a fairly easy task and the results are so nice looking compared to a sheet of wall paneling. This is the part of the build where I thought to myself, “Hey, I’m building a van!” The planks really give it a good finished look.

Watch Build 4 Video – Ceiling and Wall Paneling

plank support board

Custom Plank Support Board

In my previous insulation post, I suggested it was a good idea to build up your insulation to the vans beams and ribs. Wall paneling, or planks in this case, should be installed to a flat, straight surface. Could you imagine trying to install a large piece of wall paneling to a curved surface? You need to make adjustments to build up this surface and flatten it out. In our case, we made custom boards to achieve this goal. (See image right)

For my van, we built up the insulation to be even with the center van beam, but when we ran a straight board from the center to the back of the van, we noticed there was a gap. This is why we added the custom support board.

On the front part of the wall near the driver’s seat, we also had to make a custom board with grooves cut out to allow the board to flex with the contour of the wall. It was a little tricky doing it this way and consumed some time, but it turned out great. Remember this when building your van as it may come in handy. I learned this trick from my Dad. Not many vans are perfectly square inside.

plank support board

Flexible Plank Support Board

Now that we have some of the prep work complete, let’s talk about the planks themselves. We found these planks at Home Depot. They are 8 ft long X 4 inches wide and 5/16 inch thick. They are called “Pine Ridge V-Groove Planks” and can be purchased in store or online. Below is a look at the packaging:

ceiling and wall paneling planks

Pine Tongue and Groove Planks

Camper Van Ceiling Plank Installation

Since these planks are 4 inches wide, the chance of you lucking out and getting them to fit perfectly across your ceiling is very slim. You will more than likely have to split one or trim one of the sides to make it fit. We pulled out our trusty measuring tape and checked the width of the van from where the ceiling meets the wall on the driver’s side along the ceiling to where the ceiling meets the wall on the passenger side. I don’t recall this measurement, but it definitely wasn’t divisible by 4, so we would have to do some trimming.

Since we knew we would need to be some trimming, we thought it would be best to start at the Fantastic Fan so we could control how much of the plank would surround the fan. If we started at a wall, we really couldn’t control that as well and might end up with a 1/2 inch piece around the fan which wouldn’t be very strong.

The planks were 8 ft long and my Astro van happened to be just short of 8 ft long in the cargo area, so we knew we could fit the boards in the van with just a bit of trimming. The van isn’t a square box. As a matter of fact, there are many curves within the interior of the van. With each plank we took a measurement on both the front cargo area and the back, then moved over to the Circular Saw for a quick cut.

pine planks ceiling and paneling

We attached the planks to the ceiling ribs with short sheet metal screws. As you may have noticed from the picture above, the van’s ribs were covered with Flex Fix Tape. True, but the metal was easy to find with a quick tap. We used 3 screws per board, one at the front of the cargo area, one attached to the center beam and the third screwed into the back beam. We first pre-drilled the holes with our power drill and hand tightened the screws to avoid damaging the wood.

For more support, we cut 3 X 3 inch squares of the Roberts Carpet Tape with our scissors and attached the tape to the mid points of long runs without a screws. Once again, this tape has done well.

After the first board was attached, we had a “groove” to attach a “tongue” to. The boards go in one way, so there is no way to mess it up. Just attach one board to the next, and on and on. Now that we had the hang of it, we started to just fly through this process. Like I said, this was fun. 🙂

pine planks ceiling paneling

Pine Ceiling Planks Look Nice!

Before we knew it, we had half the ceiling done and we were ready to tackle the second half. The final board, as the ceiling met the wall, was the trickiest. We cut part of the board away to get it to a close fit, but it took some sanding as well to achieve our desired fit which was as close to perfect as possible. That’s just our way. Take a look at the picture below to see what I mean:

pine planks ceiling and wall paneling halfway

Halfway Done with the Ceiling Planks

Once you’ve made it this far, it’s just a matter of finishing the job. Tongue and groove is really pretty easy and I recommend it. Below is what it looked like after a little more work:

pine ceiling plank install final

Working on adding that final plank

For the final board on my van, we couldn’t just slide it in like the other 8 ft planks. We had to cut the board in two pieces to get it to fit because the sliding door rail was in the way. No worries, it still looks great, even with one board cut down to fit.

Also, notice the wiring hanging down in the above picture? Well, we pre-wired the van during the insulation phase and drilled small holes to allow the wiring to hang down for future lighting. Gotta plan ahead. 🙂

Camper Van Wall Plank Installation

The Plank installation to the walls went pretty much the same way: Measure length, cut the board, line the boards up, pre-drill the holes, add the Roberts tape and hand tighten the screws. Simple stuff. Notice in the picture below how our planks are attached to the custom support board on the right, the custom support board on the left and the van’s center beam. It’s all lined up even:

wall paneling planks

The first couple planks on the attached to support boards

We stopped at this point below with the wall planks because we have plans to put a sofa/bed along the wall and we weren’t sure of the height of the bed yet. Hopefully, this gives you a good idea of how we installed the ceiling and wall planks in my Astro van.

wall paneling planks

Finishing up the wall planks on the first wall

Next up: Sofa Bed Build

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12 Responses to Ceiling and Wall Paneling – Camper Van Build 4

  1. Michelle July 28, 2015 at 11:44 PM #

    I’m curious as to why you didn’t choose to install a camper top. There is absolutely no room to stand up in this otherwise, which means doing anything but driving and sleeping in this is out. I guess the question is as much about the van as it is about your plans for living on the road.

    • Troy Wiedeman July 29, 2015 at 6:05 AM #

      You are correct, Michelle. I am unable to stand in the van, which is a bummer, but there is reasoning behind it. I feel like the more comfortable my travel vehicle is, the more I may want to sit in it (or stand). Think about the big Class A (bus-like) RVs. They have all the comforts of home, so why leave the RV? I want to explore the outside the van.

      My plan was to build a small and inexpensive base camp. The Astro van is very maneuverable, can be parked anywhere and will be carrying a mini-apartment. I will eventually add a swivel passenger chair (my office), dresser storage, solar panels, alternator charging system, a galley in the back and a porta potty. I should have everything I need for traveling on the road in a small package.

      Putting a camper top on the van would have been awesome, but expensive. The camper top would basically be worth more than the value of the van. This is a budget build and my first one. I plan to live this lifestyle for many years to come, so I wanted to start small to determine my limits and maybe go bigger in the future, like a Class B RV (self-contained camper van) or a small trailer like a Casita and a pull vehicle.

      Thank you very much for your interest in my van selection, Michelle. Feel free to ask more questions if you have them. My sofa/bed post should be up later this week. Thanks! 🙂

      • LIz August 2, 2015 at 7:36 AM #

        Troy, it is a great idea to start small and test out what you like. You could have rented as well to see what you like. If Michelle above doesn’t have a rig yet, I would suggest she spend the rental money to see which best fits her needs. The hubby and I started out big with a Class C then moved to a small trailer w/pull truck. We prefer small with a vehicle that can be detached, but maybe a Class B is better. Who knows until you try it out for yourself. Love your walls and ceiling. Do you plan to paint them or do anything else to them?

        • Troy Wiedeman August 4, 2015 at 7:26 AM #

          Good advice Liz on renting an RV first to try out the different types. I like it. As far as the paneling goes, I do plan to put a polyurethane finish on the wood but probably not until we get the rest of the van completed.

  2. Morgan July 18, 2016 at 3:08 PM #

    Awesome! Your tips were really helpful and great guidelines to follow! Thanks so much for posting this!

    • Troy Wiedeman July 20, 2016 at 12:37 PM #

      Great Morgan! Thanks for checking out my site. 🙂

  3. Nickolas Lapp July 28, 2016 at 12:21 AM #

    Hi troy, how did you screw into the van with your metal screws? Did you just go straight thorough the metal? Any concerns about leaking water or otherwise with this? Really happy I found your guide! Thanks for making this 🙂

    • Troy Wiedeman July 29, 2016 at 6:44 AM #

      Hi Nickolas. Yes, there was much concern about possible leaks from under the van. On the floor of the van, we screwed into the metal with sheet metal screws. We then backed the screws out and added waterproof silicone into the screw holes so that when screwed back in, the silicone would bond around the screw.

      This method isn’t 100% perfect, but it will hopefully hold up for a while. We flood quite a bit here in Houston, so I do my best to avoid high water. Thanks for commenting!

  4. David Roderick September 11, 2016 at 11:43 AM #

    Troy…I see that you screwed the planks directly into the support boards on the left and right of each run. But for the middle metal support area, did you use Carpet tape to help support your pine planks or did you screw the planks directly intothe metal support? Thanks for your response. Love your series!

    • Troy Wiedeman September 12, 2016 at 10:47 AM #

      Hi David. When we were planning out the paneling, we noticed that we didn’t have a straight line from the back of the van to the front of the van, so we used the middle support beam as the point to build up to. We added insulation and the support boards at the front and back to build up to where we had a straight line. Then, like you said, we screwed in the planks into our support boards on the front and back and screwed directly into the middle beam.

      The insulation is built up tightly behind the planks, so there is no movement along the 8 foot plank run from the back to front.

  5. Lori Felix March 20, 2017 at 12:30 PM #

    Hi Troy, I just had someone put up insulation and paneling in my van they used self tapping lathe screws, it did not say they are galvanized screws, I heard you have to use galvanized screws when going into metal, is that true? if so, do i need to take everything down and spray each hole with rubberized coating?
    They also put many holes in the floor, which will have to be all taken up and all holes have to be filled and sprayed.
    Lesson learned, don’t hire idiots to work on your van, Lori

  6. Troy Wiedeman March 21, 2017 at 12:28 PM #

    Hi Lori. We used sheet metal screws when screwing into the van walls and floor. We pre-drilled the holes, then filled them with a waterproof silicone and then screwed in the screws.

    From what you’ve stated here, I would be most concerned with the screws in the floor. If you look under the van and see the screws poking out, then there is a chance you could get water in the van when it rains or when driving through high water or puddles.

    I’m not an expert, but I would think filling the holes would be a good idea.

    Sorry to hear about your troubles with the workers, but it’s cool to hear you’re working on a van build.

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