Framing the Ceiling

Framing the Ceiling

April 29, 2015 Categories Camper Van

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I got a late start today as I spent the morning trying to find a metal fabricator to make me some brackets to attach my solar panel to the roof of the van. A shop not too far out of town was recommended to me (thanks Duane), so I took a quick drive out there. Even though it was close to 9am, it must have been too early because no one was in their office yet so it was a wasted drive. I came home and ran wiring for some really neat recessed lights that tilt back and forth so you can aim them wherever you want. I’m installing them above my seating and kitchen areas. I’m also going to have an LED light strip running down each side of the ceiling which will be controlled with a dimmer near the bed.

After awhile, I called the welding shop back and luckily got an answer. I was able to take over some drawings and one of the current, unusable brackets to give them an idea of what I wanted. Unfortunately, the shop is a little backed up and they won’t be able to get to my project until early next week, so I’m gonna have to wait to finish the ceiling until then. I’m just glad they are able to make them for me, because even if I had sheets of metal, I don’t have the proper tools to cut it or bend it without it looking like crap. Almost makes me miss the days of high school metals class, having all the tools right there.

It was almost 11:30 by the time I got back and was able to start framing out my ceiling. The van roof is just a hard, fiberglass shell filled with a “honeycomb” type material, then has crappier fiberglass coating on the inside. I don’t want to screw any wood directly to the fiberglass because I feel that’s just adding to the places that could potentially leak later on. Instead, I built an entire internal wooden frame which is what my insulation and wood panel will attach to.

Due to how large the ceiling is (13 feet long) and because it’d be next to impossible to build the frame at full length outside the van and then try to install it, I built the frame in two sections. This allowed me to install one half then bring in the other half and slide it into place (it was still a pain in the rump).

After cutting all my pieces, I began assembling. I should mention that I didn’t just start screwing wood together. Before assembling, I marked out where I needed my studs to be. In particular, I made sure to take into account my ceiling vent I just installed yesterday and to not have any studs/ceiling joists be placed where they would interfere with the vent. I started by attaching the studs to the base plate. The studs are cut at 10 degrees to match the angle of the roof top so I have a nice, four inch gap for my insulation. Then I attached all the joists to the top of the studs. To save on wood (and because I don’t really need one), I’m not using a top plate. Once the wood panel is added, this entire structure will become very rigid.

The rear half of the frame is built the exact same way, only it is about three feet shorter than the front half.

Now came the fun part – getting these in the van and up on top of the “lip” of the original sheet metal roof. The only way I could do this was by distorting the frame temporarily by pulling one side of the frame forward, causing the joists the rotate slightly and condensing the width of the frame. Once I got the frame over the metal “lip”, I restored the frame to its original shape. When it came to installing the second half, this method was a little more difficult since the other half of the frame was somewhat in the way. It took me a little bit longer, but eventually I got it into place.

With the entire frame inside, I clamped it down to make sure it didn’t move and used my #10 self-tapping sheet metal screws to drill through the wood and into the metal “lip” it was resting on. That sucker is locked down pretty good and I’m confident I don’t have to worry about it going anywhere.

Next step was boxing out around the ceiling vent to clean up its appearance a bit. Once I have the wood paneling up, I’ll add some trim around the edges of the vent box to finish it off.

I still have to finish up both ends of the frame. In the front, where a storage area will be, there’s almost a 45 degree slant that I still have to cut boards for and build a frame. The rear is similar, but not as steep of an angle. It also doesn’t offer much storage space, it’s really more of a shelf for a few small things. Not sure what I’ll be using it for yet.

Overall, I’m really pleased with how the ceiling frame turned out. I didn’t get around to testing my water tank today, but I’m thinking it’ll be on the agenda again for tomorrow. I’m also hoping to start building my couch/bed.

See how I paneled my ceiling later on.

2 thoughts on “Framing the Ceiling”

Mallory · August 10, 2017

Hey there,
My van is very similar to yours on the inside. I’m struggling with framing the ceiling. Your method looks like it might work better than what I tried. I tried gluing the wood to it and the kind I got didn’t get the job done. Would you still recommend your route, or would gluing the wood be the better bet?

Luke · August 10, 2017

Like, gluing the wood to the actual fiberglass? I personally wouldn’t want to put that much extra stress on it. I built the frame inside my shell to both add room for insulation and it supported the entire weight of the ceiling, without putting any additional strain on the roof. Worked out well for me. If I did it again, I’d probably add a little less insulation to gain back a couple inches of head room. I’m tall and even with the high ceiling, I had to duck down a little to walk around in there.

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