Wall and Ceiling Covering

Time to Install the walls and ceiling panels on your sprinter van. Time to start covering up the mess you have created.

Up until this point that van looks really chaotic and it’s not until you start covering up the walls does it start to look like you are getting closer to the finish line. For my build I wanted the van to feel as big as possible so I decided to use bright colors in order to achieve this really clean beach theme. When choosing your interior wall and ceiling coverings it is important to look at all available options and to take into consideration the look and feel you are going for as this part of the project goes a long way in defining how the entire van will look in the end.

DifficultyIntermediate DurationWalls = 1 Day, Ceiling = 4 Days

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Materials Used

Strapping

For the strapping on my vehicle I just used standard 1x4 pine that came in 8 ft lengths. At Home Depot I was able to buy a bundle of strapping and that more or less was enough for the entire vehicle. I found that by using a 1x4 it was thin enough that I was able to get it to bend in most places to follow the curvature of the van but also strong enough that I would properly fasten it to the vehicle and hang the finished materials to it.

ACP (DiBond)

For the finished wall panels on the van I decided to go with ACP (Aluminum Composite Panel). Aluminium Composite Panel (ACP) is a type of flat panel that consists of two thin aluminium sheets bonded to a non-aluminium core. ACP is used within the signage industry as an alternative to heavier, more expensive substrates. ACP is also used for external and internal architectural cladding or partitions, false ceilings, machine coverings, container construction etc.

FRP Channel

Because the ACP board comes in 4x8 sheets I was going to have a couple of seems in the vehicle. In order to cover those seems I picked up from FRP Molding from Home Depot and used that you hide the joints creating a nice finished look inside the van. http://www.homedepot.com/p/855-1-4-in-x-1-3-8-in-x-8-ft-PVC-Composite-White-FRP-Divider-Moulding-0085508011/100573218

Automotive Trim

When installing the ACP on the vans walls you are going to have some cut edges. To hide the cut edges I purchased some automotive trim and covered all the cut edges using it to create a finished look everywhere.
https://www.amazon.com/MATCC-Shape-Rubber-Protector-Guard/dp/B01BWKCUAO/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1497281253&sr=8-1&keywords=automotive+trim

Strapping

For the strapping on my vehicle I just used standard 1x4 pine that came in 8 ft lengths. At Home Depot I was able to buy a bundle of strapping and that more or less was enough for the entire vehicle. I found that by using a 1x4 it was thin enough that I was able to get it to bend in most places to follow the curvature of the van but also strong enough that I would properly fasten it to the vehicle and hang the finished materials to it.

1/4” Tongue and Groove Pine Planks

For the ceiling on the van I went with a 1/4 pine tongue and groove plank. The was the thinnest wood material I could find what would give me th desired look that I was going for.

Construction Adhesive

The Van Build version of duck tape. Throughout the build I used construction adhesive many times to ensure that everything was going to properly fastened together.

Self Tapping Screws

Used to fasten the 1x4 strapping to the metal frame on the vehicle. I found that some of the screws I got were not that great and it was easier to pre drill the holes before using the self tapping screws.

Brad Nails

When I was putting up the ceiling planks I used brad nails that were about 1/2 inch to ¾ just for tacking the planks in place while the construction adhesive dried.

Semi Transparent White Stain

For the ceiling panels of the van I knew I wanted to use a wood planking but I also wanted to tie in the white cabinets and wall panels. So I decided to use a white semi transparent stain to give the wood a white washed look and allow the wood grain to still show through.

Varethane

Everywhere in the van that I wanted a to leave the wood grain I exposed and used a stain as the color treatment I then applied multiple coats of clear satin or matte Varethane to give it a durable professional finish.

Tools Required

Install Process

Walls

Once I had the insulation completed on the walls and ceiling of the vehicle it was time to start installing the ceiling and wall paneling.

With my van it came with some chloroplast wall panels from the factory so rather than throwing them away I decided to re install them on the lower sections of the van that I wasn’t going to cover in the ACP because they were ultimately going to be covered by cabinets once the build was completed.

Next was to install the 1×4 strapping all over the vehicle, installing the strapping is quite easy on the ceiling. Just follow the existing ribs in the sprinter ceiling and cover them with the 1×4. Once these straps are installed it will also hold in all of the ceiling insulation and ensure it doesn’t fall out.

The strapping on the walls take a little bit more planning to figure out on the van. When doing the wall strapping make you plan out the where the ACP will start and finish to ensure that you have strapping on all the seams so it can be properly fastened. Also make sure you have the strapping installed in enough places that you will be able to securely fasten all cabinets and shelving within the van. My advice when installed the strapping in the van is that more is always better and you won’t regret having more than needed. This will allow you some flexibility to change your mind as you build out the interior of the van.

After the strapping has been installed on the van you can now start putting up the ACP on the walls. One thing to note on my build is that I only used 4 sheets of ACP which is not to cover the entire inside of the 170 Sprinter, but it is enough to cover everywhere that as any exposed walls. On my build I only used the ACP where the wall covering would be exposed and in all the areas that are covered by the cabinets and benches I left it exposed. In the photos below you can see what I mean…. This made the installation easier on the vehicle and also reduced the costs a bit as I would have needed 2 more sheets to complete cover everything in the van which I found unnecessary.

You can see in the photos above the that the areas pointed out with the yellow arrows were never covered with ACP panel as all the cabinets covered up those areas.

To install the ACP on the walls I used a round white head screw that was fastened into the strapping behind.

Between the seams of the ACP I used a FRP Joint from Home Depot to give the interior as seamless a look as possible.

On the van there are a few places where you have to leave an exposed cut edge in the ACP, in these areas around the kitchen window and the rear doors I used an automotive trim alongside a heat gun to install the trim and complete the finished look.

Using the ACP as an interior surface was easy to install and only covering the exposed areas drastically reduced the amount of templating required which sped up the entire process. Using ACP also came pre finished with a high gloss finish which eliminated any painting and finishing and provides me with an easy to clean surface that will not stain. The panels are also thin enough that that are quite flexible making them follow the contour of the van quite nicely without any force.

When installing the panels due to their size 4ft x 8ft having two people really helps out here. One person can hold the panel in place while the other person quickly puts in a few screws to hold the panel in place.

One other thing to note about installing the wall panels is thats it is super important to create templates before cutting out the actual panels. For my van I was able to use the existing chloroplast panels the van came with to get a rough idea of the shape around the back doors and trace that onto the cardboard template before test fitting it in the van.

Ceiling

For the ceiling of the on the van I wanted to go with a wooden plank look. Originally I was going to use just standard tongue and groove cedar boards but I was a little worried about the thickness and weight of them on the ceiling. So I decided to use a 1/4 inch tongue a groove pine plank, this material is very thin (to help maintain headroom) and lightweight to increase the ease of installation.

When I bought the pine planks I knew I wanted to apply some sort of finish on them but I wasn’t sure what. After doing some research I decided to use a White Semi Transparent stain which gave the wood a white washed / pickled look that tied the ceiling in nicely with the white ACP on the walls and the white cabinetry.

For the pine planking I did 2 coats of the white stain and then sanded each plank before applying 3 coats of clear varathane to clear coat the panels.

Once the stain and varathane had dried it was time to install the planks on the ceiling. Keep in mind I installed the ceiling after I had hung the upper cabinets to reduce the amount of planks required overall. The planks in my van are held up with construction adhesive and 3/4” brad nails to tack the planks in place while the construction adhesive dried.

The van since install has well over 10,000 miles of things have held up great.

Pro Tips

Walls

When you get your ACP you will notice that it comes with a protective film on either side. I left this film on during the entire build to help protect the thin aluminum painted finished. By keeping this protective film on the wall covering I was also able to trace out some lines and map out my screw holes to make sure everything was nicely spaced out.

Photo shows the protective covering that I left in place on the ACP during the construction phase to protect the panels.

To get some nice cleans cuts on the ACP use a jigsaw and just take our team. The material cuts very easy and with a fine tooth metal blade in the saw you will be left with a nice edge. Due to the fact that the wall covering is aluminum I did file the cut edges a bit once the cut was completed just to remove and bur left by the saw.

Because I chose to only install the wall panel where it was going to be visible the amount of templating that I had to do was minimal. The only section that required some templating was the back edge along the rear doors. If you purchased a new cargo van it should have come with some chloroplast pieces that I just removed and traced onto cardboard to get the pattern correct.

If you are using ACP for your wall panels you will notice the white panels come with two finished sides. Side 1 is gloss and Side 2 is a matte finish, so when tracing your back edge cuts make sure you are tracing it on the right side…. Learn from me… the one good thing is that the two colors are so close (gloss vs matte) that you would never notice in my van that the drivers side is different than the passenger’s side.

Ceiling

Before you begin installing your ceiling planks take some time to pull a few measurements and make sure that you don’t end up with a sliver of material as you reach the edges. For the best results start from the middle and work your way to the edges, but before you start you need to figure out if you are going to have a seam along the mid line of the ceiling or in the mid line will fall in the middle of a plank.

The planks that I selected for the ceiling were tongue and groove and since they were only a 1/4” which when I tried to use force to get the planks together I broke off a few of the joints. Since the ceiling of the vehicle is curved and like everything else in the van its not straight installing a tongue and groove product has its challenges getting everything to fit nice and tight so just take your time and be patient. When I first looked at this part of the project I thought it would take me a few hours to install….. fast forward 2 days later.

During this installation I used a heavy duty construction adhesive to hold the panels in place and just brad nailed them in place to help hold them while the glue dried. This technique worked really well but be careful as sometimes you think a piece is, “stuck,” in place and as you turn around to grab something you hear the plank hitting the van floor smearing sticky glue everywhere. So I highly recommend using a drop cloth for this part of the project to avoid getting glue all over everything.

When I installed the ceiling planks I didn’t install the last piece on either side which left me just enough room to fish the wires for the ceiling lights.

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