One Man’s Trash is Another Van’s Ceiling

Hi everyone, and welcome back!

As you might have guessed from the title of this post, we’ve been working on the van ceiling using materials that were quite literally another man’s trash. More specifically, our landlord’s trash. We pulled this wood out of a dumpster before we had even committed to a van build. When our NOBO thru hike was called off we spent several weeks weighing other options: a possible SOBO hike, build out a van, buy a house. Our nights and weekends were occupied with browsing house listings, used van listings, and the latest covid updates and travel restrictions.

One night in late May, while we were still very much undecided on what our next step would be, Matt returned to the apartment after taking out the trash with more excitement on his face than I would ever expect from someone doing such a chore. He told me there was wood in the dumpster, a lot of it, and that it appeared to be in decent condition. I followed him outside to take a look.

We spent the next hour or so pulling cedar and pine planks out of the dumpster, cleaning them (they weren’t that bad), and stacking them in our apartment. Nevermind the fact that we didn’t know if we would even have a use for them. Some of the pine (tongue and groove beadboard) was even still in the original package. For more context of how ridiculous this was, our apartment is only about 330 square feet. There’s not exactly a lot of storage space in here, but you know, priorities.

After living with stacks of this in our tiny apartment for the past three and a half months, I’m happy to finally be able to say it was worth it. Fast forward to this past weekend where a little sanding, conditioning, and wood finish later, we have a beautiful, nearly free, cedar ceiling just about ready to install.

On Sunday morning we brought the wood to Matt’s parents’ house, where we could spread it out and see more clearly how much of it is usable. We gave it all another cleaning as it was unloaded, separated it by condition, then got to work finishing up the sound dampening on the van roof and installing the furring strips for the ceiling.

Another quick cleaning

Furring strips are up!

On Monday, the real fun began. Most of the components of our battery system were delivered in the past week, so Matt jumped into that side of things while I gave the future ceiling planks a coat of poly on the back.

Matt getting started on the battery system
The back of the ceiling planks after a coat of poly

The poly was just a preventative measure against any possible moisture, so as soon as the planks were dry to the touch, we flipped them over to put a finish on the side we’ll be seeing. Working on them in batches, I applied the wood conditioner while Matt followed along with the stain. Talk about instant gratification! The grain of some of these is absolutely beautiful. We’ve already picked out several boards we want to make sure are in the middle of the ceiling and don’t end up hidden behind our overhead storage. This will certainly be closer than a normal ceiling, so we want to make sure we like the look of it as much as possible.

Teamwork makes the dream work, or something like that
So excited about this future ceiling, SO excited.

Well, there you have it! Hopefully in the next week or so we’ll be able to show you these boards inside the van, rather than on the garage floor. Until then, thanks again for following along and letting us share this project with you all!

2 thoughts on “One Man’s Trash is Another Van’s Ceiling

  1. The wood ceiling is a really nice touch, Annie! Arranging the slats so you can appreciate the ones with the more attractive grain is not something everyone would think of doing.


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