Shortly after the subfloor install, we moved to Florida. Even though we had worked on the bus for only 6 weeks, we were burned out and had no desire to work on it during our first summer in the Sunshine State. (Much like my burnout in writing these build posts after having written the demolition posts). Not until the daily temperature highs cooled down in November did we even enter the bus again. Once we did get inside, we knew the next project to do was to install the ceiling. We needed to cover up that foam. Have some decency, Insulation!
Although we had already insulated the roof cavities with foam and applied a reflective paint atop the exterior surface, we regarded the ceiling as another opportunity to increase our R-value. Our first layer applied directly on to the bus frame was Reflectix, a thin assembly of reflective sheets and bubble wrap. Over that we bent 5mm thick plywood and screwed both layers with self-tapping lath screws that had a wide, flat head.
One of our biggest challenges was gravity. As the roof frame curved into wall frame, the ceiling had to follow suit. At the time, Michael was doing this task by himself. I was probably inside feeding the kids their 2nd round of chicken nuggets and corn nibblets (Who am I kidding? I was just taking photos while he labored away). Anyway, this information might be of use to you bus converters flying solo in your endeavors.
To keep the ceiling curved while Michael used both hands to insert the screws, he used a D.I.Y. holder-upper to force the thin plywood into its intended curvature.
The challenges did not end there. When we got to the rear, we encountered another problem of a telescoping ceiling. Even with the rear facade to help terminate the ceiling, we still had about 2 feet in which we had to narrow to a smaller radius/ellipse. We cut out material haphazardly because we were too tired to think of how to do it correctly and beautifully. Our assumption was that we’d come back and cover up our ceiling with headliner, but what we didn’t know is that our initial quick remedies always became our permanent everlasting solutions.
As for the front, we kept the original ceiling. It was too complex to recreate. It makes me think we should have kept all the original panels and just put them back on after we installed the insulation.
For painting the ply, we used a white paint with minimum gloss. That’s how we rolled back in those days. We wanted everything to be matte. Boy, were we stupid – except in the case of the ceiling. Any surface that needs to be wiped down (most likely not the ones higher than your head and far above any splattering of spaghetti) should have some gloss to it to make it easy to wipe down. I blame the artsy fartsy architect in me that thought “flat is all dat.” Anyway, the type of ceiling paint is not that important.
At the bathroom we later applied a different material on top of the painted ply. We desired a more wipeable, water-resistant, mildew-resistant material and chose this funky, toxic plastic sheet that I have to return to Home Depot to remember what it was. If it’s even still sold to consumers, I can describe it as a little thicker than the 5mm plywood, has a little texture to its front face, and feels like a curse when you cut it like jello with a jigsaw. Why a curse? Because when you cut it, miniscule particles of smelly plastic spring into the air to a destination unbeknownst to you. Most likely orifices that want to be left alone.
The ceiling overall held up well and we didn’t lose a lot of heat through the ceiling. The only problem we had were some of those screws rusting out. In the winter months, condensation trickled from the cold metal roof to the warm metal roof frame and down to the cozy heater-warmed screws. Some screws that were thinly painted and were susceptible to rust. I’d suggest finding a nonconductive screw (hee hee, that’s funny … and disappointing) or slather your fastener heads with paint. Go ahead – glop it on.
In our day to day living we barely noticed the ceiling. It was all acceptable except at the emergency hatch where there was no transition. We left that hole edge raw thinking we’d fix it later. Wrong! It stayed like that for three years. Was it ugly? Yes. Did we care? No, not while we slept comfortably or watched TV at dinner time.
The one place the ceiling looked grody was in the bathroom ceiling. We had chosen a quickly drying adhesive (I swear only 10 minutes passed) that held it’s goop shape even after we adhered the ceiling to the plywood. It was too gunky that its shape shown through. We should have used a more spreadable glue or at least applied it in phases. Bah! The strange plastic could have looked great.