Wanderlust Bus Ceiling Installation: Gold on the Ceiling

bus ceiling installation

The next step in our interior build-out is the bus ceiling installation. After the floor (here) and the closet build (Part 1 & Part 2) we address the We gave it a lot of thought, as we do every project we undertake and weighed a lot of options. We could use the ¼” birch ply and bend it to the curve, but we’re afraid it will crack over time, and also concerned that it will… well… look like plywood. The debate ended with the decision to use the same ¾” beetle-kill Ponderosa pine that we used on the floor.

Now we have to address how this flat pine lumber is going to be attached to a curved steel frame. If you’re building a boat, you steam the wood in a steam box to allow the wood fibers to soften and bend. So with this knowledge in my noggin, I start to build a BIG steam box. I purchased a 20′ long culvert pipe from the big box store and sealed the ends with heavy-duty plastic in 2 layers. After getting the makeshift steam box rigged up, I shoved the end of my steamer in and let it go to work. Nearly 2 hours later I came back to check on it. All the water had been used up but there had not been enough change in the wood to allow it to bend, AT ALL! It was like nothing had been done.

So that was a complete waste of time, but we learn from our mistakes right? So now what to do? Our options as I see it are: 1. Kerf the boards multiple times down the entire 14′ length. I quickly realized that this option was completely insane and would require a lot of work. Plus, even after all the work it may still not look right or bend the way we expect. 2. Put it up as is and hope it all comes out in the wash. We decided to just put it up to get the closet bus install done and out of the way.

When cutting cabin grade boards for the bus ceiling install, be sure to true BOTH ends to ensure good joints.

Once we cut everything to length, we can start installing. We dry fit a series of boards to determine where to start the first run of boards. This is absolutely essential so the middle board will actually fall in the middle of the ceiling. We used trim head flooring screws to attach the boards to the ribs we created in our preliminary framing (check out the video here) and the process was pretty simple. The tongue-in-groove made it a lot easier to get things to line up.

We also prewire the small wires needed to connect the LED lights that will ring the skylights. Just a small notch in the front and back of the short boards in the front and back was all it took to make it fit without being crushed.


With all the boards mounted the bus ceiling install is done. The Wanderlust Bus is really beginning to feel like a home instead of a bus shell. Next, we move onto cladding the bus with the same ¾” beetle-kill pine that we’re using everywhere else. For now, check out the video of the ceiling install.

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