A quick fix on the pillar trims and then we moved on to the ceiling, covering it, fitting the lights and securing it in place!
At the very beginning of the project, one of our first jobs was to remove the metal bulkhead from the van (http://bit.ly/7Bulkhead) it was an easy job and made it a lot brighter and feel much more spacious. We were, however, left with pillar trims which were open to the back of the van. When buying a van without a bulkhead, the minibus version, larger trims are used which cover the entire seatbelt pillar. We kept an eye out online and eventually found some being sold for our van second hand – we snapped them up!
The process was easy, first unbolting the bottom fastener of the seatbelt, and then un-popping the clips holding it in place. There were about 6 – 8 of these clips on each, some in more fiddly places than others. They take a fair amount of force to un-pop them and unfortunately a couple broke during the process, however we had planned ahead for this and bought a small set of replacements online in anticipation. Feeding the seatbelt through the required gap and ensuring the height adjustment clip was in the right place, the new trims popped on in a jiffy and they, although not spotlessly new, looked much tidier than the gaping hole we had previously.
Moving on to the ceiling!
We had done lots of the measuring previously but we got the ply in place for one more check before committing, to make sure we were happy with the fit. While in we decided on the rough placements for the lights which me measured out properly once the ply was back on the work benches. We decided on an L shape arrangement, with 3 lights down one side of the van and one light over the foot of the bed, in line with the furthest light on the other side. With the locations all marked up we used the hole-saw to cut out, we were pleased that our lights were spot on with one of the attachments, so no further cutting/filing/sanding necessary!
With the holes cut, we moved onto covering the ply. We had bought some fairly plain fabric, a mid-grey with darker grey flecks down it, you can easily see the weave of the fabric (which I like) and it ties in nicely with the colour scheme of the rest of the build so far. We did contemplate doing something bespoke but decided to keep it simple and smart and we can add that kind of flare later – putting something fancy/extreme/personal into the infrastructure always comes with the risk of changing your mind and regretting it a year down the line!
We used Trimfix to glue the fabric to the ply, the usual process of doing it in sections – pulling it tight and smoothing it down as we went to avoid any creases and air pockets. The job went quickly and successfully and in no time at all we were turning it over to glue the edges down on the other side. We used the same process, pulling it tight around the edge of the ply and making sure the corners were done as neat as possible. It was very similar to carpeting the ply walls, however the fabric was far less forgiving and we had to work quick!
When finishing the fabric around the light holes, we made a star shape cut to within a couple of millimetres of the hole edge. The light fittings were placed in, and the little triangles of fabric were pulled taught and then glue to the ply. Not the neatest job on the back, however it made sure we had a really neat finish around the light fitting on the front. While I was doing this bit, Callum was extending the wires of the lights, so that they would reach to the corner where the leisure battery will live.
With both panels ready to go in we got the lights and wires in place and secured the first ceiling panel by screwing through, into the long struts behind, using the same plastic screw caps we used for the walls (http://bit.ly/20CarpetandWalls, they are much darker than the ceiling so we may consider changing them for lighter ones in the future). The second went in and we created a slight overlap between the two panels before screwing that one in place also. We decided on this as, despite being as tidy as possible, the hand planing had not given us a perfectly straight line on either panel, so you could see small amounts of the foil layer through the gaps (probably not even noticeable to anyone else but I knew they were there) the overlap got rid of these completely and in our opinion gave a much better finish than we would have had otherwise.
It was a red hot day and working in the sun made it feel like a long one, but we felt like it was a ‘big progress’ kind of day with our outer shell being complete by the time we drove home!