Choosing the Right Materials to Replace Your RV Ceiling Panels
If you are an avid RVer, you understand the grand feeling of touring America in your very own RV. The freedom you have, the sights you see, and the friendly people you meet. An RV is a ticket to fun, freedom, and exploration. However, when that trusted old friend begins to show signs of age and is starting to look a bit “run down,” it may be time for a facelift.
There are many things you can do to renovate your RV. You can replace the dinette table, the vinyl flooring in the kitchen, the worn-out carpet, as well as that tired old sofa. Also, you can install new paneling, wallpaper accent walls, a computer desk. You can paint, reupholster the furniture, or change the curtains.
Many older RV’s can have damage from leaking around vents, AC units, or skylights. You can fix the leaks, but you are often then left with unsightly water damage to your RV’s interior ceiling panels. If you are really adventurous, you might even consider replacing your RV’s ceiling. While it might be a little more work than some other renovation tasks, a beautiful new ceiling can help go a long ways toward making your old RV shine like new.
The best materials to replace your RV ceiling panels are:
If you are considering replacing your RV’s 4 x 8 ceiling panels, the question then becomes, what is the best material with which to replace it? Let’s take a look at some of the materials available to replace and upgrade your RV’s ceiling and give it a great new look.
1. Using Wood for Your RV Ceiling
Wood RV Ceiling Panels can be an interesting choice with a lot of options. It could include everything from plywood to tongue-and-groove planks, depending, of course, on your budget and level of carpentry skill.
For many, plywood is a popular choice for many reasons. It is inexpensive, you can easily cut it to any size or shape, and you can stain it or paint it to get the look you want. Plywood is readily available at any building supply center, and you can paint it to match most any décor.
You need to remember that plywood and water do not do well together. Therefore, it would be wise to double check any leaks you may have previously had to be sure they no longer leak. It would be a real shame to put a lot of hard work into replacing your RV’s ceiling, only to have a stubborn leak ruin it for you. Also, remember that plywood is flammable, so be careful with your wiring and any fire hazards.
2. Metal RV Ceiling Panels
Metal ceiling coverings are quickly gaining in popularity. They are long-lasting, durable, and can be quite elegant. Best of all, they’re straightforward to install. You just nail them up. You will want to make sure what you are nailing them to is in good shape. Make sure there are no leaks or water damage from previous leaks. You will want to make any needed repairs before nailing up your new metal ceiling covering.
Like plywood, metal ceiling coverings can be finished or painted to suit your tastes. Because your new ceiling is made of metal, it will not rot, crack, or absorb moisture or odors. It can even add strength to the RV’s structure. And it’s very easy to clean.
Metal ceiling coverings hide imperfections, they are fire resistant and require minimal maintenance. Once your new ceiling is installed and finished, it will be easy to clean with a quick wipe from time to time.
3. Fabric RV Ceilings
Fabric ceiling panels are another option. Fabric ceilings are generally easy to install using a glue or adhesive. They can have insulating properties, and typically warm up the look of a room. And for those of us who shoot video or record podcasts in our RV, fabric ceilings can enhance the sound quality.
There are always newer and better fabric ceiling products available on the market. The range of fabrics for RV ceilings has improved over the last several years.
Like metal ceiling coverings, the fabric can cover ugly imperfections. Also, as with metal coverings, you will need to be sure there are no leaks or water damage you need to repair before installing the new fabric on the ceiling.
However, fabric ceiling covers do have several drawbacks. No matter how good your new fabric ceiling looks, keep in mind that fabric ceilings are extremely difficult to clean. They also are very good at absorbing both odors and moisture.
4. Vinyl/PVC RV Ceiling Material
Vinyl or PVC tiles are an excellent choice for RV ceilings. They are incredibly durable and long lasting. Their durability is why RV manufacturers often use them in high humidity areas such as the bathroom or kitchen areas, and this durability factor can also be critical when you think about how much time you spend in such a small space.
Vinyl RV Ceilings are very often found in higher end RVs since vinyl is a perfect material to create custom ceilings. The smooth leather-like texture provides an elegant and upscale look.
You want something that stands up well to all the wear and tear. In addition, vinyl or PC tiles are also waterproof, easy to clean and, very often, flame retardant.
5. You Could Use Paneling for Your RV Ceiling
Paneling is an option you might also consider. In most respects, it will be very similar to plywood as far as installation and how it performs. Paneling has the added benefit of coming in a variety of colors or patterns, and if needed, you can even paint it. Paneling will also have many of the same drawbacks of plywood. For instance, like plywood, paneling does not handle water well.
6. Plastic and Styrofoam RV Ceilings
Plastic or styrofoam ceiling tiles are another excellent option. These ceiling tiles are super light-weight and can be cut with a good pair of scissors. They are then glued in place using a good quality construction adhesive. Again, you need to make sure that the surface you are sticking them to is solid and clean.
Like many of the other ceiling covering options, plastic tiles can hide a multitude of sins. While not as durable as metal or vinyl or PVC tiles, they can hold up well and are easy to wipe clean.
7. Consider Fiberglass for Your RV Ceiling Material
Fiberglass reinforced panels (FRPs) may be another option you will want to consider. Like plastic tiles, these panels are thin and would be light enough to be installed using a suitable construction adhesive.
You may want to consider using brads around the perimeter edges as well as around vents or light fixtures. These will be hidden by the molding around the perimeter and by the bezels of any vents or light fixtures.
Fiberglass reinforced panels are quite durable, waterproof, easily cleaned. As with many of these options, it will be essential to ensure the surface you are gluing them to is in sound condition, meaning no leaks, water damage, or delamination.
Insulate Your RV Ceiling Before Adding New Ceiling Material
Okay, so clearly insulation isn’t actually a camper ceiling material. However, if you are going to replace the ceiling in your RV, this would be an ideal opportunity to add to or upgrade the insulation. Improving the insulation in your RV’s roof will keep more heat in when it’s cold, and will help keep the heat out when it’s hot. Improved insulation will save energy and keep your heating costs down. It’s almost a no-brainer.
Which Ceiling Material is the Best Choice?
To help you to make the right choice in ceiling material for your RV, here is a list of things you will want to keep in mind while considering your options.
Where Are You Using the RV Ceiling Material You are Considering?
While some materials are suitable for use anywhere, others may only be suitable for specific areas or under certain conditions. Consider all the practicalities before making your final selection. While you can use just about any ceiling cover in the bedroom, your choices for kitchen and bathroom might need a bit more thought. Another consideration would be whether or not you want the same ceiling throughout your RV. This choice may depend on your floor plan and decor.
Get a Little Help From Your Friends!
It a pretty good idea to tap into the experiences of friends and other RVers. It could be helpful to learn from their mistakes, rather than repeat them. You might even get a chance to see their successes as well. The can help you save you both time and money.
Does the RV Ceiling Material Need to be Waterproof?
If you’re replacing the bathroom or kitchen ceilings, you’re certainly going to want something that has a waterproof finish. Showers and cooking can release a lot of water vapor into your RV’s interior. Meal preparation adds the possibility of lingering odors. Waterproof finishes tend to be easy to clean and do not absorb odors.
How Hard is it to Clean the Ceiling Material?
Another thing to think about is whether or not you want to replace your badly stained camper ceiling with one that is also easily stained and equally difficult to clean! Ideally, you would select a ceiling material that is easily wiped clean with a cloth. It is easy enough to test how hard it is to clean a ceiling material you are considering. Take a sample and get it dirty using the kinds of things that might stain the ceiling in normal usage. Then try cleaning it.
How Long Will the Ceiling Material Last?
If you are going to invest valuable time, money, and effort into your ceiling renovation, make sure that you’re going to be able to get several years out of your new ceiling. Materials like metal and vinyl/PVC are going to last the longest and have several other desirable qualities, such as being waterproof, odor resistant, and even easy to install.
We can assume that, sooner or later, all skylights will develop a leak. Therefore, you need to consider your options thoroughly. While many consider fabric and plywood as durable options, they could have a much shorter lifespan than a waterproof metal, vinyl, or PVC ceiling.
Is the RV Ceiling Material Fire Resistant?
Safety should always be a consideration! Check the fire safety rating of any material you’re thinking of using in your RV. Even if your RV does not have any naked flames such as on a gas stove, it is essential to protect yourself and your possessions. You may want to check with your insurance provider when considering the renovations you are planning for your RV. It is a good idea to make sure that the changes you are planning do not somehow void your coverage.
Can You Do The Ceiling Installation Yourself?
So, you have just made your choice of the perfect RV ceiling material. The question now is, can you do the actual installation? Some installations will be easier than others. If your heart is set on one that is more difficult or beyond your skills, you may want to get some help. Hopefully, you will be looking at your new RV ceiling for a long period. You will want to make sure you have the ceiling you wanted, that it is installed properly, and that it looks great!
Renovating your RV can be a grand adventure itself, especially if you take the time to do a little research and planning beforehand. Check out all the possibilities, talk to the experts, make your decisions, and then jump in. You can have fun giving your RV its need facelift. Plus, there is the added enjoyment of bragging rights later when out on the road socializing with your fellow RVers.
Do you have a creative idea for an RV ceiling? Please share your idea in the comments below!
Below are some other helpful articles about RV interiors.
- RV Window Tinting
- DampRid vs Dehumidifier – How to Reduce Humidity in an RV
- Best Lightweight Dinette Table Top Replacement For Your RV or Camper
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