Cedar Panels

We’ve had several people ask us “Why put cedar in there?” and our response is “why not?!” At the time of the build, we wanted the van to be functional, but also cozy and to feel like home. During the endless hours working on the van, we kept debating what to do with the walls and ceiling. Once we got the cedar idea, it seemed like a no-brainer to us – it’s light in color, really cozy, probably adds a bit of insulation and is easy to install.

Putting the cedar in was the final step in the build. We had already run the wires for the lights and put in all the cabinets. We didn’t want to lose much interior space from paneling – with our solution we lost at most ½” because we are using ¼” cedar panels (tongue and groove) attached to ¼” poplar strips. Everything required for this build was available at the local hardware store. Here’s Cedar at Lowes and another option at Home Depot – just check locally.

Before getting started on the cedar, we attached ¼” poplar to all the structural ribs of the van along the ceiling. We used 3 sheet metal screws on each that were countersunk to make them flush. On the side wall, the poplar strips are attached to the van structure where possible, and squeezed between the wall and the bedframe at the bottom. The poplar contours nicely along the rounded shape of the ceiling and side wall.

Poplar along wall

Poplar contour along wall

To attach the cedar panels, our solution were #6 ⅝” wood screws with finishing washers. We coated the panels with polyurethane and attached them carefully to the poplar strips. It’s easiest to start with the side wall from the bottom up, then the ceiling from the driver side to the passenger side. Since the ceiling extends longer than the 8′ panels, we alternated the 8′ panel between the front and the back with another shorter piece. This worked out pretty well for attachment points. To make the panels flush, we used silicon (tip from the guy at Lowes) at the end of each panel to keep them tightly together.

In the rear, we installed some L-shaped aluminum to act as a support for the cedar and make the panels even as well as provide a way to secure the ends of the panels. Here we also used silicon to keep the panels in place. In the front, the panels end at the headliner above the driver and passenger seats. We squeezed the panels in between the ceiling and the headliner to make them flush and secure the ends (we do not have photos of this but will be happy to answer any questions and will provide more photos once we have our van back – it’s en route to the US as of this writing. Will update in August).


Cedar starting from the bottom up


Putting in the ceiling


Smile for cedar!


Partially done ceiling

We decided to add paneling to the sliding door as well as the rear door to give it a nice, finished feel. We used the same technique, using sheet metal screws to attach poplar to the van and then the cedar to the poplar.

Once all the cedar was in, we attached the spray-painted trim (we chose grey) for the Fan-tastic vent (Amazon) to the cedar.


Our cedar house


Our T.V.


Looking in from the back

Posted in Van Build, Van Information and tagged , .


  1. Does the fact that the van is en route back to the states mean that your adventure is over? Are you coming back to the States? I’ve LOVED reading your posts, since meeting you on a randdom day in in San Francisco on 23rd Street. I so admire you for doing this!

  2. Hello,

    I’m very impressed with the outcome of you van. Quick question in regards to using the cedar pannelling, did it add any noticeable weight to the van? Fuel consumption etc.?

    Thanks, Nikolas.

    • It didn’t change the handling or the fuel consumption at all. I’m not sure about the total weight of the paneling, but my guess is that it adds well below 50 lbs.


  3. Hi, I love what you have done to your van! It is awesome! I had a question on the lighting. Did you have someone do the lighting for you or did you do it yourself? Did you wire it to the 12v or put in marine batteries? Any comments or help would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

  4. Wow! Great job. I am using Pine tongue and groove to make a cabin appearance like yours.

    We recently purchased a 2016 Promaster high top van which is very similar to yours but the 139 inch version. We now live in an apartment after seven years of traveling full time in Canada and USA with our Class C RV Lazy Daze (sold it last year).The smaller van fits into a regular parking space but provides a great camping vehicle plus is so much easier to handle in traffic.

    Thank you so much for your blog and postings and sharing your work. It has been an inspiration! Good luck on your new adventures at home or abroad.

    • Thank you David! I’m sure you’ll have tons of fun with the Promaster, I’ve spent way too much time looking into those recently as well. Let me know if you have any questions on the paneling as you get into it.

    • Matt,

      We used furring strips that were screwed into the metal of the van using sheet metal screws. The cedar panels were attached to these furring strips using short wood screws.


  5. Hey guys,
    Thanks for all the great info. I’m at the paneling planning stage and thinking about screwing the cedar panels directly into the metal ribs to save a step and some interior room. Any particular reason you opted for the furring strips?

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