Our van had a bunch of problems with it’s ceiling. Leaky skylight has made a mess of the panels, cracked light was ‘fixed’ by someone with a bit of white tape and Fiamma roller blinds were all efed up:

I bravely (not knowing it at the time) decided to strip it all down and fix those problems. So here we go:

Once the bottom plastic sections of the skylight are removed the only thing holding it in place was a bit of old, hardened putty and some fancy sealing tape at the edges (on the outside of the roof). Since I don’t have a ladder I unscrewed the skylight ‘hatch’ and stood on a chair inside the van which gave me enough height to pop my head and arms out the hole and remove the sealing tape from the frame using an £8 ebay heat gun. Here’s the hole left after the skylight was completely removed:

It’s very, very important to remove every single bit of the old sealant so that the new sealant has a good surface to adhere to. Again, heat gun was indispensable. I also used a bit of soapy water, white spirit and sand paper to ensure the surface was clean and ready for new sealant:

Meanwhile indoors, I had a look at the broken Fiamma roller blinds and it turned out that the metal rod holding the blind in place has popped out of it’s hole:

To get that fixed it was necessary to wind the roller up again (it’s a spring mechanism) and re-insert into the hole properly. Then apply few drops of Superglue where the rod connects to the plastic frame to make sure it doesn’t pop out and unwind again. These things wear out with years of abuse and as the original squarish hole becomes more round the chances of the rod popping out get higher. Superglue sorted it out nicely. I repeated the same process for the mozzie net on the other side. It needed a bit of WD40 sprayed into the tube (were the spring sits) to make it move properly again. I guess it got rusty due to water leaking on it.

I cut new panels from Swedish fireboard picked up from B&Q for around £5. It’s a thin, flexible board, the sort you can find at the back of a wardrobe, with one side smooth and the other rough. You can cut them with a sharp Stanley knife if you don’t have a jigsaw. It takes a bit of time and will make your hands hurt, but it’s doable.

The panels were painted mat white with Stainwood type of oil paint you can find in all decorating shops. It blended-in surprisingly well with the original grey vinyl I had on the side panels. I decided to paint both sides of the boards to make them a bit more water/moisture resistant.

I used tigerseal to seal the skylights and stop water leaks. It worked a treat as always. Try to avoid using silicone as it doesn’t adhere to fiberglass very well. We had few days of rain to test the seal properly before re-fitting the insulation and new panels. It’s something you don’t want to find out after you put it all together so make sure to always test for leaks. Use a bucket if you can’t wait for rain (no such issue in the UK).

For the first layer of insulation I used ‘bubbly space foil’ sort of stuff you can pick up cheap in DIY stores:

You’ll also need some good spray adhesive:

Make sure to read and follow instructions on the can about waiting a minute for the solvents to evaporate after spraying the glue – otherwise it won’t stick!

After the space foil stuff I fitted rigid insulation panels and used expanding foam to fill any gaps left over:

Pro Tip: The foam will drip all over the place but do not touch it until it’s dry! It’s much easier to remove once dry. When you mess with it wet it will be much harder to get rid of later. I know it’s tempting and I still have white patches on my boots… Also make sure you’re wearing gloves.

Once the foam is dry it can be trimmed with a knife:

Next the ‘fun’ bit of fitting the new panels. They are a proper pain to put back in place as one needs to slide them into small plastic rails on both sides of the roof. A millimeter out here and a millimeter out there will make it look whack or you won’t be able to slide them in. The roof has different width at front (narrower) than the back the the rails got a bit bent over the years which adds difficulty. A lot of swearing and two hours later I had a finished product:

Old, cracked light was replaced with a cheap 12V LED i found on ebay. LED lights are very power efficient so use them if you can.