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Van Build Diary 5.4: Roof Bed Liner – The Final (Major) Step

This post goes into why you might REALLY want to consider using bed liner and NOT ONLY on your roof, chronologically WHEN you ought to do it, and how to apply it (it’s probably the easiest thing you’ll do).

It is the final post in a roof-top series that includes:

5.4 – Bed Liner - why, where, and how (the one you’re reading now!)

Without further ado, here's the post and a quick disclaimer that there are some affiliate links- I may receive a small commission (at no cost to you) if you purchase through the links provided. (Learn more here) Thanks for supporting On An Imperfect Journey!

What is bedliner and why would you need?

Bedliner is an extra layer of protection against the elements for anywhere you might need it, which, in the context of a van is always the roof AND the lower parts of the van. Both of these take quite a beating – the roof mainly from objects that might scrape against it (falling branches, things getting trapped between your rack/solar and the roof, etc.); the lower sides of the van get their fair share from rocks, salt spray, and debris on the road.

What it actually is is a rust-treatment paint – remember Rustoleum from the Maxxair air-vent and A/C installs and you can see more of its' uses in the window series here. Yep, think of that in the form of a paint coating – an abrasion resistant coating. That’s what it is!

When Should You Apply Bedliner?


So, bedliner creates an abrasion resistant coating SO LONG AS THE COATING ISN’T BROKEN! Once it chips, or relevant to this discussion, the metal is cut into and breaks that abrasion resistant seal, you’ve defeated the purpose of having the seal in that area. Therefore, the most ideal time to apply it is after you’ve made all the cuts you need to into your roof.

Another reason is that some of the items you’ll be attaching to your roof require sitting flush to your smooth roof to seal properly. Bed liner creates a rougher finish that might not permit a flush seal. No flush seal means LEAKS!

For us, we put ALMOST everything on the roof before applying the bedliner. That means, we installed the 2 Maxxair Vents, the Nomadic Cooling A/C, and the Roof Rails (which also acts as a perfect marker for where to stop applying the bed liner).

The ONLY thing we didn’t do was install the roof-top combiner box for our solar panels. However, it turns out that Sprinters come with a lovely sealed hole in the middle back that only require a heat-gun to open and no cutting.

So, when it comes time to connect our solar (very soon!), we will install the roof-top combiner box and add roof bedliner to just that small area. No cutting required. And we just left that small square untouched by the bedliner. Simple as that.

Oh, and you can apply it at any time to the lower sides of your vehicle. In our case, we just did it at the same time as we did the roof.

A Note on Color

The bed liner comes in Clear and Black. We originally only planned to do bedliner on the roof. Black was eliminated immediately because we don’t need black attracting the heat of the sun on our roof! So, Clear it was!

Well, Marino got a little too excited with the buffing and buffed some of the color off the edges on the roof, so we needed to do some touch-ups. So, we had to get this White spray-on for that, too! He did the sides of the vehicle just fine so no touch-ups were necessary.

See below for the full breakdown of how to apply the bedliner.

Which Method of Application

There are three different ways to apply it:

  1. Air-compressor spray-gun – usually done by a professional (because requires equipment) and can cost near $2000

  2. Roll-on Bed Liner – rolls on like paint

  3. Spray-on Bed Liner – sprays on like spray paint

Options #2 and 3 are the easiest and most amenable to DIY-ing it. Both options cost about the same. Both options also require care in making sure you don’t get drip lines.

So, what did we use? #2 - the Roll-on Method

The roll-on method seemed to make the most sense.

With the spray-on method, you have to hold the spray approximately 12 inches away and we just figured that would be too much collateral mess and/or having to spend too much time taping/cardboarding-off the parts of the vehicle we didn’t want the spray to land on. If that's what you decide to go with, you can check out Mathers on the Map using the spray cans (Note: they went with this option in part because it seemed the cheapest but then ended up buying a bunch more cans, which is why I say, the spray-on and roll-on cost approx. the same)

Also NOTE: no one needs a gallon’s worth of bedliner for their roof. So, we got a used (Amazon verified) Gallon-size container of clear bedliner. We still have plenty left to take on the road with us if ever there is a need for reinforcement. It comes in Quart and Gallon. I'd say the quart-size is cutting it close, especially if you plan on doing the roof and the lower sides of the van. You should be fine with two Quarts OR just hold on the the Gallon for touch-ups later!

Now, as I mentioned before, Marino did a little too much buffing on the edges, so we just got a spray-can for the touch-ups.

Step-by-Step Guide to Applying Bedliner

NOTE: I would suggest making sure your roof and the sides of the vehicle are clean before starting. Marino gave it a wash just to make sure there wasn’t any debris getting rubbed into the roof as he sanded.

Tools and supplies:

  • Towel to remove any moisture

  • 120 grit sandpaper

  • Paper towels

  • Auto-safe glass cleaner

  • Paint roller, tray, tray-insert


1) After cleaning the roof and removing any debris and moisture with the towel, gently buff the whole area you will apply the bedliner to. Marino buffed the whole roof.

Marino’s plan was to work backwards to the back end of the roof. Once he could no longer stand on the roof while applying it, he would apply the last part while standing on the ladder. This can only work if your arms are long enough to reach to the middle from each side. If not, I would suggest doing one half at a time.

2) Clean the area buffed with the glass cleaner and paper towels.

3) Apply 1 coat of bedliner to the areas buffed and allow to dry according to the instructions on the container. Ours required 24-hour dry time.

4) Remove dust and debris with a blower or fan (you don't want to use a towel or anything that might leave microfibers on the first layer.

5) Rinse the roof again with water and let air dry (again, you don't want microfibers from a towel getting trapped and drying between the layers)

6) Apply 2nd coat of bedliner and allow to dry.

It’s that simple!

Just repeat the whole process for the sides of the vehicle too and you’re done!

The whole next series will be about installing windows, after which we will tackles the electrics. So, if you want to keep up with what we’re doing, hit the subscribe button at the top of the page!

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