Some of the most important steps in an RV remodel or RV renovation are those that are laid out prior to the first swing of the hammer. We spent some time on RV remodel prep to make sure that the actual remodel process would go smoothly for our 2006 Keystone Copper Canyon Sprinter Fifthwheel. (Or at least mostly smooth for people who did not have a clue about RVs or RV living.)
Our RV Remodel Background Experience
They say to always start with what you know, right? Well, we had no RV experience or RV remodel experience. All that we knew was that an RV was our means to an end – we wanted to travel the country, and RVing was the most affordable way to reach our goal. But, we weren’t sure how much we would actually like the RV or RV living part of the scenario. So, with that in mind, we decided that we basically wanted to take an RV (older model so we could pay for it outright and not have payments on the road) and make it look like a “Not RV”. (Sorry Aunt Glady, no offense intended.)
What would we like it to look like? Basically, a small apartment both bright and clean. With an apartment look and feel in our minds, we knew that we could tackle the renovation relying on our experience remodeling houses. We had done enough of that through the years to understand the basics, and we knew we could apply our knowledge to a smaller space without a hitch (get it?).
Learn about How We Downsized to Become Fulltime RVers here!
Having now spent over 2 years and 40,000 miles on the road; we are happy to say that our RV remodel has held up great! And we receive so many compliments that it is time to share the process with you. Keep in mind that we are completely self taught when it comes to renovations. Chris is a structural engineer, but engineering skills have no real translation to renovation skills. We just learned by asking others and trying. We just want you to know that anyone can do what we did – no special skills required, just common sense and extra effort.
Before you begin an RV remodel, we believe it is important to answer, or at least consider, the below questions. We are sharing our answers to the questions too, so you can have an example for a guide if you choose. Let’s talk RV Remodel Prep!
What we had to work with…isn’t she a beauty?
Questions for Consideration for RV Remodel Prep
Question #1 What are your RV Remodel design goals?
Like I mentioned, we wanted to take an RV and make it a “Not RV”. We also knew that we wanted to make it feel as big as possible, so we knew we would be painting the interior white and also opening up the window areas.
Question #2 How can you maximize the small space available?
Think storage. Be creative and think about all of the space, even tiny little nooks, that are sitting unused – can you change that? Consider some of the added items you will need to store that may not have an obvious area, such as dirty laundry, shoes, etc. Think organization. When dealing with small spaces, everything needs to have its place. We added three extra areas for shoe storage in previously unused space (including under the steps).
Question #3 How will you secure items for travel?
This is a question that can be used as you make decisions about what you will be adding to your RV. Everything needs to be able to travel securely, so keep it in mind as you design your remodel.
Question #3 What is your RV’s allowable weight?
The dry weight of your RV is the weight of the RV without any of your stuff in it. No food, no clothes, no toiletries, no games, no dishes, no full tanks (black, gray, fresh water), etc. Just the RV by itself. This is an important figure because your RV has a gross trailer weight rating (GTWR) which is the allowed sum of the dry weight plus all of your stuff and full tanks. It is a set number that you can not exceed. You want to be sure that your remodel still allows you plenty of weight to add the necessary living items to your RV without exceeding your GTWR. While we’re on the topic of weight, another thing to consider during the renovation planning is distribution of weight. If you pull 1,000 lbs of old stuff out of your RV during demolition that was spread over the entire RV, and then put 1,000lbs of new stuff into the RV but all in one confined area, that is not ideal. You want the finished RV to have an even distribution of weight from front to back, and from side to side (as much as possible). For our situation, the heaviest item that we added to the RV was our washer/dryer – we made sure to locate it as close to the axle as possible. It is also on the opposite side of the axle from the kitchen, which has a lot of weight to it – a little bit of a balancing act.
Question #4 Feeling sketchy?
Time to draw up a sketch of the dimensions of your RV. Then, as you pick new furniture and items, you can lay them in to the dimensions on paper to make sure they will fit. No need to be an Architect, just a rough sketch with some dimensions will be very helpful. We had a dimensioned drawing that I used to then make sure that our new daybed, table & chairs and Chris’ desk would fit.
Question #5 What about the items that you are removing from the RV?
Whether you have the room for it or not, you won’t want to accumulate trash and debris around your workspace. Donate, sell, etc. We donated our RV couch, and now a family uses it in their living room.
Question #6 Where will the RV be located during the project?
Will it be protected from the elements or not? Will you have access to electric? Will you have access to water? We had already sold our home and were in a short-term townhouse rental during our reno. Being in a community, no RVs were allowed. Thankfully, our church gave us permission to park there for the reno. Once our RV was in position behind the church we used a 15amp/30amp adapter to hook our 30amp RV electric line up to one of the building’s standard 15amp electrical outlets. Keep in mind that wherever you decide to tackle this project, whether home or someplace else, the chances of you having access to a 30amp or 50amp plug are very unlikely. Plan on having a 15amp/30amp or 15amp/50amp adapter depending on the service requirements of your RV. An important note to keep in mind, if you are plugged into a 15amp outlet…that is all the electric you will have to work with…just 15amps. That goes pretty quick especially if you are using 10amps +/- to run the RVs air conditioning unit. Take care to only run one piece of electrical equipment at a time. I was able to run the RV’s AC unit along with an air compressor with no problem. If available, run your power tools off of a different building/house outlet. If you are ripping out existing equipment/items that require electric, you’ll want to make sure your RV is not plugged in. Since we had just purchased our RV there was nothing in the refrigerator and it was turned off for the duration of the project. Keep in mind that some items on the RV will run off of the RV batteries when the RV is not plugged into an electrical source. Chris disconnected the battery for the duration of our project.
Those are the main considerations for your RV Remodel Prep. Add a dash of patience to those plans, and you are all set for a great RV Remodel!
Now that we got this reno party started, let’s keep it going until you have the RV of your dreams!!!