RV REMODEL | Step by Step RV Renovation Guide

Aunt Glady is our 2006 Keystone Copper Canyon Sprinter Fifthwheel. rv remodel step by step guide When we purchased her, we had three weeks for a complete renovation before hitting the road as fulltime RVers. We had no experience with RVs, and we based our remodel plans on making our RV not like an RV, but more like an apartment. This is a long post, because it is jam-packed with details to make your RV Remodel a success – use the headings to skip to different topics as desired! You have the added bonus here of knowing that our remodeled RV has been on the road for over 2 years, traveling over 20,000 miles. This info. is tried and true!

 

rv renovation before pics

Before

rv remodel after photos

After

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click here for RV Remodel Prep – Must Know Before You Begin 

Step-by-Step RV Renovation Guide

RV Remodel – Electric & Tool List

Once we were in place behind our church, with the electric available (See RV Remodel Prep for details on electric); we were ready to gather our tools and get started!

Tool List: Table saw, chop saw, jig saw, oscillating multi-tool, air compressor, brad nailer, cordless drill, cordless impact driver, hammer, wonder bar, pry bar, square head drill fittings (all of the RV screws and cabinet hardware used square head screws), phillips head screwdriver, flat head screwdriver, plyers, tin snips, utility knife with extra blades, caulk gun, gloves, tape measure, 4’-0” level, paint brushes, paint rollers, paint mini-rollers, CPVC pipe cutter and PEX crimping tool. It was June for our remodel, so we did run the A/C – so we could generally only use one tool at a time on the available 15 amps. We set-up our awning and kept our tools under its protection during the day while we worked; and then stored the tools locked in the RV overnight.

Watch our RV Remodel Video!

RV Remodel Plan

Here are the main changes we decided to make:

Dining Area- Remove bulky booth & table set, and replace with slimmer table and chairs to give more room for a larger couch in the slide. This change would also allow us to decrease the furniture weight.

Living Area – Remove old love seat, and replace with larger more functional day bed.

Kitchen – New sink and countertops. Retain cabinets and existing layout.

Bathroom – Remove sink and vanity and replace with smaller items to maximize space and storage.

Flooring – Remove all carpeting and replace with easier to clean flooring.

Entertainment Cabinet – We do not use a TV, so we chose that area for the washer/dryer and storage.

Office – None existing, but needs to be added to the space.

Windows – Remove window treatments to make the space feel larger.

RV Remodel – Demo

The first items to be demolished were the existing couch and recliner, the built-in dining unit, the entertainment center, the kitchen countertop & sink and the bathroom sink & vanity.

We were able to donate the existing love seat and recliner, and a family took it home.

The built in dining unit had to be deconstructed piece by piece.  The existing plastic laminate kitchen countertop (including the plastic kitchen sink) was removed.  The existing bathroom sink, base cabinet, and medicine cabinet were removed.  The existing built in entertainment unit and closet was pulled down piece by piece.  All of these items were taken to the dump.

When you take the items to the dump, you can get a pretty accurate estimate of the weight that you remove from the RV. This is crucial information, because you want to make sure that you do not add so much weight on to the RV with the remodel, that you are no longer to pack your items for travel. We explain this in detail in our RV Remodel Prep post.

The current condition of the flooring & the type of flooring you want to install can dictate how much of the existing flooring needs to come out.  Our RV floor was in good shape, especially the plywood subfloor that was beneath the existing carpet and vinyl flooring.

We were installing sheet vinyl flooring throughout the entire RV (Tarkett Fiber Floor).  That meant that meant that we had to remove all of the existing carpet; however, we decided to leave the existing vinyl floor in place and just go over it.  It was in good shape, still adequately adhered to the subfloor, and had no soft spots.  The carpet put up a vigorous fight to maintain its position. They do not use typical carpet nailing strips at the perimeter, at least they didn’t in our RV. It was a real battle to remove the carpeting.

The carpet in the bedroom was particularly difficult, in some areas it ran up vertical sections around the floor (I have never found vertical carpet installation to be a good idea.)  Part of the challenge was the tight confines and low head room, which made leverage very difficult. Eventually, all the carpet gave way to our coaxing, except for the carpet that was in the storage area under bed. By the time we got to that portion, we were ready to call it quits on the carpeting. So, we left that carpet in tact and just laid a piece of the new flooring over it, so that we could now wipe the space clean.

After removing the flooring, it is important to go over the subfloor carefully and make sure all staples, nails, screws, or other fasteners have been removed so they don’t cause issues with the new flooring.

We also removed the window treatments. The previous owners had installed blinds, which we kept; but we removed the curtains and valances. And that covers the demo!

RV Remodel – Paint

Prior to painting I scoured every nook and cranny of the interior and caulked any existing cracks or gaps, and trust me there were plenty.  I used standard white latex caulk in general areas and white silicone around kitchen and bathroom areas.  This is a time consuming step but one of the most critical in my opinion for providing a clean, crisp finished product.

We also filled all the old nail holes with putty and sanded.  The existing walls of our RV were the original factory prefinished paneling that had some sort of texture to them and a wallpaper border.  We decided to paint right over all of it – it was in good shape, no tearing, so we decided to encase it in paint.

We used Sherwin Williams paint. The walls got one coat of all-purpose primer, and two coats of finish paint – white, eggshell.  The cabinets including doors and drawers were all lightly sanded before receiving the same all-purpose primer.  We used three coats of high gloss extra bright white paint on the cabinets to allow for more washability.  We used the same thing on the wood paneling that was on the refrigerator doors.  The existing ceiling was in good shape and already light in color so we just used two coats of flat white ceiling paint to freshen it.  The painting is a slow process, since you really can’t make much progress with a roller, there just isn’t that much open wall space.  We used small rollers and brushes for 90% of the work and tried our best to be patient.

RV Remodel – Kitchen

One of the main reasons we chose the RV that we did was because of the kitchen layout.  So we didn’t want to change the cabinet layout, just brighten up the look, which we did by painting as explained above.  Now, it was time to tackle the countertop and sink.  We chose a plastic laminate top constructed of ¾” particle board with a built-up edge to make it look 1-1/2” thick.  The laminate looks like a typical granite pattern, just without the weight or the cost.  We purchased the tops at Lowe’s, they had straight 6’-0” sections and precut sections that were mitered to fit together at corners.  We purchased one straight piece and two corner pieces for our project.  As part of the install, I had to install a new ledger board on the RV wall to support the back edge of the new countertop.

This brings us to an important tip specific to construction in an RV, if your RV isn’t perfectly level during construction you can’t use a level when installing things.  If you do, whatever you are installing will be level in an absolute sense, but it will not be level relative to your RV.  The first time you make your RV level,  things will be rolling off your countertop!  I took the approach of getting the new top level relative to the adjacent cabinets.  Of course that counts on the fact that the cabinets were installed level in the factory, but at least we’ll know the countertop looks good next to the cabinets and not out of line.  I measured down from the bottom of the wall cabinets to install the ledger and it worked out just fine.  I also had the bottom of the windows to use for reference.  I used brackets and small screws to attach the underside of the countertop to the existing base cabinets.  Make sure the screws are short enough so they don’t penetrate the finished side of the base cabinets or the top of the new countertop.  We had two unfinished countertop edges to deal with, the tops came with laminate end strips that can be applied by ironing them on.  We sanded and cleaned the edge of the top prior to application, and I also applied some superglue to help the bonding.

Having removed the old plastic sink, we purchased a single bowl stainless steel sink from Lowes.  We decided to reuse the existing faucet as it was in good shape and suited our needs.  The sink was a standard installation, we cut the hole in the countertop and installed the sink with concealed fasteners that came with the sink.  We caulked around the perimeter of the sink with clear silicone.  A benefit of locating the new sink in the same place as the old is we didn’t have to adjust any of the plumbing.

Just for fun we added a faux ceramic tile backsplash.  We found a product online that comes in 12”x12” sheets that you can peel and stick on the wall.  Cutting around the windows was a bit of a challenge, but we got there in the end.  After the backsplash was installed, we caulked the joint between the countertop and the backsplash with silicone.

For additional storage in the existing wall cabinets, we decided to add an intermediate shelf in three of the cabinets.  We used shelf pegs that you would typically see inside of a cabinet – we had some left over from past projects.  I measured the appropriate height on both sides of the cabinet and installed the pegs at 12” on center, front and back.  I used a 1×12 board that I ripped down to the required width with a table saw, sanded it and painted it white.  This allowed for double the storage of items that were less than 8” tall which accounted for most of our items.  We left two wall cabinets at full height for storing taller items.

RV Remodel – Flooring

With the painting and kitchen out of the way, it was time to install the new flooring before moving onto the bathroom work which included new cabinets.  We wanted the new flooring to extend under the new cabinet and shelving unit in the bathroom so now was the time to get the floor down.

The Fiber Floor product is thick for a vinyl floor (almost 1/8”) but still negligible when considering existing door thresholds and slide operation.  Whatever flooring you select will need to allow the slides to function properly.  The existing clearance between the top of the finished floor and the underside of the slide structure is very small.  The safe path here is to select a new floor finish that has the same or lesser thickness of the flooring material that is being removed.

RVs aren’t like homes, they typically don’t come with running trim like baseboard. So, you need to decide how the new flooring will terminate at the perimeter of the room.  We ran the flooring up to the existing wall leaving roughly 1/8”-1/4” gap to allow for movement and then installed ½” quarter round for baseboard.  We fastened the quarter round to the wall, not to the floor.

What will the seam(s) look like where the slide flooring meets the main flooring?  We originally planned on finishing the loose edge of the slide flooring with a piece of trim, but opted for no trim once we saw the final product.  One of the reasons that we chose the Fiber Floor product is that it lays flat and does not tend to curl, even over time.  We did use double sided tape to secure the slide flooring to the slide subfloor to ensure that it would stay in place.  Other than that, the Fiber Floor just floats.  I used sheets of tar paper taped together to create a template for cutting the vinyl floor (I know, overkill, it’s the engineer in me!).  This method helps me to get an accurate cut the first time that extends to all surrounding walls and around all obstructions, which are plentiful in an RV.  This allows for full sheets to extend throughout the rooms and eliminates seams that would collect dirt and allow water to get down to your subfloor.  The pros can do it without a template, but I have no idea how!

RV Remodel – Bathroom:

We were happy to have a self-contained bathroom with the sink, toilet and shower in the same room; however, this setup does make for a “cozy” bathroom experience.  To try and create as open a feel as possible we selected a compact all in one vanity sink unit from Lowes.  The base cabinet does not stick out as far as the front of the sink, which makes for more floor space and foot room while still allowing some storage under the sink that you would sacrifice with a pedestal sink.

We built a small shelving unit to the left of the vanity by deconstructing a pre-fab shelving unit we used to have in our house and rebuilding it to suit the RV bathroom space.  We used a leftover piece of the new kitchen countertop to top off the shelving unit and give us a bit of counter space.  The shelving unit depth matched that of the vanity cabinet.

Similar to the kitchen, we put the new sink in the same location as the old sink, so we wouldn’t have to move plumbing.  We did have to cut holes in the bottom and side of the new vanity cabinet to allow for plumbing connections.  Once installed, we caulked the joint where the wall met the sink and shelving unit countertop with white silicone.  Above the sink we installed a mirror.  We opted for just a mirror instead of a storage cabinet to increase the volume of the space.   The existing medicine cabinet we removed projected into the bathroom at least four inches and contributed to the cramped feeling in there.  With a bathroom this small, every inch counts!

RV Remodel – Washer/Dryer

This was a big one for us, we knew if the fulltime RV lifestyle was going to be a fulltime venture for us, we needed a washer/dryer on board.

We had the W/D dimensions from the order information, so we knew how large of a space we would need.  It worked out that we had just enough room to the left of the existing stairs, where the old entertainment unit used to be.  We decided to install the W/D first and then build the enclosure around it.  We did build the enclosure in such a way that we can remove the W/D without deconstructing anything.

Now that we had the desired location for the W/D, the rest of the installation consisted of four items.  Electrical power to the unit, hot and cold water to the unit, a drain connection, and the dryer vent.  We ordered this Splendide W/D  (free shipping), which can be run off of a regular 20 amp outlet.  This made the electrical install very simple.  We didn’t have to worry about installing a special outlet or running dedicated wiring back to the breaker box.  We decided the best approach for electric would be to allow use of the extra 20 amp outlet that you usually get on a typical RV Park power pole.  This would allow us to run the W/D without sacrificing any of the 30 amps for the rest of the RV.

There was an existing opening in the floor behind the W/D, the previous owner used it as a laundry shoot to a laundry basket sitting in the storage area below.  We chose this opening to run the W/D water, electric, and dryer vent.  We ran the power chord from the W/D through the floor opening and hooked it up to a 50’ heavy duty (appliance rated) extension cord that would sit coiled up in the storage space below.  When it is time to use the W/D, we simply open the exterior access door to the storage compartment and run that extension cord to the power pole nearby. Electric, done.

Our closest water was the piping running to the bathroom which was across the stair from the W/D location.  We accessed the hot and cold water piping in the storage compartment below, and used CPVC fittings to “T” off of the existing lines and run new lines across the width of the compartment to the opening in the floor.  The hoses that came with the W/D were long enough to extend down through the floor opening and tie into our new piping down there.  We added new shutoff valves where the W/D hoses connect to our new CPVC piping for more control of the water flow.  You’ll notice the typical RV plumbing does not look like newer residential CPVC or PEX piping.  You can get plumbing piping and fittings to match the RV style at your local Camping World or similar RV supply store.  We opted for standard residential grade materials since they were easier to acquire.  Water supply, done.

The drain line could’ve been more problematic, but we were fortunate with this one.  Ideally, you want to connect the drain to the grey tank; but we did not have that option with our location. Instead, behind the W/D there was a vent pipe that ran from the black tank up through the roof.  Although not typically used for drainage, this was too good to pass up.  We cut the vent pipe, installed a PVC Y-connection of equal diameter and fitted it with a rubber gasket so the end of the drain line would fit snuggly with no chance of pull out or fumes escaping.  The drain line of the W/D also has a backflow preventer which keeps fumes from the black tank from escaping into the W/D.  The drain line that came with the W/D was long enough to reach to the Y-connection that we installed.  This setup allows the water to drain from the W/D into the black tank.  This does mean that when we are doing laundry we need to keep an eye on the black tank and empty it when it is full.  Drain line, done.

The last part of the install was the dryer vent. We chose the vented W/D because it dries much faster than the non-vented version. We wanted the vent to extend outside of the storage compartment during times of use. This would allow the W/D to vent to the outside without us having to cut a hole in the exterior wall of the RV. The vent duct that came with the W/D was too short, so we bought a 6’-0” section of flex duct that matched the diameter of the duct that came with the W/D. We installed a louvered fitting to the end of the duct for aesthetics and to help protect the vent opening during use. When in use, we simply pull the duct to the edge of the storage compartment so it can vent directly outside. Operation on-board laundry…complete!

Our washer/dryer review and how to operate it.

RV Remodel – Storage

Now that the W/D was installed it was time to build the enclosure and start getting those critical storage areas built into our RV.  We used ½” plywood to build the enclosure and used ½”x ½” corner trim to add a finished look at the edges.  We created a closet/storage area that would provide approximately 36” of closet space for hanging clothes, a large shelf under the hanging clothes area, a sliding drawer mounted to the underside of this shelf, and two large cubbies for books and miscellaneous items.

A metal hanging rod was installed in the closet area.  We had two steps leading from the living area to the bed/bath area, and we rebuilt the first step to include a storage space for shoes underneath it.  We also cut two large access holes in the living room walls to provide access to the storage compartment below.  This allowed us to install plastic bins (laid on their side) in the storage compartment and use them as shoe cubbies that could be accessed from the living area.  We installed two access doors to cover these cubbies and hung them on hooks anchored to the wall.

RV Remodel – Furniture

The new furniture we introduced into the RV needed to be functional as well as bring a residential feel to the space.  We needed a space to eat, a space that could double as a couch and an extra bed for guests, and a workspace for Chris that was large enough for him to be efficient without overtaking the living area at the same time.  Enter IKEA!  We selected this day bed that, with accompanying pillows, provides an excellent couch, pulls out into a bed that is about the size of a king, and also incorporates two large drawers which are ideal for storage.

Watch a Video demo of our day bed!

If you’ve bought any furniture from IKEA you know that everything comes deconstructed and you have to put it together yourself.  Thankfully, they normally do an excellent job of making sure all parts and pieces are included along with clear step by step directions.  For the day bed, I was able to bring the individual boxes into the RV and assemble the day bed in the RV.

We selected a white work desk that had a low profile minimalist design with two storage drawers and an integrated wire management compartment (can’t have those loose wires everywhere!).  For the dining area, we chose to repurpose a small drop-leaf table that Jen had purchased at a flea market a long time ago.  We added two chairs we already owned, and we were good to go.

Since all of the added furniture items were not built in, we needed to anchor them to the wall so they would be safe on moving days. For the desk, I originally anchored it directly to the wall, but in about three months, the screws had stripped through the wall. So, I upgraded the anchoring by adding pieces of 1x wood of various sizes as ledger boards.  We secured these ledgers to the RV walls with multiple screws (take care the screws are not too long to go all the way through your exterior wall!).  We didn’t try to hit the aluminum framing with our ledger board screws.  We found that with four screws fastened to the wall per ledger board that was adequate anchorage.  The work desk was screwed to the ledger board for a permanent attachment.  The day bed and dining table would only need to be anchored on travel days, so we installed stainless steel screw eyes into the ledgers that we could hook ratchet straps to on moving days to secure these items.  A total of three of these anchor points were installed.

Watch our RV packing up video to see how the anchoring process works!

RV Remodel – Décor

It is tempting to decorate your RV to finish your remodel project, but keep in mind that you may want to be able to add décor as you travel. We have items on our walls from Texas, California and Oregon. It is nice to have a memory that goes with each item.

RV Remodel – Cost, Manpower & Time

Our RV cost was $13,845.50 (including taxes, tags and a slide out cover). We spent $3,974 on our entire remodel, including furniture and washer/dryer. The most expensive part was the W/D (around $1,100), but keep in mind that it will save money in the long run, since you won’t be paying laundry fees. Jen and I did most of the work on our own. For the washer/dryer install, my brother-in-law gave me a hand due to its weight and for his general plumbing knowledge. It took us three full weeks for the entire remodel.

Check out our RV Remodel Before & After Pics!

Phew, I think we finally made it to the end of the RV Remodel! Let’s wrap it up with a video that showcases our renovation, so you can see it for yourself….

Got questions??? Leave them in the comments BELOW!

What has worked well for your RV remodel?

 

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2 comments on “RV REMODEL | Step by Step RV Renovation Guide

  1. Jen and Chris
    What did you use to degloss, prep the vinyl wallpaper? TSP, sanding. Our travel trailer is now nine years old and due for a fresh look. I want a good tooth for the paint.
    My wife and I have watched all your videos and loved them all. Best of luck in all your ventures.
    Dale

    • Hi, Dale! We did not prep the wallpaper. Ours was in good shape, so we figured it was best to leave it in tact. We did one coat of primer and then 2 coats of paint directly on the wallpaper. We did not remove the border either, just painted right over it. It has been 2.5 years now, and it has held up great. We have not needed to do any touch-ups, but we did keep a small container of the paint we used on board just in case. We did use Sherwin Williams paint for a better quality. Hope that helps! Best wishes with your painting project! And your travels! Thanks so much for the kind words! Chris

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