For most full-time RVers, there comes a time when you fall out of love with your first rig. Usually this happens when you’ve lived in it a while and discover the best and worst features of that particular model. If you decided you can live with the RV and just need to incorporate some new elements into it, you’ll need to gather some patience in order to survive your first RV rehab – especially if you’ll go through it with a traveling buddy. Last fall my husband and I made it through a major remodel of our new-to-us fifth wheel trailer, and as a result we learned some things about remodeling a full-time RV.
Three Important Tips for Remodeling a Full-Time RV
1. Communication is Key
After a few years of nagging my husband for a different RV, he agreed. Only problem was that our new RV home needed some major renovations. Before Jim ever picked up a nail gun, we had to sit down together and clearly communicate our goals for the new RV interior. Since the major remodeling would occur in the RV’s bunkhouse that we aimed to convert into a workshop, we had to patiently discuss everything from the workbench height to where new lights would go. To solidify our ideas we sketched them out on paper and took careful measurements of everything we needed to avoid costly rehab disasters.
2. Reuse and Recycle
Performing any kind of RV remodel means that you’ll discover the harsh truth that even the best RVs are put together with staples and glue. But that’s OK, since most of these materials will come apart easily and allow you to reuse them. Save any original factory installed pieces that can be used later in your project, like wooden bed platforms and cabinet doors. When dismantling, do it gently since these elements might break if your deconstructions methods are too rough. For new construction materials, save some money by visiting your nearest home improvement store that sells recycled construction materials (for example, ReStore by Habitat for Humanity). When selecting your items, keep them as lightweight at the original ones you removed. For example, use 1x2s for framing your new cabinets instead of the traditional and heavier 2x3s used in stick home construction (note: you may need to cut 1x2s out of 2×3 boards).
3. Don’t Expect Perfect
Unless you’re a professional home builder, chances are good that your RV remodel project is going to have character. If something isn’t aligned just right or your cabinet is a bit cockeyed, breathe and remember it’s OK – any funky elements in your RV remodel just puts you ahead of the game since all RVs will eventually get pummeled by the perpetual bumps, shocks and rough rides that take a toll on even the most well-constructed rigs. Don’t aim for perfect, you’ll just be disappointed a few thousand miles later.
After about a week of sawing, hammering, gluing and cleaning we managed to survive our own RV remodel. Today I have a really cool workshop where I can make jewelry and leave my tools out when we’re stationary and my husband enjoys telling friends that he bought me the new RV. I’m glad we decided to dive into our first remodel but it wasn’t the most enjoyable project to tackle. After all, one of the reasons we sold our home and most of our stuff was to say adios to the time consuming rehab projects that stick houses dwellers must endure. Just goes to show you that even trailerin’ folk like us have to pay occasional visits to Home Cheapo if we want to make life a little more comfortable.
Rene Agredano and her husband, Jim Nelson, became full-time RVers in 2007 and have been touring the country ever since. In her blog, Rene chronicles the ins and outs of the full-timing life and brings readers along to meet the fascinating people and amazing places they visit on the road. Her road trip adventures are chronicled in her blog at LiveWorkDream.com.