Interested in old RV remodels? Check out this post for ideas from other RVers on how to renovate your RV trailer. Here The Virtual Campground talks to 3 full-time RVers on how they remodeled their camper, how much it cost, and their top 3 tips for you!
Shelly from Boondock or Bust
Hi! I’m Shelly. My husband and I recently renovated our 1979 Avion 29J. This is our 4th RV and our 3rd old RV remodel.
Why did you renovate?
We have been full time RVers for over 5 years. We have had a Class A (too big and bulky for us), a new travel trailer (newer rigs are not made well IMO), a truck camper (way too small) and now this vintage Avion (the perfect size for us!) When we purchased this Avion we knew we would be remodeling. It had the original 1970’s interior (complete with orange couch) and we wanted to bring it into the modern era and still keep some vintage touches. This was our 3rd remodel (Class A and truck camper before this) so we had a good idea of what we wanted to accomplish.
How much did it cost?
We spent $10k on this renovation along with an intial purchase price of $5500. Keep in mind that we had to replace all the major components (fridge, water heater, water pump, toilet, etc etc) plus we added solar which is an investment in itself. It was nearly a total gut and when we went into this renovation we did it with the understanding that we wouldn’t be getting rid of this rig any time soon. Although my husband says if someone offers us $40k then it’s gone. lol
Some of the ideas that saved us money though were reusing the old vintage hardware. I just repainted them and now they add a pop to the cabinets! Cost? $5 can of spray paint.
And instead of replacing the countertops I used a product called Giani. It’s basically a paint that mimics granite. You can be as creative with it as you like and once the sealer cures it is very durable. I did all the countertops in the Avion with one kit. $90!
We are also lucky that we have friends who also have a vintage Avion and as he is a master carpenter and as he had remodeled theirs we had no trouble convincing him to help us with our remodel. They just happened to be visiting for a month when we bought ours. Lucky coincidence (or not, maybe it was planned lol). They are why we decided to get this rig. We knew that the Avions are very well built and we just love the look.
Our friend built our L shaped lounge for us and the flip up desk as well as helping us install a new awning. Talk about good friends (but yes we did pay him for his labor)! I made the cushions myself.
On a scale of 1 to 10, how hard was this old camper remodel?
I would say probably an 8 and occasionally a 10! We ran into an electrical issue early on and nearly junked this rig but I’m so glad we preservered and worked it out!
It can also be difficult to do a complete renovation with your spouse. Fortunately my hubby and I work very well together! We know some people who have nearly divorced over renovations. Don’t be like that! If it gets difficult, take a step back and breathe. It’s not the end of the world.
This renovation took nearly 4 months of full time work on it.
What was the hardest part of renovating the RV?
Besides the electrical issue I would say the painting. ALL. THE. PAINTING!! From the ceiling, walls and cabinets it seemed like it would never end! It all had to be coordinated around the building of the lounge and desk area as well. It was a total PITA but it worked out in the end.
Do you like how the RV renovation turned out?
We LOVE it!! I had a plan from the beginning regarding the color scheme and design. When it all came together we couldn’t be happier!
What would you change or add?
At some point I will change the backsplash in the kitchen. It currently has the peel and stick “tiles” but I will be putting in real tile at some point. I will also be adding tile in the bathroom shower as well. The 1″ square ultra thin tile so not much weight.
What is a unique feature of your old camper remodel?
I would have to say our cork flooring. It was a big splurge (nearly $400 for such a small space) but it is so beautiful! It’s well insulating and warm to the feet even when it’s cold out! And it’s very earth friendly. Cork is highly sustainable.
Your TOP 3 TIPS for renovating an older camper trailer. Go!
1. BUDGET. Have a budget in mind and try to stick with it. Renovations can spiral out of control very easily. ‘
2. PRIORITIES. Decide what is the most important aspect you must change and what you can live with and go from there.
3. HAVE A SENSE OF HUMOR! Renovations can kick your ass and make you cry. Especially if you’re doing a total remodel like we did. There were so many days I wanted to throw in the towel but then I had to remember why we started. Having a sense of humor about when the rain starts flooding in because you didn’t get the roof sealed in time can really help.
Mandy of 188 SQFT
We are Mandy and Kevin. We renovated our Keystone 5th wheel ourselves. We have 2 dogs and 2 cats. Kevin creates awesome apps. Mandy creates awesome photos, and jewelry, and blog posts, and…
Why did you renovate?
We were on a budget from the get-go. We wanted this magical traveling lifestyle, while still making great progress on paying off our student debt. So we figured out how to make that happen.
We scoured the internet for a camper (we weren’t sure what kind) that was reasonably priced with a layout we liked. Fifth wheels were our favorite after doing research, but they usually had a bigger price tag. We searched aggressively for two months and found our little Keystone Cougar. She was 15 years old, and definitely looked (and smelled) dated, but she was $5k and the perfect layout/size for us.
We bought her on the spot, having saved up money for this ahead of time. We renovated her because she really, really needed it.
How much did it cost?
Camper: $5k Reno: $3k
On a scale of 1 to 10, how hard was it?
We had zero experience in renovating anything, and luckily we loved the layout so we didn’t do anything too crazy. I would say a 5, it was challenging but nothing we couldn’t figure out via youtube and articles online.
What was the hardest part about renovating?
Demo day. We just bought our camper and got it to Kevin’s parents house where we were going to complete the renovation. I took before photos and then it was time to take things apart. It was so hard. I felt like we were in way over our heads, and what if we ruined it? We had no idea what we were doing. But Kev kept a level head and reminded me we would figure it out.
Do you like how the old RV renovation turned out?
We love it. It is the first space we have ever lived in that truly felt like home. While it is far from perfect, we learned so much from everything and cannot wait to do it again.
What would you change or add?
The main thing I wished we could change is how we painted the camper. We used a spray gun, which was amazing time-wise, but it was crazy powerful and we have a lot of drips on the walls from the paint. I wish I would have been in there with a roller to roll out the drips while they were forming.
What is a unique feature of your RV remodel?
Concrete counter tops. We had sort of pink-ish counter tops and didn’t want to spend the $$ to replace them, and I wasn’t super thrilled about the other alternatives I googled for. Then we discovered the beauty of a skim coated concrete counter top. Such a cool process, and I love the look of it. Kinda like icing on a cake.
Top 3 tips for renovating your old camper. Go!
- Know your weight restrictions for the camper. We had very little wiggle room with our reno especially after we moved our stuff in.
- Plan some time to do it. We took off 2 weeks straight to finish the main things we needed to get done before we moved in. I am so glad we did that.
- Renovate near a hardware store. We had to make constant trips to home depot because almost every time we left the store, got back to the camper, and started working again we discovered we needed something else.
Check out their full tour below!
I’m Autumn. I live full-time in my toy hauler with my husband and son. We will soon have a second baby.
Why did you renovate your toyhauler?
We decided to renovate to make our toy hauler more ‘full-time friendly’.
It had a pretty good design to it when we bought it(besides all the brown on brown on beige) but it didn’t really fit us. For example, our trailer has a living room pop out, and it came with a wall to wall couch, and no table or dining area.
Maybe nice for a weekend getaway but having a defined space in every area has been key for living year round.
How much did it cost? (include breakdown if you can remember)
I believe the cost was about 6-8,000
Scale 1-10, how hard was it?
Probably around a 5. Our layout was pretty much what we wanted so it was just a lot of gutting and purging what we didn’t want/need. Although renovating a toy hauler is kind of unexplored territory, (just try to find more than 2 on Pinterest) it really went pretty smoothly. It just took longer than I wanted.
What was the hardest part?
-The hardest part was the time it took to complete. I planned for a 6 week reno but it turned out to be 3 months.
We didn’t do anything too crazy. It was just a lot of gutting and throwing out things. The hard part was that my husband was away 5-6 days a week and I had my 1 year old son with me the whole time.
I could only work during his day naps and after I put him to bed at night. The process was SO SLOW.
How do you like the turnout?
I LOVE how it turned out. I’ve never been able to pour my creativity into a space so to see how everything has come together makes my heart so happy.
What would you change or add?
Something we want to change(and plan too) is the bathroom. The bathroom sink was literally the last item we added, because I had to return the first 4 I purchased(each one was too deep, or wide) The one thats in there now is too small for me. I need to be able to splash my face and not flood the counter every time I do.
What is something unique you put in?
When we started the remodel, I knew I wanted to make our original bedroom into my son Bear’s room, and I wanted to make it special. We took out the bed, and gutted a wall to wall slide that was formerly the closet, and I built him a little bed inside the slide for when he’s ready to move to a toddler bed. Also, I built a herringbone sliding door for his room as well, I loved being able to make custom pieces for him to grow up with.
Top 3 tips for people thinking of doing old RV remodels?
- Take a while to think what you want your space to look like after. Of course your mind might change 83974835698 times during the process, but having a clear(ish) picture of what you want in the beginning can help set a smooth tone for the whole remodel.
- EBAY! Try it! Its great!
- Invest in items that will last. Things you use on the daily can take a beating. No one wants to change out their flooring, or faucet 6 months after you install it. This is your home and you should invest in it like you would a normal one.
Check out more amazing pictures on Autumn’s Instagram.