Embarking on an RV remodel can be an exciting, fun, and rewarding undertaking. The finished results can be dramatic!
However, biting off more than they could chew and/or unforeseen circumstances have turned many RV remodelers’ dreams into nightmares.
Right now, before you embark on ANY RV rehab project, take a little time and do the #1 most important thing a lot of folks neglect (and later regret), and also ask yourself these important questions:
1. Is this RV worth fixing up?
Or is this RV worth remodeling to the extent of what you want to put into it?
If you are dealing with a low-priced, poorly made, starter RV, it might not be worth investing much more into.
When looking for RVs to remodel, it’s smart to seek out quality brands with good bones.
That’s the way I felt about my Komfort trailer shown in the photos on this page.
I knew the brand well, as my ex in-laws had one as did a number of friends back in my circus days. I liked the aluminum frame and the overall quality of this brand. I also loved the unique layout of this particular trailer.
However, the interior was worn and stuck back somewhere in the 1970s. Whatever Komfort paid their engineers and builders was clearly taken out of the salaries of their designers. But I digress.
As the trailer itself was in good condition and I got it for a fair price, it was worthy of an upgrade. On the other hand, had this been a poorly made trailer in need of more than just cosmetics, I would have thought twice about it, which brings us to question two…
2. What besides aesthetics needs fixing?
If you are going to remodel an RV, now is the time to fix any other problems, both interior and exterior. Take a full inventory of any issues including plumbing, electrical, appliances, awnings, broken locks and latches, etc., and add them to your RV remodel plan.
3. What are the goals of this RV remodel?
No, I am not going all self-help on you. This question will have an impact on every aspect of how you remodel your RV.
When I started my project, I wanted to have a space where I could do Zoom meetings with clients or shoot my YouTube videos without it necessarily looking like I was in an RV. I also needed to make space for the essential items I needed to take along.
Someone whose goal was to make sleeping space for six kids, or who wanted to tote along two kayaks, could have easily made it happen in this identical trailer, but they would have had an entirely different plan than I did.
4. How much money will you need to remodel the RV?
When people ask me how much does it cost to remodel an RV, that’s like asking how much does a car cost? It depends!
We’ll talk more about budgeting for an RV remodel in a future article. But for now, give yourself a ballpark idea of how much you plan to spend and match it against question #1.
5. How much time are you willing to put in?
RV remodels always take more time to complete and cost more than expected. It’s kind of like a Murphy’s Law for RVers. Let’s call it Byam’s Law!
If you have unlimited time and space to tinker on an RV remodel, this won’t be important. But if your family is actually expecting to go camping at some point in the foreseeable future, you might want to realistically examine this question, which brings us to our next query…
6. How long do you intend to keep this RV?
If this is the RV of your dreams that you intend to keep forever, it will merit investing more time, money, and effort into than one you may want to sell soon.
If you do plan to sell, keep in mind that potential buyers will not always value your RV remodel improvements as much as you do.
Remodeling an RV can (but not always) lower its resale value. If selling the RV for top dollar is in your future plans, think twice before painting or doing BIG changes.
The same goes for making big changes for yourself. They may or may not always be worth it.
For instance, I plan to replace my current trailer with my dream Airstream as soon as I am able to afford to do so. I don’t see this current trailer being a super long-term investment for me. Likewise, instead of installing an expensive solar system in it, I bought this portable solar generator that meets all of my needs except the A/C. Yes, that solar generator was still a BIG investment, but it will go with me when I level up to my next RV.
7. Can you do the RV remodel work yourself or will you need help?
An RV remodel does not HAVE to be a DIY project. There are more companies than ever specializing in these unique skills. If you have the necessary funds, let someone else do the work and bring your vision to life.
If you have the skills and time do to it yourself, have at it.
Or do a hybrid of both.
I had time but not a lot of skills, so I enlisted the help of a friend with painting and handyman experience and we worked on my RV remodel together. Win/win!
Get the big picture first
Sort out these big-picture RV remodel questions before beginning. Next time, it’s time to start planning for RV remodel success. See you then!
We bought our little 2010 20 ft. TT in 2020 for $6200. The previous owners had done nothing to it after hauling it from Wisconsin to North Carolina and using it as an apartment for their mother. It was quite dirty and smelled strange. We knew it needed work. Smell went away after we EMPTIED THE BLACK WATER TANK!! Yuck! We followed the advice of doing almost everything ourselves. Walls and ceiling painted, new curtains, reupholstered dinette (cousin is gifted and reasonably priced), new water pump and toilet, new tires, new entry steps (Glo Steps from eBay), new mattress, lots of little doo dads replaced. It was fun and not too horribly expensive and our camper looked great. Last November we took it to a local RV service for a check up after finding a leak in the ceiling. The whole roof and all the wood supporting it had to be replaced. We hope it’s a really good roof after paying $7000 for the repair. All this to say, good bones are important. We should have looked a little closer.
If doing anything big, even new furniture, watch your weights and distribution if you’re moving things around.
We did a remodel on our very first pull behind. That was thirty years ago and the interior was a much more simplified version of today’s units. Fast forward to today. Our class C is showing a little age — minor wrinkles, etc. — so we are doing a few upgrades. Different story this time.
I recall not all that long ago when we looked at some used RVs and saw a few that had the white cabinetry. At that time, no one seemed to like it, including us. Now, everyone seems to love it — to the extent that they are painting over new cabinetry.
Pay attention to Item 6. The cabinets in some RVs are often not wood, but a plastic version of wood whose finish is essentially heat-applied contact paper. While our unit is a well-made, reliable brand and model, that is the type finish we discovered. Hesitant to paint, we simply left the wood finish and replaced the furnishings with those that would blend with the original decor.
Because who knows what tomorrow’s buyer will want?
I AM a craftsman. We are FT since 2006. Decided in 2016 it was time to remodel. DW wanted different things inside, I didn’t want to start over with a different chassis. Plus a different coach was WAY too expensive. I didn’t want to spend months doing it myself
We spent the summer of 2016 traveling and interviewing remodel shops, being lied to and disappointed the entire way. Finally picked a highly respected shop in Elkhart. Which agreed on the poor quality of RV factories and that THEY did things better and correctly. Made plans for 2017. It’s a VERY long, HORRIBLE story. They weren’t any better than the factories.
I’ve had to go back over everything they did except the flooring. Well, I’ve fixed some trim around the floor. Quality of labor issues started showing up within 50 miles. The original experience was so terrible, no way was I going back for “Warranty” repairs.
Bottom line(For me anyway) – If you can’t do it yourself, don’t do it.
Wow, I am so sorry to hear of your experiences. I think in any service or craftsman type business it is getting harder and harder to find quality, unfortunately.
Perhaps my hybrid method is a good alternative. I was there and helping through all of it, although I relied on someone else for decisions and work that I was not experienced with.
We did go over time and budget for sure and there were more challenges than expected — often in unexpected places and things we expected to be hard were easy. But it got done. So far so good anyway.
“If you can’t do it yourself, don’t do it.” Exactly the same realization I have come to with our 2016 Newmar Ventana LE.
Be honest with yourself watching a Youtube video doesn’t make you a craftsmen. I’ve seen a few people do this and when you see the results you take their tools away and tell them they can’t have them back.
Amen! And that goes for RV repair shops who claim to be craftsmen!
Hello! Are you talking about craftsmen who equip RV to order? If so, that’s very sad. I came across similar performers when converting a Renault Traveler from a cargo version to a passenger one. Have a good day!