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Ask Dave: I want to remodel my RV. How do I know where I can drill?

Dear Dave,
I want to do some remodeling on my RV. For example, I want to take the sofa out and add more counter space. But to do so, I will need to screw into floors and walls. My questions: How do I know where it is safe to drill? How do I avoid wiring? Is there a diagram of what’s inside the walls? … I’ve seen a lot of videos of RV remodels and people seem to just pop screws in all over the place. No one ever discusses how to do this properly and safely. Thanks! —Connie, 2017 Thor ACE 29.4

Dear Connie,
We just worked on a 2015 Thor Challenger. I called and requested a wiring diagram—it was pretty worthless! There was nothing about where wiring was routed or specific locations of components. That is typical in the RV industry—other than Winnebago, which has specific wiring diagrams and 3D images. However, even with that, at times it still doesn’t get specific as to wiring routed in the walls and ceilings.

We did a remodel of a 2003 Winnebago Brave with new flooring and furniture. In the process, we took out the sofa and dinette in the slide room as well as the driver and passenger chairs. We had a custom-made smaller table/computer station installed with chairs and a leather sofa with air bed.

Here you can see the slide room where the old dinette had been. We had to pull off some of the plywood as a customized table was added somewhere down the line and glued to the wall.

Fastening to the floor is fairly straightforward. There typically isn’t wiring or plumbing in the floor area. Plus, the top wood is typically 1/2” thick or more, so it is a solid fastening point.

Be careful of the sidewall when you remodel an RV

The sidewall is another matter, as there could be wiring. Also, it’s not a very solid mounting point as the interior wood is only 1/8″ plywood with block foam sandwiched inside. It is very difficult to find the aluminum studs or framework, as it is not every 16” on center like residential construction. Plus, the plywood is sandwiched with adhesive and cured. So there are no nails or screws to help show where framework might be.

You might be able to push the wall in various areas to help identify where framework might be located. Then drill a small pilot hole to see if you hit hard aluminum. That is, if you are putting in some type of cabinetry that could cover up the holes. In our case, we used some construction adhesive on the back wall of the table/computer desk to the sidewall and secured it to the floor. Three years later it’s as solid as a rock. By spreading the adhesive across a wider surface, it held well. However, the furniture piece had all the weight on the floor and the wall did not need to support it—just keep it from pulling away.


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Ask Dave: We have an old woodbox-mounted TV. How do we upgrade it?

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Read Dave’s response.


Dave Solberg is a leading expert in the RV industry and the author of the “RV Handbook.”

Read more from Dave here

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HappyCamper7424
10 days ago

I like using the metal hollow wall anchors that can grip 1/8” thick paneling. I have successfully used an electronic stud sensor to identify aluminum stud location.

Ray
11 days ago

Perhaps a stud finder from the local hardware store, the kind used to find studs in house walls, would help. I’ve never used them in an RV, but it might be worth a try.

Spike
11 days ago
Reply to  Ray

I was thinking the same thing.

There are also “Wire Tracer” tools to find hidden wires, but they are generally expensive. Perhaps a “rent-all” place might have one.

Problem is that many RV walls have very little supporting structure in them. They rely on the lamination rigidity vs studs. They may have metal plate embedded in the lamination where cabinets are hung.

When it comes to repairs or renovation, traditionally built sidewalls like found in “stick and tin” trailers, bus shells, or Newmar motorhomes certainly are a benefit.

Last edited 11 days ago by Spike
Jeffrey Myers
11 days ago

I use Pop Toggle Anchors to fasten medium weight items to my walls. Not fool-proof, but you can drill a hole then poke around to check for wiring. However there are limits; not strong enough for cabinets, etc which is what Connie had in mind.

Steve W
11 days ago

Comment about Dave’s . Finding a aluminum stud in wall. I have used a metal detector like a pin pointer that you can get very reasonable price. It works like a stud finder for metal.
Love reading Dave’s comments very interesting

Nanci
11 days ago

I had the same question for our Tiffin. Where are the studs? On one very cool humid morning I noticed that I could see where every beam was on the outside of the motorhome. Took pics and at least now I have a rough Idea where they are. NO clue on wiring. They have no diagrams.

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