Ever wonder how to renovate an RV on a budget? This has been my biggest DIY project to date. It felt like a safe place to explore my ability to design and execute some manageable DIY and I did it all on a budget. In total, I spent less than $1,000 to refresh our very brown RV into a light, bright and modern home on wheels.
We found a gently used travel trailer at a good price. It was a 2015 KZ Sportsmen 19BHS with a bathroom, bunkhouse and a sink deep enough to wash the dishes. When we took our first peak at it, my creative wheels immediately fired up and I knew I could turn this into an amazing space for my family.
Full disclosure, I’m not a professional RV renovator or flipper. I’m just a girl willing to try a DIY. There are plenty of blogs that can tell you how to gut your RV and rebuild it in the most stunning way. This is not that kind of post! If you have a travel trailer or any kind of small space, this might be the right place to get inspiration to try a DIY!
How to Renovate an RV on a Budget: Design and Planning
First, I new my limitations going into this project. I don’t have a ton of power tools or a paint sprayer and I was not interested in removing cabinets or extensive demolition. There was actually no demo involved aside from removing old window treatments and the decorative, brown fabric covered trim. Everything else was cosmetic updates. We had paid a competitive price for this travel trailer and it wasn’t worth sinking a ton of money into something that was used and depreciating.
Before I got started, I came up with a mood board/design plan (pictured below). This helped me visualize the space and come up with a budget. I was able to start sourcing materials and supplies based off of this plan.
It was time for a deep clean. I removed everything possible from the travel trailer which included window treatments, fabric covered trim, old mattresses- anything that I didn’t intend to keep. Once everything was cleared out, I vacuumed throughly and wiped down all of the surfaces with a vinegar and water solution.
Here is my original design plan- I ultimately made a pivot in the color scheme but it was a great way to guide the overall project plan and budget.
How to Renovate an RV on a Budget:Painting Walls and Cabinets
Once the walls and cabinets are clean, patch any holes or imperfections in the walls the same way you would in your home. Before applying primer, I lightly sanded the walls. You can use a sander but I used a sanding block and did this by hand. Next, you’ll prime all of the surfaces you plan to paint. After some research, I selected Zinsser Primer for both the walls and the cabinets.
I painted all of the walls first. I knew I wanted a bright white, so I chose my go to white interior paint: Alabaster by Sherwin Williams. Even though I had primed the walls, I did use a paint + primer with a satin finish.
Next, I prepped the cabinets for paint. I started by removing all of the cabinet doors and any hardware. The cabinet surfaces were sanded gently but thoroughly. Typically, RV cabinets are not solid hardwood but particle board. I really recommend watching a few vidoes and tutorials specific to painting this type of cabinet before you begin.
For the cabinets, I chose Nordic Bleu by Sherwin Williams. I can’t find the exact paint that I used for this project, but it was a paint designed for cabinets- oil enriched enamel.
I didn’t paint all of the wood/brown elements. Leaving some of the wood kept the space warm and it made my job a little bit easier. I left the bathroom door, base of the dinette and the primary bed with the original wood tone. This decision kept some character and these wood features were in good shape. I knew I could paint them white later if I changed my mind but I liked having the warm wood accent and it really worked when all of the other brown was painted.
How to Renovate an RV on a Budget: Backsplash and Hardware
I did some research on backsplash and tiles in an RV. I found I needed a tile option that was lightweight and would also withstand the change in New England temperature. Ultimately, I chose a peel and stick option from Wayfair. It was super easy to install and I only needed scissors and some patience to do it.
For the cabinet hardware, I wanted a bit of color and contrast against the blue cabinets. I was torn between black or a light brass/gold color. Ultimately, I went with the gold option because I really like the unique shape of the pulls.
How to Renovate an RV on a Budget: Window Treatments
The original window treatments were ½ inch blinds. They were dusty, tangled and ugly. I replaced all of the blinds around the sleeping areas with basic white roller blinds from Lowe’s. It was hard to find window treatments that were neutral, affordable and light blocking. I didn’t want to sink a ton of money into blinds. This was a great solution!
Over the kitchen sink and in the dinette, I made the window treatments. I couldn’t find a cost effective curtain or shade, so I made them myself for less than $20! I used a wooden dowel from the hardware store, a roll of faux leather cut into strips, brass lobster claw clasps and a fabric shower curtain from the clearance section at Target!
The Dinette Refresh
The u-shaped dinette saw a big makeover. The actual cushions were in good shape so I researched RV/Boat cushions. I didn’t want to spend a ton of money, but I also didn’t want the cushions to look like a make shift solution. You can find covers on Amazon or on Etsy, but I had custom covers made through Covers & All. I was able to customize each cushion- including zipper placement. This was a little more expensive than I had planned but it was WORTH the money.
Next, I ordered this fabric from Spoonflower to recover the backs of the dinette. It wasn’t the original fabric or color scheme I was going for, but the seat cushions came in limited colors so I needed something that would match the navy. The seat backs were easy to replace, they were fastened to the wall with screws. I removed them from the wall, removed the old fabric and stapled the new fabric on.
Last, I added wallpaper! The dinette felt a little bare with the white walls. I found a faux shiplap wallpaper at Target and it turned out to be the perfect way to wrap up the dinette space. I was able to use command hooks to small baskets and frames.
Command Hooks are a great way to hang picture frames and baskets. Search the target dollar spot for accessories, like the small rattan mirror that I hung in the bathroom. I finished out that space with a new shower curtain, plush bathroom rug and a cute covered trash can.
To give some style to the top bunk, I designed a quick geometric wall decal and cut them with my Cricut Joy. Using painters tape as a guide for straight lines, I applied the decals with transfer tape fading towards the back corner.
I am really proud with the results of my RV renovation on a budget. We enjoyed two great seasons with the travel trailer before selling. Everything held up to the New England elements (humid in the summer and cold in the winter)! Now I’m on to bigger projects! Follow along for all of my DIY projects and explore more here!