This post may contain affiliate links, for which we earn a small commission at no additional expense to you. Click here to read our Disclosure.
We didn’t set out to do a trailer reno, but we found a travel trailer on Kijiji with a layout we loved. It just happened to be 15 years old and with time on our hands due to Covid, we jumped right in.
At first we found inspriation on Pinterest and blogs, but then stumbled upon an amazing Facebook group called “RV Renovations” that has been an incredible source of inspiration and practical know-how. The downside was that our original plans to do a quick surface reno, turned into a much more ambitious reno after being inspired by that group.
We had to deal with two big hurdles with our reno.
- We would have only 2 weeks to complete it. We wouldn’t be starting the reno until the ski season ended and it started to warm up. We hoarded supplies, researched and made plans so that we would be prepared for our 2 week work period.
- Nowhere to do the reno. At home we could have parked the trailer in our driveway and would have access to tools and supplies. Not so easy from our ski condo. We borrowed tools from my brother, found a friendly local that allowed us to park the trailer on his property and use his power and water and continually improvised.
About the Trailer
Trailer: 2005 Orbit Fleetwood 25BHS
What we loved about this trailer is that it had separate sleeping space for our 3 kids. Last year when we were planning our year-long road trip to Central America, we spent hours trying to find a small trailer with space for all of us. We even considered importing a trailer from Australia, where they build very high quality trailers with triple bunks.
When we saw this trailer with a bunkroom at the front with 4 bunk beds, we fell in love. So much so that we drove 7 hours in the winter to buy it.
In this post, I will go through each part of our reno in detail. We gleamed so much info off the RV Renovations Facebook group that we hope we can pass along to others. However, you can also skim through the photos for a quick look at the transformation.
Painting an RV Trailer
Trailers in North America are just plain ugly. For years we accepted their look with their faux wood paneling, hideous wallpaper borders and flimsy finishes. If you have seen RVs made in Australia and Europe, you will have seen that trailers don’t have to be ugly. Thus, it has become incredibly common for North American RV owners to reno their trailers, even brand new ones. Faux wood paneling gets replaced with sleek white cabinetry, ugly fabric-covered window valances get junked, linoleum flooring from the 80s gets replaced with vinyl plank flooring and many even swap out the cheap RV furniture for real furniture.
We knew painting the trailer was the single biggest change that would make the most difference. We also knew that painting the walls and cabinets would be a ton of work and needed to be done properly. It took us 4 days to do it and they were body-aching, tedious days, but it was definitely worth it.
We are pretty handy people but don’t have much experience painting. We compensated for this by doing a lot of research. Painting an RV is different than painting in your house. Since you cannot remove the wallpaper that is adhered directly to the trailer walls and since the cabinets are not made of real wood, preparation is key.
While you cannot remove the wallpaper on the walls, we did need to remove the ugly wallpaper border. This was achieved with a paint scraper and then Goo Off to get rid of the glue adhesive. We then prepared all of the surfaces to be painted by cleaning them with TSP and then wiping them down with clean water. Next step was to sand and fill holes and joints in the cabinets. Next, the cabinet doors needed to come off so we created a labelling system to keep track of what went where. The hardware including knobs, hinges and latches were then removed.
Again, our painting was made all the trickier because we didn’t have a workspace. We had to paint the cabinet doors in the trailer and we had to ensure the trailer temperature stayed above 10 degrees for the paint to dry and cure.
Regular primer does not adhere to the wallpaper and faux wood cabinets, so we had to use an oil-based primer. We used Zinsser Cover Stain, which worked really well, but is smelly and messy to clean up. We worked as a team with one of us using a nap roller and the other a paint brush. We did 2 coats of primer which took us 2 days. We primed all of the plastic moldings throughout the trailer as well. If I were doing it again, I would make sure to lightly sand between all coats of paint to get the best finish.
We chose to do the walls and upper cabinets white and the other cabinets an elephant gray and used latex paint (just the regular paint that was on sale at Rona). If I were to do it again, I would use the more expensive cabinetry paint on the cabinets. We did 2 coats of paint on all surfaces. We did debate sealing the cabinets since we found they chipped a bit in the first week. However, we are hoping that as they cure (paint apparently takes a month to fully cure), they will become stronger.
Once we started painting, I realized how yellowed the hatches and ceiling strips were. I bought Rustoleum spray paint that adheres to plastic and sprayed them and it made a huge difference. I did this after we had done most of our painting, but it would be better to do before paint goes on the walls.
While I was at it, I also spray painted our yellowed tiny bathroom sink with Rustoleum Tub & Tile spray paint, which turned out nicely.
The last step was to put all the hardware back on the cabinets – our child labour came in handy for this. We replaced the knobs with cute wooden ones from IKEA and then hung the cabinets back up.
Changing RV Flooring
This was a switch I really wanted to do, but wasn’t sure we wanted to take on such a big job. Paul did the whole job in a day and while there was quite a bit of cursing at the beginning, it went relatively smoothly.
Since we are in Canada with extreme temperatures, Paul found a vinyl plank flooring that is recommended for cottages. The trickiest part was figuring out how to finish the edges since there is a 1/4-1/2″ gap needed between the edge of the floor and wall. We ended up using Easystreet SPC rigid LVP in quinoa, which worked relatively well.
RV Kitchen Reno – Counter and Sink
This was another task that I really wanted to do, but had to convince Paul about. We bought this Erbacken IKEA counter top for only $85 and Paul cut it to size on a table saw. With our lack of tools, cutting out the inserts for the new sink and stove were challenging, but we got there.
The trailer had a really shallow dinky sink and I wanted one that looked better but would also make doing dishes easier. We bought this IKEA sink with a side drain board, which reminded us of kitchens in Australia. I would have loved to replace the stove since it was very basic, but they are expensive! We did buy a toaster oven that is stored in a cabinet and we do have a microwave that is stored under the dinette.
We had seen a lot of RV renos that used peel and stick backsplashes, a cheap and light solution to add a finishing touch to the kitchen. I originally had wanted a hexagon pattern, but the shipping was going to take too long, so we went with these simple subway tiles from Tic-Tac Tiles through Amazon. One package of 10 sheets was just enough to do our little kitchen backsplash. At $50 CAD, this was a low cost part of the reno, that we hoped would work. We chose this tile because we heard it adheres well especially for people in extreme temperatures.
We actually couldn’t install this during our 2-week reno because our temperatures were too low, with nights going below 0. Once we got to warmer climes, we spent 3 hours installing it and it actually went better than we expected. It helps that we are both perfectionists, but I can see how this could be a marriage strainer. You can cut the tiles with simple scissors and with planning and careful work, they turn out really nicely. So far, ours have stuck really well and hold up fine with the heat behind the stove.
DIY RV Table
The table was very dated with its faux wood plastic trim and needed an upgrade. However, we wanted to maintain the ability to turn the dinette into a bed, so it was difficult to find a cheap DIY option. I just happened to stumble upon an IKEA table top(Tommaryd) in the exact width that we needed. Paul cut the other side to spec and we reused the table legs from the old table (spray painted them white), and it completely transforms the space.
Reupholstering RV Cushions
The dinette cushions and fold out couch were both in a very dated fabric. Luckily my mother is an awesome sewer and she reupholstered all of our dinette cushions – with zippers too!
For the fold out couch we ordered a funky slipcover that adds a pop of colour from Amazon – link here.
RV Reno Decor
Trailers seem to all come with fabric valances and cheap Venetian blinds. We removed and chucked all of those and were on the look out for a budget-friendly option.
I can’t claim this as an original idea, but I saw others use turkish towels to make blinds and I loved the idea. I ordered 4 sets of these Amazon hand towels and did some simple sewing (folded them to the right height and sewed and sewed a sleeve for the curtain rod. I am not a sewer and still managed to do it – so easy! These turned out so nicely for the small windows in our bunk room. We bought a cheap IKEA kitchen rod (Hultarp – $10 CAD) and I used dollar store silver hook stickers as hold backs.
Our bed is a soft foldout at the back and we wanted some privacy from the kids and a way to block out light. These short black out Amazon curtains worked perfectly with a cheap Racka IKEA curtain rod.
For the three main windows in the trailer, we went with simple blackout roller blinds, cut to size from Home Depot.
The trailer came with an accordian door on the bunk room, which we weren’t keen on. We replaced that with a tension shower rod and this cute boho shower curtain with tassels (who doesn’t love tassels!?!) that I doubled over, hemmed to the right length and sewed a sleeve for.
I had fun picking adding some decor touches with throw pillows, cute quotes on the walls and a boho style mirror. My brother and I a joked that the trailer decor was very “boho Scandi”.
We kept almost all of the LED lights throughout the trailer – they worked well and didn’t look too bad. We did add one accent light above the dinette which I found on Amazon and fit perfectly with the look we were going for. When I ordered it, I didn’t really consider that a pendant light that can swing might not be the best choice for a moving trailer. However, we went with a short cord and will hope for the best.
RV Trailer Reno Budget
We bought the trailer for $10,500 CAD and put $2,100+ into our renovation. We were in and out of the hardware store daily, so we tried to keep track, but I am sure we missed some receipts and all that small stuff can really add up.
After living in the trailer for almost 3 weeks, we are really happy with it. The layout is just as good and functional as we imagined and it is the perfect amount of space for us. A lot of sweat equity went into the transformation, but it was a fun project.
Let us know if you have any questions about the process or supplies that we used. If you are planning an RV reno, definitely check out the “RV Renovations” Facebook group – an incredible source of info and inspiration.