How To Renovate an RV: 10 Tips to Keep in Mind
Embarking on an RV renovation is fun, exciting, and rewarding- the final results can be dramatic.
However, the RV renovation project can also be a little overwhelming. Your RV renovation can be a nightmare if you bite off more than you can chew.
Improvements to your RV must be done carefully, or they’ll worsen your RV’s look and value.
The good thing is I’ve prepared a comprehensive renovation guide, and I’ll share the right tips to follow for your next project.
RV Renovation: Is it Worth it?
Before we jump into the meat and potatoes of RV renovation, let’s first discuss whether it is worth it.
From a financial perspective, renovating your RV is senseless. Based on my RV renovation experience, a full-on RV renovation will cost you a lot, both in time and money.
But here’s the thing, RV renovation is more than finances; for me, it’s about customizing my space for a more personalized RVing experience.
Renovating an RV is also fulfilling; the pride comes from knowing you built something from scratch.
Of course, it’s always important you inject some reality into the mix to determine whether your project is worth it.
For example, if you’re dealing with an old, lowly-price, poorly-made RV, it won’t be worth investing much more into it.
The ideal RV for renovation should have some good bones to it. Remember, the entire RV renovation project is as good as the platform you built it on.
So, if you’re renovating a poorly made and old chassis, your time, money, resources, and efforts are good as wasted.
Much like you can’t build a house on a poor and flimsy foundation, it’s important to check the structural integrity of the RV you plan to renovate. Consider the extent of the water damage and other damage to see whether it would make any sense to renovate.
How Long Do You Plan Keeping your RV
If you plan to keep your renovated RV forever or see it as a lifetime investment, it merits investing in more resources than an RV you plan to dispose of.
As I mentioned earlier, my best tip would be not to consider an RV a sensible financial investment. It doesn’t operate like a house.
Sometimes, you realize that renovating your RV can lower its resale value. Usually, when a customer trades in a modified RV, regardless of how nice they look, I automatically think of “water damage.”
My 2 cents is if you’ve plans of selling your RV for top dollar, think twice about painting or making big changes.
For example, instead of installing an expensive solar system in it, you could get a portable generator or something cheaper.
But for a super long-term investment, I don’t see any sense in dealing with aspects you don’t like just to appease the next guy. Do the math for the potential loss taken throughout ownership, and you’ll see it makes sense.
*Selling Quick-Fire Tip: If you plan to sell your renovated RV, take pictures before and after. It could be a selling point if you make the changes to revert to the original configuration. You could sell two possible RV configurations.
Things to Keep in Mind
Here’re some things to keep in mind when renovating your RV.
RV Renovation is Different from House Renovation
Renovating an RV is different from a house renovation.
For example, many RV parts and sections are usually oddly shaped, and you might struggle to get the exact matches in your local hardware stores.
The other thing is many sections are usually specific to a particular RV. Finding a replacement can be frustrating if you don’t have a store nearby or the manufacturer went out of service.
Consider the Weight
Another aspect that sets the RV renovation apart from house renovation is the attention to weight.
It’s not like you be building walls and drywalls. You’ll be using thin plywood you can drive or pull- so you must be sure you can get that.
Many RV owners usually don’t consider insurance in their planning phase.
Once you complete the renovation, you will no longer have the old, bland model. The new model is nicer, more luxurious, and possibly more expensive.
Your provider will therefore want to do an appraisal for proper insurance, and in most cases, your rates will go up a bit.
Your DMV record and registration won’t change, but insurance is something you want to check into
How To Renovate an RV: Tips to Keep in Mind
Here’re the main tips to keep on before renovating your RV:
Creating a Solid RV Renovation Plan
One of the most important steps of RV renovation is to envision how you want your RV and RV lifestyle to be.
Consider the goals of the RV renovation. Just like houses, RVs are personal, so the design layouts are different and should be made to suit your RVing lifestyle.
For example, if you want to work from the road and probably have Zoom meetings with clients, you should create a layout that allows you to use a desk. If you are traveling with your family most of the time, you must create space for them. If you have pets and kids, consider flooring that can handle messes.
In this context, creating a solid renovation plan allows you to focus on what is important to you versus what you’re supposed to do.
A renovation plan gives you a clearer picture of your finished product and makes the renovation less daunting.
And the good thing about creating an RV renovation plan is you don’t need to use any sophisticated design tools or software.
Look for design inspiration from websites like Pinterest or Instagram. You could also seek help from an interior designer or anyone experienced with RV renovation designs.
From experience, getting everything ready before you start the actual RV renovation makes the process less daunting and easy for you to customize your RV exactly how you want.
RV Renovations Budget
Budgeting for your RV remodeling is also another important thing to keep in mind. Depending on the scale of the project, the budget could easily spiral into six figures.
Several tech solutions and apps may help with budgeting. Some experienced designers may also give you an idea of how much you should expect to spend.
The renovation tools, equipment, and materials will probably take the bulk of your RV renovation finances.
So, you must do some quick research to determine the equipment. Professionals can help with estimating material costs.
You might need to hire someone for labor if you’re not a DIY enthusiast. An RV is like a miniature house and car combined and requires a lot of skills to work on both.
Some of the skills you’ll need to renovate your RV include the following:
- Auto body and aesthetics
If you’ve none of these skills, you’ll need to hire professional help. And this is where planning may also prove handy; create a design that will minimize the need for hiring out.
Also, when estimating the RV renovation budget with a professional, be honest about your skills, so your estimates are much better.
The other thing to consider when working out on your RV renovation budget is the amount of RV damage and how much work needs to be done. Of course, an older model will need a higher budget than a relatively new RV.
The complexity of the RV renovation may also determine the overall budget. Basic, simple, and no-frills renovations are cheap, while complex ones require more money.
Finally, I recommend adding a 10-15% contingency plan for your RV renovation budget for unseen expenses.
And if the total costs go beyond your budget, it’s time to go back to the drawing board and eliminate items of lesser priority or come up with a new renovation design altogether.
Gather the Necessary Tools and Hire Labor
The other step is determining whether to hire a professional or go the DIY route.
Each option has its benefits and drawbacks.
If the renovation is small and doesn’t damage many RV parts, you could DIY. You could also ask for a helping hand from family members and relatives.
The problem with DIYing your RV renovation is the project may take longer. The finished product may also not have neatness or professional appeal. It’s cheap, though.
However, if your renovation is complex, and you don’t have experience with the different RV systems, it makes sense to hire a contractor.
When choosing a contractor, go beyond the cost estimates and look for other things such as years of experience, reviews, and much more.
Understand that even with DIY renovation projects, some of the tasks may need a professional.
Create a Timeline
Once you’ve a solid plan, budget, materials, and professionals for the renovation, it’s time to create a suitable timeline.
The thing with RV renovation is they always take time and cost even more!
If you think you’ll complete the renovation in three months, set your time to six months. Honestly, I’m not kidding.
Of course, if you’ve unlimited time, timelines aren’t important. But if you’re expecting to head out some times later in the year, you might want to examine the timeline and everything.
Generally, the time spent renovating an RV depends on the job’s size and complexity. Simple renovations can take a few days to weeks, while complex projects may take months to complete.
However, if you’ve a team of professionals, you can expect them to expedite the renovation process.
While creating a timeline, discussing which tasks need preference is important. Your timeline should also be elastic and include breathing room to cater to emergencies, weather, setbacks, and unexpected conditions.
The location isn’t much of an issue if your backyard is of decent size. But renovating your rig can be problematic if you lack a driveway or your backyard can’t allow working from there.
For example, my backyard is a bit steep with lots of gravel, so that’s not an option for me.
However, there’re plenty of other locations to use. We renovated our motorhome at the storage lot. Just talk to the owners, and see if they can allow you to renovate from there. Ensure you clean up your mess after every task.
How Hard Is It to Renovate an RV?
From personal experience, renovating an RV is both easy and hard. It takes a lot of patience and research.
Renovating my motorhome was probably the biggest DIY project I handled. The biggest issue was time because it took up most of our spring. I’ve a 9-5 job and could only dedicate 2-3 hours daily.
Other than that, the project was seamless.
The key thing I realized with RV renovations is you need to know your strengths and weaknesses. If you’ve no experience building anything, it makes sense to pay a plumber $200 than burst a pipe and pay the same guy $2000 plus repairs.
Of course, everyone has to do it for the first time, and something is being lost for people thinking only professionals can do stuff.
All that is needed is a little knowledge of physics & engineering, some confidence, and risk tolerance. Sometimes, a bad thing can happen during the renovation, and you’ve nobody to blame or sue.
You can do many RV renovation tasks with your two hands, some common sense, and deductive reasoning.
However, being realistic with your renovation and everything is also good. If you’re purchasing an RV for renovation, you must inspect it and then make a second assessment from a renovation standpoint.
In particular, we’ll focus on plumbing, electrical, and roof conditions.
If the engine is beaten up, it can gobble up a huge chunk of your RV renovation budget. Nevertheless, I recommend giving the mechanical elements precedence over the aesthetics and cosmetic repairs.
What to Renovate
Now that we’ve gone through the basics of RV renovation, our next topic will focus on renovating your RV’s different sections.
We’ll pay attention to some common RV sections, such as the roof, plumbing system, electrical, kitchen upgrades, and bathroom.