What to Consider Before Renovating an RV or Camper

Sarah used blue paint, a stick-on tile and gold hardware to transform the kitchen of this 1997 RV.

One of the features in the Summer 2022 issue of Farmhouse Style is “At Home on the Road,” which shares a peek at three RVs/campers that have been revamped into cozy living quarters on wheels. One of the RVs we showcase was rehabbed by Sarah Lemp of All Things with Purpose. Sarah is an experienced RV flipper and has renovated dozens of the vehicles to resell, from vintage Airstreams to 1990s-era Class A motorhomes. She has offered virtual design assistance and done commissioned renovation work in the past but has put that on hold for the time being. Her blog offers lots of resources and she even wrote a book, All Things Camper Renovating (available on Amazon or as an e-book via her website). Sarah offers the following advice to those looking to DIY an RV renovation:

· 1. Get familiar with RVing and/or camping in general. I’m always surprised when someone tells me they’re interested in flipping an RV, yet they’ve never traveled in an RV or camped a day in their life. I highly recommend taking some time to experience it first to see if you like it and to gather a better feel for the unique lifestyle and needs associated with RVing.
· 2. Make sure you have lots of free time. There is no real way to fully convey how much work it is to renovate an RV. It may look easy on Instagram, and the end results are very rewarding, but it can be slow and painful progress. The ugly side to renovating is not for the faint of heart and can easily take you hundreds of work hours to complete.
· 3. Evaluate your DIY skillset. On top of the need for general construction, plumbing, electrical, painting and sewing skills, there are so many things that go into renovating an RV. You may choose to hire some of these things out, but the more you can do yourself, the more money you’ll save. Research, research, research. Watch YouTube videos, call a friend for help, ask an expert, read books and join a renovating Facebook group like mine (All Things Camper Renovating).
· 4. Recognize that renovating an RV is different than renovating a house. Some of the differences you have to take into consideration include; lots of movement, fluctuating temperatures, proper weight distribution, safety on the road, and more. All these things impact your choices in materials and techniques.
· 5. Be prepared for the unexpected. RVs are notorious for leaks and water damage. If you are buying an older RV, it’s best to assume it has leaked or is leaking somewhere. Water damage can be sneaky and destructive. When purchasing an older RV, the previous owners may have no idea there is water damage hiding somewhere. It’s up to you to play detective and look for the signs: rippling walls, soft floor, musty smell, staining, sagging ceiling, etc. Even after all that, you may not know water damage is there until the demo is underway. Be prepared for surprise damage that will only be uncovered after you have started your renovation. Test everything and watch for leaks. Be prepared for things to break and need repair, which can add up and make your project more expensive than anticipated.

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