diy old camper remodel

DIY Old Camper Remodel Tips, Ideas, & Makeover Cost

Ian Mutuli
Updated on

Many prospective RV owners are uncertain about purchasing a new or used RV. Although buying a secondhand one will undoubtedly save you money, is remodeling an old camper worth the time and effort?

The sky is the limit when working on a DIY old camper remodel, which will only depend on how much money you want to spend or how much space you can work with.

This article will help you gauge if you want to take on an RV remodel or purchase a new one that is ready for occupation.

What Is an Old Camper Remodel? 

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Old camper remodel projects are undertaken by people interested in buying an RV but need to save money. Most people on a tight budget will purchase old campers and do RV renovations to modernize their space.

Luckily, renovating old campers is achievable and can be fun for people who enjoy DIYs. Although it may seem like a lot of work, witnessing an RV renovation is very rewarding. However, not everyone is cut out for the job, as trailer remodel a lengthy process that needs patience and knowledge to create a cozy space.

So, are you wondering if an old trailer remodel is the right choice for you? Dive in!

Old Camper Remodel Tips

Once you decide you want to do an RV renovation, you can pick your supplies. It can be challenging since many variations and restoration materials and practices exist. To save you time, we have listed a few tips to ensure you have the best experience possible.

1. Get New Windows

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Windows are an important feature of any trailer remodel, and if you want to improve your old camper, you should replace your windows with all-weather ones. Ensure the windows you install are durable and can protect you against harsh weather conditions and also tinted to block out direct sunlight.

Finally, you can use stylish window treatments to prevent sunlight from overheating your interiors during the day.

2. Paint Your Old Camper Interior

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Although painting your RV interior walls is not an easy task, it's the one thing that can change the whole interior look of the travel trailer. White is a popular color for travel trailer remodeling, making small spaces feel much larger.

When painting your travel trailer, you will need to decide if you want only to paint your walls only or the walls and the cabinets. Although painting may take some time before drying, the results are worth it to make your space more modern and brighter.

3. Add a Wooden Countertop

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Most RVs lack countertop space, and adding a wooden countertop is a great idea for adding space in your kitchen. For modern kitchen countertops, you can use a foldable wooden countertop or simply use a pine wood and then finish it with a nice stain touchup.

4. Update Your Light Fixtures

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Another handy tip for a travel trailer remodel to swap your lighting, especially if your RV interior is too dark. Update your box lights with new light fixtures and LED lights to give your van a modern look. You can hang a modern dinette light in the dining area that won't bump your head.

5. Replace your Bedding

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If your RV couch or bed is not in the best shape, it's best to replace it, especially if you have an allocated budget. If you decide to replace the sofa during your trailer remodel, remember that many of them are attached to the ground and often cover unattractive wiring spaces. Another thing is to measure your new sofa to see whether it will fit through the largest opening in the RV or trailer. 

6. Replace Dated and Worn Fabrics

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The drapes and upholstery significantly influence how your old camper will look. You can change the bed and pillow covers if your couch and bedding are still in good shape. Buying upholstery that withstands sunlight, wetness, and grime is also a smart fabric choice.

In addition, we can all agree that materials play a big part in giving your camper a "glamping" appearance, so why stop there? Installing window curtains, especially if you choose colorful and eye-catching hues, will help your RV feel like a home away from home.

7. Install Shelves to Get More Storage

Since the van has limited spacing, it's a great idea to take advantage of vertical storage. To do this, install shelves in your living space to display the books, knick-knacks, photos, and plants.

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You should use floating shelves instead of kitchen cabinets to get an open and airy feel in your RV kitchen. You can also hang small bins on your RV walls in the RV bathroom or bedroom to store your linen and get it out of the way.

8. Install New Hardware and Appliances

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If interested, you will also need to add new hardware and features for your travel trailer remodel. Some examples of such include installing LED lights, a cooker, and adding a flat-screen TV and a surround system.

9. Add Indoor Plants to Your Interior

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Adding some green or houseplants to your travel trailer remodel plan is a good solution, and you can be surprised by how much a few plants add to your old camper's atmosphere. However, when adding some greenery to your DIY old camper remodels, ensure you choose the best indoor plants, as some work better in travel trailers than others.

10. Replace your Old Camper’s Mattress

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Since all the magic happens in the bedroom, an understated DIY travel trailer remodel tip is to change up your RV mattresses. If you have bunk beds in your travel trailer, this is one of the most impactful upgrades to elevate your van life.

Although everything else in your old camper can be outdated, it could help you to feel well-rested. This will give you extra energy to pour into your travel trailer remodel.

11. Add Decor or an Accent Wall

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From vases and pots to picture frames and candlesticks. All they need is a little museum putty at the bottom to join the adventure of your travel trailer remodel.

You may drive your travel trailer stress-free and without having to pack any more items because it is sturdy enough to endure earthquakes.

12. Recruit Friends to Save on Costs

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Asking friends for assistance might be better than paying a professional upwards of $100 per hour for a trailer remodel. It's a great way to save money. If you need help with manual labor, ask friends for help.

You may still be able to find a friend skilled enough to finish the travel trailer remodel project if it involves more complex labor, such as wiring or plumbing.

Considerations When Planning to Do an RV Remodel

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When taking up a camper remodel project, you will need to remember that travel trailers from the past don't have modern features, which can be hard to navigate. So, there are some categories you will need to consider when remodeling a trailer. They include:

1. Repairs and the Repair Costs

Do adequate research before signing any contracts if you intend to contract the repair work. For example, you can locate a business that offers complete interior and exterior repair services, or you might employ a professional for only one job.

Your restoration job will be less expensive if you can complete more tasks independently. However, it's worth getting a professional to handle the repairs if you lack the knowledge or experience.

2. Electrical Work

There are probably some electrical components in your camper that you can't work on unless you're a certified electrician. Safety is of the utmost importance with trailer and RV wiring because a fire in your trailer is risky and can be costly to put out.

The cost of hiring an electrician might range from $50 to $100 per hour, depending on the project's specifics. The cost also depends on the electrician's experience, availability, and where you are in their shop or office. For example, you might require an electrician with specific knowledge of recreational vehicles if you're trying to renovate an old camper.

3. Painting

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The expense of a trailer remodel is probably the lowest for painting. Initially, you should determine the kind of paint you'll need, buy it, and tape off all the surfaces that won't be painted. Interior paint is sometimes similar to household paint, with options including high gloss, eggshell, matte, and others.

The situation with exterior paint is different. You might need an automotive-style paint job depending on the type of vehicle, like a motorhome vs. a travel trailer or a popup. Although there are variations among pull trailers, vinyl, and automotive paint are typically used in motorhomes.

You may spend several thousand dollars getting a professional paint job in an auto shop. However, the only costs involved in a do-it-yourself paint job are paint, brushes, and your time which can cost as little as $100.

4. Flooring

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Flooring is often considered the most time-consuming task when renovating an older camper. You might need to rebuild the subflooring, and the framework of a vintage camper has water damage.

Additionally, keep in mind how expensive flooring materials are versus their weight. Although your budget might allow for a low-cost flooring replacement, it's not always a good idea to add weight to an RV.

Adding more weight than needed could cost you, particularly if you need to get your antique RV weighed to register it.

5. Appliances

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While many RVs run their appliances entirely on electricity, others do so on propane. Even refrigerators in modern RVs are powered by propane.

Consider the power source for each appliance while determining how to restore an old camper. Consider changing the wiring and setup for each device and use the power source of your choice.

Conversely, you might prefer to remain with the design of the original appliances and look for vintage replacements. However, choosing the right appliance for your travel trailer can be a big investment, and choosing the best ones can be overwhelming, so you must research.

Older Camper Remodel Ideas

So, after reading the old camper remodel tips, you may be interested in seeing RV remodeling ideas pictures, and we have listed some below. We know you will find some good renovation ideas to take advantage of.

1. Brighten Up Your Space with Minimalism

Before:

After:

One of the ways to make your space airy and bright is to incorporate bright colors in your old camper remodels. Get a bright-colored couch, bright walls, and also light-colored countertops.

Image Credit: harvesthosts.com

2. Bathroom Renovation

For an RV bathroom renovation, there are small upgrades you can make and give your travel trailer bathroom a whole new look. When doing an old camper bathroom remodel, you should remove any clutter from your bathroom that you don't need.

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After you finish your travel trailer remodel, your bathroom will look like an oasis, especially with mirrors and good lighting. You can also add a unique shower curtain in your bathroom and also upgrade your bathroom faucet.

3. Flooring

One idea to implement a travel trailer remodel is to change the flooring of your old camper. You can replace your old carpet with a new one or upgrade your floor with new hardwood flooring.

With just upgrading your flooring, you will notice an amazing to your old camper.

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4. Change Up the Exterior

Although changing up the exterior of your travel trailer doesn't affect the day-to-day of your experience, it's best to keep your exterior in the best condition.

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A simple paint job will improve your exterior, and you can add it to the travel trailer remodel plans. In addition, some people usually get an RV cover to protect the areas that weather conditions can damage.

5. Replace RV Furniture

The old furniture is often found in old RVs, and the original furniture that comes with the RV will typically be damaged, faded, and potentially even have tears. Again, however, it will depend on how much use it has seen and who the previous owner was.

In addition, don't forget about the sofa's disgusting floral fabric; there are no sofa covers, toss pillows, or blankets that can change that.

Before:

Another travel trailer remodel idea is to replace your RV furniture, and although this might take a lot of work, replacing your furniture will give your old camper a whole new feel.

After:

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Swapping furniture may take a lot of time, but it will breathe new life into your used RV.

6. RV Kitchen Remodel

Kitchen backsplashes are easy to install and can improve the overall look of your kitchen or bathroom, but ceramic backsplash tiles are not recommended for moving vehicles. Alternatively, you can use peel-and-stick backsplash tiles since they are user-friendly and affordable.

Luckily, there are many styles to choose from for your travel trailer remodel to add a personal feel to your old camper and also reduce stains that might occur while cooking. But first, ensure you read the instructions and use a heat-resistant, especially if you intend to install your peel-and-stick backsplash if you plan on installing yours near your stove.

Image Credit: harvesthosts.com

7. Modernize your Old Camper

There are several ways to modernize your old camper during an RV renovation. One of the visually prominent areas is the kitchen cabinets and the couch area.

To change up your kitchen cabinets, you can do several things, like applying a fresh coat of paint or upgrading the cabinet's door pulls, and you can also add self-adhesive paper liners to spice up your interior.

Although this travel trailer remodel idea might seem small, it will surprise you how much it will change your old camper's aura.

Image Credit: freshouz.com

8. Incorporate Wallpaper into Your Space

A great travel trailer remodel, adding a splash of wallpaper will help you relax after a tiring day of exploration.

If your old RV walls feel boring, you can add a new shine using the best wallpaper or interior paneling.

Image Credit: freshouz.com

9. Opt for Multifunctional Furniture

You are most likely working with limited space for an old camper remodel project.

So, choosing multi-functional furniture is a perfect solution to create extra storage. This can be beneficial for storing things underneath.

10. Paint the Kitchen Dining Table and Chair

Although most people underestimate a white dining table and white dinette cushions, they usually impact the overall look and feel.

Before:

As you can see below, they made the space look brighter and airier, which completes your DIY old camper remodel project.

After:

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Old Camper Remodel Cost

The price of camper remodel projects is among people's concerns when preparing for an RV renovation, making perfect sense. Since most people don't live in their RVs, it can be challenging to justify significant renovation costs. However, you probably don't want to spend thousands of dollars on a new appearance, even if your RV serves as your primary residence.

Other factors that might affect the cost will include:

a). Flooring

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Peel-and-stick laminate flooring is one of the main pieces that RVers focus on. You can use about $3 per square foot. In this case, you can expect to use about $100-$200, depending on your RV size.

On the other hand, when using paint, a gallon will cost about $30, whereas most gallons cover about 400 square feet, but you will need to apply several coats, meaning you should spend about $100 on paint alone. On the cost, you should also add the cost of additional purchases such as rollers, trays, and brushes.

b). Upholstery & Furniture Decor

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Furniture decor and upholstery can cost you a few hundred dollars, and if you plan to add wood structural components, you should consider adding a few hundred.

You can put no specific cost on an RV makeover, which applies to all types of old camper remodels, whether changing up your whole space or making a few alterations to your outdoor living space. The cost of your DIY travel trailer remodel will depend on the quality of materials used and the type of projects you finish.

Generally, for small vintage camper remodel projects that include new flooring, new paint, new upholstery, and some structural additions, the project can cost $1500. So, in conclusion, the more you go out, the higher the RV remodel cost will be.

Is Renovating an Old Camper Worth It?

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Yes, remodeling your old camper is worth it because it is a reasonable cost. As we have seen above, the total cost of a trailer remodel will be less than the cost of purchasing a small motorhome.

However, the answer to this question varies and depends on the person being asked. Some of the questions you should ask yourself are

  • Do you have the skills to devote several days of your life to renovating an old camper?
  • Are you willing to spend a reasonable sum of money on all the supplies, and are you comfortable with making mistakes?

If you are crafty, patient, and have the energy and time to take on a trailer remodel, then old camper remodels will be rewarding as you watch your vision come to life. However, if you easily give up on projects and get discouraged, travel trailer renovations might not be worth it.

Conclusion on DIY Old Camper Remodel

Overall, an RV renovation offers plenty of benefits where you can customize everything and personalize it based on your preferences. We hope this article has encouraged you to venture into the DIY old camper remodel project or even to tackle a small space in your camper trailer.

To successfully perform a trailer remodel, you should follow the tips and guidelines above to turn your old camper into a weekend or full-time camper trailer.

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Ian Mutuli

About the author

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.