Three Tips for SUCCESSFULLY Painting Your RV Interior
We’ve been living tiny in our 33 foot fifth-wheel for almost a year with our three little boys and traveling full-time for nine months. When we decided to make this transition, we knew we wanted to purchase an older rig and renovate it so that it could best serve our family’s needs. Plus, we had always enjoyed working on home projects and personalizing our former home.
With RV Renovation, probably the biggest aesthetic change you can make is paint. While some newer RVs are being designed to have whiter and brighter interiors, this definitely is not the case for most! Our rig is a 2005 Keystone Cougar and was in excellent condition when we purchased it. But as you can guess...brown everywhere!
So naturally, like many full-time RVers, we decided to drown it in white paint. Obviously you can choose any color you’d like, but white is a popular color for RV Renovation as it’s an easy way to drastically change the overall interior of your RV and brighten up a small space!
Today I wanted to share with you the good, bad, and ugly of our painting experience and three tips to help you successfully paint your RV. It is a large task and...we had the “pleasure” of having to do it twice! We hope you will learn from our mistakes and that these tips will save you some time in the process!
Tip #1: Outside Weather Matters
This is the reason we had to paint everything twice. We didn’t believe this to be true and were in a rush to get things done (also just excited to get paint on the walls and move forward in our renovation!). But this was a big mistake.
It was below freezing when we painted our trailer the first time. We were thrilled to see the walls transformed from brown to white over the span of a few hours (see next tip!). But...a few hours later when we came to check on how the paint was drying, we were mortified to find that the paint was not drying well. In fact, it almost looked like it was melting off the walls, with huge drips everywhere. We realized that because of the cold temperatures outside (and despite the fact that we were running the furnace and also a large dehumidifier), the paint was not “sticking” to the framing of the trailer walls (see photo below). It was a major bummer!
But it all turned out okay. We had to sand down all the drips and start over. In short, if you’re eager to get your paint job done, but are dealing with less than ideal weather, exercise self-control and wait until warmer weather! We learned this the hard way! If you’re wondering what ideal temperatures would be, check the label on your paint can and wait to paint until the temperature outdoors falls within that range.
Tip #2: Purchase a Paint Sprayer
This saved us an insane amount of time and made the fact that we had to paint twice a *little* less painful. We had no experience with using a paint sprayer before, but we learned pretty quickly! We purchased a “middle-of-the-road” sprayer from Home Depot in the $120 range and were very happy with it. It was well worth the money in our opinion and allowed us to paint everything (excluding cabinet doors) in less than four hours.
One thing to keep in mind if you choose to invest in a paint sprayer is that although it saves you tons of time in the long run, it does take a lot of time to prep everything. You need to cover everything WELL that you don’t want paint on. So all windows, appliances, countertops, vents, etc. that you don’t want specks of paint on. It took us almost an entire day to cover everything with thin clear plastic tarp. In our case, we were also painting the ceiling and cabinets white and replacing the countertop. So we didn’t need to cover those (although we did remove the cabinet doors to paint them separately).
Another small tip is that several thin layers of paint are better rather than a thick layer. Applying paint thickly is never good. It will drip!
All in all, if you can afford to purchase a sprayer, do it. It will shave days off your painting time. You can’t put a price on your sanity! ;)
Tip #3: Sand, Clean, Prime, and Paint...in that order!
Here are the basics of the painting process.
Some people insist that you must sand the walls. We opted to not do this, but we did sand all the cabinet doors. Our paint has held up totally fine in all sorts of crazy weather and climates. Not to mention it has survived three little boys five and under running around it all day.
Regardless of whether or not you choose to sand the walls, you do need to clean them. While we are all for chemical-free cleaning supplies, we used TSP for this, as it was the top recommendation. We’re still alive. ;)
For your first layer of paint, you need to use a good quality primer. We used PPG Gripper and it worked really well for us.
We then did two layers of paint (in addition to our failed layer). You’ve got plenty of options here! We didn’t overthink it too much and went with Behr Ultra Pure White in Eggshell Sheen. It turned out lovely!
All of the steps above we also used for our cabinet doors. We used the sprayer to paint these as well. However, there is an extra step with cabinets: you should seal them with polyurethane. We chose a matte poly and were very happy with it. However, learn (again) from our mistakes: I think it’s pretty clear we loved our paint sprayer, but do NOT spray the polyurethane (Unless you like snakeskin looking patterns in your dried paint.) After being nearly finished with our entire painting process, we had to sand all the cabinets down a second time and start from scratch! It was kind of depressing, but...we carried on and hand painted the polyurethane layer. In the end, they turned out beautifully and have held up really well!
Well, that’s it! We are so happy with how our RV renovation turned out and love living tiny. Having a home on wheels has given us the opportunity for so many amazing adventures (we have visited 22 states since June of last year)! While renovating an RV isn’t for everyone, it sure has helped it feel like a real home. We hope these tips will help if you ever plan to paint your RV!
Thanks for taking the time to read...and happy travels!