Tips for Remodeling an RV on a Budget

Last updated on August 10th, 2021 at 09:53 am. Originally published on December 21st, 2020

And Strategies to Create a Unique Space

renovated rv kitchen interior
Remodeled kitchen from project ‘JOEY’

You did it! You’ve made the decision to remodel your RV. Congratulations! But where do you start? It all starts with a pencil and paper. The very first step in a successful RV remodel is budgeting. 

You may already have an RV that needs an update, or you’re currently on the hunt for one. But for the sake of this article, let’s say that you’ve purchased your RV and are ready to go. Grab your handy dandy notebook and get ready to write. 

The first thing you should look at is structural maintenance and/or repair. Take a good look at both the interior and exterior; the roof, paneling, framework, floorboards, etc. Are there any water spots or bubbling? Something that looks tiny may in fact be a large project. But don’t let that scare you. Jot it all down and keep it in mind when budgeting. It would be a shame to put in so much hard work and time, only to realize that it has to be redone because of repairs that weren’t completed the first time. The goal is to come in under your original estimate, but you’ll want to be realistic. If you’re not sure how much a repair or project will cost, Google is your best friend. Every unknown item, look it up to get a better estimate on what it will cost. Now, on to the Tips for Remodeling an RV on a Budget.  

demolition of inside an rv
Demo day from the renovation of ‘EVA’
  1. Do It Yourself: Anything and everything you can handle on your own, do it! Cost of labor is the biggest chunk of any job done. Parts are usually a fraction of what a repairman will charge for their time. Some projects that you can tackle on your own are demolition, sanding, painting, and floor installation. This is also the best time to learn new trades. There’s a plethora of information online on any subject. Want new cushions? Learn to sew. Need a custom table for your rig? Do some research on woodworking. You can find it all on the internet. However, there are a few things that may require a professional. If electrical work makes you nervous, call a certified electrician. Need a new A/C installed? A professional can get it done faster with more efficiency. Rely on referrals and reviews when choosing a professional. Some may even offer a discount for referrals. 
  2. Make Friends and Barter: Bartering may seem like an idea from old days past, but it has grown again in popularity. Nowadays, especially in these new times, it seems like most of your friends and family have a new side business or hidden talent. Include them in your remodel project. And if no one comes to mind, reach out to your circle and ask if they know someone that may be able to assist you. Exchange your talents. Are you good at cooking or baking? Offer to cater some food for their next gathering, in exchange for their handyman services or products. I’ve saved quite a bit of money simply by reaching out for help. I’ve made friends with welders, electricians, RV specialists, media specialists, etc. Develop your own small community of trades and help each other out. Can’t think of any way to repay them back? Maybe offer them a couple days in your camper so they can relax and enjoy the fruits of their assisted labor. I find almost everyone I’ve offered this to has gladly accepted. It’s time to meet some new amazing people. 
  3. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: We all try to prevent excessive and unnecessary waste. Transfer that same mindset into your RV remodel. You can save a ton of cash by following the three R’s. Your pockets and Mother Nature will thank you for it. During the demolition phase, save as many materials as you can. This includes old lumber and every last screw. I guarantee it will all come in handy later. The cost of lumber and hardware can add up quickly. Also, save old fixtures and furniture. Almost everything can be repainted & recycled. And if you’re sure you don’t want to keep it, move on to the next tip. 
  4. Out with the Old, and In with the New(ish): Those pieces that you ripped out and don’t want? Sell them! You no longer have use for them, so why not make a buck? There’s a large market of buyers that are looking for the perfect pieces for their own projects. I’ve had the best luck on Facebook Marketplace, Offer Up, and Ebay. These sites are also ideal when looking for new(ish) pieces for your own RV. I sell my old items, and look for new ones. Always keep an eye out. It’s like a game for me, a sort of thrifty treasure hunting if you will. I find that I don’t spend much money out of pocket when this technique is used. 
  5. Use What You Already Have: It’s time to do some deep cleaning! No, I don’t mean in your RV. I’m talking about your ‘Sticks n Bricks’ house. How many times have you cleaned out your home or garage, only to end up with a ton of items on their way to the trash or donation center? Marie Kondo would be proud of you for purging so much. But instead of taking it straight to the bin, ask yourself if it may have other uses? That old table collecting dust in the corner? Can you add it to your RV remodel? Can it be taken apart to create something new and beautiful? The large piece of wood hidden away in the garage; can it be polished and used as a new countertop in your RV? Those small baskets you picked up at the dollar store; can they become new light fixtures somehow? Almost everything can be repurposed. Why not start with the items in your own home? And guess what, that’s more money left in your remodel budget! 
remodeled cushions in an rv
Custom cushions from the remodel of ‘EVA’ using 5 inch memory gel foam mattresses cut down to size with an electric turkey carver with hand-sewn covers. 

You’re limited only by your imagination. Often, we get caught up wanting to buy the exact same item we saw in a staged picture. A lot of people would pay top dollar for it. But, if you use your imagination, you can create your own unique and beautiful space, all while saving money. Think outside of the box. Using these tips can help you stay under budget when remodeling your RV. Remember to have fun and post tons of pictures of your amazing new space. Your friends and family are sure to be impressed by your new skills! 

Want more tips? Follow Shi on Instagram (@lifewithjoey_rv) and TikTok (@shidelgrosso) for her latest projects and rentals. 

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