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If you can remember buying your first RV, you’ll understand the joy (and fear) we felt when we bought our 1994 Coachmen Leprechaun Motorhome.
We knew we couldn’t afford a fancy, new motorhome. And the ready-to-drive used rigs at dealerships were still a bit out of our price range. Our only choice was a pre-owned fixer-upper from Craigslist. But we knew if we bought a used camper, we’d need to do a major motorhome renovation to make the rig feel like our first home together.
Grand Plans for this Honeymoon RV
Newly married and ready to set out on our honeymoon, our goal was to hit all forty-eight contiguous states, film our adventure, and even write a book about our travels.
We did yet know that this RV would become our home for nearly two years, or that we would love it so much that we would become full-timers. But we did know that we wanted our motorhome would be our first home together and we wanted it to be as comfortable as possible.
Our 20-year-old Class C would serve as a home, workspace, storage unit, and film studio. Using DoItYourselfRV.com, we scoured every article on class C motorhome renovations to spark some ideas for our remodel.
With a 29-foot rig and no slide outs, we needed to choose colors and updates to make the motor home feel more spacious and homey.
We loved this Jayco redesign, so we used nearly all of their ideas – except for the lime green everywhere. That seemed like a little much to me. We wanted something a little more mellow.
Before this remodel, Heath had never painted a wall. But was overly confident he could manage this whole remodel on his own.
In the middle of wedding planning, mapping out our honeymoon road trip, and working, we gave ourselves exactly one week to complete our renovation. (You’re probably thinking that’s way too crazy, and we’d now agree with you!)
Here was our grand plan for the Coachmen Leprechaun:
- Remove table, chairs, couch, and mattress
- Remove, prime, and repaint cabinet doors
- Prime the interior of the RV
- Paint all interior walls Olympic paint “Aqua Chiffon” (Or as I call it, Tiffany Blue)
- Paint overhead loft (My husband did this WITHOUT my permission)
- Remove all the carpet and replaced with laminate wood floors Shaw Resilient – Hickory
- Prime, paint, and seal kitchen table
- Spray paint all handles and hinges silver
- Re-install all removed cabinet doors, furniture, etc.
- Replace couch cover
- Sew curtains for windows
We kept the renovation cheap
We found all of our painting and flooring supplies easily at Lowe’s. All together, we spent about $500 to complete the renovation ourselves.
Our other ideas included replacing all of our lights with LED bulbs and mounting a television, but then we looked at pricing and gave up on those dreams. $20 a lightbulb? No thanks.
Removing all of the furniture and cabinet doors was simple enough with the right power drills, but took nearly a whole day. We primed the walls and cabinets all with the same primer, which ended up taking two full days on its own.
You don’t realize how many nooks and crannies are in your RV until you take a paintbrush to them.
The aqua chiffon blue brightened our new mobile home even better than we could’ve imagined. Contrasted with the white cabinets, our tiny living area felt much bigger and happier, or as my husband says, “It feels like a traveling beach house.”
We quickly found that the small details in the renovation are the most important. Spray-painting all of the hinges and all of the handles silver wasn’t high on our priority list until we saw what 1994 shiny gold looked like…horrible.
After we finished painting all of the walls and cabinets, I needed to return to work, so I left the construction to my husband (in retrospect, obviously a bad idea).
All he needed to do was paint the table, put the cabinet doors back on, and lay the new laminate floor. I’d installed laminate before, so I knew it was easy enough for him to handle. We already ripped out the carpet and planned to the lay the boards directly over the linoleum that was in our living area.
While I worked, he continued to renovate. He found shower curtains that perfectly matched our walls. His mother lined and sewed them into curtains for our living area windows. She also found a tan slipcover to perfectly cover our hideous couch.
For dramatic effect, my husband decided to grand reveal the finished RV to me. I didn’t mind—that meant I didn’t have to help finish the construction!
When I walked in, I noticed our previously white overhead loft was suddenly a very dark shade of grey.
We had argued endlessly about whether or not to paint the loft, and finally had agreed NOT to – but he painted it anyway! This is what I get for leaving Heath alone with our house.
We kept our remodel simple. We were careful to pick an RV with no major system fixes. Just a little cosmetic lift and our new home felt much bigger and more comfortable than when we picked it up! Simply painting the walls and replacing the floors made a world of a difference. Our 20-year-old model, affectionately known as “Franklin the Turtle” for his speed, looks a decade younger.
And here’s the finished product!
Its fun to look back at where you two started! I love the before and after and how you did it on such a low budget, nice work! Keep up the good work! You are both so positive and inspirational to so many! God bless you both!
Thanks Joy!! Every time we look at these pictures we start wanting to re-paint our new rig…I miss the bright blue! 🙂
Thanks Joy! 🙂
So thrilled to have found your blog! My fiancé and I just put a deposit on our first RV this week (a 2001 Coachmen Catalina), and are planning to renovate the inside ourselves before moving into the rig full time at the start of next year. The work you did on Franklin has really inspired us. We’re hoping to yield similar results on a similar budget.
I’m a little concerned about flooring though, and would be super grateful for any insight you could offer. It seems the more research I do about the available options, the more confused I get! I’ve read a lot of posts that discourage laminate in RVs, because of their suceptability to water damage and health risks from formaldehyde exposure. Then I’ve read other things that suggest luxury vinyl isn’t tolerant to particularly hot or cold temperatures, which is problematic if you’re traveling constantly like we will be. Almost everything I’m reading warns about buckling and separating for both types, with and without adhesive, because of motion and torque. So I’m basically left feeling like everything other than carpet (which is gross) is either going to get ruined or give me cancer.
Did your laminate flooring hold up over time? Would you recommend it to another young couple who are probably about to get in way over their heads while renovating their first mobile home? Have you since learned about superior options from other folks you’ve met on the road? You didn’t get cancer from formaldehyde exposure, did you??? Kidding… Mostly 😬
Thanks in advance for any and all advice you might have for us! Hope to cross paths with you somewhere down the road!
I’ll let Alyssa chime in as well… but I know that after awhile our flooring did have some issues with both water damage (it was actually spilled toilet cleaner) and separating. It was actually a huge pain in the butt to deal with the separating floors and it really bothered me. However, we didn’t get sick from the flooring :).
I would probably do laminate flooring again, but maybe do a bit more research from others who have also done the floor thing. I’d also probably find a way to glue or secure the floating floor… as last time I just locked them into place instead of securing them down with some kind of glue.
Let us know what you find out!
Hi again! Thank you both so much for taking time to offer your input. Knowing that you did ultimately deal with some separation and water damage (and that you evaded cancer 😉) definitely helped us to narrow in on the right material and installation method for our project. We’ve decided to go with interlocking luxury vinyl planking plus a tile adhesive, directly on top of the subfloor. Waterproof, still cheap (coming in just over $100 for flooring and materials), and I think that the stability of interlocking planks combined with glue will keep everything where we need it. Plus it seems the intolerance to temperatures would mostly be a problem if the RV were stored in such a climate long term. Probably won’t be an issue for us since we’re living in it full time and traveling full time as well.
Will be sure to let you know how it all turns out- not that I imagine you’ll be renovating an RV again anytime soon, but you know, knowledge and stuff! We’re also attempting to undertake the entire project in about a week over Christmas, which I’m already ever so slightly nervous about (apparently I’m only heeding part of your experiential advice). Keep your fingers crossed for us! Thanks again for all the information!
Agree with Heath on what he said!
Except: Heath never finished installing our baseboards nor did he put down the metal piece to separate our wood floors from the linoleum in the bathroom. So I would say if you do those two things like you’re supposed to when you install it, you’ll be fine! The actually planks held up fine, just a little separation.
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