Update Your Camper to Look Like New!

My husband and I were out camping last Spring and he made a comment about how I am always sweeping the floor in the camper — he actually used the word “tweeker.” We usually boondock in some pretty dusty places and living in Arizona that adds up to a lot of dirt being trekked in and out of the camper! Having a white linoleum floor only increased my slight tendencies of OCD. Not to mention, I do a lot of cooking in there and I absolutely refuse to prepare food in a dirty environment! He informs me he is going to update the flooring to a faux wood floor. Then I won’t be able to see all of the dirt and I can spend more time relaxing. That’s how our camper remodel started.

This got my wheels turning. If we are going to redo the flooring why not give the whole camper a makeover? He thought I was kidding. :) This conversation took place the middle of April. We were scheduled to take our camper back to Nebraska for Memorial Day weekend for our annual fishing trip with my Uncle and his family. On top of that, I was scheduled to be out-of-town every week for work and we had committed to another camping weekend with friends the second week of May. My husband tells me there is no way we can remodel the camper in that time frame with all that we have going on. I’m guessing it slipped his mind that when I set my sights on something nothing, I mean nothing, is going to stand in my way. Get ready to get busy, honey! Oh — and being the bean counter in the family I set aside a $2500 budget for the makeover — not one penny over!

Before the Remodel

We spent the first day taking everything out of the camper — towels, hats, toiletries, food — you know all that stuff that you store in a camper and don’t really realize just how much you have in there? We then remove the kitchen benches and the sofa/bed. Now my office looks like a tornado blew through it with all of the camper stuff piled in it. I’ll have to deal with it. Here is what we ended up doing to make our “Dingleberry” look marvelous again. (You can read more about the “Dingleberry” story here)

I set out to paint all of the cabinetry. I had previously redone the kitchen cabinets in the house a few years ago so I already knew what was involved in the process. What I didn’t realize was just how many cabinets we really have in that small camper — it’s only 19 foot long. I decide to go with an antiqued look to both lighten the cabinets but also provide some character to them to help cover up some of the dust we get with the windows open. I purchased the Cabinet Transformations Kit from Rust-Oleum in the light tint and had it further tinted to the porcelain color. I applied the glaze and top coat after they were painted. I love how they turned out! For first timers, the kit comes with a DVD video tutorial — seriously, anyone can do this!

Prepping for the Remodel

While the cabinets are drying, I start painting the interior walls. I did a lot of research on this and came to the conclusion that in order to do this right, and have the paint last, I first needed to apply a heavy coat of Glidden’s Gripper primer. The primer helps the paint adhere to the smooth finish of the wallpaper. (Make sure this dries thoroughly before applying your first coat of paint) I chose to go with 2 colors of paint to create an accent wall. Don’t forget to mask everything off and also paint the ceiling. It’s a real pain in the butt, but it’s worth it!

The upholstery and window valances were still in excellent condition so we decided to just have them re-upholstered. Here’s where I freaked out in the project. I lugged all of the cushions and valances in my Land Cruiser to four different upholstery shops. The estimates I got (not with super high-end replaceable fabric) ranged from $2500-$4600. Are you kidding me?? That’s more than the whole budget! Keep in mind the original colors of the upholstery were a teal green pattern. I based the makeover on warm colors — beige, red, copper and yellows. There was no way we could use the existing fabric on the cushions. Seriously, who would have thought it would cost that much? I had budgeted $850-$1000. Now I feel sick to my stomach. Oh my, what have I gotten us in to?

Pulling out Floor Staples

I’m leaving the last store and a kind gentleman that worked there offers to help me lug everything out to put back in my truck. We get everything loaded and he whispers to me — I know someone who can help you. You do? He pulls a piece of paper out of his pocket and writes down a number. He tells me to call this guy and tell him he referred me. OK — thank you! I get in the truck and call the number. I figured I might as well hit one more spot before unloading everything out of the truck. The guy answers and gives me his address. I say a quick prayer and head in that direction across town.

I arrive at a “hole in the wall” place in the ghetto and I’m wondering what I’ve gotten myself into now. I walk in to the small store and there is stuff literally piled high to the ceiling. I’m wondering how many fire codes they are breaking. I ask for the gentleman and he helps me bring everything in to get measured. He hands me a business card and tells me to go see his friend at the fabric store and he will reupholster everything for $600 if I provide the fabric. Score! Just to be safe, I have him write down everything and provide a formal quote before I leave all of it there. Feeling relieved, I head home to give the hubby the good news!

I get back to the house and am anxious to share my fantastic news. My husband thinks I’ve lost my marbles to have left everything in a store in that neighborhood. I assure him it will be fine. He’s not at all convinced. The next morning we drive across town to the fabric store. Sure enough, the guy at the fabric store tells us that Manuel has been doing upholstery longer than anyone in the Valley and likely trained all of the other people I had visited. I smile over at my husband — see I got this covered. :) I was lucky to find 2 fabrics in stock that were on clearance and we walked out spending $500 on fabric. All in all, we got everything upholstered (with high-grade fabric) for $1,100 and he had it done in 3 days. The other places needed to order the fabric and it was going to take 4–6 weeks which was going to be cutting it close to our trip to Nebraska. We had to have something to sit and sleep on! Moral of the story — be sure and shop around!

Putting the Epoxy On

With the cabinet painting complete, we start working on the kitchen. We updated all of the cabinet door hinges and knobs with new oil polished bronze ones. We also bought a new oil polished bronze kitchen faucet with pullout sprayer to go with the new stainless steel sink. I spent hours and hours of research trying to find a kitchen sink that would fit the one we had. In the end I concluded there just wasn’t one out there. The closest one I could find was a little over an inch shorter. We were planning to use the Rust-Oleum Counter Transformations Kit and give the original counter tops and table a corian look. Now we were faced with the dilemma of having to cut a new counter top to fit the new sink. This was a project and delay we didn’t see coming.

While my husband, and one of our friends, cut the new counter tops and table pieces (we used high quality press board), I decided to research some other coating options now that we were starting with a fresh slate. I find something way cool and my husband thinks I’ve gone off the deep end — what’s new? I find this magical copper finish that would look amazing with the other colors we selected. The only challenge is it’s a garage floor epoxy. I’m sold and now I must have it! He makes me call a bunch of painting places (on speaker) to confirm that it is safe to use for cooking surfaces. Everyone agreed it would be fine for normal use. I wouldn’t roll out dough on it for an extended amount of time, but I didn’t really see myself doing that in the camper anyways. Guess who won out? I absolutely love the finished product. It’s very unique and we get a lot of compliments on it. This is what we used in the Copper Pot Metallic color.

Second Coat of Stainless Steel Paint

What to do with the appliances? I painted the fridge and freezer with the same method as I did the cabinetry for it to blend in. The microwave is black so that didn’t really bother me, but the stove and oven were white and had definitely seen better days. Other than their sad exterior appearance, there wasn’t anything wrong with them. I did some research on buying a new one and that was going to put us way over budget so that just wasn’t an option. Seriously, $450 for a new one and it didn’t even come with any new technology, more cooking space or anything. Of course, I can’t have all new everything and have that old, ratty thing left in there. Back to the drawing board I go.

Lucky or unlucky for me, I spend a lot of time in airports which gave me an opportunity to figure out what in the world I was going to do with the stove and oven. There had to be something! Just as I’m about to board a plane I find my magical answer. There is stainless steel paint made just to cover over old appliances. Perfect! I knew what I was going to be doing when I got home. I placed the order on Amazon and board the plane with a big smile. The process couldn’t have been more simple and it turned out great! New stove, oven and vent cover for $25. Sweet!

New Trash Can

One of the coolest upgrades I found was a stainless steel wall mounted trash can. We used to have a medium size plastic one that would slide all over and constantly get in the way. The new trash can not only looks cool, but it mounts perfectly above the wheel well which was already taking up space. This was one of the items I splurged on but it was worth every penny!! My husband also installed a 2 way reversible fan in the main living area. There was an existing vent there and he just ran power over to it and replaced it with this one. Not only does it draw out heat while I am cooking, but it also makes for a nice fan when we are sleeping. We sleep with our ceiling fan on at home and now we can have the same luxury while we are camping!

Bathroom Remodel

Moving on the bathroom, we made several upgrades. We updated the bathroom sink and faucet, bathtub/shower handles and sprayer, bathtub, bathroom towel rack, hand towel holder and toilet paper holder in the same oil polished bronze finish. We took out and spray painted the existing medicine cabinet to give it an oil polished bronze appearance to blend in. I painted one of the walls in the bathroom with the accent color to give it some more depth. We also put in a new toilet. Holy cow does that make a difference. It took me a few times to get used to not having to sit so low. My 6'4" husband appreciates it even more! Highly recommended upgrade!

We also replaced all of the interior lights with LED ones to save on battery life. Last, but not least, we had a professional come out and install window tint on all of the windows. With the summer heat in Arizona this was a lifesaver. I can’t tell you how much of a difference it made in keeping the camper cooler! It also keeps the UV rays from fading my new upholstery. The tint guy recommended “limo” tint but we felt that would be too dark. I enjoy looking out at our beautiful surroundings while we are camping and I didn’t want the tint to take away from any of our gorgeous views. We went with the level right below the limo — 15%. The tint also gives the appearance from the exterior that our camper is a lot newer than it really is!

Finished Project!
Finished Project!

Overall, we couldn’t be more pleased with our remodeled Dingleberry. We did mange to get it all done in time to take to Nebraska for a few days of much-needed rest and relaxation. I hope our experience will inspire you to make a few updates of your own! It’s not as hard and expensive as you think!

Next up we are adding a solar panel to the roof and installing a mobile command unit similar to what they use in police cars and firetrucks. Stay tuned!

Disclaimer: The results and experience you have may differ as it relates to installation, color, size or overall product experience.

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