Clean It All Up! Our Camper Renovation, Part II

(Head over here for Part I)

With our new-to-us camper newly gutted and cleaned, we were ready to start building the dream! And to make things even more interesting, we’d decided that instead of giving ourselves till the end of September to finish and move into the camper, we were going to try to save a few months’ rent by moving in … by July.

Now, keep in mind, by the time we got the camper back from the RV repair shop (which took 2 weeks to do about 2 days worth of work), it was already the beginning of June. JUNE. And we were both working nearly full time. I had estimated we needed about 6 weeks to renovate, which ended up being just about on point, but with the 2 weeks we lost at the RV shop, we started behind schedule.

But now, we were ready to roll! Rebecca spent most of her time at our apartment, working on selling all our stuff, while also juggling camper projects. I started my work by getting her set up — first by removing all the knobs and hinges from the drawers and camper doors so she could clean and paint them.

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We had been planning on replacing all the hinges with similar ones in a brushed nickel finish, but when Rebecca started poking around online to find ones she liked, she found they were pretty expensive. Like, $3/piece expensive — quite a bit of money when you have 60 hinges to replace. So instead, we went a different route, and after a good cleaning, we spray painted them, using Rust-Oleum’s Satin Nickel Paint and Primer in One, and were THRILLED with how they came out. And you can’t beat a $7 dollar solution to what you thought was a $180 problem!

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Shiny!

After that, I spent all my free time in the camper, which was parked at a nearby storage facility. I was really eager to see some new color on the walls, and to see some of that awful wallpaper disappear, so I grabbed some Rustoleum paint and primer in one in white, and sprayed the inside of uppers in the bedroom.

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It was really exciting to see things start to change! I decided to roll with it and do another small painting project, so I taped off the brass vanity in the bathroom, and prepped it for a round of that same paint we’d used on the hinges …

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And another success! Spray paint is awesome.

Two projects were up next: repairing the water damage in the floors that we’d uncovered after pulling the carpeting and linoleum up, and patching the four billion holes in the wall that had been created when we pulled down the shelving, the valances, the mini blinds, and everything else was cluttering up the walls.

The water damage was not completely unexpected, as old as the camper is, although I must admit I was hoping and praying to avoid dealing with that. However, the damage was pretty minimal, and repairing it turned out to be less difficult (and time-consuming) than I’d anticipated — one of the very few times in the reno that proved the be true. The first spot I went after was in the front right of the camper, near the door. It was discolored and damp, and after only a little prodding, looked like this:

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The corner fell right through, but obviously, the entire discolored area had been repeatedly exposed to water over the years. I wanted to keep the patch as small as possible, so I started with a small cut (with my brand new Ridgid circular saw my dad had bought me as an early birthday present – I adore Ridgid tools).

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But once I got in there, I found a nice little treat — some healthy mold. Now, one reason we were excited to move into the camper was that we actually had some mold in our basement apartment, and Rebecca and I both had reactions to it. So, finding it in our new place was not super exciting. However, I had my circular saw in my hand, and knew a very simple solution: Total Extraction.

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I extended my cut another foot or so, and after a careful inspection by feel and by flashlight, was satisfied that there was no mold or damp wood remaining. Just to be sure, I read up on mold killers online, diluted some antifreeze, and gave the entire area — both above and below floor level — repeated coverings with a spray bottle, and then left the whole area to dry for a few days.

Satisfied with my work there, I switched to the back of the camper, and repeated the process there.

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I didn’t feel like going 6 inches at a time this time, and just ripped out anything that looked like it even might have seen water over the years. After that, it too got a good covering of the antifreeze spray — better safe than sorry!

I actually don’t have pictures that really show this, but the other side of the bedroom floor, near the external access panel, had had some intermittent water exposure over the years. While it was currently quite dry, parts of it were actually kind of crumbly and soft. I scraped the soft wood, which was largely on the surface, and then applied a few bottles of Minwax wood hardener. That stuff worked GREAT. It soaked all the way down and through the plywood, and made it even more solid than it was when it was brand new. Given that, and the fact that it was going to be a no-traffic area under the bed, I felt like that was all that really needed done for strength.

The last thing I did for the floor in the bedroom was to buy a Zinsser mold-killing paint/primer and coat both areas with it. This paint not only kills existing mold, but also keeps it from coming back. So far, it’s worked great! It also looks nice and clean under my platform bed.

Once the floor paint dried, I ran 2×4 bracing underneath the edges of the wet spots I’d cut out, and laid 3/4 inch plywood (also covered with the mold-killing paint) back in. Once it was down, I screwed it all down, and caulked the seams to keep out moisture and airflow. It looked nice and clean, and it’s worked great these past 6 months!

With the floors done, it was on to the other prep project — cleaning up the walls. The aforementioned four billion holes needed to be patched up.

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I wasn’t sure of the best way to do this — I was used to using spackle, but A) the camper walls aren’t sheetrock, and B) given that the camper is on wheels, the whole thing flexes, and I was pretty sure spackle would crack. I gave my dad a call to see what he thought, and got an answer from him I’d never gotten before: “I have no idea.” So it was back to that fount of all wisdom, the Internet.

There were lots of suggestions scattered around, though not really any consensus. After some research and consideration, I decided to use Bondo and a spreader. I’d never used a two-part hardener before, but I figured A) if it worked on car exteriors, which flex, it should be fine for my walls, and B) it was sandable, so if it came out poorly, I could fix it. It took a bit of practice to get the mixture just right, and to figure out how much I could mix and apply before the batch started to harden, but overall I was really happy with the process and the product. It went on like a really thick spackle, dried quickly if applied in thin coats, and sanded down well. I started out sanding by hand, but this stuff is a LOT more durable than spackle, and I quickly switched over to my electric palm sander. As many spots as I had to sand, I probably saved myself 10-15 hours worth of labor. There were a LOT of spots:

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And that’s just a small sampling. The whole place looked like it had gray chicken pox.

But it went well, and soon  the walls were patched, sanded, and ready for paint! Meanwhile, back at the farm, Rebecca (and her mom, who came to visit and jumped right in to help!) had been busy cleaning, priming, and painting the drawers and cabinet doors.

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It was so exciting to see things start to take shape! The vision was finally come to life, and our enthusiasm was sky-high. Come back for next week’s edition, as we start painting and rebuilding!

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Author

I grew up in New Jersey, went to college in Virginia, and married a girl from New Hampshire, so I can drive the East Coast in my sleep. I love exploring, jumping out of airplanes, whitewater rafting, fast cars, comic books, and generally refusing to act my age. More practically, I love budgeting and financial planning, renovating and updating older homes (and now campers), and learning to make our family as self-sustaining as possible.

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