The Comprehensive Guide to RV Restoration

The Comprehensive Guide to RV Restoration


George Cummings
November 19, 2021

As our most trusted companions and traveling abodes, our RVs go through a lot in their lifetime and may need some sprucing up from time to time.

Just like our permanent homes, RVs need updates with furnishings and require other improvements to get them in great shape again, which a complete RV restoration can do.

What’s involved in RV restoration? A complete restoration of an RV focus on the interior and exterior of the vehicle, including repairs of the engine, fixing broken parts, updating the furnishings, and giving a new coat of paint to the outside.

Depending on the condition of the RV and what the owners require, this could be a basic upgrade or complete overhaul.

If you’ve been dreaming about giving your beloved RV the makeover she deserves, we can help you get started.

This guide to RV rehab and restoration can show you exactly what’s required to get your traveling home back to life, without having to fork out for a brand new RV.

Professional of DIY: Which is Best?

Professional of DIY: Which is Best?

RV owners are known for being pretty handy if this sounds like you, you might have already decided you’re going to do the restoration yourself.

There are loads of great resources out there for DIYers who want to upgrade their RVs, and if you already have some skills you could put to use, it’s a great way to save money.

On the other hand, there’s nothing like the quality craftsmanship that a professional is capable of, whether it’s on the electrical work or upgrading the carpets inside the RV.

You’ll be able to leave the entire process up to someone else for minimal stress, and although it’s the more expensive option, you know it’s going to be done right the first time.

If you do choose the DIY route, you’ll need to come up with a detailed plan on how you’re going to approach it.

Think about the improvements that are most urgent and focus on them first, leaving the cosmetics upgrades until the end, and then reassess your budget and see what you’ve got left to work with.

Repairing Broken Parts

Repairing Broken Parts

Now is the time to do a complete inspection of your RV and look for parts that need to be fixed.

Some of them may not be as urgent as the others, but you’ll want to compile a detailed list so you know exactly what has to be rectified and the best order to do it.

During this inspection, you’ll want to assess the as thoroughly as you did when you purchased it.

Include checks on air conditioning, electrical components, furniture, water lines and tanks, propane systems, appliances, floor coverings, awnings, rubber seals, slide-outs, and anything else you can think of.

The good news is, many of these problems can be fixed with a little bit of DIY knowledge and some time.

Consider whether the repairs are serious enough to warrant a total replacement or if they can be fixed, and if you feel that they’re above your knowledge or experience level, call in the professionals for help.

Engine Checks and Fixes

Engine Checks and Fixes

Unless you’re confident in your mechanical skills, it’s best to leave this part of the restoration to an expert.

When you’re doing an overhaul of your RV, you’ll not only need to focus on making it look better but running better too, and that all starts in the engine.

Have your RV taken for a complete service at a dedicated RV mechanic where they can let you know of any potential issues that need to be rectified.

Other parts that might also be inspected are the water heater, furnace, air conditioning, and generator, as some or all of these might need to be replaced as well.

In addition to what’s underneath the hood, a mechanic can also check the tires, battery, towing equipment, and anything else necessary.

This part of the restoration may be expensive but the sooner you get any potential problems sorted, the cheaper they’ll be to fix and the longer your RV will be running for.

Sprucing Up the Exterior

Sprucing Up the Exterior

As the face of your RV and what the rest of the world sees, you’ll want the exterior of the vehicle to be looking its best.

This means focusing on all of the parts that need repairing or replacing, including vents, rubber seals, awnings, and exterior lights.

The doors and windows of your RV are an instant giveaway of its age, and thanks to the regular exposure to the sun, they’ve likely cracked and turned yellow.

If there’s nothing wrong with them structurally, a quick coat of paint can freshen them up and bring them back to a whiter shade.

Once you’ve finished the improvements on the outside, you can paint the entire surface of the vehicle in a fresh, new color.

Just be sure to patch up any cracks or obvious signs of damage, and choose a paint that’s been formulated for exterior and automotive use, as it’ll be more resilient to the RV lifestyle.

Fixing the Roof

Fixing the Roof

While you’re working on the exterior of the vehicle, it’s a good time to inspect the roof of your RV and see what needs to be done.

Depending on the material of the roof, it could need some minor repairs or a complete replacement, especially if it’s been in place for a few years of regular use.

To replace a roof entirely, you’ll need to remove the existing membrane and any plywood underneath before laying down a new one, which will take a couple of days of hard work.

If it only requires some minor repairs, you can seal up any cracks and crevices and give it a fresh coat of UV paint so that it continues to protect you and the RV from sun and water damage.

Replacing the Tanks

Replacing the Tanks

If your RV’s water and waste tanks are beyond repair and sealing the cracks still hasn’t helped, it’s time to admit defeat and replace them.

Thankfully, replacing the RV tank is a relatively easy process and not that expensive, and all you’ll need is the dimensions and valve configuration of the current tank so you can order a new one.

It’s unlikely that you’ll need to replace all three of the RV’s tanks at once unless you’re working on an older vehicle.

Assess which ones are more in need of replacement and focus on these first, if you can keep the others sealed and functional for a few more years.

The Importance of Insulation

The Importance of Insulation

Your RV’s insulation will dictate just how comfortable it is inside of your moving home and when you’re upgrading the rest of the vehicle, this should be included.

The most important factor to consider is the R rating, or thermal resistance, of your insulation choices, with some RVs and their climates requiring more than others.

If you have an older RV, there’s a good chance that the insulation is a little dated as well, and even newer models might need some additional help.

The most popular options today are fiberglass and spray foam or rigid foam and it’s possible to insulate most areas including the exterior, underbelly, roof, and inside of the RV.

Not only does the insulation help to maintain the temperature inside the cabin but it also prevents you from relying on HVAC methods too much, which wastes energy and money.

With good insulation, you’ll be less likely to turn the air conditioning or heater on, as you’ll find the conditions a lot more comfortable inside when it’s been properly insulated.

Interior Decorating and Improvements

Interior Decorating and Improvements

The most enjoyable part of an RV restoration is changing the interior and giving your home a whole new look.

Once you’ve taken care of the more serious upgrades and you know what you’ve got left in your budget, you can think about upgrading the following:

  • Seats: The dining area of your RV can get an instant transformation just by having its seats reupholstered, or you can replace the entire thing. You might also want to replace the foam and cover of the driver’s and passenger’s seat or purchase a modern car seat cover that makes them look new again.
  • Floor coverings: Old carpet or linoleum floors bring down the entire look of an RV and they can even add some unpleasant odors to it. Give the floors a refresh and see what difference it can make. The most popular, hard-wearing, and the visually pleasing option is a hardwood floor, otherwise, you can opt for synthetic wood or carpet for a more traditional look.
  • Appliances: Take a look around the RV and think about the dated appliances that could use with an upgrade. Think about getting a new TV, microwave, refrigerator, stereo, and anything else you need to bring your RV into the 21st century.
  • Bathroom: A cracked or yellow bathroom sink, toilet, and shower can easily date the bathroom so think about replacing them. Modern RV toilets and showers are better than ever and more efficient when it comes to water usage as well, so it’s not just an investment in aesthetics.
  • Paint: There’s not a lot of wall space in an RV compared to a regular home so it’s not difficult to give it a fresh coat of paint. Just make sure you’ve prepped and primed the walls first and then used oil-based paint to get the best results. You’ll be surprised at the difference a quick paint job can make on the interior of the RV.
  • Art and décor: Your RV should feel just like home and be a representation of your style and personal taste. A few carefully chosen pieces of décor and some artwork can give it that feeling and add some personality to the interior space. Just be careful not to get carried away and clutter the area with too many things.

Rehab for Your RV

As our pride and joy, we want to do whatever we can to keep our RVs running smoothly and looking their best, even if it means a little bit of rehabilitation.

The best approach to RV restoration is focusing on one thing at a time and taking it slowly, and having a detailed plan in place will let you do just that.

Related Questions

RVs aren’t cheap to purchase at first but if you put a lot of time and effort into taking care of them, they don’t have to be expensive to own.

To find out more about some of the regular upkeep and maintenance that an RV requires, read on for a few FAQs that can help.

How Often Does an RV Need a Service?

An RV is like any other vehicle and it requires regular servicing to stay on top of problems, especially as it gets older.

The general rule is once a year or every 6,000 miles, whichever comes first, but your specific make and model of RV could have different requirements that need to be followed.

When Should I Replace My RV Roof?

When Should I Replace My RV Roof?

You should replace the membrane of an RV roof every few years unless there is visible damage or repairs that need to happen.

An RV’s roof must be in excellent condition to protect the interior of the vehicle, so make sure you’re inspecting it regularly for signs of damage.

How Much Does It Cost to Restore an RV?

The cost of RV restoration depends on the condition of the vehicle and the availability of parts for that specific make and model.

A vintage RV can range from $1,000 to $10,000 in restoration costs, and sometimes more, with newer RV models costing slightly less to renovate.


George Cummings

George Cummings enjoys connecting with nature, meeting new people, and making friends from all over the world. RVing and camping create the perfect opportunity for [him/her] to take part in these activities. After spending several years on the road and exploring the great outdoors, George Cummings shares some of his best pieces of advice on how to make the most of your time while camping. TourTheOutdoors is his way of helping outdoorsy individuals like [him/her] start on a right footing with amazing recommendations and buying guides.