By Guest Contributor Thuy Ellison. Thuy lives full-time with her husband Ray and pup Rainer in their beautifully renovated Jayco trailer.
Prepping is the most important step!
When it comes to painting an RV, prepping is essential and at the same time one of the areas I felt we rushed. We would later pay big time for it. We ended up painting some of our cabinets and walls twice because we didn't prep properly the first time around, so from our mistakes, we want to emphasize how important it is to take the time to prep for painting properly.
The first step is to remove all cabinet fronts and hardware. Make sure to label all of your cabinet fronts using painters tape and a sharpie to make it easier and more efficient to reinstall. Removing hardware included all those on the cabinets, cabinet fronts, hooks, light fixtures, outlets, and switches. In hindsight, we should have removed the window trim, as well, as it would have made it easier for us to tape and paint around. We also placed all of the hardware in zip-lock bags, labeling the zip-lock bags and separating the the hardware by type. This made the process of reinstalling so much more efficient and organized.
The second step is to clean using TSP. We had two buckets and two sponges. One for the TSP and one for water. We cleaned every single surface with TSP before going back over each surface with water. We waited for the clean surfaces to dry completely before sanding. This is where we made our first mistake. The next step is sanding, and we made the mistake of sanding some parts and not others. We lightly sanded the wallpaper, but where there were wood accents-like on either side of the slide-I neglected to sand. I’m not even entirely sure if this area was real wood or composite, but I thought the primer would grip to it regardless of sanding first. It did not, and we had to scrape everything off and repaint. I also failed to sand all the nooks and crannies on our cabinets, and even in one place I completely missed an entire side of the cabinet. This resulted in cracking paint as the temperature changed and the RV expanded and contracted. Again, I had to scrape, sand, and repaint these areas. The areas I sanded properly, including the wallpapered walls, held the paint perfectly. All of this to say, don't skimp on cleaning and sanding. Use a fine sandpaper, sand through the gloss that most RV surfaces have, and give the paint a clean slate to grip to.
Once sanding was done, we had to sweep and vacuum as much as possible to ensure there were minimal amounts of dust and debris floating around. Again, make sure to clean the surfaces well so that dust isn't caught in the paint and leaving imperfections in the final product. We used a spray painter, which will blow the dust and debris right onto the surface you are painting, making it rough or textured. After ensuring there were no remnants of dust from sanding, we taped everything we didn’t want painted, and we covered all the windows, outlets, and openings with a plastic drop cloth. This can be time-consuming, but I promise it is so worth it! At this point you are ready to paint, but make sure to properly protect yourself with a mask and goggles. First, we spray painted two coats of Kiltz oil-based primer. For the walls and most of the cabinets, we sprayed an additional two coats of Benjamin Moore’s Chantilly Lace in satin. For the kitchen and bathroom cabinets, we used Benjamin Moore’s Winter’s Gate in semi-gloss. We wanted to make sure that the kitchen and bathroom cabinets were easy to clean and durable, so we chose a semi-gloss for these areas.
For the cabinet fronts, we followed the same procedure. We spread out our cabinet fronts and placed the sticker underneath its designated location. After picking the cabinet front up to paint, we placed each one back on top of the label so we knew which cabinet went which made it a breeze to reinstall.
For repaint and touch ups
The best products we found for touch-ups or trim work that may require a brush are the 2 inch foam rollers and 1 inch Wooster brushes. Since we used a spray gun, our touch ups needed to blend in seamlessly and finely, and these did the trick. The small 2 inch foam rollers and handle allowed for so much precision and blended in perfectly. The brush strokes from the 1 inch angled Wooster brushes disappeared as the paint dried and also allowed for precision.
This is simply one method of painting RV interior walls. I know there are varying ways to accomplish the same task, and in fact if I do another project like this again and if speed isn't a consideration, I may use the foam rollers and brush method from the beginning and just take my time going through section by section. But overall, we learned a great deal and are so pleased with the results!
I hope our journey helps others start their RV transformations and keeps them from making the same mistakes we made!