Tips for Painting the Walls of your RV

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Tips for Painting the Walls of your RV

Not gonna lie, painting the interior of our RV pretty much SUCKED.

Want to quickly change the look and feel of your motorhome? Check out these tips for Painting the Walls of your RV! MountainModernLife.com

I think there were numerous times that I told Eric if we ever have to paint the inside of a RV again, we’ll pay someone to do it.

Yeah, it sucked that much. Then again we painted all of the cabinets too and some of them more than once after discovering the water leak in the ceiling.

But you know what? We would probably still paint the interior ourselves because as much work as it was, the payoff was soooooo worth it!

In fact, I would say painting the RV walls, ceiling, vents, and cabinets gave us the biggest bang for our buck, being that it completely changed the overall feel of the space.

For those that are new here, we recently left our sticks and bricks home to spend a year traveling in our RV. You can read more about us here. This post may contain affiliate links for your convenience. View our full disclosure here.

Tips for Painting the Walls of your RV

Painting the walls wasn’t nearly as time consuming as painting the cabinets, but they did require some extra prep. If you’re looking to update your RV with paint (and patience), here are some tips to help you along the way.


Materials Used:

Sandpaper (optional)

TSP or TSP SubstituteContainer + Sponge (you could also use a more natural cleaning alternative)

Gloves + Eye Protection (if you plan to use TSP or TSP substitute)

Painter’s TapeFrog Tape is hand’s down my favorite and worth the extra couple bucks if you ask me.

Bonding Primer: We used Kilz Primer because we already had some in our garage, but I’ve heard Glidden Gripper Primer is a great option because it’s a bonding primer that specifically states it can be used on top of wallpaper. They also have a Low-VOC version.

Latex Paint in the Sheen you want: I wanted white paint with no yellow or blue undertones so we used BEHR Marquee Ultra Pure White in Satin finish. I had a healthy supply of paint provided to me by BEHR because I had previously worked with them.

Paint Rollers, Tray and Brushes: I HATE getting bristles or little furries in my paint – Purdy and Wooster Brushes and Rollers are my favorite.


Before you do any of the steps below, I recommend getting your favorite pandora or podcast station set-up, as well as your beverage of choice. It makes the painting process so much more enjoyable. 🙂

Step 1:

First thing’s first, remove any wallpaper borders you don’t want to keep up. However, keep in mind that there’s a MAJOR difference between the wallpaper texture all of the walls have, and the bordered wallpaper added on top of that. The interior walls of your motorhome are likely made of some sort of luan plywood that has a wallpaper texture adhered to them which is NOT removable, at least as far as I know. We just painted over ours using the steps below.

This seems to be the case in most RV’s and campers, but I’ve seen some with wallpapered accent walls, so I would just look closely before attempting to pry it off. We removed the borders, but not the actual “wallpaper” that’s adhered to the walls of the RV — you don’t want to try and tear that off. This is why bonding primer comes in handy, but we’ll get to that in a minute. You can read about how we removed the wallpaper borders here.

Want to quickly change the look and feel of your motorhome? Check out these tips for Painting the Walls of your RV! MountainModernLife.com

Step 2:

If you haven’t done so already, make sure you’ve removed anything you don’t want painted, like outlet covers, trim, etc. and tape around edges you don’t want painted, such as window frames. True confession, we were super lazy about taping around our window frames because we planned to add wooden frames around them anyway (ummm still hasn’t happened), and some paint got on the black metal window trim. You may even catch some glimpses of it in photos or videos, woops. It actually comes off fairly easy, especially if you wipe it off right away, otherwise a magic eraser will do the trick. Even so, taping these types of things off now will mean less work later.

Don’t forget to cover the flooring with tarps, or any furniture you don’t want to accidentally splatter with paint.

Step 3:

Lightly Sand the walls. I can’t remember where I first read this, but it was probably in a RV group forum. I don’t know if this step is all that necessary, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. I don’t think you need to overthink this either. I just went around and lightly sanded down the walls in our RV with a few swipes of 120 grit sandpaper.

I later read that this should be done AFTER you clean the walls, but at the time I thought it made more sense to sand and then clean the walls. Would it have worked better the other way? Maybe. Either way, it seemed to work for us. 🙂

Want to quickly change the look and feel of your motorhome? Check out these tips for Painting the Walls of your RV! MountainModernLife.com

Step 4:

Next you’ll want to clean the walls to prepare them for paint. The most popular option for this seems to be TSP or TSP substitute, which is a degreaser and cleaning agent often used to prep walls before painting.  However, both are pretty toxic so be sure to wear gloves and eye protection if you go this direction. To be honest, I had never used either of these products prior to owning a RV, but we went with TSP substitute. I later realized that there are a ton of natural alternatives that you can use instead.

Basically you’ll want to clean the walls with the TSP/TSP substitute (follow the directions) or an Alternative Option and make sure to wipe them down with water afterwards. Then let them dry fully before painting. I’d wait a day to paint just to be safe, otherwise your paint may not adhere properly.

Want to quickly change the look and feel of your motorhome? Check out these tips for Painting the Walls of your RV! MountainModernLife.com

 

Step 5:

Once your walls are clean and dry it’s time to prime. I’d recommend using a bonding primer such as Glidden’s Low-VOC Gripper Primer. This can be used on top of wallpaper, which seems to be bonded to the inner walls of RVs. Also, it can apparently help neutralize any sticky residue left behind after removing wallpaper (like those pesky borders), although I haven’t tried it before. If you have experience be sure to let us know in the comments below!

gripper-primer-for-rv-interior

 

We used 2 coats of primer on the walls of our RV, and let it dry overnight before adding our latex paint on top. I think you technically want to wait 24 hours though.

Want to quickly change the look and feel of your motorhome? Check out these tips for Painting the Walls of your RV!

Step 6:

It’s finally time to paint, yay! If you’re using a darker color you may only need one coat, but we went with Ultra Pure White in satin and did two coats.

Side note: If you plan to paint your walls white you may want to consider painting your ceiling white as well. Once our walls and cabinets were painted it looked like our ceiling, which seemed white before, now looked more beige. So we painted the ceiling using the same steps as above, and it made a HUGE difference in brightening up the space!

Ultra Pure White Paint


That’s pretty much it! I had no idea painting the walls in our RV was going to be a bigger task then painting the walls in our previous homes, especially considering how much smaller it is. The good news is we painted our walls and ceiling a year ago and everything has held up great!

I also want to mention that we used vinyl spackling to fill in any holes. We were then able to lightly sand then paint over it.

Do you have any tips you’d like to share when it comes to painting the inside of your RV? We’d love to hear about them in the comments below!


Looking for more RV inspiration? You can find all of our RV-related posts here. Don’t forget to check out our YouTube Channel and if you’re Curious about our RV decor and products you can check out the list of our RV decor resources!

20 Comments
  • Thanks for sharing. Can you tell me if I should use a special moisture / mildew resistant paint for the bathroom of my rv?

    March 25, 2017 at 3:37 pm
  • Just wondering how the paint is holding up? Any nicks or paint falling off? We’re getting ready to paint the RV and have no iea what steps to do. I’ve heard sanding isn’t necessary, too, but then so many other people claim it is.

    We were thinking of just putting up paint without the primer but wondered what you thought? Did you try that anywhere? Do you know if the paint would stick to the walls without the primer?

    March 26, 2017 at 12:17 pm
    • Meredith
      Reply

      I have remodeled a couple of RV’s in the past and am in the process of doing my third. The first time I lightly sanded the walls and the cabinets and then used a paint that had primer in the paint, It looked great but the paint peeled off in strips. It was awful . I had to peel it all off and try again. That is when I tried that Gripper paint and it made all the difference. Now I use TSP (which actually etches the surface so you don’t need to sand), Gripper primer, then paint. While it may sound like a lot of work, if you don’t you may end up like my first time and have to do it all over again and nobody wants that!

      March 31, 2017 at 9:27 am
  • Melissa
    Reply

    I found your blog yesterday via Pintrest… and am basically obsessed. LOVE your remodel and hanging on every little word. The best step by step tutorials I’ve yet to find!! So excited to follow along on your adventures and hopefully begin to tackle renovating my 27 foot bumper tow travel trailer! I’d love to see some RV organization ideas in a future post someday! Clothing, cupbords, bathroom, under the RV storage, tools, etc!

    April 5, 2017 at 3:07 pm
  • Susan Nelson
    Reply

    Paint the walls and the cabinetry. Which would you do first?

    April 20, 2017 at 5:53 pm
  • Catherine Nicosia
    Reply

    We are getting ready to paint our rv and I was wondering what you used to fill in holes where the old valances/curtains were? We will NOT be putting them back up, and instead ordered some roller shades from Bilnds.com, per your recommendation. My concern is if regular caulk has to much mousture in it and if it will cause problems down the road.

    April 28, 2017 at 7:24 pm
  • Michele Ferris
    Reply

    Planning on refurbishing our 5th wheel soon. Want to do it ourselves and are wondering about how much the cost might be.

    May 8, 2017 at 6:48 pm
    • Hey Michele, it’s awesome to hear you’ll be refurbishing your 5th wheel, there’s nothing like making your space feel like your own. As far as budget goes it’s going to depend on a lot of different aspects, a big one is how much you intend to change. But then again it will also depend on what products you intend to use, if you plan to do the work yourself or have someone else do it. I’d look at your space and ask yourself how much do you want to spend and how much can you spend, then start from there.

      Our budget was roughly around $5,000 though we came in under that, at the same time we spread our renovation out over a longer time period.

      May 16, 2017 at 5:54 pm
  • Hope Brown
    Reply

    What steps did you take to prep the wood/faux wood surfaces and cabinets in your rv?

    May 10, 2017 at 4:09 pm
  • Cassia
    Reply

    I’m looking to do the same in my fifth wheel. I hadn’t planned on doing the ceiling but that seems like a good idea now. I’m wondering if you painted the vinyl/rubber/plasticy strips that connect the ceiling and walls? If so did they paint nicely?

    May 24, 2017 at 12:26 am
    • Hey Cassia, we did paint those connecting strips. We ended up putting the same number of coats on them as the ceiling and they seem to be holding up great so far.

      June 24, 2017 at 12:35 pm
  • Diane
    Reply

    Your posts are great! We have a 2006 Tiffin Allegro that needs updating and the TV removal is at the top of my list. Well that and the carpeting…but now that I’ve seen your blog this may turn into a major project. Your posts are the best I’ve found. Thank you!

    May 25, 2017 at 6:42 pm
    • Thank you so much Diane! Once you get started with some smaller projects it’s easy to just keep going and going. If the tv in your RV is anything like ours the post below may be helpful for you, I know when we were trying to remove ours it took awhile to figure out how to get it down.

      http://mountainmodernlife.com/remove-the-tv/

      Thanks for swinging by the blog and I hope it helps. Best Wishes, Eric

      June 24, 2017 at 12:39 pm
  • Alex
    Reply

    Thank you SO much for posting these…you are a life saver to me 🙂 I am renovating a 2000 Mallard Fleetwood travel trailer. I am in the early stages, but did your RV have the little plastic molding on the top of the interior walls? I thought it was an electrical cord at first, but it’s molding or trim? (And so ugly). Did yours have it and did you remove it? I plan to and as I have never RV’ed before I just wanted to make sure its not there for some other reason than aesthetics. Thank you!!! Alex

    June 13, 2017 at 6:16 pm
    • Hey Alex, thanks for swinging by the blog and I’m glad you found it helpful. So our trim pieces at the top of our walls are actually made of wood, but from looking at ours I feel as though they are just for aesthetics and can be replaced. We removed ours and painted them but then put them back in place. One thing that is important to know about RVs is that every single one seems to be completely different, so if you ever find yourself stuck without being able to find a solid answer we’d suggest reaching out to your manufacturer. They are generally pretty good about answer questions. Hope this helps and please feel free to reach back out if you have any other questions. Best Wishes, Eric

      June 24, 2017 at 12:43 pm

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