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tips-for-painting-the-walls-of-your-rv-mountainmodernlife-com

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 RV or travel inspiration? You can find all of our RV-related posts here and don’t forget to check out our RV toursDecor Resources, and YouTube Channel! Curious about how we make money on the road? Click here.

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
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  • Kim

    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
    reply
    • Meredith

      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
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      • Kierstyn

        This comment really helped me because this is the exact mistake I made! I’ve been trying to look up what I did wrong but I appreciate this so much! Did you have to take off all the previous paint or did you just paint over some of it?

        August 9, 2018
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  • Melissa

    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
    reply
  • Susan Nelson

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

    April 20, 2017
    reply
  • Catherine Nicosia

    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
    reply
  • Michele Ferris

    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
    reply
    • 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
      reply
  • Hope Brown

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

    May 10, 2017
    reply
  • Cassia

    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
    reply
    • 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
      reply
      • Nathalie

        Did you take off the strips and paint them separately and later put them back up or did you just paint it as one part? Did it crack on the seams?
        Thanks for your wonderful blog!

        November 24, 2017
        reply
  • Diane

    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
    reply
    • 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.

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

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

      June 24, 2017
      reply
  • Alex

    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
    reply
    • 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
      reply
  • Kathy

    We just bought a 1993 camper and the wallpaper (original stuff so attached to the plywood) is rippled in many areas. How do I prepare that for painting? If I have to sand it off then what do I use to fill in to make it smooth? So confused on how to tackle this project but love our new/old little camper Thanks

    June 26, 2017
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      • Jessica Berry

        I just spent a lit 2 weeks tediously removing the wallpaper in pie 1990 Fleetwood Yukon wilderness trailer that we bought with our wedding gift money. The removal did damage the walls a little bit which I plan on spackling to repair but also revealed some water damaged walls that are now in need or repair. After consulting with a neighbor on how to best do that he asked what the plan for the walls was now that we had removed the wallpaper. We said pir plan was to paint it and he said that the plywood walls weren’t “a paintable surface”. After dwelling on that remark I looked to Google without much luck and new worries about how to protect the now naked wall from further water damage without the wallpaper to protect it. Any ideas on what to do now that I’ve removed the wallpaper? Any suggestions would be appreciated.

        June 28, 2018
        reply
    • Sherri Cosner

      Kathy, If you havent started that reno yet, maybe you would consider using a wall board , paneling bead board or something else like that to cover over that rippling wall paper, it would be easier than trying to remove it and maybe a solution. Its a thought, I too just purchased an older camper a 83 and to make it pretty its gonna be a total redo, top to bottom at least the previous owner did the structure work before selling , we have a lot of work ahead of us too, good luck I hope this helps or at least gives you some ideas.

      January 3, 2018
      reply
  • Kim

    Wondering how the paint on the walls, specifically the painted seam over the strips between the wall panels, has held up when the unit has been taken down the road? Did it crack?

    July 4, 2017
    reply
  • I’m looking into Beyond Paint for our RV renovation. Do you have any experience with that?

    July 29, 2017
    reply
  • Andrew Payne

    Hey guys I’m trying to do the same thing you’ve done. I wanted to know, did you sand every nook and cranny of your cabinets and walls before priming or did you just sand in the major wall areas? If you only sanded the major areas, did the primer take to those little small areas of the cabinets and walls that you didn’t sand or get to? I’ll be using tsp on everything before painting BTW. Is doing that going to be enough for those unsanded areas? Sorry for so many questions but I’m kind of worried that I haven’t done a good enough job of sanding. Lol. Honestly a lot of my questions aren’t so good to text in, I hate texting. But if you could answer these it’d be great. Just email me. That’s for your blog an videos. Theyhave helped out a lot.

    July 30, 2017
    reply
      • There is also paint lots made especially for cabinetry that work great. Can be found at any home improvement store. They ca assortment of colors.

        December 6, 2017
        reply
  • Hello Mountaineers,
    I’m three days into my floor to ceiling repainting of my 26ft travel trailer. I can’t begin to thank you enough for giving me the courage to take a stand against dingy, dark vinyl wood and beige brown walls. Your blog posts have been a great source of inspiration and know how, and played a big part in getting my wife on board with the overhaul. Also, your new puppy is cute as a button.

    The first roadblock I’ve come across is silicone that has been used to seal the counters and shower stall in the bathroom. It won’t accept the paint, so now that my walls are a beautiful bright white, I’ve got this ring around the counters, and the shower stall that the old tan still shows through. I’m thinking of adding a backsplash, or some sort of quarter round to cover it, and complete my remodel, but I was wondering if you had any ideas, or suggestions, short of cutting the silicone out and replacing with a paintable caulk.

    August 16, 2017
    reply
    • Hey Paul, thanks for reaching out and I’m glad to hear the information was helpful and you’re making the travel trailer your own :). As for your first roadblock I think you could pursue both of those options. I think a quarter round could work, though we’ve found in the smaller place they can sometimes feel a bit bulky. With that said there are other trims out there that may give you the look you’d like. You can check out this post on our Kitchen Backsplash to see some of the trims we used (https://mountainmodernlife.com/wood-planked-kitchen-backsplash/). Taking out the old silicone and replacing it with paintable caulk could work as well but that’d be much more time consuming, though they do have silicone removal tools at your local hardware store that could help. I hope this helps and let me know if you have any questions I might be able to clear up. Best Wishes, Eric.

      August 28, 2017
      reply
  • Kim

    My husband and I just bought a 26′ 2006 Dutchmen. I just finished with the second coat of primer and I’m amazed at how long it took me, and how much primer! Those little nooks and crannies really calculate to a lot of surface area! Thank you so much for all of your detailed info. Your rv looks amazing and it’s a real inspiration. I’m doing the remodel by myself and am really nervous, but I’m waist high into it already so there’s no turning back now! Safe journey ahead ?

    August 23, 2017
    reply
    • Thank you so much Kim! We’re glad the information has been helpful. You’re 100% right about the amount of paint and time it takes to paint an RV, it seems like it’s never ending :). Try not to be nervous about it, everything you do is a step in the right direction and when you’re done it’ll all be worth it, plus if you make a mistake you can always fix it haha, best wishes on the rest of your project.

      August 28, 2017
      reply
  • Tara A.

    Did you use the same “BEHR Marquee Ultra Pure White in Satin finish” for the walls and the upper white cabinets? I don’t want to have to worry about cutting in between the upper white cabinets and the walls.

    December 5, 2017
    reply
  • Marley Russell

    I was wondering if you remember about how many gallons of paint it took to paint the interior of the rv. I am getting ready to paint ours this week. I’m fixing to head out to Lowe’s.

    January 2, 2018
    reply
  • Really great tutorials and information. Thank you!!

    March 12, 2018
    reply
  • Renee Rose

    Hi, I was wondering if anyone used a sprayer to paint the walls or you roll it on?

    Thanks, Renee

    April 5, 2018
    reply
  • Stevi Lee

    You have probably answered this question already, but I’m going to ask again. Lol so I did all the sanding/cleaning before I primed. I used Glidden Gripper. It’s been almost 24 hours since I primed, I started painting with the Behr Marquee, I started cutting in, working in small sections, I went to start rolling, and it was so tacky and sticky and just peeled off. What did I do wrong, I’m so frustrated! Lol please help!

    May 18, 2018
    reply
  • Lisa E

    Hi. Wondered why everybody is waiting 24 hrs after priming to paint when I’ve always waited just 1 hr per directions. Is it different because an rv has wallpaper? Just about to start the process and I want to get it right.

    May 28, 2018
    reply
    • Hey Lisa! Sometimes primer can take 1-7 days to cure so it’s really just an extra precaution to make sure the surface doesn’t get scratched or peel off. To be honest, we don’t always do this (depending on the surface we’re painting and how impatient we’re feeling), but we mostly painted the walls later in the day/evening so we just let it sit overnight before painting the next day. It depends on the type of paint you’re using (the directions may differ) and doing what you’re comfortable with or what has worked well for you in the past. 🙂

      June 6, 2018
      reply
      • Robin R

        I would say humidity affected the drying time.

        June 10, 2018
        reply
        • I think you’re right, moisture can definitely delay the drying process.

          July 13, 2018
          reply
  • Cari Heintzelman

    Did you consider spraying the paint on with a professional sprayer? Do you think that would be easier or harder with all the nooks and crannies? We’re getting ready to buy and renovate and I LOVE your site 🙂 Hoping to journal our renovation as well if we ever find the right RV! I feel like that is the hardest part!

    July 3, 2018
    reply
  • Karen Lockie

    Hello, wow a lot of awesome info here. I’ve been reading it quite quickly as I too am an impatient human. I’m wanting to paint the shower in our travel trailer, I believe the wall board is called luan. So do I just prep the shower by washing it down with tsp, painting it with the bonding gripper then paint? Thank you in advance for your help.

    July 29, 2018
    reply
  • Debbie Harmon

    our ceiling are some kind of short fuzzy material can I paint it and what kind of paint would you suggest

    August 1, 2018
    reply
    • Hey Debbie, we lucked out with our ceiling not having any funky texture and to be honest I’m not sure what the best approach would be. You may want to consider checking RV facebook groups because I feel like a lot of people have this concern. One group you may want to check out is this one – https://www.facebook.com/groups/371164549760394/ – sorry we don’t have a better answer. But let us know what you find and how it works for you!

      August 28, 2018
      reply
  • Gina Collins

    Any suggestions on how to deal with the outdated wall paper border? I don’t think it will peel off. If I paint over it, I’m afraid the border lines will show through.

    September 2, 2018
    reply
    • Hey Gina, sorry for the delayed response sometimes things get lost! Anyway if you check out this post we talk about exactly how to remove that troublesome border you’re talking about. https://mountainmodernlife.com/remove-wallpaper-border/ Anyway I hope this helps and let us know if you have any other questions.

      December 11, 2018
      reply
  • Elisa Boyd

    Just to clarify, you painted your vinyl ceilings the same way you painted the walls and you haven’t had any issues with flaking or cracking? We just bought a 2002 monaco that is a vision in beige 😂
    Elisa
    @goingoutwiththeboyds

    September 17, 2018
    reply
    • Hey Elisa that is correct! We painted the ceilings following the same strategy as the walls! Hope that helps 🙂

      December 11, 2018
      reply
  • Rebecca Gray

    I do have one minor suggestion about painting: Make sure you remove the window screens! Even if you are using rollers and brushes (I used a small electric Wagner Power Painter inside cabinets and closets), tiny particles of paint float. Cover your hair, eyes and clothing. You will probably want to open windows and even use a small fan for fresh air.. You can clean the glass and the frames, but the screens are toast if they have paint laden air blown through them. Like all professional painters, and as this post suggests, remove the switch plates and vent covers, Painting around and over those makes your finished job look amateurish. BTW, hiring this done would be wildly expensive.
    This is a fantastic post! Looks so nice. I’m mid renovation and this has reinvigorated me! My older 5th wheel will serve as a “bunk house” for the grandchildren when they visit. It’s taking me a while (I’m 70, and I have a 19 yr old inexperienced helper), but I live in the Rockies and I’m going rustic on this. Your post was perfect for me! Thank you!

    September 24, 2018
    reply
    • Hey Rebecca, great tip on removing the screens! We were lucky enough not to get any paint on ours, but I’d imagine it would’ve been a nightmare had we. What a great idea to create a bunkhouse for the grandkids 🙂 I think they’ll love it. Anyway thanks again for sharing the great tip!!

      December 12, 2018
      reply
  • Andrew Agar

    Paint the ceiling or walls first?

    October 26, 2018
    reply
    • Ya know Andrew that is a great question! I think it’s going to totally depend on how you want to do it, for us it didn’t matter too much because we have a wood trim piece that covers where the ceiling and walls meet. So, we were able to be a little sloppy on where the paint met haha. Anyway, I hope this helps, best wishes!

      November 1, 2018
      reply

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