Tips for Painting the Walls of your RV
Not gonna lie, painting the interior of our RV pretty much SUCKED.
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.
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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.
Painter's Tape: Frog 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. 🙂
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.
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.
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. 🙂
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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