By Janet Groene, F47166
Time for a complete renovation to the interior layout of the motorhome you love? For many, the same old motorhome is as comfortable as an old house slipper. You wouldn’t change a thing. It may need new soles or heels from time to time, but basically it’s still perfectly sized and shaped for the life you lead. Minor repairs and upgrades work for a while, but the time comes when a complete tear-apart makeover has to be done.
Here are some tips on how to go about making that once-in-a-lifetime renovation.
- “” “Just as in buying new shoes, it’s important to try on new RV furniture,” advise the folks at Custom RV Interiors, C8862, in Vancouver, Washington (360-576-1036; www.customrvinteriors.com). They claim that 40 percent of all furniture ordered from Web sites or catalogs is returned, because it doesn’t fit the space, the people, or both. Before buying new furniture, visit the showroom. Push back in the recliner. Pull out the sofa bed. Raise and lower the convertible coffee table.
- “” Do research ahead of time and choose a city or region that offers the best choice of renovation materials, roadworthy furnishings, and RV-savvy craftspeople. Then go there to have the work done. There is no substitute for being there in person to run a hand over the carpet samples, hold up paint chips to both natural and artificial light, and rub the upholstery fabrics between your fingers.
- “” Before choosing a company to do your renovation, ask a representative at the coach manufacturer whether the company has a department that does makeovers. (Or perhaps they can recommend an interior decorator who specializes in coaches such as yours.) The more familiar workers are with the construction of your coach, the more likely they are to work faster, have the right tools available, know where to look for trouble spots behind the scenes, and get the best buys on replacement materials. In coastal areas, look for companies that do custom yacht interiors. Many of them also work on motorhomes.
Companies that specialize in RV interiors include Custom RV Interiors; Classic Coach Works, Lakeland, Florida, (800) 971-0017, www.classiccoachworks.com; Island Yacht Interiors, Chester, Maryland, (410) 643-9594, www.yachtfurnitureonline.com; and Jacobs’ Upholstery, Spokane, Washington, (800) 481-6033, www.jacobsupholstery.com.
Check the “Services” section of FMCA’s Business Directory for other possibilities. The Business Directory is published in the January and June issues of FMC and online at FMCA.com.
“” Consider total carpet thickness. That was the lesson learned by self-described mobile mavericks Larry Johnson and Annette Lamb, F257402. They live full-time in their 38-footer, making a living on the go by giving classes and courses. (See them at www.eduscapes.com.) They chose plush, new carpeting and padding, not realizing that the additional thickness would interfere with the operation of their slideout. While decorators say it’s important to replace padding at the same time as you install new carpeting, it’s also important not to increase overall carpet height. If you do, doors and slideouts may not open and close properly.
“” Professionals do window coverings best. They know how to measure odd-sized windows; to secure curtain tops and bottoms so they won’t wear out from swaying while the motorhome is moving; to line draperies to protect against ultraviolet ray damage and temperature extremes; and to make for a perfect fit that won’t leave gaps. In crowded campsites, window coverings provide privacy and security. Professionals know where to buy hardware and fabrics that aren’t found in the consumer marketplace.
“” Before starting the job, reserve a storage locker for everything that can be removed from the motorhome. For a margin of comfort, rent the storage space for at least one month longer than you think you’ll need it.
“” Go to www.housecarers.com to see whether you can find a house-sitting job during the renovation. With luck you can find a place to live and store excess “stuff” while your coach is being renovated.
“” Create a plan starting with plumbing, wiring, or structural work that has to be done before redecorating can begin. Adding an ice maker may mean installing new pipes. Replacing a shower stall with a Jacuzzi tub may require new electrical lines and perhaps stronger support under the floor. Changing the location of the TV means rerouting wires and cables. Adding a new microwave-convection oven over the stove may mean heavier wiring, stronger supports, and new ducting for the exhaust fan.
This is the time to add a central vacuum system, a down-draft stove, in-floor heating, a bigger generator or solar power system, a new computer desk, the latest security system, or larger or smaller holding tanks. The better job you do scheduling the various subcontractors, the sooner life can return to normal.
“” When adding custom cabinetry, use a cabinetmaker who knows RVs or boats. Before measuring for the new piece, old cabinetry may have to be torn out to the bare walls, because space that appears to be available actually may be filled with plumbing, ducts, or a wheel well.
“” Add insulation and soundproofing material wherever possible. Both can be inexpensive and almost weightless, yet will add greatly to your comfort and heating/cooling efficiency. When replacing interior paneling, determine whether insulation with a higher R rating would fit in the walls. Replace single- or double-glazed windows with triple-glazed units. Shop for windows with the best heat-transfer ratings and install them with a first-class caulk job.
Upgrade the bathroom with sound-absorbing touches such as a padded toilet seat, a fabric shower curtain instead of plastic, and vinyl flooring instead of tile. When you get down to bare studs and find that the inside of your bathtub is hollow, stuff it with fiberglass insulation. Your bath water will stay hot longer. Anywhere you can replace hard surfaces with soft ones will make the coach quieter, such as carpet instead of a vinyl floor, an upholstered headboard instead of wood, fabric furniture instead of leather. Textured, sound-absorbing wall and ceiling coverings are found in do-it-yourself stores.
“” This is also the time to improve air circulation. Simple, metal louver vents cost little. They’re found in dozens of sizes and are easily spray-painted to match or contrast with the other decor. Cut a hole in any door, drawer, wall, or cupboard that needs more airflow and snap in the vent with a couple of screws. Louvered wood closet doors add a decorator touch and weigh the same or less than solid doors.
“” Never forget weight, balance, and cargo carrying capacity. Your motorhome is, above all else, a vehicle. Every addition contributes to the total load that must be accelerated, stopped, bounced over potholes, and moved around corners. When adding or replacing appliances and other equipment, make sure that your motorhome’s gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) and gross axle weight ratings (GAWR) aren’t exceeded.
“” No matter how carefully you plan, there will be delays. Count on it. You pry off wall paneling and find frayed wiring that needs to be replaced. You remove old carpeting and discover a spot of wood rot in the subfloor. Shipments are delayed, or you receive the wrong thing and have to start back at square one. Workers don’t show up as promised. A job has to be shelved until you can find the right tool, fitting, or adhesive. Stuff happens.
Be flexible, keep your sense of humor, and try to have a backup plan for every situation.
Books for travelers
New York, the Empire State, has endless travel appeal, from the Finger Lakes to the Adirondacks, the Hudson Valley, Niagara Falls, and graves. Graves? Patricia Brooks has written Permanently New Yorkers: Final Digs of the Notable and Notorious ($14.95, The Globe Pequot Press). In this delightfully offbeat book, Ms. Brooks takes readers to the final resting places of dozens of VIPs throughout the state. Travelers with an interest in genealogy, history, or gravestone rubbing will dig this book. It’s an interesting read, too, for those who are curious about where famous people such as Mae West, Billy Rose, or Gary Cooper are buried. The book is available at bookstores; through online booksellers; or from the publisher by calling (888) 249-7586 or visiting www.globepequot.com.
Dave Hunter’s interstate guides are well-known to seasoned travelers, but suddenly they became lifesavers to people fleeing last year’s hurricanes. When evacuations are ordered, first on the list are people who live in mobile homes and RVs. It’s essential to get an early start, because if things get worse and total evacuation is ordered, highways become a chaos of clogged traffic, stranded vehicles, and frightened families. Mr. Hunter’s newest book is Along Florida’s Expressways ($23.95, Mile Oak Publishing), covering interstates 4, 10, 75, and 95, plus the Florida Turnpike, interstate bypasses, and toll roads.
This is not a traditional travel guide; it includes concise lists of what is found at every exit (restaurants, Wal-Marts, fuel, the nearest pharmacy or hospital, and much more). Mr. Hunter also tells what lane to take when you want to exit to a supermarket and other tidbits that are invaluable to any driver. His books are useful and fun in www.floridaonline.info. Mr. Hunter also publishes an I-75 guide that covers the route from Detroit to the Florida border (Along Interstate 75, $23.95).