If you’ve ever looked inside an RV that pre-dates 2015, you’ve probably seen them. Brownish walls, earth-tone wallpaper chair rails, ’90s-inspired wood trim… and look, if you like that style or “don’t mind it” as so many people said to us, then more power to you. You’re saving yourself quite a bit of pain-in-the-butt.

But if you mind that decorative scheme AND you’re about to move into it, it can be pretty hard to just tell yourself to ignore it. Especially if you’ve been watching a lot of HGTV lately and feel a bit like a self-made redecorating guru. I minded it. And yes, HGTV had given me superpowers.

You CAN paint RV walls! You don't have to keep a style you don't like!
This cozy little corner is actually kind of cute. I forgive it. But it looks better now.

So I set about researching how to change it all into something that could feel a little more like home. I, of course, googled. And I asked people who had RVs. Most of them blinked at me, politely refraining from telling me that it’s not the same as just painting the wall in your new apartment. All signs were pointing to “no.”

But, if I’m being honest, painting our RV walls was imperative to my happiness as a dweller in our particular tiny home, and I was going to make the space “ours” whether or not logic (and many other people) told me it was a good idea.

I thought painting the RV walls would be easy and quick. But boy, was I wrong!

I thought that since an RV is a smaller space (about 320-square feet by our estimate), painting the RV walls should be easy-peasy and take hardly any time. But boy, was I wrong!

In my mind, the job would take one day per color. I’d prep the tiny rooms and put on the first coat in the morning, moving from one room to the next, then do something else for a little while the paint dried. Then, I’d put on the second coat in the evening, waking up to a fresh new look in the morning. But it takes much, much longer to paint the walls in the RV, and I learned a lot along the way.

Here are five realities I discovered from painting the interior walls of our fifth wheel RV:

  1. Using painters’ tape isn’t very easy in an RV. It’s harder than it is in a regular house because the corners of all the walls often have a cardboard trim covering the seam between the walls. Also, since the walls aren’t drywall, it’s a little more precarious taking screws out of the walls and can be more challenging to put them back in and trust that they will hold. However, this painters’ tape applicator was worth every penny along the ceilings and trims of the doors.
  2. You need more painters’ tape than you think. RVs have a surprising amount of edges around which you need to paint. Because they are designed to fit many things in small spaces, there are several sections of the wall that might be only an inch or two wide. And while that may not seem like a lot, in terms of painters tape, it means you have to use almost twice as much.
  3. You will need several coats of paint, but you won’t actually need that much overall. I’ll admit that I didn’t buy the best of the best of the paints, but I did buy a one-coat mixture. But because of the texture of the wallpaper, I ended up needing three coats.
  4. Perfection is impossible when you paint RV walls. You look at the shape of each room. You see pretty clean angles, fairly easy surfaces. Enter: caulking. In an RV, a lot of the built-in furniture is caulked to protect from the elements. RVs are much more susceptible to weather problems than most houses, so they’re built to prevent it. But, when you’re painting, it can make it impossible to actually paint the whole wall. Don’t take the caulking out for aesthetic reasons. But, when you’re picking a color, it may be a good idea to pick something that’s not too far from the original color so that the absense of the paint is less noticeable.
  5. The whole job will take a long time. As I mentioned, I painted each room in three coats (the third being more of a touch-up than a full coat). Henceforth, it took me at least three sessions to paint each room. I’m calling them “sessions” because when I barely got the chair rail down in the one weekend I’d set aside for it, I then had to do it before and after work, and even occasionally before work. It took over two weeks of nightly work to get everything done, two weeks during which we were not only sharing our 320-square feet with one another and three cats, but with drop cloths, paint cans, tape, and brushes.

Yep, it was a pain in the patoot. But, I am happier every day because I put in the work. Chris is basically indifferent, but deep down I think he feels better, too.

Alas, this post is not to discourage you from following your heart and prettifying your space. It should be viewed as backhanded encouragement because I’m saying you should do it despite these negative aspects. So get (lots of) that blue tape, get more paintbrushes than you think you need, and get to work!

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