When we first walked into now “our travel trailer” I immediately saw splashes of paint on the walls. Not because color was there mind you, but because the walls were a rather neutral sort of color. Granted they were covered in vinyl and the vinyl was lightly marbelized they still presented a pretty neutral canvas. It seemed natural to want to personalize the TT. Our tiny house is part beach cottage and part old barn so we are fans of color and texture and personality. This pig (and I say that with affection) was going to need some lipstick and fast! I don’t remember even stopping to think if it would affect resale value or need to be updated as our tastes changed. I thought about how much more spacious the whole camper would feel once brightened up and how much more “homey” the spaces would be. For the average person though perhaps those questions of resale and size and such need to be addressed first. I wouldn’t think a casual camper would want to do all of this but for the nomads out there this is a simple way to spruce things up, bring in some light, and turn your pouty pig into a swingin’ swine!

If you’ve been following our TT Reno journey you are already aware of our removal of the cornice boards and aluminum blinds, and our removal of the border (part 1 and part 2) that wrapped around the walls. Now with a blank canvas staring at us it is time to press on.

The biggest difference I found between painting a S&B and painting a TT is your S&B walls are more than likely not covered in vinyl. Most RV manufacturers adhere a vinyl sheet to luan for the interior walls. The reason is primarily for cleaning since walls of vinyl are easy to just wipe down. However, it does present a few more challenges to a paint job. The good thing is there is significantly less wall space to paint in a camper than in a more traditional home. Because of that you can take more time to be careful and meticulous.

Step 1: Make sure your walls are clean. It was kind of amazing to me that in this seemingly spotless TT there was still a bit of accumulated dirt and grease on the walls. To remove any buildup I went back to our trust vinegar water friend. With the same 3:1 (v:w) ratio used before I sprayed the walls and wiped them down. I could tell it worked just by the dirt tinge on the rag I wiped down with.

Step 2: Remove any border residue. Even though we had removed all border and adhesive there were still some spots where residual “whatever” lingered. In addition to that there were a few nail/screw holes from various pictures, knick-knacks, etc. To remove that I just used a fine sanding block and lightly sanded over the area. I was careful not to sand too hard as I did not want to actually work through the vinyl onto the luan.

Step 3: Remove any lights obstructing the wall. Fortunately our TT only has one wall sconce that needed to be removed. To do this I made sure no power was running in the TT and I switched off all the breakers on the inside panel. I unscrewed the exposed fasteners and pulled the light out. I undid the wire nuts leaving two exposed wires. To be extra careful I tested the two with a simple volt meter. The lines were dead. I capped them off and added a little electrical tape for good measure. Now I could paint more freely.

Step 4: Tape. This is probably the most time consuming part of any paint job but also the most important if you want a professional looking end result. Using the green frog tape (purchased at any big box store) I masked off the areas that weren’t going to be painted (cabinets, trim, molding, the floor). To go an extra step I even laid down some sticky seran wrap sort of floor cover that I found in the paint department. I didn’t want to spend a lot for drop cloths so this wrap proved to be a great bargain. Taping things off will keep stray paint off the ceiling, the floor, and your woodwork and cabinetry.

Step 5: Paint. You may notice that I don’t mention priming. That is because we paid a few extra dollar and purchased Valspar Signature Paint + Primer.  I was drawn to this particular paint because of a few things:

  • Low odor, low VOC
  • Stain resistant and scrubbable
  • Gives a mildew-resistant finish
  • 100% acrylic latex

It seemed the most efficient, affordable, and safe way to go. I can now say after having completed the job that it was virtually odorless and I didn’t once feel as if I was pouring toxic chemical into our home on wheels. I also went with the eggshell finish because it is neither flat nor glossy and it offers easy cleanup requiring just a damp rag (or as we have found in our situation….a wet wipe from the diaper bag!)

Step 6: Remove the tape. Remember, when removing the tape the magic word “latex” is actually code for will peel off paint upon removal. After one particularly hairy moment I decided to use a small razor blade to score the paint where the tape met it. While the paint was dry it wasn’t “cured,” if you will. So scoring the paint helped the tape come off easily and with a great result. After 10-14 days of the paint being on the walls it was cured and there were no problems with adhesion or clean-up.