How to Paint RV Walls

posted in: DIY, Gated, Trailer | 1

When we first bought our Travel Trailer, we had no idea how to repaint the walls. All we knew was that we wanted that hideous color and vinyl decals GONE. We knew that a fresh coat of paint and our own decorations would turn our trailer into a home. After much research, trial and error, and many long nights spent covered in primer, we finally got the result we were looking for. We hope this post will help you with your DIY!


How to Paint RV Walls

This process is tedious and frustrating. To be honest, painting was our least favorite part of our build. It took several days, and a lot of sweat and cursing. But the result was definitely worth all the trouble.  Need inspiration? Take a look at our finished product.

How to Paint RV Walls
This is the original vinyl wall decor. It screams “camper!”

Step 1. Prepare Walls.

You don’t want to be painting around light switch covers, photos, or appliances if you can avoid it. So take everything you can off your walls. You’ll be happy you did later. Now is also a good time to strip off any “decals” that came with your RV. I’m not sure why the manufacturers thought these were a good idea, but many RV’s have them, and they can be a pain. Get your razor blade and Goo-Be-Gone, and be prepared to spend some time stripping the sticky residue off the walls.


Step 2. Clean

If there is any sort of oil or dirt on your walls, it will be apparent after you paint. So spend some time now using a spray bottle filled with dish soap and water, and scrub with a Brillo pad to get off all the grime before you put a fresh coat of paint on your walls.


Step 3. Sand

Use a coarse, 100 grit sandpaper to rough up your walls, and give the weird vinyl coating some texture for your paint to grip onto. Don’t push too hard, or spend too much time in any one spot. Try to do this as evenly as possible. After you rough it all up with the 100 grit, spend some more time with finer sandpapers. We used 400 grit paper to smooth it all over. This takes a while to do well- for such a small area, it seems there is so much wallspace!

Step 3.5 Clean Again!

You need to get all the dust off of your workspace in order for the paint to adhere well, and give the proper finish. Bring out the spray bottle, and some rags again, and get your space spotless.


Step 4. Cover Everything

Somehow, no matter how hard you try while painting, the paint always seems to get everywhere. We suggest you cover the floors, appliances, and anything else you don’t want paint to get.  Doing this is far easier than scraping paint off after it has dried.  Also, use painters tape to ensure you get crisp lines.


How To Paint RV Walls
Laughing because we had no clue how much work this would be!

Step 5. Prime

While some folks don’t prime before painting, we suggest it for an RV.  The walls typically don’t take paint as easily as traditional home walls, so any advantage that can be gained by using a primer should be taken.  We used two coats of oil based primer. While water based paints have come a long way in the last few years, the reading we did suggested oil based primers still have an advantage.  Talk to the folks at the hardware store about this, and they will suggest a good oil primer.

extra tip: Don’t forget ventilation! It seems obvious, but it is SO important- especially in a small space. Open all the windows and run the fan on full blast. It will protect you from the paint fumes and help with a faster dry-time.

Step 6. Paint!

Surprisingly enough, We used a latex based paint, on top of our oil primer. The oil seals well to the wall, and the latex seals well to the primer.  Make sure to do at least two coats. You may want to consider choosing a gloss or satin paint, instead of a matte version, as those are easier to wipe down for quick cleaning (think, grease spatter in the kitchen). In our tiny house/RV, the walls take a lot of abuse since there is such a small amount of space, so we are happy that we chose a durable, easy-to-clean finish. Another thing to remember is that it takes quite a while for the paint to properly cure.  While it may seem dry after just a few hours, the paint doesn’t reach it’s full level of hardness for a week or more!

As mentioned before, this process is time-consuming and tedious. Just remember that the finished product is worth some patience and hard work.


That’s it! If you enjoyed reading our suggestions on how to Paint RV Walls, take a look at the finished product, or sign up for more info from HD Adventuring!

Dana is a bike nerd through and through, but also loves to tinker, make, and photograph. You can find him hiking, skiing, or mountain biking most weekends. Check out his personal site for cool data visualizations!

One Response

  1. […] If your RV is like ours, it’s walls are constructed of vinyl covered particle board. This stuff is hard to paint!  We suggest you sand with rough sandpaper, clean the walls very well, then coat with two layers of primer and two layers of paint (or as many coats as needed to get full coverage). Read More about Painting your RV HERE! […]

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