Once we decided we wanted to move into a tiny house, we realized how many options there are to achieve this goal. We weighed many of these options, but eventually settled on converting a travel trailer camper into a tiny house. Take a look at how it turned out! We did this because the basic infrastructure is already existing, and trailers are relatively affordable.
Here’s how to do it:
Narrow down which style of RV you want. Acquaint yourself with how RV’s work, and the different types. There are many different styles of RV, and each has their own pros and cons. There are truck campers, travel trailers, and motorhomes. Each of these categories has many different varieties. There is a lot to learn!
Decide which size you want. Once you have determined which type of RV you want, the next step is to decide how much space you need. More space means more storage for your junk, but also means more weight to haul around, and more work to do in converting it.
Buy your RV. After you’ve picked a size range, it’s time to choose the specific trailer. New or used? We suggest used- many new RV’s cost more than pre-made tiny houses, so we suggest going for a model that’s a few years old. Head to a dealership to see what they’ve got. Dealerships only sell quality RV’s and you can compare a bunch of them to figure out what would work best for you. Also check Craigslist, great deals can be found here. Make sure to give the whole thing a good run through- ensure the lights and appliances work, and the roof is in good shape. The roof is very important- if there is any sign of water damage we suggest moving on.
Get to know your RV
Now that you have an RV, it’s time to get working on converting it into a tiny house. Before you think about ripping out those ugly cabinets, we would recommend spending some time in your RV. Move a few of your belongings into the RV, and try to live out of it. Cooking, sleeping, and going to the bathroom are a bit different in an RV, so figure out what you like and don’t like about your RV. This will guide your renovation.
By this point you will no doubt have many ideas about what you want to do. Sketch out the current floorplan, and then sketch out the floorplan you plan to have after- if you plan on making that sort of change. Think about what you will add to the RV, and how it will look. Think about how you will furnish your new tiny house. Think about the colors you want to have. This is going to be your house, so take your time thinking it all through.
Once you have a rough plan in place, it is time to start demolition! Carefully tear out anything you don’t want. Be careful not to hurt anything you’re planning on keeping!
After demo, you can start building your tiny house. Start with the big things first. We ripped out some cabinets and our dinette. We also turned our bed 90 degrees, so we had to rebuild all of this from scratch. Throughout your demo and rebuild process, you will likely find that you want to build things better than the original builder. This is great, but make sure to consider the weight! For example, when we rebuilt our bed, we used thicker wood to make a sturdier frame, and used thick plywood to panel it instead of their lightweight laminate. We are happier with the quality, but it definitely added a few pounds!
Think about storage
Your new tiny house will undoubtedly have less space than a traditional home, so space is at a premium. Put a lot of thought into how you plan to store your things. Check out Pinterest for ideas. Some of our favorite features in our tiny home: Pegboard for kitchen accessories, under bed storage, and custom built wood shelving. Get creative about usage of your space, and try to design things for multiple functionalities. For example, our bench acts as seating for our dining table, folds up to access storage, and also folds out into a cozy guest bed (hinges are our best friend).
Painting your RV
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!
Make it yours
Add the things you’ve always wanted to your tiny house. This is your home, so make it yours! We added new showerheads to our indoor and outdoor showers. The stock ones are terrible. We love the Oxygenics Brand. We also built a desk to work at, and mounted a small TV on the wall. We built a small kitchen table, and hung art on the walls. We even reupholstered the fabric pad above our door. Functionality is important, but it also has to feel like a place you can call home!
You will undoubtedly have more stuff than you think. We used the rule that if you don’t plan to use something within the next year, or if you have something else that could do the same thing, get rid of it! We donated tons of clothes, shoes, and useless cooking accessories to goodwill. We sold a bunch of outdoor gear that we never used. Organization is key to living in a tiny house, and it will take some time to get used to. We are still moving things around as our needs change. Budget some time to play around with how you store things, and figure out a system that works for you.
Enjoy your new freedom!
Tiny houses provide lots of freedom. Freedom from clutter. Freedom from debt. Freedom from having neighbors stacked all around you. Enjoy all that tiny living has to offer.