A Step-By-Step Guide to RV Demolition
So, you bought a used RV…
…and your’re looking around at the 70’s carpet (even in the bathroom, what?!) , mauve upholstery, and floral wallpaper thinking, “Oh no, what have I gotten myself into?!” Take a deep breath. Don’t worry, you’re good friends, Jacque and Tali, are here to relieve some of that initial stress. Tali is a talented professional woodworker, having been in the trade for about 7 years. Due to his experience, he was able to make a plan and get to work, even when we were faced with some unpleasant surprises (you’ll find out more about that later)!
RV renovations can be daunting…
We can’t stress enough that getting started is the hardest part. Looking at everything you “have” to do can be extremely overwhelming. There is usually a laundry list of things that you need to get done before you move in, therefore, why not jot them down?
Step 1: Make a proper To-Do list.
Be a total planner with a project like this. Walk around the outside, from the back of the rig to the front, inside and out, every. single. room. Write down every little thing you see that you want to change, renovate, remove, etc. We knew we personally wanted to maximize storage, minimize wasted space, remove water damage, and create a space that worked for us living in 180 Sq. Ft. full-time. However, just because you make a list, doesn’t mean everything will go to plan. We, unfortunately, ended up gutting Luna completely and starting over from scratch due to extensive water damage and mold.
Step 2: Plan it out.
Creating a daily, weekly, or monthly plan of how you’re going to demo this puppy. Not only will this keep you organized but it will give you instructions on exactly what is in store for each moment during your demo. For example, you can plan for Day 1 to be dedicated to taking off cabinet doors or for Week 1 to focus on all project in a single “room”. It’s entirely up to you!
We created Google Docs that will help you outline your own Demo! You can get them FOR FREE by signing up below!
Step 3: You’re going to need some tools!
You could try to go through an entire remodel without any tools but you might not get anywhere. Like I said previously, Tali is a woodworker and has access to a lot of tools. You’ll want to have everything you need before you start, that way you can cut down on your trips to Home Depot and Lowes. Here are the tools we used most during demolition or really wished we would have had!
Impact Driver and Drill Driver. You’re going to have to deal with a lot of screws everywhere, don’t do it by hand. You’ll also have to make new holes and all that good stuff.
Speaking of screws, there will be all different kinds in shapes and sizes you’ve never seen before. Do yourself and get a pretty large selection of bits and screws so you never find a screw you can’t undo, this Screw Driving Bit Set will do the trick.
A sawzall. Otherwise known as a Reciprocating Saw.
A sledgehammer comes in handy a lot. And it’s fun!
A razor knife for removing carpet.
A basic tool kit. You know, the typical hammer, manual Flathead and Phillips screwdriver, socket wrench, tape measure, etc.
A dumpster bag. Basically a soft-shell dumpster that Waste Management will empty and take away all the scraps from your demo. This would have seriously come in handy, trust me.
Step 4: Ask yourself…
1. What do we want our home to ultimately look like?
You will want to already have a design plan in place. Know what you want so you’ll know what you don’t want. For example, we knew we needed a bigger shower but didn’t understand why there were so many cabinets and dead spaces in the bathroom. Also, who needs two sinks in 180 sq. ft?! We ultimately gutted the bathroom (including the useless extra sink), made a custom shower that was double the original size, and put back in only the storage we knew we needed.
2. What can we do to maximize our space?
We’re talking storage because everyone has stuff. When living in a tiny space, everything needs to have a place or it will always be a disaster. There is so much dead space, useless cabinetry, and unfortunate design when it comes to RVs. That’s why we gutted our rig and made it much more space efficient.
3. How much does our RV weigh?
Every RV has a GTWR (gross trailer weight rating), this is the weight of the rig plus any personal items aboard and allowance for full tanks. You will not want to go over this number. You need to know the “dry” weight of your RV. Plan to allow yourself enough wiggle room for after all of your renovations are complete so that you can bring all your personal items back in without being overweight. There are weigh stations along most interstates for your convenience, you just have to drive your RV to one!
4. What are we doing with the items we do not keep?
There will be things inside of the RV you purchase that you rip out and will never use again. For example, Tali and I removed the refrigerator, a standing AC unit, a couch, a mattress, a microwave oven, personal items left behind such as books, extra towels/sheets, etc. Some of these things were donated but most of the bigger items were sold on Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist. Think about how you are going to dispose of these items, including all the trash that accumulates during a demolition (this is where that Dumpster Bag comes in handy).
5. Where will the RV be located during this project?
We were very lucky that Talis parents agreed to let us park it at there house and the wood-shop for the duration of the renovations. This was a huge help because not only was it free storage but we were always close to the tools we needed. Some things to keep in mind about where you’re going to park during the renovation phase are: access to electric and water. The place you’re parking will more than likely not have a 15/30amp plug to give your RV proper power, so, you will want an adapter. Be mindful to plug in only one electric tool at a time and plan on running them off of a building/house outlet. We did not run the AC for the entirety of our renovation, despite being in Florida, because we wanted to leave the RV unplugged for the majority of the renovation due to live wires and the like. You may want to consider also discounting any batteries your RV may have so as to not experience parasitic draw.
Step 5: Draw it Out
Measure everything. Make a list of the essentials that you need (i.e. a couch, bed, kitchen counters, toilet, shower, food storage fridge, a sink, etc.). Then sketch up your RV, where you’re going to place all of your essentials, and measurements. There is no need to make architect level drawings, just some basic squares with measurements and a general description will do. This will give you your basic layout. Stick to this as strictly or as loosely as you want, drawing your layout up in pencil will allow for changes as needed. Just remember to double check your measurements so that everything fits.
Step 6: The part where you actually get to break stuff!
Now, you ought to know we can’t break down months worth of work into a single paragraph. Although, we heavily documented our RV demo on our Instagram. We will also be starting a YouTube channel in April where we will have a series on our entire renovation, including demolition. In the meantime, here is our breakdown of what an RV demolition will look like:
Get rid of what doesn’t work for you, and keep what does.
Every RV is different. Every RV owners needs are different. Some people are going to get rid of the old TV and paint some cabinets white. Others, like us, are going to completely gut the place and redesign it. Some people have even turned renovating RVs into their full-time job! We can only hope that Steps 1-5 help you be more prepared and organized for your own demolition.
Unfortunate but Serendipitous Circumstances
When Tali and I finally bought our Luna, we had watched countless videos and followed numerous Instagram accounts that were all about RV renovations. We thought that we would, like everyone else, just tear out the old yucky furniture, paint everything white, update some fixtures, and call it home. Once we got into it, however, we discovered how much wasted and dead space there was in RV designs. Then, while taking off the wallpaper, we discovered the unfortunate truth about our used RV: it was severely water damaged and had tons of mold. We had to make a tough decision.
We tore everything out. Every. Thing. It was an entirely bare shell of an RV, nothing left but the chassis and the insulation. We had to scrap our original plans and draw up new ones. Not only were we going to repair the damage and get rid of the mold for good, we were going to resign our rig to save space, create more storage that worked for us, lower the dry weight of the RV by using lighter/less materials, and have complete say over how our future home will look.
This isn’t for everyone, but we knew that between the two of us we had the skill and know-how to do it all ourselves. We set forth and a year long journey to rebuild our home from there…
That about wraps it up for everything you should consider before you start demolition on that RV you just bought. We hope this eases any anxieties or stress that you may be feeling about starting the process. If you have any further questions on RV Demo, feel free to reach out to us!