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September 25, 2015 practical


By now, you’ve read about how we decided to try full-time RVing, found our new home, inspected it, downsized our stuff, and started traveling. But until now, there’s been an important part of the process missing from this blog - the renovation. How did we turn this:


into this?


Floor plan:

And the final reveal:

Take a tour! Use your arrow keys or click-and-drag around the panorama.

I’ll be adding links to the products we used to create this design in the tour above. Some may be affiliate links, which is a great way to support us if you’re going to be buying the products anyway.

Full Disclosure

I haven’t written this post until now because honestly, it’s an overwhelmingly huge topic, proportional to the rest of the posts I’ve written thus far. So instead of writing one huge RENOVATION post, this will serve as the table of contents for the rest of the renovation posts to come, with links to the more detailed posts as they get written. In this post, I’ll cover:

  • renovation tips and tricks
  • lessons learned
  • a summary list of renovation changes, linking to eventual detailed posts
  • cost overview

Renovation Tips

  • prioritize
    • What are the show stoppers?” Christian called these mission critical” tasks - for example, we wanted to have at least one sink working, one heating element working, the refrigerator, and one place to sleep before we hit the road.
    • What resources do you need to complete the tasks? Anything that needed power tools or my brother Connor’s expertise had to be done before we left. Hanging up the calendar, not so much.
  • project management
    • aka do what needs to be done first
      • Example: we couldn’t put down our new click-and-lock flooring until we had repaired the rotted subfloor. We couldn’t repair the rotted subfloor until we took out the old stuff.
    • Tools: I tried Google Keep, then Google Tasks (through Gmail), then Todoist (my current choice). It allows me to have projects’ to organize tasks (I use location, like @computer, @phone, @RV) then have sub-tasks and sub-sub tasks. You can also share entire projects or just individual tasks, which is how I kept track of who would work on what. There’s also an Apple Watch app!

Lessons Learned

  • The right tools (used the right way) make a big difference.
    • Example: cutting stuff - with the appropriate blade. We used a jigsaw for cutting holes in the middle of our countertop and cabinets, a circular saw for portable straight lines, a table saw for long straight cuts, a hacksaw for small cuts in tough spots or small thicknesses of PVC/metal pipes, a sawzall for powering through metal, a chop saw for repetitive short lengths, tin snips for the PVC ceiling tiles, and scissors for just about everything else.
  • Find people who can help - even videos.
    • My dad welded our microwave stand and was an all-around beast for demo time.
    • My brother did basically all of our electrical re-wiring.
    • My mom sewed our new curtains.
    • We also called the RV dealership where we bought Harvey several times to troubleshoot things like the fridge not turning on.
  • Make long-term decisions (no cutting corners).
    • It was tempting to just duct-tape over holes, but in the long run it would have caused more problems (poor insulation, possible water leakage, critters getting in).
  • Choose your location carefully - by working at my parents’ house in a suburb of Dallas, we had access to my dad’s tools (and knowledge), electricity for running tools, and shopping locations (Home Depot, Lowe’s, IKEA, and the neighborhood Ace Hardware).

Summary of Changes

My overall vision for the renovation was to turn a Recreational Vehicle into a Residential Vehicle. I wanted to keep things clean, stream-lined, light, and modern with an eclectic touch, essentially treating it like an apartment on wheels.

Here’s the summary of changes we made:

  • Demolition
    • Found more problems
    • Reconstructed more sturdily
    • Learned about how the behind-the-scenes works
  • Exterior
    • Waterproofed
    • Sanded and re-painted rust spots
    • Patched holes
    • Replaced locks and thumb latches
    • Switched the water tank fill and power outlets
  • Interior general
    • Replaced rotted subfloor and updated flooring
      • Installed SmartTiles in entryway step wall”
    • Replaced rotted walls, painted
    • Updated window treatments
    • Replaced bathroom wall
    • Covered existing ceiling carpet with tiles
    • Replaced dinette/booth with pull-out sofa bed
  • Kitchen
    • Upgraded appliances (range and combination microwave/convection oven
    • Painted fridge
    • Updated upper cabinets
      • Painted
      • Installed new hardware - hinges and handles
    • Installed new lower cabinets
    • Installed new countertop and sink
    • Installed backsplash (SmartTiles)
  • Bathroom
    • Replaced countertop with leftover from kitchen
    • Replaced sink and fixture
    • Installed wall organizer
  • Electrical
    • Updated battery disconnect switches from Frankenstein bolt (my high-school aged brother)
    • Replaced DC car-style lights with AC (LED) track lighting in hallway’
    • Replaced DC car-style lights with DC LED dimmable strip lighting under cabinets
    • Upgraded breaker panel
    • Prepped for solar power

Cost Overview

Christian and I are very open about our financials. We stumbled into and through this project semi-blindly, and it would have been really cool to have an idea of how much we would be spending. For anyone out there who is considering this, here’s the information we wish we had had.

We estimated a budget of $5K for renovation after buying Harvey for a little over $15K after tax/title. As you can see below, we spent closer to $8.7K, but made about $2.4K from selling our stuff. Overall, after money made from sales, we spent about $21K (not including our solar and towing setups).

Thanks to our full-ride scholarships for college, Mr. Mustachian saving/spending habits, and Christian’s successful SaaS businesses (dbinbox and Textbooks Please) , we were able to completely pay for our new home from savings without needing to take out a loan. We realize that our situation is pretty unique, but we would love to chat with you if you have more questions! Tweet us (links at the top of the page) or send an email to

Could we have done this renovation more cheaply? Yes. Would it have looked as good and worked as well? Probably not. If we were cutting costs, I would have pulled back on the decorative and upgrading elements, like the ceiling tiles ($503.64), backsplash ($257.88), new mattress ($309.60), new stove ($169.64), and new microwave/convection oven ($499.99).

Just for fun - here are some stats about our renovation spending:

Have any questions about our renovation? Want to request a specific details post to be done first? Let us know below!

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