RV / Travel Trailer Renovations - Tips and Tricks

What I know now, that I wish I knew then!!!

Updated continuously, please come back, as I add my "nice to knows" as I figure them out!


1.  Estimate your time,then times that by 4-5. Do not under estimate the time that it will take. It will consume every moment of your free time. It will consume your thinking time, it will consume your sleeping time.

Butyl Tape - USE IT!

2.  Spend the extra few bucks and buy REAL Butyl tape. I made the mistake the first time, when they handed me a roll of "Butyl Tape".  Upon bringing it home noticed that it was "Butyl Tape / Putty Tape" NOT THE SAME THING!
From talking with the RV service tech, I was told... "Our technicians use this tape because it is sticky and easier to work with..." in other words... "It is cheaper, and easier to work with"
Well, the Butyl / Putty tape will deteriorate faster than straight Butyl tape. So spend an extra 4 dollars on a 30' roll and buy the Butyl Tape.

           I have gone back repeatedly, and the sales people keep bringing the same old Butyl/Putty tape, I say, no, I want the real Butyl Tape. Again, they repeat... "Our techs like this stuff" I ask why... again... "It sticks and it is thicker, so it squeezes out better."

          Well, if you want it done right, you have to pay more, yes on most applications I have doubled up the Butyl tape, and yep it squeezed out! But, I feel much better knowing that the real Butyl tape is not going to deteriorate as it would if you use the cheaper stuff.

3.  Speaking of Butyl tape, because it is so sticky, you do not want to stretch the tape while using it. A good way to work with it, is to place it in the freezer for 10-15 minutes, dont worry if you leave it longer, it will not harm it, and it still will stick, but at least you wont be stretching it like Silly Putty.
Also, be generous with the tape, it is much easier to trim the excess tape off, then to try to add more after the fact that you have found voids when you placed your trim back on.
Give the butyl tape a few days to settle before caulking. It will slowing ooze out, and will require trimming again.

Screws - use the right ones

4.  Screws: Also, if you want to renovate your trailer and spend all this money only to see rusting marks from the fasteners, go ahead and use the hex screws from an RV dealer or HD. Otherwise, again spend some money and get Stainless Steel. I dont know how many screws I removed while taking the molding off and found them completely rusted or better yet, broken.

5.  When inspecting your hot water tank, DO NOT use JBWeld on the crack, it will not work, and you will only end up with a rotten floor again... I spent a well earned $50 at at welding shop, and had them fix the tank.


This will be the only time that I say that you need to go and get RV specific products. ( I hate spending money on over priced items that are labeled "RV", when you can get it elsewhere)
I am testing out a new sealant that I got at the lumber store. Will update.
NO, it is not silicon, but cheaper than ProFlex RV.

No, silicon is not the same, even if Home Depot says it is "Extra durable for outdoors." Silicone is not good for RV's because of the constant flexing, and with-standing to the outdoor elements. I found I spent alot of time removing Silicone Caulking from the areas where there was water damage, because it did not stick where is should have, but stuck everywhere else!

7.  Before finishing the inside, give your rig a "water test".
Stand inside, and have someone spray water along the trailer to find and leaks, that last thing you want it to put up paneling and have it rain only to find out you missed a spot...
Just speaking from experience...

Black Tank Cleaner

8. RV Black tank Geo Cleaner

I don't remember how much money I spent on commercial blank tank deodorizer / cleaner. 
But, now that I use this method, I always have an abundance of product, and the best part is that you can get it all at the grocery store, and not have to worry about finding an RV place to purchase a extremely pricey chemical.

I use two ingredients:
  • Calgon Water Softener
  • Laundry Detergent ( I like GAIN)
 First, only dump when full, you need as much water in the tank as possible.
After you dump, dissolve 2 cups of Calgon Water Softener into a bowl of hot water. Calgon Water Softener basically coats the tanks and makes it "slippery". You dont want a build up of toilet paper in the tank. Next, dissolve 2 cups of detergent. This is the "deodorizer / cleaner"
Thats it!
Also, no need to buy specific RV toilet paper (which of course is expensive) as long as the toilet paper is septic safe you are good to go!

Cutting Material

This is a biggie! I wish I started this two years ago, I would have saved myself SO MUCH TIME!
If you dont have a table saw, and just own a hand saw and you need to cut panels, like the 4x8 sheets, or any size of panel, make your self a "Hand made Circular Saw Jig"!!! It takes very little to make, and it cut my time down to seconds to cut a piece of wood as compared to constantly working in the 2 1/2" for the length of the saw plate into my measurements.
I just happened to stumble upon this, and made a few. It saves time, is accurate, and because of the jig, the saw will not scratch the material as it glides over.
Just place the jig on the exact mark, clamp and cut!
I would take picks but a quick google with show you. Here is an example.

Cutting odd sized Material

If you have trailer like mine that has the odd angles at the front and back, use cardboard to make a template. I tried and tried to measure, use angle measurers, etc, cut, then cut, then cut again, and again to get it right, and actually still never get it right.

Get some heavy cardboard

(the neighbor was getting a new washing machine delivered, I was able to get the box.)
Here's the trick, use many pieces to build it! I tried with one pc, again, cutting and measuring and cutting and measuring. So, start with a few large pieces, then TAPE smaller pieces to make all the angels. It wont be totally exact, but it will get you really close where you would just have to trim alittle, and using the Hand made jig above, you will get straight clean cuts.

Painting Cupboards

If you are painting your cupboards, buy a primer, Zingers Bullseye 1-2-3. Give them a couple of coats then apply your paint.
I decided to go cheap (or maybe the easy route), and buy a paint and primer in one. A top of the line brand. Well, those shelac'd ugly brown cupboards took 3-4 coats, and it goes on thick, so you are really wasting ALOT of paint! Plus you have to wait longer before applying another coat. So, I spent alot of time painting and waiting to dry, and painting and waiting to dry.
Pffttt and they say, one coat coverage on the Paint and Primer. Bahhh!

PEX Plumbing

So, usually if you are gutting/reno'ing a trailer, you will be switching over to PEX plumbing.
I learnt the hard way that on some connections, you just can use a regular 1/2" female threaded connector that you would get at HD. IT JUST WONT FIT AND IT WILL LEAK.

Case in point...
I installed a new outdoor RV shower that required 1/2" female threaded connectors. I could not figure out why it would not screw on tight.
Turns out the threads are completely different!

Sorry you will have to get these at an RV store
(At least this is where I finally found one)



  1. Black Water cleaner---approximately how much water and do you dump it all in at once?

  2. I am using powder, but will be trying liquid Gain when my supply runs out. But, I dissolve the Gain in a large bowl, probably about a liter. It is all about dissolving the powder. Pour it in, might need to add more water to your bowl, if there is still powder left over, then do the same for the softener.

    1. Please can you tell me...are you pouring softner in first and then dissolved Gain or both of them together into the black water tank?

    2. It really does not matter on the order of it. It is just that if you are using powder it does take a couple of bowls of water to really dissolve the stuff.

    3. Have you switched to liquid yet? How much did you need each use?

    4. No as we used this method when we had our 39 foot park model and were using frequently. With Alice, it is an occasional weekend trip and using those pods are more convenient.

  3. Thank you! This is all exceedingly good info!

  4. Thanks for sharing the useful info here. Keep up the good work.

    Andaman tour packages.

  5. This idea I'll have to use on my boat. Thanks

  6. I use a cup of liquid Cascade. It is plenty. I also use detergent 1 cup and 2 caps of BLUE power toilet chemical. NO ODORS and NO PROBLEMS but I do use single ply TP from Scott.

  7. Thank you fur your blog, and such great tips! Wish I had them 3 years ago! Maybe this ugly girl wouldn't have been cast aside from overspending and frustration!
    You have inspired me to give her another chance at beauty!

  8. Hwyrv is the best place for New & used RVs sales and service. We are the one stop solution for all your RV needs includes sales, service, parts and dealerships

  9. Google "Geo Method" pretty straightforward. I use 1 capful liquid calgon and one load worth of liquid detergent (I use heavy load markings to be safer) It really has worked out better then the chemicals, as the possible originator explains it: you aren't maintaining septic tanks so why put septic chems in them? what you're doing is maintaining a holding tank until proper dumping. The calgon and the (scented)detergent stop build-up to a great degree and because you aren't putting enzymes and stuff in there you won't have that sewer smell which is really decomposition processes at work from the enzymes and the smell really is better...