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  • Writer's pictureJalin Coblentz

How to Paint Your RV Walls

Updated: Jun 20, 2023

Painting your walls is a great option if you're looking for a great way to update your RV and give it a fresh look. Most new and old RVs tend to have very basic, bland interiors that don't add a ton of life to the camper. However, you can remedy this problem by painting over your drab walls with a color of your choosing.

While painting your RV interior walls is a fun DIY project, and you're sure to love the results, it's pretty challenging. Because of what RV interior walls are made of and covered with, properly painting them takes a lot of time and patience. If you follow the tips and tricks in this article, however, you shouldn't have any trouble breathing new life into your camper with freshly painted walls.

Gather Your Supplies

The first step of any DIY project is gathering all the necessary supplies. Here's a quick rundown of everything you'll need to complete your project.

  • Seal Grip Primer

  • Behr Dynasty paint of choice

  • Putty Knife

  • Painters Tape

  • Plastic Wrap

  • Easy Mask Paper Roll

  • Paintbrush (optional)

  • Roller and roll brushes (optional)

  • Paint sprayer (optional)

  • Sandpaper Block

  • Painters putty

  • Mean Green Spray

  • Rags and a bucket

  • Access to water (preferably warm)

The paint sprayer, roller and brush, and paint brushes are marked as optional because you'll have to decide which painting method you prefer. Using a sprayer is much faster, but it's also more expensive. No worries, though. We'll go into more detail about that later!

Clear the Walls

Once you have everything you need to complete your painting project, you're ready to get started. The first thing you want to do is clear everything off of your walls that you don't want to paint over. This includes pictures, wall hangings, door knobs, handles, and hardware, as well as any cabinet doors and drawer fronts if you're going to go ahead and paint your cabinets along with your walls.

Putty and Sand Holes

Next, it's time to apply putty to any holes in your wall. Puttying your walls isn't difficult, but it's a crucial step. You can get putty in either a squeeze tube or a small can. Just make sure that it's classified as painter's putty and not plumber's putty.

  1. I've found that the best way to apply putty is to put a small dab on a putty knife

  2. and rub it into any crevices or holes you want to cover up

  3. Use your putty knife to smoosh the putty into the hole to fill it completely.

  4. Remove any excess putty with the putty knife and make it so that there's a nice, smooth finish.

You should let the putty sit for an hour, or as long as recommended on the container, before sanding. Another good way to know your putty is ready to sand is when it changes color. Most painters' putty comes in a pink or reddish color. When it fades to a chalky white, it's ready to sand.

Sanding Your Putty Spots

  1. Use fine-grit sandpaper or a sandpaper block.

  2. Start by gently rubbing the sandpaper against your various putty spots.

  3. Continue gently rubbing until the area is smooth to the touch.

  4. There should be a smooth, almost unnoticeable transition between your putty spot and the rest of the wall.

Repair Damaged Sections

While applying putty and sanding, you should also check for nicks, cracks, and blemishes on your walls. You may need to add putty or wood filler to damaged areas or replace damaged sections altogether. Remember, a fresh coat of paint will hide small scratches and bruises, but it won't cover up serious damage.

Wipe Down the Walls

Cleaning and wiping down your walls is a crucial step in the painting process. Painting over even the slightest bit of dust or dirt will leave a visible bump in your finished product. The best way to wipe down your walls is to use a rag, warm water, and a small dose of Mean Green. However, if you don't have access to Mean Green or don't want to use it, warm water and a rag will do the trick. It's essential to be thorough and wipe every spot you plan to paint.

Tape Off Anything You Don't Want to Paint

The final step of the paint-prepping process is to tape off any areas you don't want to paint. The best way to tape off and ensure you don't forget anything is to take your camper one section at a time. I've found that a bottom-to-top or top-to-bottom approach works best. The main areas to target will be along the edges of the floor, around doors and windows, and any ceiling components if you plan to paint your ceiling.

It's important to note that when taping along your floor, you should get as close to the wall as possible. Leaving even the tiniest of gaps will result in a thin line of paint around the perimeter of your floor.

Apply a Layer of Seal Grip

Once you're finished taping and your walls are dry after the wipe-down, you're ready to start painting! Before going directly to the paint, however, it's vital first to apply one to two coats of seal grip bonding primer. While I'm sure there are other products you can use, we found that PPG Seal Gripper Primer from Home Depot was excellent.

You need to use a seal grip instead of a traditional primer because of how RV walls are textured. Most RV walls are made of medium-density fiberboard (MDF), which is notorious for absorbing paint.

On top of that, it's common for RV walls to be covered in a thin layer of wallpaper that's extremely resistant to paint and primer. The best solution we found is to first use seal grip bonding primer because it adheres to wallpaper and MDF.

Apply a Second Coat of Seal Grip

After giving your first coat of seal grip primer one to two hours to dry, you can optionally add a second coat. While it takes extra time and money, a second coat of primer will help paint adhere to the wall and likely make it so that you only need one coat of paint. And, as you'll soon see, the paint you should use is more expensive than a primer, so you're actually saving money.

Paint the Walls

Depending on which paint you use, the product will recommend giving your primer anywhere from 8 to 24 hours of drying time before applying paint. I gave the primer overnight and part of the morning to dry before I started painting, which was around 16 hours. Remember, just because the primer is dry to the touch doesn't mean you can begin painting. It's vital to let it sit and absorb into the wall for the prescribed amount of time.

Once you've waited the appropriate amount of time, you can apply your first coat of pain. Follow the same process that you used when you were applying primer.

Add a Second Coat If Necessary

After letting your first coat of paint sit for several hours and when it's dry to the touch, scout out your work and see if you need a second coat. You likely won't need a second coat if you used two coats of seal grip primer and were through with your painting. However, since you already have everything taped off and prepared, it's better to add a second coat of paint now than later.

What Type of Paint Should I Use?

When it comes to choosing the paint with which you want to paint RV walls, you have several options to choose from. The main quality to look for is that it's compatible with the seal grip primer you used. I would recommend against using oil-based paint to paint RV walls and instead opt for water-based or latex paint.

Paint Sprayer Vs. Brush and Roller

When painting and priming your RV walls, you have two basic options - a paint sprayer or paintbrushes and rollers. For our RV remodel, I used a paint sprayer in the kitchen and living area and brushes, and a roller in the bedroom and bathroom.

The advantage of using a paint sprayer is that it makes for a much faster and easier painting process. A paint sprayer also makes it easy to get to every nook and cranny and apply a nice, even coat to everything. The downside was that the prep time was much longer when using a sprayer because you have to cover every square inch of flooring, cabinetry, and everything else you don't want to paint in your camper.

Covering everything is necessary because, no matter how careful you are, the paint will eventually get somewhere you don't want it to. There's also a lot of dripping when you use a paint sprayer, which can lead to a mess if you're not careful.

The second disadvantage was that there was a definite learning curve to using a paint sprayer. Using the wrong spray tip or having the sprayer too close to whatever you're spraying will apply the paint too thick, resulting in drips and runs on the wall. It will leave a permanent blemish if you don't catch them in time. Paint sprayers also cost anywhere from $200 to $400, while brushes and rollers cost a fraction of that amount.

The most significant disadvantage of using brushes and rollers is that painting takes much longer. However, the extra time you spend painting gets offset because there's much less prep time when using brushes and rollers than when using a sprayer. Sure, you'll still have to tape the edges of anything you don't want to paint, but you don't have to tape, wrap, and cover every square inch of your camper.

Which Option Is Right For Me?

Ultimately, it's entirely up to you whether you use a paint sprayer or brushes and rollers. My advice would be that if you want to paint your walls, ceilings, and cabinets in one sitting and have previous experience using a sprayer, I would use the sprayer. However, I would use brushes and rollers if you've never used a paint sprayer and don't want to tape off every square inch of your RV.

Should I Paint My Ceiling Too?

Painting your RV walls is a great start to updating the interior of your RV. However, if you want to take the update a step further, you can also paint your RV ceilings. That's what we decided to do, and it made a world of difference for your camper.

In addition to further improving the look of your RV, painting your ceiling along with the walls doesn't add a ton of time to the project. Plus, since you already have everything taped off, it only makes sense to do both parts at once. It's especially easy if you use the same paint for both sections.

If you want to use different paint colors for your ceiling and walls, that's also an option. You can use the same type of seal grip primer for all paint colors. You'll simply have to do your ceiling first, wait for it to dry, then apply painter's tape around the ceiling perimeter so that you don't smudge it when you paint your walls.

What About the RV Cabinets?

If you want to get extra crazy, you can also paint RV cabinets! You can use the same paint, primer, and materials for everything. Painting your cabinets while you paint RV walls also means less taping, and you won't have to be as careful. There will, however, be more prep work because you'll need to remove all the hardware from your RV cabinet doors

and drawers.

It's also best to remove the doors and drawer fronts when you paint cabinets. This makes it easier to apply an even coat of paint and will allow you to paint every square inch of your cabinets. You have the option of using the same paint color for your cabinets, walls, and ceiling, or you can use different colors.

Additional Tips and Tricks For Painting Your RV Walls

  • It's best to paint and prime when the temperature inside your RV is between 65 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Paint and primer will take longer to dry and cure if it's colder than this.

  • Give your paint and primer plenty of time to dry between coats. You should never paint on top of a previous layer that isn't completely dry to the touch.

  • It's a good idea to paint your ceiling at the same time you do your walls, especially if you're using a sprayer.

  • When removing your tape, you might need to cut along the edges of the tape with a utility knife if you applied too much paint and it dried on top of the tape. Ripping the tape off willy-nilly could take a patch of paint with it.

Enjoy Your New RV!

There you have it - everything you need to know about painting your RV walls. Painting your RV walls isn't an overly complicated project, but doing the job right the first time takes a lot of time and patience. However, as long as you take your time and follow the steps in this article, you should be enjoying your freshly renovated RV in no time!

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