If you’re thinking about painting your vinyl-covered RV walls, but are concerned about getting paint to adhere to them – you’re not alone. Both vinyl and wood veneer walls are trickier to paint than standard wallboard, due to their slippery nature. They’re great for easy cleaning, but not so good for long-term paint adhesion.


Our RV Interior & Painted Walls:


In this article we’ll share seven tips to successfully paint your vinyl RV walls. But first, since you can’t undo your work when you paint over your vinyl walls, let’s look at the pros and cons for painting them.

Pros & Cons – To Paint or Not to Paint Your RV Walls:

Popular reasons to paint an RV’s vinyl or wood veneer walls

  • To customize your RV so it reflects your personal style. Like any home, you may want to express your personal style in your home-on-wheels. Even painting just a few accent walls to match your decor can make your home feel more cozy.
  • To update the look of your RV. Regardless of age, many RVs come with vinyl walls that resemble a dentist’s office from the 80’s. A fresh coat of paint can do wonders to contemporize your RV’s appearance.
  • To cover water, smoke, or other stains. Over the years, RVs can take a lot of abuse. When properly applied, a fresh coat of paint will cover a number of sins like smoke, water damage, and other stains.

Reasons to leave your RV’s vinyl or wood veneer walls unpainted

  • Vinyl walls are easy to clean. This is especially handy considering that most RV ‘resorts’ or parks are set in nature which means inevitably bringing dirt into your RV.
  • Vinyl is more durable and lower maintenance than paint. Vinyl is more durable against nicks and scratches than paint. Of course you can reapply paint, but that involves afternoons spent painting instead of biking, hiking and enjoying the great outdoors.
  • RVs have a lot of tight corners, which makes them hard to paint.
  • An RV with fully-painted walls could hurt its’ sales price. By keeping paint fresh and colors neutral this may not be an issue, but its’ worth considering.

[box]Please note that if you decide to paint your RV’s walls using our suggestions below it is difficult or impossible to restore your RV’s walls to their original appearance. Bonding paint to factory finished vinyl walls requires light sanding and (ideally) a chemical bond, so removing the paint will require replacing the vinyl.[/box]

Okay, I’ve given you enough warnings about painting your RV’s walls! If you’re still reading chances are you’ve already thought it through, and still want to paint them like we did.

Bear with me, as I’ll spend some time discussing what walls to paint, color selection, and wall prep, than the actual painting. If you just want the basics, skip to step 3. Most people know how to paint with a brush or roller, and good preparation is the key to successfully painting anything – especially RV walls.


Step 1: Select which walls you want to paint

Some people want to go hog-wild and paint all their interior walls, while others only want to add a few accent walls (like us). It’s important that you are sure you want to move forward before you touch paint to wall for the reasons noted earlier.

[box_right]There are usually easier or less permanent ways to add a personal touch to your RV than paint. When we first got our RV, we looked at other ways to streamline the appearance without painting over the washable vinyl.

First, we gently removed the dark brown and blue ‘chair rail’ accent trim that ran horizontally around some of our walls. This made for a much cleaner look.

Second, our valances were covered in a bold dark-brown-and-blue geometric pattern that stood out against our light walls in our small space. After comparing some fabric swaths, we decided on a linen fabric that blended well with the lightly-patterned vinyl walls. Once covered, we realized that not only did the new linen valances recede into the walls, but they actually make the walls look more like linen, too. This wasn’t easier than painting, but it is much easier to undo!

Third, we added framed and matted artwork to most of the walls in our RV. We used thin, lightweight, inexpensive frames that included matting. We replaced the glass with sheets of anti-glare plastic (sold at Home Depot or Lowes), and we used Kathy’s art and some of Rich’s better photos printed on photo paper in the frames. Finally, we attached them to the vinyl walls with double sided foam tape. This personalized our RV and cost only around $20 per picture.[/box_right]

First Option – Paint accent walls only

We recommend starting with an accent wall. That way if you don’t love it, you can always paint it a neutral color and it won’t be noticeable. It’s also a lot less work and much easier to manage than painting an entire RV -especially for your first time. If all goes well and you want to paint the rest of the walls at that point, you can always go for it.

To get started, look at your walls with a critical eye. Which walls look like they could benefit from painting? Where could you use a pop of color? Which wall would you like to minimize?

In our case we painted four accent walls in a dark brown. We had several walls that were covered in wood laminate. We felt this ‘faux wood’ cheapened the look of our home, so we painted two of those walls. Then we painted a nook in our bedroom where the TV is mounted, which we wanted to minimize. We painted a fourth wall that contained two big, black ‘tank level’ panels, and the brown paint helped the panels recede.

Depending on the size of your RV, you can paint anywhere from 1-6 accent walls. Here’s a good article that talks about accent walls.

Second Option – Paint all the walls

For months we debated about painting all the vinyl walls in our RV. Eventually we decided to paint a few accent walls and go from there. We ultimately decided to keep most of the easy-clean vinyl on most of the walls, plus I’ve painted enough to know that our smaller RV would be challenging to paint well with all its tight corners.

That said, some RVers have invested the time and energy to paint all their walls, with great-looking results! It’s a personal choice and if you have more time and patience than we did (and less projects) that helps.


Step 2: Select your color scheme

I’m a fine artist with a certificate in Interior Design, and color can still be confusing for me!  I’m glad that Rich is a web designer, as I can chat with him and get his ideas, too.

Our entry wall before and after
Our entry wall before and after

Color selection is both fun and challenging for most of us, so I recommend you take your time in selecting your colors. Sherwin Williams has this great ‘color visualizer‘ that may help you more easily select a color scheme for your walls.

Color selection could take up an entire article, but here are a few tips:

  • Choose a color that will work well with your floors, cabinets, and home decorations.
  • Stick with classics and neutrals like tan, cream, off-white, taupe, etc. (Brown can be used, but I only recommend it as an accent color. Black is too stark and metallic paints should be avoided.)
  • Steer clear of colors that are too close together on the color wheel. For instance, if your ceiling is white, don’t try and paint your wall an off-white. The colors either need to clearly contrast, like brown and cream – or to match exactly.
  • Steer clear of colors that are very bright. For instance, red should be used sparingly, if at all. It’s easier to add a pop of color to your RV through accents like pillows, art work, and throws. This also helps ensure that your painting isn’t too ‘taste-specific’ should you decide to sell it later.
  • Option: Pick a color that either matches or complements the colors on the outside of your RV if you can. Ours has browns, creams, and tans on the outside. We like those colors, so we carried the brown paint inside. This doesn’t need to be followed of course, but if you want your RV to have a consistent appearance, it’s a good concept to keep in mind.

Once you’ve narrowed in on some colors, pick out lots of sample color chips. From your top 6 colors, narrow color down even further by buying and testing out several samples. To do this, paint colors onto pieces of 14×22 foam board or poster board, so you can move them around the room and check them out during various times of the day, to see how natural light and interior lighting affects them.

Once you’ve made your top selections, look closely at your entire color scheme. How does your new paint look with your walls, floors, throw pillows, bedspread, and other home decor? We bought a new duvet cover and pillows, so this helped us make sure our new brown walls matched the bedding.

Step 3: Paint and other supplies you’ll need

Congratulations, you’ve decided on a color scheme!  I’ve made a list below, but first let’s talk about what paint and primer to use.

Gripper
Gripper is the primer you need!

When thinking about what type of paint to use, I ask the experts at any good Paint center. This way you can tell them exactly what surface you’re painting over, and they can advise you on the best product.

That said, a high-quality water based paint in an eggshell finish should work just fine. I used to run a sign painting business, and thought that all paints should be oil-based. But due to major breakthroughs in paint production techniques, I’ve changed my mind. With proper surface preparation and priming, I’ve found the water-based paints to hold up extremely well.


Along with the proper paint, the most important thing is the primer. In this case, hands down, we recommend a product called Glidden Professional Gripper. As its name implies, Gripper GRIPS the wall like glue! It’s a primer and sealer, and it has ‘teeth’ so it sticks to vinyl, wood veneer, and any slippery surface you can imagine. (I’ve used BIN for years, but for RV walls, nothing beats Gripper’s texture and gripping power!)

If we had used Gripper the first time around, we would could have avoided a big mess. I’ll share more in Step 5, Priming the Walls. Meanwhile, when you make your list – put Gripper at the top!

List of Recommended Supplies:

  • 1 quart- Gripper Primer-Sealer – note: Gripper can be tinted which is recommended for dark accent walls
  • 2 quarts+/- Eggshell Paint – (quantities depend on how large your RV is and if you can buy more paint later should you need it)
  • 1 bottle – grease-cutting cleanser. Rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol works well.
  • Scrubbing sponge or scrub
  • 1 package – Mixture of medium-grit and fine-grit sandpaper (unless you have a rough surface, in which case you’ll also a need course grade). Bob Villa has a good article on choosing the right sandpaper for your job.
  • Hand-sanding block
  • Tack cloth for cleaning dust from walls
  • Utility knife for cutting painter’s tape
  • 1 roll – Frog Painter’s tape
  • Drop cloth or plastic sheeting to cover floors and furniture
  • Brushes (I buy one small angled brush and one larger flat brush)
  • Small roller and roller pan for painting (if you prefer rollers over brushes)

Once you have your list, give yourself enough time to hang out at the your local paint department. They’ll help narrow in on your needs and answer any questions you may have.

Step 4: Prepare the walls

Clean the walls: – You’re now ready to start your work of art! First, make sure to ventilate your RV to minimize fumes. Vent fans are perfect for this. Also, lay down a drop cloth and put on some comfy clothes. A little music, and some refreshment might make the time go by more easily too!

Next, with a screwdriver, take off anything that shouldn’t be on the walls. For instance, you should remove switch plates, vent covers, pictures, hooks, etc. I actually tried painting carefully around the switch plates and it’s much better to take them off.

Then it’s time to clean and degrease the walls. Some people skip this step, and simply start sanding the walls first. However, I find it best to take off any initial sticky substances, grime, or dirt before I sand.

In terms of a wall cleaner, I keep a spray bottle of diluted white vinegar and water. (About 50% vinegar and 50% water.)  You may have other preferred cleaners, or you can check out this article that talks about various cleaners you can use for specific situations. (For cleaning mildew use bleach diluted in water and rinse with clean water afterwards.)

Whatever you use, rinse it off with warm water to remove any residue before sanding.


Sand the walls: – Most vinyl or wood laminates have a texture or grained pattern to them, so your finished surface will retain some of this pattern. For instance, if you’re painting over a wood grain surface, your finished paint will retain some of that character.

(Note: The Gripper I describe in Step #4 will help smooth it out but won’t take away all the texture of the surface you’re painting on. We haven’t found this to be a problem, as it’s minimal.)

To avoid sanding the vinyl wallpaper completely off, make sure to sand lightly. Your goal is to rough up the surface a bit so that the Gripper bonds extra well. Take a sanding block and lightly run over the entire surface in moderate-sized circles.

Once you’ve sanded the walls you’ll want to clean the sanding residue off with warm soapy water, and end with a final rinse of clear water. Once dry, use a tack cloth to remove any final particles.


Taping Trim: – Some people attempt to paint their walls without taping the trim. I’m have a very steady hand, and have been guilty of this myself! While you can get away with using an angled brush and ‘eying’ it, you’ll always come out with more crisp, clean edges if you tape.

We use Frog Tape brand painter’s tape. We like it because it’s made for latex paints, and is designed to avoid ripping your paint off the edges as you pull your tape from the wall.

Step 5: Prime the walls

Without Gripper | With Gripper
Without Gripper | With Gripper

I’ll say this again here. Use Gripper Primer & Sealer on any vinyl or wood veneer wall, period.

Two years ago, with our first attempt at painting over a wood veneer wall, we didn’t use Gripper.  Consequently the paint came peeling right off our walls, making a big mess in the process! I spent about six hours gently scraping and sanding the entire wall again before finally applying Gripper. Once the Gripper primer was on the wall the paint bonded perfectly, and it has stayed in perfect shape ever since!

If you’re going to paint a dark color over your vinyl, you should have had the paint department tint your Gripper. It won’t be as dark as your paint color but if you have them tint it for you it will be correct for your color.  If you’re painting a light color on your wall, just use it straight from the can.

Be sure to stir your Gripper well before applying.  For application, either paint brushes or rollers are fine. I tend to use rollers on larger walls and brushes on smaller walls, or if I’m painting over a wood veneer, but it’s just a preference. If you do use rollers, I’d use the small sized ones, since a large roller is too clumsy in most RVs, and you may splash primer onto places you didn’t intend to hit.

Simply brush or roll your Gripper on, noting that it may feel a bit on the thick side. (Do not thin Gripper out, since it requires this consistency to do its job.) Here’s a product guide for Gripper, should you have any questions.

You’ll probably be fine with only one coat of Gripper. For extra coverage feel free to add a 2nd coat if you wish, waiting at least 1 hour between coats (Gripper says for optimal results you can wait up to 4 hours.) Gripper cleans up with soap and water, so cleaning is easy.


Step 6: Paint the walls

Once the Gripper has dried sufficiently, you can begin painting with your small rollers or brushes. As noted earlier, I used a quality eggshell-finish latex paint for all interior walls.

Stir paint thoroughly and you’re good to go. When painting, work in a small area at a time, so you have a smooth finish. If you use a roller, you’ll want to have a long-handled brush for those hard-to-reach places.

Let the paint dry thoroughly, then apply a 2nd coat if needed. Hopefully you’re feeling good about your color choice and the overall look! In the event that your color isn’t what you hoped, you can always go back and put another color over this one. We ended up modifying our color like this and are very happy with the final color.


Step 7: Cleanup & finishing touches

Once your paint has dried thoroughly to the touch, you can pull your trim tape carefully from the walls. Ideally the best time to take your trim tape off is a few hours after painting. If the tape sets into the paint for days or weeks it can become embedded and make it challenging to pull a clean line. Here’s a link to the FrogTape Q&A web page if you want to learn more.

Our painted bedroom alcove
Our painted bedroom alcove

Once you’ve cleaned up your supplies and admired your work, that’s it! You should have a fresh coat of paint that will give you years of good service. The Gripper will help paint form a chemical bond to the vinyl (or wood laminate), so you won’t have any of those nicks or scratches in your paint. We’ve had our walls painted for over two years and it’s held up perfectly, even in the high traffic entry where we hang our coats.

Now it’s time to enjoy the new look in your RV! Give yourself a few weeks to sit back and decide if you’re fully satisfied with your color scheme, since it takes awhile to get used to any new colors.


If you’ve had success painting your walls, we’re happy to hear your comments or ideas. For first-time RV painters, good luck to you and happy painting!

Author

I'm Kathy - writer, artist, talent professional, entrepreneur, and traveler. I believe the biggest adventure you can take is to live the life of your dreams. Thanks for visiting our site, and if you have a minute check out my Western Trails Art. Happy Trekking!

55 Comments

  1. Kelly Wagner Reply

    This article and accompanying video are so informative! I would like to compliment you on mentioning the impact of painting a vintage camper…I just bought a 1995 Winnebago Brave. It is all original and in very good shape considering it’s age. The vinyl wallpaper looked stained but on closer inspection, it is the color and design of the paper. Paint would definitely light up the interior but I am hesitating to touch the original wood and paper for historical reasons.

  2. Hi Kathy, we own a vintage travel trailer. The walls have printed contact paper. The contact paper is peeling off in some areas. Instead of trying to glue back up we want to pull it off and paint underneath. I believe the underneath is wood laminate. Will your recommendations on how to paint work for that surface. Thanks for the info.

    • Hi Kathy – Kat is in France at the moment, but I can help. We painted over lots of the wood laminate in our RV – including right inside the door and several other panels – using this method. Gripper is the key – that stuff will stick to anything and creates a really strong primer layer for any paint. Good luck!

    • Hi Jeanie!
      We are in the process of renovating our camper, and we just started the painting process yesterday. We did end up painting the ceilings – and it was MUCH easier going than I imagined. We did the same process as the walls (described above) – cleaned, sanded, then used Gripper on the ceilings. Paint goes on next weekend, but already the difference is night and day! Our ceilings were extremely textured, so the texture still shows through, but the gripper went on without any issue and already has brightened up the space a lot.

      My only advice – we removed everything in the ceilings (lights, speakers, A/C unit cover) and taped over the hanging wires to avoid getting paint on them. Much easier (in my opinion) than taping and painting around each individual piece. Also, we did the ceilings FIRST, so if they dripped onto the walls it wasn’t a big deal, as the walls were next.

      I hope this helps!

  3. SHERREE THOMPSON Reply

    How do you cover up water damage stains on the ceiling? Is that carpet stuff paintable

    • Hi Sherree,
      I use Kilz primer-sealer for covering any type of stains, including water stains. Not sure if you’re referring to water damage on carpet or on a hard surface, but I haven’t tried it on carpet. I’d ask your paint store person to make sure you can use Kilz on fabric/carpet materials.

      In terms of carpet and carpet-type materials being paintable, check out this great article. I haven’t painted carpet myself but if you follow these directions it sounds like you’d have great results.
      Good luck to you!

  4. Marlena Pegues Reply

    Hi,
    We are buying a 2012 class c and we want to paint the walls and cabinets. My husband has been reading that if you use a latex primer over the wallpaper, it could make the wallpaper bubble and that we should use an oil based primer. I wanted to get your advice on this. How are your walls holding up since you’ve painted them? Thanks!

    • HI Marlena – our paint has held up extremely well. It looks perfect after 5 years of full-time use. I think the key is that we used gripper as a primer. That stuff is great. Good luck!

  5. I don’t have an RV, but a preschool. The previous owners covered the bottom half of the walls with the vinyl wallboards used in RV’s. It needs updating, so I am considering painting. I was just wondering how your painted walls held up to cleaning? Since it is a preschool, I need to be able to wash the walls with at least soapy water. Do you think this would last through that, or would the paint come off?

    • Hi Karen, Our painted walls have held up very well over the past 4 years. No chipping or peeling, and they’re just like they were when freshly painted. We have washed them with soapy water many times. Also, one of the walls is in a high-traffic area (entry wall where we hang our coats) and still no issues. The only concern I’d have with your situation is that with your RV walls on bottom half of the wall and pre-schoolers. They may be extra tough on the walls, such as chairs bumping against them and whether they would hold up to that type of wear. That said, if you follow the steps I outlined in this article – the Gripper will form a chemical bond to the RV wall. Chemical bonds are the best kind of bond, where the RV wall and the Gripper become ‘one.’ So with Gripper on it the paint should then hold up as well as any painted wall. You could always test out 1 wall for 6 months, treating it as an ‘accent’ wall. Then if it holds up as well as you like, you can paint the rest of the RV walls. Hope this helps and good luck to you!

  6. Great article and video. I noticed you said you removed the “chair rail” wallpaper. Doesn’t that make such a difference visually??

    My problem though is that I can’t get the tacky leftover glue off the walls! I’ve tried many things to no avail. (Unfortunately the only successful item to work, lighter fluid, actually slightly damaged the vinyl. I obviously had to not do that anymore!) What did you use?

    • Hi Sally, Thanks, glad you enjoyed them. Yes I agree that taking the wallpaper border/chair rail off makes a big difference. I find that in a small space like an RV you don’t want any visual dividers. I suppose we were lucky in that the glue under our border came off pretty easily. In terms of the glue that remains on the wall, you might have luck with GoofOff. I’d test it a small area first. If that doesn’t work, check out this article, as they suggest using fabric softener in a spray bottle. One other thought is to use a Mr. Clean Magic Erasers, rubbing very gently. You could always check with Lowes or Home Depot paint departments, as I believe the sell a wallpaper stripper. (You might leave it on for less than the recommended time, since the border is already off and you don’t want to damage the vinyl.) In terms of the damage you did, you could always buy a few small tubes of paint and mix them onto the damaged spot, gently blending them with a sponge. I say this assuming your vinyl walls have a mottled effect to them like most RV walls. Hope this helps and all the best to you!

  7. Leah Harris Reply

    If my camper is being kept outside, should I use outdoor paint inside the camper for weather fluctuation?

    • Hi Leah – you should never use outdoor paint indoors (including inside a camper) as outdoor paint has more VOCs and outgasses chemicals for much longer than indoor paint. Especially not good and not healthy in a small indoor space like a camper! Decent indoor paint works fine with temperature swings as long as you use a good base coat like gripper. We’ve stored our RV in full Sun and heat in Georgia for a couple weeks with zero issues. Good luck!

  8. Nice helpful article. Just curious what you did on the failed attempt that you had to sand off. Did you use any primer at all that time? Did you sand it prior to application? I’m already half done painting some paper/laminate cabinets in my RV now and used a different primer – sure hope that doesn’t happen!!!

    • Hi Junior – we sanded lightly with a block hand sander. They say to go easy on vinyl wall paper. We also did use primer (killz or similar). In our case, the paint began peeling the first time something rubbed against it so we had to scrape it (nightmare) and start over with the gripper. I hope yours works better than ours did!

  9. I am purchased a 1991 motorhome and the vinyl is peeling. Do I just peel it off, clean, sand lightly, then primer.

    • Hi Michelle – that’s what I’d do. The parts missing vinyl will be somewhat visible, but if you use a thicker primer (like gripper) it should cover it pretty well. Let us know how it turns out!

  10. I am looking for information on whether indoor paint or outdoor paint should be used inside an RV. Where I live it gets very cold in the winter and I feel indoor paint will not hold up to the elements as well as outdoor paint. What are you thoughts? Having a problem finding info from Home Depot etc as many are not “professionals” or have not experienced someone wanting to paint inside an RV. Our temperatures fluctuate like crazy sometimes. It can be minus 10 in the early morning and jump up over 90 by 1 o’clock. The Rv shops are not helpful either. Anyone try outdoor paint inside an RV? Thanks

    • Hi Jan – even with temp changes, use indoor paint indoors. Outdoor paint has additional chemicals that ‘outgas’ (release chemicals into the air) a lot in the first few days, and in a smaller amount over time. You don’t want to be in a small space (an RV) with the extra chemicals from exterior paint. Exterior paint is more durable, but it’s more about resisting fading in sunlight and resisting rain and snow than temperature swings. I hope that’s helpful – good luck!

  11. I recently painted the interior of my tent trailer. I cleaned the walls, primed them and painted. As I was putting down one of the poles I noticed that one of the bars scratched some of the paint off. Have you run across this problem? and if so what have you done to correct it? I was thinking about putting a polyurethane over the top or a wax but haven’t been able to find much information to back that up. Any thoughts would be appreciated. Thanks

    • Hi Joanna – we had the same thing happen the first time using standard primer. We recommend using gripper as primer to prevent this. We had to strip all the paint/primer and start over – it was a mess – but after using gripper primer the paint top-coat becomes much more durable. It also helps to use a satin or eggshell texture paint vs. flat paint as they provide a more durable surface. Good luck!

  12. We just bought our first Motorhome. It is a fixer-upper which I wanted as I have seen so many beautiful things done. I have a question, the wallpaper in this home is peeling and I want to replace it. Should I just go ahead and peel it or sand and repaper?

    • Hi Diana, Congratulations on your new Motorhome! Sounds like a great project. We have not done this type of project, but I understand many RV manufacturers fabricate their walls with wallpaper attached in one step, creating a stronger bond than walls in a stick and brick home. This means your wallpaper could be harder to take off than you might expect. Others say peeling wallpaper isn’t a big problem, but the glue under the wall creates a problem. Finally, others have been able to remove wallpaper simply by heating the walls with a blow dryer with good results. I recommend that you check with those who have had success. Here’s a thread in RV net. Best of luck to you!

  13. Cindi Flowers Reply

    Great article. Hubby is not very enthusiastic about painting our motorhome because of all the trim/windows/cabinets, etc. to tape off. He thinks it will takes weeks and weeks. Can you tell me how long it took for your project? Did it have a lot of trimwork or other obstacles to work around?

    Did you remove any trim to paint behind or did you just tape off?

    Thanks!

    • Hi Cindi,
      Thanks, glad you found it to be helpful. I can understand your hubby’s concerns, since the small spaces in RVs can make it more time intensive to paint them. We only painted a few accent walls, and chose ones that would have fewer issues like removing trim, tight corners, etc. So I would say it depends on how much painting you’re thinking of doing. I’ve painted cabinets over and they’re a really big project, so would imagine the same in an RV. Assuming you’re only painting walls, the taping off of cabinets definitely takes time. If I were painting walls I might just paint over the trim, so long as you follow the steps I’ve mentioned here. (I am not talking about floor moulding, only the trim beads used in RVs, that are the same color as the wall.) Since I painted over our trim I didn’t remove it. However, I did remove the light switch covers. If this is your first time painting an RV you may want to start with accent walls like we did – selecting those walls that are easier and have less tight spaces, areas needing to be taped, etc. I think our 4 accent walls/areas took me about 8-10 hours in total prep and painting time.I realize that some RVs need all the walls repainted, so if that’s your situation make sure you have enough time put aside to work on the project. I hope this helps!

  14. Mold killing primer by zinsser
    This is the primer I bought because of the mold & mildew stains in the old camper we’re redoing? Will this primer work or will I still need to use the gripper & where do I get it?

    • The big concern with most primers is that they may not stick to RV walls/surfaces. Vinyl in particular isn’t easy for paint to bond to. If it were me, I’d wash the walls with bleach to kill the mold and mildew, then let them dry. After that I’d paint with Gripper – which you can find at Home Depot.

  15. My walls and cabinets are prepped and ready for paint. I purchased the Kilz oil based primer rather than the Glidden Gripper brand. Is one better than the other to accomplish the same end affect? I want to do this right the first time to eliminate a redo!

    • Hi Debra,
      I have worked with Kilz primer in the past, and it’s best known for covering tough stains and dark colors. The manufacturer does not recommend it for painting over glossy services. Since most RV walls and cabinets are on the glossier side, I recommend Gripper over Kilz for your project. Of course I know you’ll lightly sand and prep your walls and cabinets, but it’s still safer to go with Gripper. This feature is why it’s the most highly-recommended primer for RVers. (If you already primed with Kilz, I don’t think it’s a problem to coat Gripper over the Kilz but I would check with your paint supplier to be sure they are compatible.)
      Good luck with your painting!

  16. I’m getting ready to paint the interior of my vintage camper trailer (1967 Fireball).

    It has the “fake wood” vinyl surface from the late 60’s. the issue I have is that it’s cracked, wrinkled in some places, and peeling off in some places.

    Did you come across this? My plan is to trim, scrape, and sand off the vinyl where it has degraded, then prep with the Gripper primer.

    Does this sound right? I’m kind of nervous.

    • Hi Judith,
      Sounds like a great project! We haven’t come across that in our RV since it wasn’t vintage – was 1 year old when we painted over the laminate wood. It sounds like the ‘fake’ wood/vinyl is in good enough shape that you’re committed to keeping it. If so, I think you’re on the right track with your trimming, scraping and sanding – then prepping with Gripper. Where the laminate has peeled off, you could always add a wood filler in those areas and then sand it smooth, prime, and finish with Gripper to help smooth the surface out. Obviously, you’ll may end up with a few imperfections in the area. These may add to the character of your remodel! If you’re nervous you can always test out a section that is more tucked away, or one that could serve as an ‘accent’ section to the rest of the surfaces. That’s what we did, then we liked it so much we did other areas later. Best of luck to you!

  17. I was wondering if you can use chalk paint over this primer you’ve mentioned? First time rv makeover and don’t want to mess up.

    • Hi Candice, I believe you can use chalk paint over the Gripper. Gripper dries like any other primer, creating a great bond to the surface underneath. This leaves you with a nice, clean finish for any normal paint (including chalk). You could double check with your retail paint specialist just to be sure, or call Gripper’s customer service. But if I were doing it I might just try out a test board such as a small piece of masonite or similar slicker surface. Sand it to rough it up just a bit, wipe down with alcohol to clean it. Apply one coat of Gripper and when dry coat with your chalk board paint. Since it’s your first time it’s probably worth the small cost for masonite and the extra hour to do the test. Good luck and let me know how it works out!

  18. We bought a 30 year old class c that is in great shape. I think I have decided not to paint the cabinetry as they are in great shape and I don’t want to Turin a good thing. The back splash is obviously outdated and I am doing a stainless backsplash. My dilemma is the bathroom and shower walls. They are all vinyl and exposed to water.
    Do you think it is possible to use the Gripper with spa type paint in the bath area? I have a friend who does construction tell me I can use Gripper and the vinyl tile with mold resistant grout but I was hoping to avoid that.
    Thanks

    • Hi Marsha,
      Congrats on buying and upgrading your new RV! I believe that for your bathroom vinyl wall area, you can still use the Gripper and a good quality paint over your vinyl walls. I would definitely follow the steps I used here and would check with your paint store to confirm the best paint to put on top of the Gripper, in that walls are exposed to water. It also sounds like you are looking to resurface the actual walls of the shower, and that this includes resurfacing vinyl tiles. I don’t have experience in this area, so would say if you really need to resurface the vinyl tiles and grout, you may want to test out your friend’s recommendation. I hope this helps and good luck to you!

  19. Donna Orban Reply

    Hi! I am in the middle of painting my 5th wheel and wanted some inspirations (as well as a break from painting!) I noticed you painted over your flip switches on the bedroom accent wall. HOW did you do that and how has the paint held up?? I hate how the old almond, plastic switches and plate covers look against the new paint, but never thought of painting them. I hope you are still responding to this remodeling RV post. Thanks!

    • Hi Donna,
      Thanks for your question, and I totally get how annoying those contrasting colors are with flip switches. Funny thing, I didn’t paint over mine! because they were already brown! However, if you want to test of yours out, you could follow my steps in this article and see how it works. The reason it might work, is because Gripper forms a chemical bond with the material you apply it to, rather than just a physical bond. Or ask a retail paint specialist if they can recommend a mild etching solvent when you prep the flip switch. I hope this helps!

  20. Marion Martin Reply

    Hi Kathy
    I”m going to paint the vinyl walls in my trailer but before I start I was wondering about the plastic and rubber trim all along the ceiling and around cabinets, do I remove all of that or paint over them ? I can’t seem to find any information on this. Thanks.

    • Hi Marion,
      I believe that by using the method I described in this article, you can use Gripper on all rubber and plastic trim, and then paint over Gripper. It will look much neater if you do, of course. (These steps would include the prepping I mentioned.) Just to be safe I would do two things – first, check the Gripper can and verify it will adhere to these products and secondly, I’d test one of each material with method/Gripper. I painted over our trim like this (which is plastic, not rubber) and it has stayed on just fine. It’s in a high traffic area so had to touch up a few tiny nicks in past few years one time but it holds up fine! Good luck to you!
      Kathy

  21. Hi Kathy — thanks for making this info available!
    I am going to paint all the walls in our Fleetwood Bounder (the vinyl wallpaper) and I started with the bathroom. I used Gripper as my primer and have put down two coats. I’ve encountered a couple of issues and am hoping you’ll troubleshoot a little with me!
    I washed the walls, let them dry, did a light sanding with 120 grit paper but it seemed like it was making pretty strong lines in the the wallpaper so I switched to 220 for most of the walls
    I put down tape (green Frog Tape) and I put the first coat of Gripper on with a brush but had pretty obvious brush strokes so a couple hours later I did the 2nd layer with a roller and got a much smoother application.
    I began to worry that maybe I should remove the tape since most sources recommended pulling up tape before the paint is fully dry (but very few talk about whether you should remove it after putting down primer!)
    Well, even though it had only been an hour or two since my 2nd coat of Gripper, I did get several places along the edges where the Gripper pulled off with the tape.
    This is where I’m at with things. I’m not sure my best option, nor exactly where I went wrong!
    I’ve put down spackle on the areas that pulled up and I plan to lightly sand tomorrow and then spot touch with the Gripper (skipping the tape).
    Do you think I should have pulled up the tape immediately after the 1st coat of primer? and then re-tape for each application of primer and/or paint?
    Did I pull the tape off too soon? The Gripper was pretty “stretchy” and so some bigger areas came off (a couple inches long)
    Perhaps I needed to sand the wallpaper more or with a lower grit so that the wall is rougher and maybe the Gripper would stick better?
    Do you think my spackle method will work, or: what would you do to fix these patches?

    Glad to encounter these problems before I put my final paint layers on… I’m still planning to tape before doing that…

    Sorry for the long message!
    I appreciate any insight! Thank you!
    Maggie

    • Hi Maggie,
      Thanks for sharing your situation with preparing to paint and in using Gripper. Good point on the gripper and the Frog tape! I don’t remember exactly whether I took the Frog tape off when Gripper was still slightly wet but I think I did so, now that you mention it. I think rolling puts a little heavier coat on in general and therefore might be good to take the tape of when damp as you mentioned. You can ask the paint department where you bought it, too. Home Depot is very helpful for giving tips.

      I think that it’s always best to sand a little more, where you aren’t sure of whether Gripper will stick well, as you suggested. That said, Gripper is supposed to stick very well with a little prep work, so just make sure you sand some (finer grade sounds smart)…and that you clean the dust off well with alcohol and a tack cloth.

      In terms of your spackle idea- not sure it that will work but I can say I’ve used spackle to fill in divets or uneven surfaces in my past. I even used water proof spackle to fill in holes when I repaired outdoor signs – and it held up fine. Overall I’d say you
      are on the right track!

      Let me know how it goes, would love to hear.
      Kathy

  22. Hey !! This article is just what I needed ! We just bought a used fifth wheel that needs a total overhaul……thanks for turning me on to gripper. Have you ever used bead board in any of your campers? That’s what I want to use as well as paper and paint. If you have any tips I would be happy to hear them! We are so excited to know that soon we can hit the road and be finished… this is going to be a huge project ……..we are just going one step at a time! Thanks for the article!

    • Hi Wanda, Thanks for your comment and congrats on your fifth wheel purchase!

      We have not used bead board in our RV but it sounds like a good idea from a decorative standpoint.

      In terms of tips here are my thoughts. I see there is a PVC bead board, which I would recommend over the traditional wood bead board. I say this because it should be lighter weight and easier to maintain. I imagine it should be just as easy to install as the wood version too. It does sound like a moderately sizable project as you say, in that fitting any new product around tight corners in an RV can be time-consuming to do correctly and with good fit. That said, it sounds like you’re prepared to do just that, so good luck and enjoy!

      Feel free to share how your project went once you finish it and good luck to you when getting ready to hit the road!!

  23. Mandy Howard Reply

    Hello! Thanks for the great information about painting the interior of your RV. I have one question… what did you do about the tape that’s over the seams of the walls? I took it off before painting and now there’s a very small, but noticeable gap between the walls. Did you come across this issue too? Thanks for your time!

    • Hi Mandy, You’re welcome and thanks for your question. (Sorry for the delay in responding as I’ve been traveling). To answer your question about the tape. We didn’t have this issue because we happened to paint accent walls that were made of luan/wood laminate, so they didn’t have a seam. However, I would have left the seam intact and just put gripper right over it, if I did see a seam. To correct a gap I would recommend using a wood filler type of product, filling the gap, then sanding it down smooth, then priming with Gripper. If the gap is too wide to do so using this method, you could buy a roll of wall tape, which is used for this purpose, and put it into place with a spackle (follow instructions on tape package.) Hope this helps, and best to you on this project!

  24. I need to seal some cat urine spots on a few wood panels. BIN is the highest recommended primer/sealer for this purpose. Can I use the BIN primer on the panel and then use the Gripper over it before final painting? Will the BIN adhere to the prepared wall panel and still allow the gripper to work?

    • Hi Mark, Thanks for your question and sorry for the delay in my response. I understand BIN is recommended for various odors like cat urine. While it is alcohol based, I believe you could still use Gripper over the Bin. You could test out a small are (which you may have already done by now:)…Or ask the paint expert at Home Depot to be sure. Best to you on this.

  25. Hello,
    My husband, kids and I just purchased our first motorhome! We upgrade from a tent trailer after having our 4th baby in May. Do you have any tips on peel and stick items on the walls of an rv? I am looking at a roll of faux wood Contact paper to go behind our bed in the bedroom. Would Gripper primer be something to have on the wall before the contact paper? I just want to make sure I do it right the first time:). Thank you

    • Hi Kelly Ann,
      Congratulations on buying your first motorhome!
      Yes, I would say you have the right idea about using peel and stick product on your vinyl walls. Since RV walls are meant to be washable (and therefore a little slick), they are obviously resistant to anything that would stick on them.
      So if you want to put any peel and stick product on the vinyl, you’d want to treat that specific area as though you would for an an entire wall.To be safe, follow the steps I outlined with Gripper in my article. You can use masking tape to mask off smaller areas, such as border or a portion of the wall when you do this prep work. Then by having Gripper on that area, your wall will act like normal sheet rock and accept the peel and stick product in the same way.

      Good luck and have fun with your project!

  26. Great article. My husband and I have just bought an older camper and I have decided to paint. Ours has a few thin strips of vinyl over the seams of the walls. I will have to remove them to paint and I was wondering if you have any recommendations for filling/smoothing those seams?

    • Hi Kelsie,
      Thanks for your comment and question, and congrats on buying your camper! I understand the seams and strips you’re referring to and I recommend that you treat them the same way as the walls. What I mean is that you prep them and then paint right over the seams, using a slightly drier brush (or roller if that’s what you’re painting with) around the seams. This way the seam will look smooth, without drips around it.

      If you do decide you want to remove the seams I recommend filling the cracks with a paintable silicone – or a different filler than the normal wall fillers, which will remain flexible over time like silicone does. This is important since you don’t want your filler to crack over time as you travel on bumpy roads, etc. You can ask your paint store about the best filler for this purpose.

      I hope this helps and enjoy your decorating!

  27. Corinne Duhon Reply

    would this gripper primer work well on painting the “wood” cabinets in a camper too??

    • Absolutely, Corinne. Gripper can be used to prime almost anything – although I’d still recommend standard paint prep, such as lightly sanding the surface, then wipe everything down to remove dust (cheesecloth or ..) then gripper + paint. It’s not strictly necessary, as gripper is very sticky already, but better is better – and surface prep always helps paint stick better. Good luck!

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