Not a fan of air travel? Ready to embrace the minimalist lifestyle? You may be the perfect candidate to own an RV. With all (okay, most) of the comforts of home, this is a great way to road trip in style. And, speaking of style, if your RV is a little long in the tooth, you’re likely planning an RV remodel that includes everything and the RV kitchen sink.
The PODS blog has RV remodeling tips for bedrooms, bathrooms, and a head-to-toe RV remodel in general, but now we’re going to drill down on one of our favorite “rooms” of the RV: the kitchen. If you’re planning an RV kitchen remodel, your ideas may range from strictly cosmetic to an RV remodel before-and-after transformation. No matter your goals, experience, budget, or timeline, we have some RV remodeling ideas that will give your RV kitchen the delectable makeover it deserves.
So let’s get cooking.
How do you renovate an RV kitchen?
When it comes to an RV kitchen remodel, you may be envisioning a team of plumbers, electricians, and contractors cramming into the little space. While you may want to consult a professional or two for tasks outside of your comfort zone (water lines and electrical outlets are potentially hazardous and shouldn’t be worked on without proper safety measures in place), many of these ideas can be easily handled by one or two people.
However, even with just a few people handling the remodeling tasks, you’ll be tight on work space. Before you begin the project, consider how much you’ll have to move out of your camper and what supplies or tools are needed for the job. You can simplify your remodeling project with a PODS portable storage container delivered right to your driveway. Use it as an extra space to keep your new kitchen fixtures and remodeling tools together, organized, and within arm’s reach while you conquer your RV kitchen remodel.
Step 1: Take out or paint the RV kitchen cabinets
How do you update RV cabinets? There are two options: by repainting or replacing. If you want to modify the floor plan of your RV kitchen — and yes, this is possible, even in a small space — you’re likely going to have to rip out the existing RV kitchen cabinets. To do this, locate where each of the cabinet panels and sections are screwed together. Once you remove or pop out the exterior panels, look inside the cabinet structures for the connecting screws. Then, using a drill, remove each screw and lift the cabinets away from the wall and ceiling. Set aside some time for this somewhat tedious task — these cabinets typically hold a lot of screws.
On the other hand, if you like the footprint of your RV kitchen and don’t want to undergo the more complex cabinet removal process, consider repainting your RV kitchen cabinets or even taking off the doors and replacing them with glass ones, so you can show off your colorful dishes. Remember, design tricks like incorporating mirrors, light, and glass will visually open up the space. Remember, too, however, that introducing glass to the area introduces more risk of things breaking while you’re traveling.
Step 2: Repair and paint the walls
Tearing out cabinets can be fun in a slightly therapeutic sort of way, but it can also cause wall damage. Patch and sand any spots that need attention. Once the walls are repaired, coat them with primer. Follow the primer with two or three coats of paint, giving each coat 24 hours of drying time. And don’t forget to paint the ceiling, too.
Wondering which color to choose? If you want the space to feel light and airy, it’s tough to beat a crisp white or pearl gray. But don’t feel like you can’t incorporate a pop of color, either. If you like shabby farmhouse chic, try a mint green or sky blue. If you prefer something patterned, there are some easy-to-use peel-and-stick wallpaper options on the market, as well.
Step 3: Put in new cabinets and countertops
Once the cabinets are out, you have some options for replacements. You can use prefabricated RV cabinets, have cabinets custom made, or — if you want to show off your cute dishes — you can try open shelving. As you can imagine, open shelving is much easier to install than new cabinets, plus they look sleek and take up less room. The only downside? You’ll need to pack everything up when the wheels are moving, so you won’t risk anything falling and breaking.
Can you put regular cabinets in an RV? While we’re not going to say it’s impossible, it is going to be challenging to find a set of regular kitchen cabinets that are the right height, width, and weight for your RV. Your best bet is to find something made for the space.
And, like the RV cabinets, you’ve got some options for replacing your RV kitchen countertops. You can paint the existing ones, give them a fresh look with some peel-and-stick paper or tile, or you can install new ones. For stylish countertops that are also functional, we recommend wood butcher block countertops. These can be a moderately pricey option, so if you’re looking to save some money, go the DIY route and make countertops out of reclaimed barn wood or even wood flooring.
Step 4: Install new flooring and add a backsplash
If your RV flooring is worn and dated, it’s probably time to take it out and replace it with something more modern. Vinyl is low-maintenance, durable, and waterproof, plus there are options that look like wood or stone. It’s even DIY-friendly. Just roll it out, tape or glue it down, and — voilà! — new flooring. If you don’t want to deal with nails or glue, you can also use interlocking laminate planks that click together and look just like hardwood floors.
Now that your cabinets and flooring are in place, it’s time to add a backsplash. If you like ceramic or glass tiles, keep in mind that these materials are a bit fragile. Every time your RV bumps and brakes, it can create bumps and breaks in the tile or grout. For a lightweight and road-ready option, try peel-and-stick wall tiles. They can be installed on top of any smooth surface — even over an old backsplash — and add the perfect pop of color you may be looking for.
Step 5: Don’t forget the RV kitchen sink and appliances
Unlike the kitchen cabinets, you can use regular sinks in an RV. But, they need to fit the dimensions of your space. They’ll also need to be compatible with your RV’s plumbing. You’ll be working with a tank system rather than traditional water lines, which is why there’s a whole market for kitchen sinks made specifically for RVs. They come in the following materials:
- Plastic: Light and inexpensive
- Stainless steel: Easy to clean with a residential feel
- Acrylic: Lots of color options and stain-resistant
- Solid surface: Upscale and chemically bonded to create a smooth look without grout lines
Installing a new RV kitchen sink gets you one step closer to a functional kitchen, but you’re still missing some crucial elements: the appliances. Some RVs come with a built-in oven, but these take up a lot of valuable space without providing much value in return. A microwave, slow cooker, or portable grill can get the job done just as well with a fraction of the square footage. The same goes for a stove top. If you rarely need four stove top eyes to handle your meal prep, try an induction cook plate instead.
Step 6: Add your RV kitchen accessories
Silverware, spatulas, spoons, and more — it wouldn’t be an RV kitchen without some RV kitchen accessories. Since you’re working with less storage space, you need to be picky about stocking your kitchen. Choose items that serve more than one purpose. For example, a cast iron skillet can be used over an open fire, on the grill, or on your stove top.
Also, look for things that take up less space, like collapsible colanders, drying racks, and measuring cups. If your RV isn’t housing many people, you may be able to get by with a mini fridge and freezer instead of a full-sized model.
Remember that unsecured objects will clank and clatter while your RV is in motion, though. If you don’t want a lot of noise coming from your kitchen drawers, select RV kitchen accessories that are made with soft, unbreakable materials. This can include reusable plastic utensils and melamine dishes. Utensils can be stored in a cloth bag, and sharp knives can be secured with fitted sleeves. Pots and pans? They’re best purchased as a stacked set, so they can easily fit together.
If you need RV kitchen storage ideas beyond shelving or cabinets, you’ll have to get a little creative. It may not seem like your kitchen has much unused space, but there are likely nooks and crannies that can hold some small hanging storage containers, plus there’s your ceiling space. Maybe you can add a hanging rack or place a few hooks on the walls for aprons, dish towels, and oven mitts. The PODS blog has several storage ideas tailored for small rooms and spaces.
And now that you officially have a functional kitchen, we have just one more piece of advice: Make purging a regular part of your kitchen maintenance routine. If you continuously clean out unneeded items, you’ll be able to easily access the things you need without having to deal with unnecessary clutter. Your kitchen will feel a little tight as is. There’s no need to have extra stuff in the way.
LB Gabriel is a freelance writer who lives with her husband, daughter, and Golden Retriever in Memphis, TN. A frequent PODS blog contributor, she's a sucker for any tip she can find on downsizing, cutting clutter, or minimalist living. When she's not on a deadline, you can find her on a tennis court or golf course.