How I Turned a Camper Disaster into a Positive: Part Two

In my last post, “How I Turned a Camper Disaster into a Positive,” I described repairs made to Honeybear after discovering a water leak. At the end of those repairs, the camper was structurally sound, but not livable. Plywood stood for a floor, raw walls displayed my inability to cut a straight line, and the bed was a sketch on the back of an IKEA receipt. Today, the camper needs a few minor adjustments, but it looks a whole lot better than it did a week ago.

Here are the changes that turned a beat-up tin can into a home.

Sitting the future storage area while making the bed.

Sitting the future storage area while making the bed.

The Floor:

Originally, the camper floor was covered in a faux-tile laminate glued to the base. On humid days, the corners curled around the edges. Even before the water damage forced me to pull up the wood, I planned to replace the laminate with something more up to date. On a chance trip to the hardware store, I found a returned box of special order, water-proof vinyl planks on clearance from fifty dollars to five dollars—someone had ordered the planks, opened the box, discovered they didn’t like the look, and returned them to the store. A single box of nice floor is useless to most people, but my because my floor space is roughly the size of two bathmats, I made good use of the box (it actually took another half a box to cover the entire area, but even after paying full price for the second box, the floor came in well under budget).

Tearing out the old floor.

Tearing out the old floor.

Installing the new floor

Installing the new floor

In an afternoon, I popped the planks into place and rounded out the corners with a quarter round made of recycled hard foam. The new floor is easy to clean, modern, and lightweight. I think the planks make the floor appear spacious, but I might be kidding myself.

*The new floor is on the slippery side, epically for my pup, so I velcroed a mat in front of the bed to allow her enough traction to safely jump on and off. I’m a crazy dog mom and proud of it.

The Bed:

The camper was built to hold a couch/bed conversion, but the setup was not easy to convert. You had to toss the cushions outside and maneuver two pieces of wood the exact width of the camper walls while trying not to break a window. When I lived in the camper, I left the whole thing as a bed and never moved it back.

The downside to fully extending the bed was space--with little space, everything is about space. The mattress rested on the kitchenette, leaving my feet mere inches from the sink when I slept. In the morning, I hopped out of bed and into the kitchen, then took a half step into the living/dining room. The two-feet of floor gained with the couch arrangement gave the illusion of a bedroom but the couch itself ran too narrow to sleep on. After ripping out the bed frame with the rotten wood, I considered my options.

My bed setup when I lived in the camper in Alabama.

My bed setup when I lived in the camper in Alabama.

  • Option One: Leave the bed.

  • Option Two: Leave the couch and try to manage sleeping between nineteen inches of foam.

  • Option Three: Make the couch larger by building a foldable extension with a removable leg for balance.

  • Option Four: Build a slatted extending bed like cool the Van Life people on YouTube

  • Option Five: Create a slightly larger bed by building new boxes to cover the trailer’s wheel wells and use the boxes as a seating area.

I chose the fifth option, maybe because I was tired of thinking about the bed.

I gained four critical inches by building new wheel well boxes that just covered the metal jutting into the camper from the metal trailer. That width of a hand took the bed’s total width from twenty-five inches to twenty-nine, and for some reason, twenty-nine felt like enough. If you’ve ever slept on a narrow hostel bunk bed, you’ll have a pretty good understanding of the size (or, if you can remember the width of your crib mattress, I’m at an inch wider than that).

The old wheel well boxes took up extra space and looked cheap.

The old wheel well boxes took up extra space and looked cheap.

Narrower by four inches and made with quality wood.

Narrower by four inches and made with quality wood.

The Walls:

When I finished closing off the interior walls, the camper looked a little Frankensteiny. I couldn’t manage to create single wall pieces, so I cut chunks of wall and shot them into place with an air-gun. This method got the job done but left very visible seams between chunks and a couple of genuine mess-ups I didn’t want to tear out and fix.

*A well-placed plastic plant hides the worst problem area and makes the “bedroom” appear Pinterest perfect.

Most of the gaps disappeared behind green, peel and stick wallpaper—basically, big stickers. I painted above the wallpaper and disguised any remaining problems behind what looks like a decorative border between the paint and the wallpaper. On the ceiling, I ran pieces of thin cork intended to keep silverware from rustling around in your drawer. Actually, it all came together nicely.

I’m sure there is a better way to build camper walls, but this is what I ended up with.

I’m sure there is a better way to build camper walls, but this is what I ended up with.

At times, I thought I’d never get to paint and wallpaper.

At times, I thought I’d never get to paint and wallpaper.

In the coming weeks, I’m bringing an electrician out to double-check the electrical system and I need to engineer a solution for the kitchen that will fit life on the road, but Honeybear is looking better than ever!

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