Renovation of my 5th Wheel camper


Staff member
Thought Club
the camper is a 1989 Travel Villa Omega 25RK.
my thinking is, the bedroom will remain almost the same. i will take out the bed platform, in favor of just a air-mattress on the floor. i will re-face the cabinets at the head of the bed.
the bathroom will be altered so the toilet is on the other side, where the shower was. the bathroom sink will go back where it was, though it will be turned 90 degrees.
the kitchen, i was thinking will have a U-shaped counter. it will run along the back, toward the front, and hang a right as a bar-top table/counter space. this will maximize food preparation space. the sink will be on the back-right, cooler space under the back left, cook-top will be center on the side. open counter for eating in front.
the living room, i will try to optimize for a gathering of people in bad weather, as the gathering will likely be outside in good weather. thinking about a folding table, with a couch over the heating system. perhaps some folding chairs for the other side of the table. couch height will be chair height, so that the folding table is not too high.
thinking of adding my DVD player car radio somewhere. it will output to a TV somewhere, perhaps hanging down across from the couch. i will look for a 12V mobile model, so i don't need an inverter. speakers will be hanging from the ceiling in front, and also in back for pseudo-surround sound. they will be positioned out of the way, and made to take standard sized automotive speakers, for ease of replacement. will be wired to a simple switch, i suspect, to trigger the ignition signal.

the solar will remain, as will the furnace and the battery charger. the alarm system will be removed though, as there will likely be no need. i will need to replace or fix the waste holding tanks. and may just drop the clean water tank and replace it. i would like to replace all tanks, but that depends on cost, and condition. it also depends on the size of the tanks, and what is in them... (i hope they are all empty :poop: )
black water will be routed to under the toilet, and the grey water plumbing will need to be altered. the indoor shower will be eliminated, in favor of an outdoor one. so for grey water, there is only the bathroom sink, and kitchen sink. but i want to have as large of a clean water tank as i can afford. mostly for the outdoor shower...
water lines will be PEX, and color-coded red and blue for hot and cold. that will simply make it easier to troubleshot later. i want drain fittings for all water line low-spots. this way i will only need to winterize the pump and water-heater. i also want a simple valve to change pump suction from tank to hose-barb, so i can attach a bottle of RV-antifreeze in order to purge the system of all water.
the water heater will be near the furnace and water pump, so it can send hot water anywhere, and i would like to cover the hot water lines in insulation to save heat.
i was going to have the batteries behind the generator compartment door, but now if i can get the generator running, i may still put it in there. so, where to put the batteries... there is a hatch already for the fridge, that will not be there, so i could consider putting them behind that panel, or install a better panel, maybe. the problem is, not much room there. maybe space for two batteries... or possibly leave batteries where they are now. maybe i could use the fridge access hole, and just use two large batteries, rather than four smaller ones. the compartment will need to be sealed for battery charging gasses (vented only to outside, through the hatch vents), as well as acid leaks, that i hope will never happen.
as far as connecting the batteries, electrically, i do have some Anderson SB50 connectors, so i can make the battery connections outside, slide the battery in, and connect it. i would think two batteries would be enough for most camping, especially if i have a generator. there is space under the fridge access panel, so under the batteries, i can put the battery charger/converter, with an inside access panel. the AC/DC distribution panel can go down there as well... though the couch/bench may go that far too, so the power panel and charger could just go under that, leaving the space under the batteries for plumbing and wires.

the water-heater can go in the original location, as there is a hatch there anyway, making it an easy plug for the hole there.

kitchen will be a U shape, with the bottom of the U along the back wall. sink on the back, cook-top on the right, when facing the back, and space for a cooler, somewhere under the left side cabinets. there will be upper cabinets too, for more storage, with space for a microwave, somewhere.

the door into the bedroom/bathroom, i want to change out to a swing door, with a latch similar to the entry door. not so much that i need to lock it, but that the latch is simply of good quality. so i will have to do a bit of extra framing there, just to support a door. the door will swing out into the main space.

i want to re-do most of the LP gas plumbing, to make sure it is leak-free. i also want to swap the LP regulator for a auto-changeover, with OPD connections. i can eliminate the gas port for the fridge, as i only need gas for the furnace, cook-top, and water-heater.

if i can get the generator running, i will need to find someplace for the gasoline tank. someplace where it can be filled from outside, as i don't want gas spills inside. one option may be a boat-style tank riding on a bumper-mount shelf. or even just the fuel-cell i have could be mounted there.
i just happened to think, i could build a cook-top vent hood, if i can find a 12V blower fan... as long as i heavily seal the inside of the hood. perhaps with polyurethane.
thinking about the battery compartment: i can have a box that is accessible from inside the camper, as long as the box is sealed to inside, and vented to outside. i can have the box under the couch/bench, and seal it with caulking and weather-stripping gasket, with a positive closure.

I will need to have a sealed compartment for the generator, as well. the biggest obstacle with the generator is the fuel tank. i wish i had a boat fuel tank that i could mount, and provide a filler port outside the camper. but all i have is a fuel-cell, with a top filler hole.
i am thinking the generator may be best either bumper mounted, or not on the camper, but not sure. trying to figure out how to mount it properly, and still have access for maintenance. been a while since i worked on it, and it all assumes the fuel pump solves the no-start issue. could even be the fuel filter is clogged.
assuming it works correctly, if i can mount it inside the camper, i may bumper-mount the fuel tank. perhaps inside some sort of tote, to hide it. or i may just cover it in a aluminum-clad wooden box.
the generator is only a 4KW, single-pole (120Vac), whereas my camper is wired for double-pole (120Vac + 120Vac), 50A. but that just means the transfer switch will need to be wired so on the generator side, it would tie the two poles together, to power the whole camper. i may even work in a simple bridging switch, so i can run either or both poles from the generator, and have a connection for an auxiliary generator for higher power things like the A/C. probably not needed though...
thoughts on the battery compartment: needs to be liquid sealed, or at least drainable. this is in case a battery leaks. may be as easy as ligning the compartment in roofing ice-and-water shield, and using a boat through-hull port as a drain.
generator is a no-go. i tried and tried, and tried some more, to get it running, but it just won't run. so generator plan is to eventually get a HFT predator generator, and bumper-mount it, or something.
batteries will go behind the generator compartment door. same plan as before i started fighting with the generator again. two layer rack system. maybe with poly battery boxes for each battery, in case of a freeze, or other battery burst. will use Anderson connectors for disconnects, and a fuse block to distribute the load between four batteries.
at some point, i really need to replace the floor in the kitchen, so i can start puttering away at building the electrical enclosure and rest of kitchen.
something else i just thought of, the battery compartment will need to be insulated, at least as well as the rest of the camper. don't want a cold spot near plumbing in the winter.
the ceiling where i took down the paneling will need to be re-insulated. was thinking 3.5" Roxul, but i think some 2" foam may be easier to hold up in place.
there is quite a bit of outside cosmetic work to be done. also, there needs to be some covers made for the discontinued hatches, and other stuff. just like i need to patch the roof where the fridge vent is... or at least make a better cover for it.
actually, the fridge hatch could be used to cover the water distribution panel, if i get one. just an idea...
thinking about the wall paneling in the living room: if i re-do the bathroom/bedroom door to be a swing door, then i don't want a lot of trim around it. if i frame the door opening first with some 1X pine, and leave it inset so the paneling goes right over it. then the finish jam would go on, flush with the paneling. that way the trim could be just a 1" thin strip of wood, just to cover the edge of the paneling.
just bought an upgraded trailer electrical hookup that is supposed to be heavier-duty. I also bought an isolation kit to go between the vehicle charging line and the camper battery. it is supposed to only activate when the vehicle is running. that way it won't draw down the vehicle battery. in order for everything to work right, i will need to run another wire forward for the trailer runaway electric brakes switch. this needs to be directly connected to the battery. currently it is connected to the charge line, but with the isolation device, it won't work that way.

I really need to get some measurements of the camper renovation space. that way i can use CAD to design the layout.

i also need to situate the furnace so it can be used. that way i can work on the camper when it is cold out, and still have heat. unfortunately, i can't work on the electrical systems with the furnace going. but maybe i can get the floor replaced, and build the battery compartment. then it will be easier to build in the new electrical system, and get that back to operational.

where the fridge was, i will build a lower cabinet looking space for the electrical panel. it will be mounted in the face, then power panel will be, and the whole face will be removable with just a screw in each corner, in case i need to get behind it. the counter-top will extend over this cabinet, and the couch/bench will go from the cabinet to the bathroom wall. that way wiring can be bundled and hidden under it, as well as the plumbing.

the PVC drain plumbing will use several no-hub connectors for strain relief (vibration while towing camper). i will try my best to build in a drain slope, to keep the drain water moving.
water supply lines will be PEX, and will have drain points.
Thoughts on siding repair: the current siding is the standard wavy aluminum. i am thinking i can "possibly" replace sides with aluminum trim-coil panels. on the bottom of the panel, i can fold the aluminum to the back, and on the top, fold it forward. that way i can lock together the panels. the folds will be at least 1.5 inches in depth, for best retention. bottom fold will be doubled for strength, and top will be deeper, to allow the top of the panel to be screwed to the aluminum framing. folds will be tight, so they lay flat.
windows and doors will have to be removed for siding installation.
i will start with just the back of the camper first, as it has some odd hatchet holes from the previous owner (didn't know about until i got it home, like some other cosmetic issues).

I also want to replace all exterior lighting with LED lights. it is my hope that the wiring is still fine, that the lighting issues is to due with poor connections with old incandescent lighting.

much of the interior paneling will be replaced, if possible. so i can do a better job of hiding the wiring, and route it within walls or cabinets.

i wish i had enough money to replace the A/C unit, but it just isn't financially possible. it is very power-hungry...
i think for flooring options, i will go with a vinyl sheet, adhered to the sub-floor. it comes 12 feet wide, and from the bedroom door step-up, toward the kitchen, 12' left around 15 - 18", that could be hidden under the cabinets. also, if i make a swing door for the bedroom, i can raise the threshold under the door, and gain 4" on the vinyl coverage.
but before that, i have to be able to replace the floor sheething in the kitchen, so the floor is flat. unfortunately they used OSB, and heavy, yet hidden screws. so peeling it up is harder than expected.
i wish i could insulate the floor a bit, but i don't see how it would even be possible.

so, i had been thinking about returning the tub/shower to the original location... but that all depends on if the plumbing works out. i may return to the outdoor shower plan. an indoor shower could be done, and made better than before. but it depends on a lot of factors going right. but i have to decide before the floor in the bathroom gets vinyl.

even after i replace the kitchen floor sheething, there is a lot of work before the vinyl can go in. lots of carpet staples, and scraps of carpet. especially under the couch area. i will have to cut it out around the furnace platform.

I need some way of covering up the wheel-well by the door, as it will not have furniture over it, and the window is too low to build much. probably just build a cover... something cabinet depth, so i can mount a RV TV there, of some sort.

above the window, i want to mount the RV media center, and some speakers. in between the media center and speakers, some road-worthy DVD shelves. or maybe cabinets with lexan fronts.
pending examination of the shower plumbing, i am thinking i will re-install the shower, where it was. the bathroom vanity will need to be re-built, but no real big deal there.
I will also want to inspect the tanks and drain valves.
it is aggravating, how much building everything, hinges on stuff i don't have yet, or can't do until something else is done.
the kitchen cabinets can't be built until the battery compartment is done, and i can't do that until the floor is replaced, and i have at least one battery to get measurements from. i need the stove cook-top for the measurements, as with the water-heater, so cabinets can be built around it. i think i have a sink i can use.
i think the best method to get an idea for the cabinets, is to build a skeleton frame that i will eventually use to build the cabinets onto. that way i can get a layout established. say nothing about figuring out how to mount the electrical in it's new location, and running some wire.
the cabinets will be the frame for support, but with 1/4" plywood for the inside surfaces. exterior end panels will be 3/4" plywood for durability. i will want mostly cabinet doors, with just a few drawers, as too many drawers seem to just collect junk. maybe just one for silverware. the drawers will have to be self-closing, so they stay closed under travel. cabinet doors will have latching hardware. door style will be cope-and-rail, with flat panel centers. there will be upper-cabinets all around the kitchen. above the cook-top, will be the microwave cabinet, and a stove vent fan. perhaps re-use the original one, with a better fan.
i think that rather than a single bench/couch, i will build a "U" shape dinette, where the table converts to a bed. i may have to alter the kitchen layout to make it work, though. the dinette should cover up the furnace and plumbing/wiring pretty well. not sure how well the water tank connections will be covered up. the side-booth towards the kitchen would be a good place to mount the electrical panel. the booth nearest the bathroom will have some storage. the furnace will intake through a vent in the center of the wall side booth, in the kick-space. under the booth padding, the panels will be removable for access to the space underneath.

i noticed a layout trick when looking up dinette designs... once i have the floor done, and clean (with vinyl flooring installed), i can layout the various cabinets, and dinette dimensions directly on the floor with masking tape, so i can see potential issues easier.
I wanted to get the section of rotted floor replaced, but the scrap of plywood I had on hand was ¾” rather than ½” that is on the rest of the camper. So that still waits for attention.

I was able to mostly install the new vehicle connection harness, with the exception of the charge wire, as I did not have a crimp terminal large enough for it (10awg) on hand.
i got the 3/4" Advantec cut to fit the section of floor. i still want to coat the bottom in a preservative, so i have not attached it yet.
then i just have to eventually layout the cabinets and the dinette, so i can fit in the battery box. still figuring for 4x batteries. once the battery box is built, i will know more about what the rest will need to fit.
i am thinking that about where the fridge was, i will have a floor to ceiling cabinet, of sorts. power panel below, microwave in the middle, cabinets up top. this will allow for a false back where i can run wires that need to get into the ceiling.
just wanted to mark down some notes:
the battery box will be built out of 3/4" Advantec, and will be built so the internal dimensions are roughly 15" deep, 15" in height, and the width of the compartment door. above the 15" height, will be a vertical wall, about 2" deep, for wire routing, and the fuse-block battery combiner (with 50A per battery fuses). the Advantec battery box will be braced around the bottom with 2" X 2" blocking, for extra battery retention strength. i also want some sort of battery hold-down bar, but i am unsure how best to attach it.

in the area where the fridge was located, will be my column for running wires, with the water-heater (hopefully) in the location of the former fridge vent, and the electrical distribution panel above that, behind which the charger/converter will be located, as well as the solar charge controller. this will be a ventilated compartment (inside air). there will be a partition between the water-heater, and electrical. the water heater will have an inside access panel for assess to the back of the unit.

the partition behind the battery box will have a space for running wires down low, as needed. perhaps 2" or more. will be as needed to follow the line from the face of the cabinets.

the kitchen cabinets will be designed to accommodate a 2-bowl sink, and plumbing, and the cooktop. the rest can be designed to fit. there will need to be accommodations for the furnace, with ducting, the water pump, and water filters.

all plumbing needs to be drain-able for winter. the water supplies will be PEX. the drain plumbing will be PVC, with rubber mechanical connections to allow for motion from on the road vibrations.

i would like to line the battery box with fiberglass, at least 1 layer on the bottom, like a pan. i would also like to include a drain hole. this is only for in the event of battery splitting (freezing), or other moisture that gets in.

i want to include both AC (120V) outlets, and DC (12V) outlets in places where they will be of most use. mostly for charging whatever devices.

my original plan for the bedroom over the 5th wheel, was for it to be the master bedroom. but more thinking would desire it to be the spare bedroom, with the slide-out couch being the master. it will have better access to the A/C and Heat controls, and more headroom for sitting up.

the slide-out couch will be interleaved slats, so that when the front face of the couch base is pulled out, it provides support for an air-mattress. i would like to have under-couch storage, but am unsure how to make that work.
thinking of a layout change. couch where the couch was (over furnace), kitchen where the kitchen was. maybe a dinette in the kitchen. the battery box will be in the lower kitchen cabinets. electrical will be where fridge was. actually, i can build a ice-chest where the dinette was. a lay-down floor type, with a bench top for the lid.
not sure if i can make the couch a pull-out bed, but i still like the idea.
shower will be outside, so the shower space will be converted to storage cabinets, or shelves.
PEX will be used for water lines, with a provision for a future water-heater (water lines, gas line, and 12v power).

i will build the ice-chest around a ice-block. the block will sit in a section that allows drainage, so it will keep the ice-chest mostly dry. i can use computer fans to circulate the cool air around the ice. the ice will sit on something like a greenhouse floor drain tile. it could be possible to make the ice section work with ice-cubes too. i could just make a box with the drain tile, so air can get around it, and either drop in a ice block, or dump in a bag or more of ice-cubes. i could line the interior with ice-and-water shield, or similar. the hard part will be getting a basket for the food to sit in, above the ice. the chest will be insulated with at least 2" foam on all sides. there will be a drain in the bottom that just leaks out onto the ground under the camper, to keep ice melt water from building up.
i think the only place to put the ice-chest is beside the water-heater location. and i may want to get a thermometer that i can stick on the cooler to monitor temps, to make sure it is working, and not out of ice.

something i thought of... there is no table space. like if i was listening to my SDR radio with my laptop, or even to eat on. i will have to ponder that some more.

before i can put the ceiling insulation and paneling back, i need to finish the kitchen. that way i will know light placement.
i will need to provision for a cooktop, sink, and a spot for a microwave. the cooktop can go where the original stove was, so i can make use of the vent hole already in place. then i can also make use of the LP gas lines already in place, and just run new copper lines from the gas pipe. the fridge port can be closed off.
the sink can go on the back wall.
actually, if the cooktop goes in the former fridge location, and i get a over the range microwave, i can vent the exhaust up through the old roof vent for the fridge. i just need to pit a cap over it to keep rain out. then i can block off the old vent for the original cooktop vent. the only issue with this plan is supporting the weight of the microwave. the mounting bracket will need some real studs to lag into, and they would need to be very well secured so the microwave doesn't fall down when trailering the camper.
for upper cabinets... i need some, but not yet sure of a layout.
all cabinets will need to be built with as little weight as possible. so light pine door frames with 1/4" ply panels. the cabinet boxes will need to be pine support frames, with 1/4" ply for the sides. the only 3/4" plywood will be the microwave support box. thinking of mounting the microwave as close to the ceiling as possible.
the sink waste drain will have a long run back to the tank connection. i will have to make sure it has good slope to prevent low spots. i don't want water sitting there when i winterize the camper.

my winterization plan will be to fill all water supplies with RV antifreeze, and then blow out he antifreeze with compressed air. the RV antifreeze does freeze in very cold temps, but it expands less than water. still, i want the lines as dry as possible. same with the waste pipes. pour RV antifreeze down all drains, making sure the traps are filled, and then drain tanks. even the clean-water tank will be antifreezed and drained.

i still need to replace all the trailering lights with LEDs, and make sure they all work, before building cabinets that block access to the wiring.
i need to run a battery wire from the batteries (direct, with fuse) to the electric-brake breakaway switch. i also need to run a wire from the battery charge wire (trailering cable), back to the charge device, direct to the battery (with fuse), so it can charge when going down the road.

inside the hatch by the water-heater, i will have hot and cold water taps, like a washing machine valve, for the outside shower. there should also be access to winterize the water-heater.

i will need to run electrical cable from the AC power hookup to the panel under the cooktop. this may, or may not leave enough for my work-shed hookup, but oh well.

the bedroom/bathroom closet will need some new doors. the ones by the bed i "may" be able to re-use, after a coat of paint. i still want to get the old bed frame out of the bedroom, in favor of an air-mattress on the floor. that way i will gain a little more headroom.

heat-wise, i will put the furnace back in, and this time i will open the knock-outs before install, so i can later connect up the heat hoses. two in the bedroom/bathroom, and two in the kitchen. i want to install my diesel heater in the bedroom/bathroom for a backup. the diesel heater itself can be mounted in the front compartment, and simply be piped into the bedroom. not sure where to put the diesel tank so it can be filled.
the A/C is pretty much the same. not much needs to be changed. though it does need to be wired into the panel.

somewhere, i do want to install a power inverter, and run it through a auto-transfer switch the specific outlets. that way i can run power on limited circuits when running off battery power. not a big inverter. just enough for a laptop, and similar whatnot.
i am almost thinking it may be better to move the 50A AC inlet back to where the panel will be, rather than run a long wire. i will need to block off the previous hole, but i think in the end, it will be better.

the battery box will be about 16" deep and sized to fit 4 batteries side-by-side, long side perpendicular to the wall. the box will be made water-tight, with a small drain for any weather leakage. the batteries will be inside battery boxes, in case of acid leaks. the door is already vented, so that is fine.

so i will need block-offs for the fridge lower vent, as the electrical will likely be behind it. i don't want people to have access to tamper with anything from outside.

i still need to inspect the waste tank valves, and see why they have odd metal rods to control them. i need to establish if they work, and if the tanks are empty. i hate to think i need to replace the valves, and the tanks are full... or worse, that the black-water tank was full, but had now dried into concrete in the tank and outlet, up to the valve.
i could simply flow water into the tanks a little bit and see if it runs out...

i can function without a black-water tank, as i could get a composting or tank toilet, or something. but it would be easier if it all is good and works.

DC will be as follows: 4 batteries, joined by a fuse block, with Anderson 50A connectors for disconnection. after the fuse block, the DC will go through the battery meter shunt (negative side shunt), and then to the disconnect (positive side). the trailer brakes tap will be fused, and supplied before the disconnect, so it will always have power. after the disconnect, will be connections for the 100A charger, the 40A solar charger, and then on to the master fuse panel.
fused circuits will include, but not limited to, the furnace (15A?), water pump (10A), lights (10A?), water heater (?), 12v outlets (20A).

i still have some carpet that needs to be pulled up in the living room area, and i also have the wheel well to take the rotted paneling off of. then i need to connect the water tank hookups to the tank with the hose kit i have already. perhaps i could do that tomorrow morning, as it is supposed to be cooler.
then at some point, i can screw some 2x2 lumber down where the front of the cabinets will be going. then i can build the battery box, so i know where plumbing will be able to go. and if i need to change the 2x2 location, i can at that point. i would like to get the sink drain pipe run before building the cabinets, so i know where the floor-height will be inside them. floors will be removable, if i can manage them right. if not, the lower part will have no floor. only the mid-height shelf will be there, allowing plumbing and electrical access.

also before the cabinets are built, i need to establish the locations of the LP gas lines, and connect the line for the furnace, as it may be a PITA to connect once the bench/couch is built over it.

kitchen dinette could be just a table attached to the wall, with folding chairs. or there could be a bench on the back wall, with the table, and either a bench or folding chairs for the other side of the table. if i space the second bench right, i could remove the table, and drop the table down and set it on the bench frames, creating a bed platform for a air mattress. with some work, i could also make the couch change into a bed platform as well.
just as long as it fits over the furnace with enough clearance, and the furnace gets enough free-flowing air. also, i need maintenance access under the bench.

i think the solar panels can be mounted with L-tabs, screwed and sealed to the roof, and then just screwed into the solar panel frame. just a thought...