Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Great Motorhome Hunt

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
We recently purchased a 1998 Jayco Eagle 26' Motor Home via an ad found on Craigslist.  It had less than 13k original miles, a generator that fired right up with less than 100 hours on it and every single appliance worked properly.  All of this for right around $10K.  Say whaaaat?  It sounded great.  It even looked OK.  It smelled pretty awful and in the words of my 7 year-old nephew, I have a nose like a dog.  He recently said that to me.  Really.  I am usually spot-on re smells.  However, my husband pretty much dismissed my issue (because he could not smell anything weird at all) with the "scent" and kept it moving.  Mistake #1.

In all fairness, I should mention that a few years back we had a water leak in our bathroom (shower pan failure) and I coincidentally started getting sick more than usual - anyway, I SWORE there had to be mold.  Like complained so much that we systematically ripped out our entire bathroom.  Down to the studs.  There was not any mold.


Hey, I never said I smelled anything, only that there had to be hidden mold spores somewhere that were probably killing me every time I inhaled.  I am not dramatic.  At all.

Moving on...

The Idea
My husband has wanted a recreational vehicle on and off for the past 7 years.  We go back and forth regarding the idea.  He likes to tent camp, I don't.  My idea of camping is at the Marriott or any Hilton Family Establishment.  We have looked at least 3 times for a few days each time and have never come to an agreement on what to purchase.  We have looked at trailers, pop-ups, hybrids and motor homes.  New, semi-used and way used (like as in before I was born).  For me, it always comes down to the money factor.  I refuse to spend money on something I am not even sure we will use enough to justify the cost.  I may buy $40 flip flops, but mama rocks those on the daily.  Just saying.  Anyway, about a month ago (end of March '13), I heard him mention the motor home idea again and I said, "I'm not opposed to looking at a motor home if the total monthly cost including insurance does not exceed $350."

The hunt began.  We both started scouring the Internet for recreational vehicles.  We drove to more than a few RV places.  We looked at a couple of private-party RVs.  We almost purchased a brand spanking new Hybrid Travel Trailer.  When I say almost, what I mean is I went online to our credit union and got pre-approved for the full amount plus tax and license.  To the tune of $27k.  For real.  We had a plan, man.  We were so excited, we started researching camp grounds and how people set up said campgrounds.  Like what types of awesome things people buy to make their camp area uber-cool.  We stumbled upon a picture of our same Travel Trailer (TT) and realized all at once, the TT lifestyle wasn't going to work for us.  The picture had a camp fire in it.  Like really close to the TT.  I know, you are thinking, so what?  That's what you do when you camp.  Uhm yeah.  People do build camp fires, hang out till the wee hours, sing songs, tell jokes and stuff.  Not this mama.  I am highly allergic to smoke.  If I am anywhere near smoke, I will get sick.  Like lung infection, respiratory distress, (TMI) green phlegm kind of sick.  So is my kid.  Like as in all kinds of smoke.  The whole point of a Hybrid TT is it has tent-like ends that fold down on each end or sides of the unit.  These ends are made of tent-like material.  HELLO.  I am not risking that much money on the hope that I won't smell the smoke inside the unit.  I mean, come on.  Every time my husband comes back from camping, we have to completely sanitize all of the stuff he used during his trip.  The camp fire smoke infects everything.  So, all at once our dreams of Hybrid camping went poof.  At that point, we decided to put the entire RV thing on the back burner for awhile.

Except, the next day I needed to get my mind of making the remembrance cards for my dads funeral.  So what did I do?  I went back on Craigslist and started looking at used Class C Motor Homes.  Okay, so this is the point where I admit, this entire thing is kind of my fault.  If I would have stuck to the plan of waiting awhile, we more than likely would not be in this mess.  Super long story shortened:  I stumbled across the one we ended up purchasing.
1998 Jayco EAGLE Series M-267 F-FORD WB
 We knew by purchasing any used RV there would be some things we would have to "renovate" or "re-do".  "Re-do" is probably not the right term in this case.  More like "should have never even considered purchasing", but coulda, woulda shoulda... Mistake #2.

We were told this specific RV had some past water damage.  Most used RVs do.  The water damage occurred on the roof near the overhead bunk.  The previous owner had repaired the entry point and everything was "just fine now".  Yeah.  Understatement of the YEAR, people!  Mistake #3 (This entire "listing of the mistakes" is actually no longer any fun for me.  It actually is making me nauseous at the moment.  Suffice to say, I am going to stop with the bloggy-land sarcasm).

DISCLAIMER re My Mental State:
Let me sum this up in a quick paragraph or less - My dad had just died and I was in the middle of preparing for his service during our "Great Motor Home Hunt".  Needless to say, but fair to mention in case someone just isn't following here:  I was an emotional wreck.  I would have more than likely agreed to anything just to keep my mind of of what I was going through at the time.  What's the saying, "Hindsight is 20/20"??  Well, I am pretty sure I would not be interested in this same motor home had I been my normal, super rational (for the most part) self.

The Pictures
Because lets face it: pictures will tell you way more than I ever could.  The first three pictures are the ones I originally saw on Craigslist.  When we went to see the RV in person, it looked pretty much the same inside.

Kitchen looking toward the back
Looking toward the front
When we initially saw the RV, we knew the roof would need some general maintenance repairs.  This picture was taken a couple of days after we brought the RV home.
We figured all we needed to do inside was rip out the old flooring, reupholster the dinette and thoroughly clean and disinfect the unit.  Boy, were we wrong on so many levels.
Removing carpet and linoleum

Remember that smell I mentioned noticing the first day we looked at the RV?  Well, after Sal had ripped out all of the old flooring, it was still there.  I insisted we investigate further.  I started opening cupboards and closets and smelling everything.  I kept coming back to the same area near the dinette and that was where it was really bad.  I demanded asked him nicely to remove a small piece of the wallpaper so we could see what was behind it.  Based on his previous experience with me (hello 10k bathroom remodel), he decided to remove a piece of the wallpaper from inside of the cupboard.  At this point, he was super annoyed with me.  All he wanted to do was go down to Lowe's and pick out some flooring.  He even said something like, "If I remove a piece of this wallpaper and nothing is there, I am going to be upset".  Something like that.  I think there were a few choice words I refuse to type on a family-friendly blog.  Just saying.

At the time, I did not think to snap a picture of the initial cut and there was no way I was going anywhere near the inside after he made that first cut.  By the way he was talking out loud to himself, I knew it wasn't good news.  That "small" piece turned into the complete removal of the cupboards over the dinette are.  This is what was waiting for us:

Major wood rot caused by water damage
and that was only the beginning people...

The Water Damage
Is way worse than anyone ever thought.  The walls on 1/3 of the drivers side are completely rotten and the foam behind them has what looks like black mold.  BLACK!  The overhead bunk has to be completely rebuilt.  The only thing holding up the fiberglass siding are a few screws my husband has yet to remove.  My husband has already ripped out the flooring, removed all of the equipment from the roof, gutted the rotted wood walls and scraped most of the foam from the inside, removed almost the entire overhead bunk and some of the roof.  Here are some additional pictures:

Most of the rubber removed from the roof
Another shot - The dark part toward the front is wet wood
Where the cabinets used to be
Another shot of the same area
Below the cabinets, where the dinette used to be
Since there was so much damage and really no acceptable way to repair the rotten wood, and after much research, we decided to cut out all of the bad areas.  This includes the entire front bunk.  (I did not get a picture of this, but the guys told me when they started removing the drivers side front bunk area, water started pouring out!)

Our friend Ray and Sal removing the damaged front bunk area
Notice all of the black areas on the wall.  All of the wood in this area has been removed.  That is the foam that was behind the actual rotted wood.  Oh, and the black stuff - that is MOLD.
Another shot
Looking toward the front
Most of the damaged area has been removed
The Interior
The front of the cab is near perfect.  The seats show minimal wear, the wood grain looks great and the carpet doesn't have a stain on it.  This is the only area we are not ripping out.

Only someone above knows what has been used on the cushions throughout the rest of the motor home.  They smell like a mixture of old-lady perfume and funk.  We went to an upholstery shop today and they estimated $1,500 to replace all of the cushions in the dinette, the overhead bunk bed and recover everything including the valances.  The price also includes recovering one chair.  I know think we can do it ourselves for less.  After researching the best way to approach this and realizing how expensive foam is (!!) I am down to try anything to get the cushions clean and smelling freshly laundered before shelling out hundreds of dollars on foam.  I am going to attempt to clean one of them by placing it in the bathtub with oxi-clean and detergent and pounding on them until the water rinses clean (settle down, I plan on using gloves)...then air drying outdoors for a few days.  I will also try a baking soda method I read about and then go from there.  I figure it will save me hundreds of dollars if it works.  If it doesn't, then I only wasted a few hours.  At least I will know I exhausted all possible ways to save us some money.

So to recap, we need:
  • A completely new roof
  • New interior walls
  • Repair or replace the fiberglass on the drivers side and the overhead bunk
  • New cushions and upholstery
  • Paint the entire interior including cabinets and walls
  • Replace the toilet and bathroom sink (they work, but are really discolored due to age.  The shower, on the other hand, is fine).
  • Brand new flooring throughout (the sub-floors look perfect.  No water damage or anything).
  • New hardware (handles and hinges) throughout
  • Attempt to clean the day/night shades
  • and probably a ton of things we don't even realize yet
The good news is the RV runs like a champ.  It passed smog, is fully insured and Sal had new tires put on it.  This was before we realized how much work was yet to be done.

I always say there is a reason for everything and I truly believe that.  Throughout this experience, I have learned way more than one ever needs to know re motor homes.  I can easily explain how to tear off and rebuild a roof (the rubber EPDM kind) on an RV; what to look for when browsing used RVs and most importantly what to run away from.  I have researched everything from how to clean the old, nasty, rank-smelling foam cushions, and  re-cover them, to the cheapest place I have found to purchase new custom foam replacement cushions from.  I have researched the best way to clean the stained day/night shades and maintain the pleats while drying.  I have read, browsed and commented on many a blog and forum post throughout the world wide web (does anyone even call the Internet that anymore?) as well as "pinned" a ton of stuff to my Pinterest account.

Will any of this actually work??  How the heck do I know?!  We are just getting started...
What I can say is this:  Remember that bathroom of ours?  Before my accusation re the mold, it was the original 1950's mint green bathroom.  We now have a travertine-tiled, spa-like bathroom complete with a eucalyptus steam shower.  That has got to count for something.

Anyone?  Anyone??

Ray said the RV is now the "Ultimate Beach Cruiser".  He has jokes.


  1. WOW! A lot of work.. But anything worth it is! It will be great!

  2. What did you determine was the best way to clean your day/night shades?

    1. I posted the link to a tutorial I found above, however, I still have not attempted it. This remodel has taken far longer than anyone expected. I will report back as soon as I have done the blinds. Hopefully within the next month or so. Thanks for reading.

    2. Update Feb. 2014: After much debate, we ended up purchasing brand new blinds for the RV. The original color (mauve-like) looked horrible with our new interior color palette (greys and whites). They ran about $700 for (4) windows. Pricey, but they look fantastic!

  3. Hi,

    Here is the link to the information I found regarding safely cleaning the shades:

    Let me know how yours turn out. :)

  4. We're in this situation right now, just bought one yesterday took cabinets out from above the cab so we could make it into a bed, we were in for a surprise everything was wet, we had to gut the whole thing, right down to the shell. Think it's leaking thru the lights. The back walls are bad too but that's for another day.

    1. I am sorry you are going through this! It takes time, elbow grease and money and anything can be fixed. Ours turned out so great in the end, but when people ask us if we would do it again, we don't really have an answer. Nice thing is, we are fairly certain if we ever wanted to, we could sell it and get our money (and then some) out of it. :)

    2. Hi Again! I just posted updated pictures of our progress. How are you doing with yours?

  5. Hello Angela, sorry you had to go through this. Nice work though. Are you still using this motorhome? Take care!

    1. Hi Franz, Yes we are still using it! It turned out great. I have not made the time to post the "after" blog yet. It has been on my to-do list for over a year...we have used it over 20 times since my husband completed the renovations. I can't wait to share the results with everyone. :)

    2. Hi Franz! You inspired me to finally post some after pictures! :) Feel free to check them out:

    3. Thank you so much for posting the reveal. Awesome job!!

  6. Angela, I am thinking of purchasing an RV to redo and possibly live in while I save money to build a tiny house. I have no construction experience or husband to help with this sort of thing. Do you have any suggestions when it comes to purchasing a used RV and any remodeling tips?? I could use all the help I can get!

    1. Hi Katie!

      Do you have anyone who can go with you to inspect your potential new RV? If not, I would suggest having an actual RV place inspect it for you PRIOR to purchasing. I think Camping World offers an RV Inspection service. Spending a couple of hundred dollars up front may save you thousands in the long run. Also, I recently posted the "after" information re our own RV, if you'd like to take a look. Just check out the "RV Life" tab on my blog ( and you can see our progress as well as another post with some RV Inspiration.

      Good luck! Post pictures if you do decide to get one. I'd love to see the before and afters, as well!

  7. I Know right where your coming from, I just bought a 26 foot class c a few months back and I am currently rebuilding the complete outside walls due to black mold and major wood rot , hope all the best to you as well Al Skinner Facebook