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Tips For Renovating Your Caravan

Publish date: October 2021

Not content with just one reno project, the team at Our Sandy Days has decided to tackle another caravan refurb.

Here, they reveal a host of handy hints for giving a pre-loved van a new lease on life.

Van no.1: This Viscount ranked highly after a makeover before being sold to accommodate a growing family.

Tell us about your renovations

The first caravan we renovated was a 1978 Viscount Explorer Pop Top – a 16ft single-axle caravan with a double bunk plus a double bed.

Our current reno is a 1977 Viscount Supreme, which is a 19ft triple-bunk, double-bed, twin-axle caravan. 

Van no.2: The Supreme is living up to its name.

What inspired you to undertake this project?

We've always loved vintage things – cars, houses, furnishings, caravans, etc.

We decided we wanted a caravan to take us on family holidays. We'd tried camping in tents, camper trailers, and pop-up caravans, and knew we wanted the simple and easy living a caravan can provide.

So, we researched and decided to buy a vintage caravan and do it up. New caravans were out of our budget, and not our style. 

It's curtains for the original interior and hello to a makeover that retains the vintage theme. 

How long was the search for the perfect van and where did you find it?

It took about three months for our first caravan to ‘find us’.

We'd been looking on Gumtree and the Trading Post for weeks and we finally decided to list a ‘wanting to buy’ ad on Gumtree when the owners of the caravan contacted us. This is the same way we found our next van. 

How long did the renovation take?

With our first caravan, we worked on it for about six months, pretty much every day. We dedicated time to it around our work hours and children, always staying up late doing something.

With our second van, it came half-renovated. It's still a work in progress and while it's useable and we love it, there are still things we want to change and do up, like painting the outside. 

Van no.2 remains a work in progress.

What has it involved?

With our first caravan, we had a big list of things to do. This is what we did in order from the start to the end…

We found water damage on the inside, so straight away ripped out all the water damaged wood. We had to replace a cabinet and the back wall. We then resealed the entire outside and cleaned and repainted it.

We then painted the inside white to completely brighten up the space. Next up, we changed the kitchen benchtop and sink and ripped out the old oven and replaced it with a new cupboard.

We also replaced the canvas skirting around the pop-top and had a custom-made awning/annex made up.

With our second caravan, we changed it from a double bunk to a triple bunk.

We’ve begun the process of resealing the outside in preparation for paint. We also made a couple of cosmetic changes on the inside, like the kitchen sink tap and fridge. 

The new benchtop came up a treat.

What was the toughest thing about the first reno?

Replacing the curved wall sheeting was the toughest job. We had to use 3mm ply, and it had to curve behind the bed base along the existing aluminium frame.

We snapped the first sheet by accident and had to carefully size up another one and fit it in without breaking it. 

What was the easiest?

Painting the inside, as we used an electric spray gun. This really sped up the whole process and the finish on the paint job was excellent and with no brush marks, etc.

The brake and bearing replacements were surprisingly easy, too. You can buy the brake assembly in a kit, already assembled. All you need to do is grease the bearings. 

Using an electric spray gun puts to bed the theory that painting has to be an arduous task. 

What did you learn along the way?

With both caravans, we’ve learnt to ask questions – on forums, Facebook pages, Instagram etc. – about what you want to get done, and then having a go at those things yourself.

You’d be surprised at what you can achieve yourself. The only tradies we’ve used along the way are an electrician and upholster. Other than that, we’ve always worked on things ourselves.

While you might have to put in extra time, you can certainly save a lot of money this way. 

Party of five: There's a lot of satisfaction in doing things for yourself.

What surprised you?

How amazing an old, affordable caravan can look. And what it can do.

If you find a caravan with ‘good bones’ with minimal spend to get it up and running, it can be a really affordable way to have the caravan of your dreams.

Paint can do wonderful things! A new paint job on the inside and outside can immediately turn an outdated caravan into a fresh, new-look one.

Our first caravan cost us approximately one-fifth the price of a new caravan. And it took us to amazing places for beautiful holidays. 

It's all in the deets.

What would you do differently if you had your time again?

Nothing, really. We absolutely loved our first caravan. The only reason we sold it was to buy a bigger one for our growing family.

A growing family equals a bigger van.

Have you had many admiring comments from fellow travellers?

Yes, all the time! Without a doubt, someone will always stop and say “hello” and ask about our caravan, which is great.

We find it’s always someone else who has an older van or had one a long time ago. It’s a great conversation starter!

Dream finish.

What’s your most memorable travel experience with your first van?

When we went up the east coast to Kiama and stayed at the BIG4 park there (Easts Beach). It was one of the best parks we’ve stayed at so far. The kids loved it. And it was the biggest trip we took in our first caravan – about 1600km all up. 

Happy days at BIG4 Easts Beach Holiday Park.

Follow the fun adventures of this family on Instagram @oursandydays.

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