Cabinets painted and hardware installed, it was time to deal with the countertops. I looked at a few different options…adhesive covering of some type, regular painting with a poly coating, fake tile…so many options. We decided to go with a technique I came across on The Popup Princess.

Supplies that will be used for the new counters. In addition to the primer previously discussed.

First, we primed all countertops that were not replaced – table, under sink, by door. We were able to get one piece of MDF (1/2 inch) cut at Lowe’s to replace the sink countertop and the counter over the bathroom. The husband used the old counters to measure the right dimensions for the new ones, and to cut the holes for the sink.

New sink counter! (Did I mention it was close to 100 degrees still?)

Once the edges were taken off the counters and the holes cut out. I used the sanding block to smooth all the edges. MDF sands very easily. If you aren’t paying attention you can make a corner a little lopsided pretty quickly. 🙂 It’s also important to wipe everything down – don’t spray it with anything as it will just absorb the moisture and probably ruin the piece. We wiped everything down with a lightly damp towel just to get all the sanding off before we painted. Then we primed the new counters. These didn’t have tracks for t-trim so we had to pay attention to edges as well. The existing counters and table we just primed straight over the old tops – no sanding just a good cleaning.

After all the priming, it was time for the first coat of Countertop Coating. I think the color is Light Ash. This wasn’t super easy to find but our Lowe’s did have it. It is in the painting area where the paint is mixed. An associate will mix the color for you so you have to ask for it. There are limited colors, so don’t just pick a color from the paint color wall. This stuff is thick and dries quickly – especially in the Texas sun.

On the second coat, it was time to add the texture. As you can see, these are just garage floor paint chips. I crushed them up smaller to get different sizes and make it more interesting – hopefully. Because the paint dries so fast, the husband painted and I came behind and literally sprinkled the paint chips how I wanted them before the paint dried. Once I thought the counters were covered well, we left them to dry. After a few hours, we started applying the polycrylic. The polycrylic is not nearly as thick as I anticipated so we put on quite a few coats. It never got super thick so the counters are still somewhat rough. But, again, this is a camper and it’s not perfect. In the end, we only used one can of countertop paint and one can of polycrylic. We have PLENTY of leftover paint chips.

Seriously, you just randomly sprinkle the paint chips.

The counters on the inside were done as well, the smell is really strong so open all those windows! All that was left for the tops was installation. The husband put the sink back together, screwed in the top of the bathroom, and tah dah!

These new tops made a huge difference. We were a little disappointed that they aren’t totally smooth – probably a thicker type of “varnish” would have make them less rough. But we’re still happy.

Pop Up Remodel – Painting

After all the prepping, it’s time to start making a real difference with some paint! We went with white, honestly, we didn’t even consider another color. I’ve seen so many camper remodels and they use great colors but I wanted a clean slate – literally.

We started with the primer. We used Zinsser primer. All this dark wood required two coats. I started with a roller and a paint brush. Um…it didn’t look great. We had already decided a paint sprayer would come in handy for this and other projects we want to accomplish. A roller beat out a brush but the paint sprayer was far superior to either option. The paint went on more even and it dried fairly quickly.

Roller and brush
Paint sprayer – obviously it’s much more uniform than with the roller and brush.

We painted all the cabinets before we replaced the floors so we didn’t have to be careful but there are definitely some places we could have been a little more careful. But, as I’ve said before, and will say again….this is a camper, it’s not perfect. Seriously, we dealt with scrunchi-era decor for years.

Already looks better!

Probably the most difficult part of the cabinet restoration was replacing the hardware. I didn’t know that there are different sizes/widths of cabinet pulls. I think there is a standard size but holes where our former pulls were 1/4 inch wider than where the new pulls should be. Also, the screws for the pulls were the wrong size, either too short or too long. We got some different screws that still weren’t perfect. I used a drill bit to widen the holes to make the pulls fit and then we used washers to cover the holes and, in some cases, fill the gaps for the screws that were slightly too long. Again, this is not perfect and we are not professionals.

Shiny new pulls!
This pull didn’t want to go on straight or tight – it works.

Did I mention we started this project in late August/early September in Texas? It was so hot – days hitting close to 100 degrees. Elbow grease and sweat equity….except we’re not selling! Interesting, after our first trip post-remodel, someone pulled up to the house asking if were would sell, and they didn’t even know it is almost new inside!

Pop Up Remodel – Prepping

Preparing to take on this project meant spending some time on Pinterest and Googling other projects. There are a ton of great ideas out there. We got a lot of inspiration from The Popup Princess

This is what we were starting with:

We never used this slide out bed/couch. It wasn’t comfortable as seating and having 7 people sleeping in this camper is WAY too many!
Sooooo much faux wood.
This is the shower/toilet that we never use. You can see the top is very scratched. But we didn’t want to take out the shower and plumbing. Also this does make for a good counter space.

Looking at it now, it’s like 1997 threw up. But it really wasn’t until I started exploring options that I became committed to changing it. We had been happy with our little camper and it’s functionality…until I realized we didn’t have to be stuck in the era of dial-up internet.

Initially, my remodel partner and husband of 21 years (how are we that old!?) wanted to take out all the cabinets so that we could lay the floor and put them back in. Let me tell you something that will keep coming back as we go through this remodel – we are not professionals! We also have a tendency to cut corners when the things are more than we bargained for. We ended up only taking one dinette seat and the cabinet by the door. All other cabinets either were riveted in or held other more complicated items like the power converter, the bathroom, etc. All of that stayed in and we just put the flooring in around (to be discussed later).

This countertop needed to be replaced completely. We had never used the indoor stove and wanted to have extra counter space beside the sink. In addition to needing one piece, without a big hole for the stove, the counter was cracked. We removed the sink and the stove for a new counter.

We also have never used the indoor stove. We always cook outside, or use the microwave. This was one of the first things we knew would not make the cut.

After we got the two cabinets removed, we removed all doors from the cabinets and hardware from the doors. We lightly sanded all surfaces that didn’t have plastic shrink wrap faux wood sticker – who knows what it’s really called. We cleaned all the cabinet surfaces with TSP but you could probably just wipe down with a damp cloth, unless there is grease or other substance.

We removed the faux wood sticker. It was old and brittle and easily peeled off.

Finally, we removed all t-trim and electrical plates to prepare for painting. I was still pretty happy to be working on this project at this point. We had the optimism of a “small” project to do on weekends during 2020 isolation.

Pop Up Remodel – The Origin Story

I am fortunate in so many ways. My parents liked to be outside and do outdoorsy stuff. My parents and their college friends started camping together before I was born, and I was along for the ride from my beginning. This group stayed friends throughout the years, kids, marriages – life. The group tries to make a couple of trips a year to catch up and enjoy each other’s company. Some years we’re good at keeping to the twice a year schedule, lately not so much. Covid has definitely kept us physically distant. I am part of the second generation of this group and we are now the parents of the third generation. We don’t have any fourth generation campers among us, yet.

We all started as camping traditionalists. Tent campers through and through. As the years pass, a few popups have made their debut and we actually have two RV’ers now, though we still don’t consider this real camping. As second generation campers, we loved our tent until we were camping with a baby. Camping in a tent in Texas is limited to a few months a year. Adults can tough out a little cold or a some heat (more cold than heat) but we weren’t enjoying tent camping with an infant. So…when our third third generation camper was about six months old (2007), we purchased a 2002 Coleman popup. Game. Changer. We could go camping in the winter without freezing and we actually traveled out to Big Bend in August the second summer we had our popup. We put a ton of faith our AC would make that trip, it did and it’s still running though I don’t think I’d expect it to labor through long desert days over 110 now.

Our 2002 Coleman has notched off 18 years of camping, 13 with us – two kids, two dogs and a few family and friends have enjoyed our accommodations. She has been stored in our garage and has held up very well, but, she’s starting to show her early 2000 roots. Outdated upholstery and laminate. Worn and chipping cabinets. Remodeling a camper though? How do I even start? Pinterest.

July 2020 – Lake City, Colorado