How to remodel a mobile home inexpensively
Updating a Mobile Home
TDS Reader Contributors
Update Our Mobile Home?
I am trying to remodel an older (1977) trailer to look modern, fresh and newer. I am very limited with regard to money. How can I make my trailer look really nice inside and outside without spending too much? How can I paint the ugly dark brown doors and dark paneling? What about siding or putting on a peaked roof facade?
Please help me out with some ideas. Thanks,
Won't Cost Much
I painted my paneling. Usually you need to use something that keeps the background from bleeding through. First, I washed the paneling with TSP to get any oil or furniture spray that had been used to preserve the paneling then I coated it with primer before painting. In my living room I used spackle to go between the paneling. I just let it dry and sanded if areas were not smooth and I bought a heavy wallpaper (Sherwin Williams) that was discounted and wallpapered my whole living room. It really helped me. I hate dark paneling because I want as much of the sunlight and light as possible. I just bought wallpaper paste and put it up as usual. The room was transformed.
For the outside, I washed with a pressure washer, which you can rent. It takes the buildup off aluminum. I then painted with a paintbrush. I think I used about 5 to 6 gallons on a 14 x 70 trailer. Don't skimp on the paint. I used one that was supposed to cover with one coat. I only put one coat on and I wished later I had put on two coats. It would have held up much better.
I otherwise find decorating things at resale stores and yard sales. You can always recover dining room chairs with fabric from the fabric store and put on heavy plastic over it to keep them looking great very inexpensively.
Right now, I am doing some landscape in my backyard with ferns from the woods and other greenery that is perennial.
In my bedroom of our 1976 mobile home, we removed the built-in drawer unit/vanity in the master bedroom to make use of "outdated" space. We then covered the brown paneled walls and closet doors with inexpensive paintable textured wallpaper. After a coat of paint and an inexpensive carpet remnant, the room was brand spanking new!
Leave The Paneling
Don't cover up the dark paneling. Use lemon or tungsten oil to moisturize and brighten the paneling.
Remodeling Takes Work
I lived in a mobile home for 5 years and here is what I learned. There is nothing special about a mobile home. Anything that can be used in a conventional house can be used in a mobile. To get rid of the paneling you need to get some tubes of painter's caulk and fill in the grooves on the panels. It takes some work but then you will have a smooth surface, My husband says the easiest way to do this is with a 3 inch wide putty knife. Anyway after you have filled the cracks you then sand a little to get the shine off the paneling and then coat with Kilz or any other good primer. Paint any light color you like. By filling in the cracks and smoothing this way you can even add wallpaper borders to the walls. Molding is cheap and can be used also to give the room a different feel. If you are into the country look why not try filling only some of the cracks maybe every third one or so and leaving the wider spaces on the board and it will look like that expensive colonial paneling. Or only do half the wall and use a chair rail to divide the smooth from the regular paneling.
You can do your doors the same way. Take them down and sand lightly, coat with Kilz then paint your choice of color. I know from experience that this is a lot of work but painter's caulk is inexpensive and so is sand paper and paint. It is also a lot less expensive then replacing the paneling. The money you save could then be used to help fix up the outside.
As far as the outside, you could start by putting a front porch the length of the home, if you can, with a roof on it and plant lots of flowers around it. A neighbor of my grandparents sided their old double wide with cedar siding and it looks so wonderful now.
The least expensive way to make the outside look really neat is to pressure wash it to remove any old flakes and then paint it. They have paints on the market for metal. Then add flowers and voila, you have a fairly inexpensive makeover. Maybe when money permits, you could add shutters or a covered porch or even new siding which incidentally helps lower utility costs because it increases your R value on the insulation.
Using Paint Creatively
My brother in law is a painter and gave me some good advice regarding painting dark wood doors and paneling. For both, it is very likely that a wax or varnish was applied to them over the years. In order to paint them, you have to remove it or the paint will not adhere to the wood and thus, peel off. Therefore, purchase some TSP cleanser and wash the surface prior to painting. You can find it at any hardware store or even at some grocery stores. It is relatively inexpensive and works great. You will need to be sure to follow the directions on the label and be sure to wipe the surface down with clear water after you apply the TSP. You will be shocked at what ends up on the rag as TSP is a very good cleanser.
Once you have washed the surfaces and wiped them down with clear water, let them dry. You then may want to apply a base coat of white paint to ensure that the dark surface doesn't bleed through the paint. Be sure to seal any knotholes in the wood, as they will definitely bleed through due to the oils in the wood. Sealer is relatively inexpensive and will save you lots or hassle in the long run.
Remember that white walls are boring. Use a modern, warm tone on walls as this will give even the oldest of homes a cozy feel. A mossy green, taupe or creamy yellow are good choices. However, high gloss, white doors and trim are an excellent choice as they give the appearance of cleanliness or "clean lines". Never paint your woodwork the same color as the walls. It is too monochromatic and boring. Don't be afraid of color but do be aware of how certain colors make you feel and can, potentially affect how large the room appears.
Forget the Peaked Roof
We just recently remodeled and sold our 1972 mobile home. We did not replace our siding, but I believe the people who bought our house are going to repaint it with a paint that can go over aluminum siding.
About the peaked roof, I know several people who did it and regretted it because of cost and upkeep. Shingles do blow off. I would recommend buying a bucket of roof coating specifically for mobile home roofs, as this only has to be done once every other year. A rubberized roof is nice but expensive up front but is also worthwhile in the long run due to not needing maintenance.
Don't forget to caulk the seams around the house and the windows. This will eliminate drafts, water damage, etc. If you have jalousie-type windows with a crank you can usually find the cranks at a store that sells RVs. These are usually cheaper during the winter months.
Reviewed January 2018
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