I bought a 1996 Winnebago Rialta to live in starting when the lease on my house is done at the end of May. Obviously Tynan was an inspiration in the sense that I would never have considered an RV if not for him, but long before he and I reconnected I'd always taken the stance that I would live in the smallest living space possible as long as I had a great kitchen.
So, when I was looking around at apartments in Seattle's Capitol Hill recently and dreading moving into a lousy studio in some nice building's basement with an electric stove and a crummy refrigerator, I thought, wait a minute, Tynan's got a great kitchen in his RV. Time to put my money where my mouth is.
I've done a fair amount of work on it. The Community section of tynan.com is a perfect place to log this stuff. I'll post some status here in a minute.
OK, a long-overdue update. Here's the kitchen; it's pretty close to done, with a bunch of loose ends to tie up. I just put in the under-cabinet LED lighting today and got it wired up.
What I did, in total, to the kitchen: I removed the existing Rialta kitchen and replaced basically everything except the plumbing and wiring. Wenge countertops (wax & oil finish so I can use the whole surface as a cutting board), Norcold DC fridge, new cabinetry I built mostly from pine and plywood to try to keep it light, Ramblewood Green stove, Houzer sink, some faucet I got off Overstock, soap dispenser, water filter system, new backsplash, and LED strip lighting under-cabinet. Still todo: magnetic spice rack, over-stove light fixture, knife magnet bar, under-sink shelving, over-stove pot hooks, paper towel dispenser, and lots of miscellaneous stuff.
Long shot of the kitchen. LED lighting doesn't work well with my iPhone camera so it looks oddly purple.
Nice big drawer. The stock one is miniscule and has really low sides so it's easy for things to fall out of it. When I removed the old kitchen I found all sorts of junk spatulas and stuff on the ground that had fallen out of the drawer.
Under-sink cabinet is much bigger. Shelf peg holes are drilled on both sides but I have to mount the water filter and figure out other stuff (probably hiding the solar controller & inverter in the small space at the bottom) before I can cut the shelves to fit.
Sink area, with drop-in cutting board out of the way. You can see the wood grain here and the way I packed all the faucetry stuff in the back there (it's a snug fit.)
LED strip under the cabinet. I just ran it back and forth with 90-degree folds at the corners. White duct tape holding it flush for now, though I'll need a better solution (probably wide staples or something) or eventually it'll peel off. This is first-pass. Works well, though.
I ran the power for the LED lighting at the back up into the cabinet. Just wrapped the wires together with the little controller wires, heat shrink & electrical tape to wrap it up. Again, white duct tape will have to be replaced by little plastic bracket or something, the tape'll peel off in a day or two I bet.
Inside the top cabinet. Wire comes up from LEDs, purple and green are power, and the wire running out the right is the IR receiver for the remote which I mounted on the side of the cabinet. The little controller comes in a plastic box with a DC coax connector; I removed the box and soldered the power wires straight to the board so I could use those spade connectors you see there instead. As always, the white duct tape makes it look extra professional.
I'm going to just mount the remote on the side of the cabinet and cover the space between it and the IR receiver so it's just like a permanent switch mounted there. I'm doing this because I'll have other LED strips in the RV and I don't want the under-cabinet lighting picking up signals from the other remote. I pretty much always want the under-cabinet lighting to be the same warm white color and only use it when cooking.
There's the lighting on. As before, it interferes oddly with my camera so it looks crappy in this shot. In real life it's a nice warm white light.
And one more shot. It's nicely low-profile, I'm really happy with how it came out.
Looks great! I love that last shot with the matrix of LEDs under the cabinet. I never really thought before about how space efficient these strips are. It's really only a matter of time before both of our RVs are totally wallpapered with them.
The only thing about them is they have such a high LED density, and each LED is really three of them, that you can actually start to spend real power running them. It's like 0.24 watts per LED triplet, with like 15 of them per foot, so that's actually ~30 watts per strip, right? Isn't that about the same as the fridge, averaged out? I guess it's only ~3 amps, but if I were running like five of those strips that starts to get kind of serious.
Curtains & Door Update
A while back I made a front cabin curtain and rear curtain. The rear window curtain is easy, just a big hemmed rectangle with a top pocket for a rod. The front was harder. We ended up making them out of three panels - one for driver's side door, one for passenger's side door, and one for the front console & windshield. I mounted mine with strong magnets (the MAGCRAFT neodymium magnets from Amazon that Ty mentions in his RV book.)
Here's a quick shot. (The upholstery on the seats is the last remaining Bauhaus upholstery in my RV, I've reupholstered everything else with it on it, and seat covers are en route. Yeah, it's bad.)
I also made a blackout curtain to match that fits much more snugly up against the windows. I made this curtain deliberately draped. The nice thing about using magnets is the curtains can just stack - if I want the blackout curtain on, I can then put this curtain on top of it and the magnets just stick together in a stack.
The reason I'm posting this update now is I finally got around to making the two remaining curtains, for the kitchen and door windows, this weekend. For the other windows I got the JC Penney day/night blinds Ty recommended, but for the kitchen and door windows I thought curtains made more sense, and gave me a chance to use the weird gray damask cloth again which I like.
I didn't have a sewing machine this time so I made them almost entirely with fusable interfacing, which I've never used before but is essentially a roll of 1/2" material that is iron-in glue; you put it between two pieces of cloth and iron it with a wet cloth on top and it glues them together. Useful for doing hems and whatnot.
I had to hand-finish the pockets where the magnets went. So for a simple rectangular curtain, the piece of cloth was basically a fat "capital I" shape, if that makes sense. Here's the finished thing:
You can see the stitching where I hand-finished it. There's a magnet in that little pocket. Here's what it looks like on the kitchen window:
I made matching blackout curtains, again. I just attached those magnets with JB Weld - you can see it lying on the counter in the lower right of the above photo - because I was too lazy to sew pockets onto that cloth (which doesn't need hemming or anything, so I avoided all sewing for them, they were easy.)
As for the door, we took the screen door off recently and it looked much better without it, except the interior material is the same speckly beige as the walls, and there was some water damage to the material at the bottom of the door so it was warped and folded. So I painted it clean white to match the kitchen cabinetry, and then used the leftover kitchen backsplash material (patterned aluminum sheeting from Home Depot) to add a kicker panel for aesthetics, which also conveniently covers the water damage. I think it looks great!
And one final shot - that door with the curtains on. I made them as big as possible so they block visibility from the outside and so the blackout curtain gets a good seal.
Calling Ty's attention to this reply: here's what I did with the door & door curtains. Like I said, JB Welding the magnets to the blackout cloth didn't really work, it keeps coming off, and unfortunately I cut it close enough the magnets have to be right on the edges, so I still haven't quite figured out what I'm going to do about that. Probably a little pocket like on the other curtain but I'll have it wrap around the edge and sew both sides together so the magnet can sit right on the edge. But hand-sewing is hard - especially when it has to be tough enough to stand up to those magnets pulling apart over and over - and I'm lazy, so I haven't done it yet.
Yep... forgot that I had seen this. Funny, I'm sort of antsy to get back to SF, mainly to do RV projects like this one. I still think I might go with a day/night shade to keep the look consistent.
Is it just me or are all your pictures gone? My wife and I are about to go mobile in a Rialta and I'd love to see what you've done.
Brian and I spent a good chunk of Sunday hanging out in his Rialta. Seeing what he's done is definitely inspiring for the work I'll be putting into the 1995 Rialta I acquired 3 days ago.
The stock configuration in mine feels very claustrophobic, which Brian's, even though it's loaded with a garage's worth of tools, totally overcame. Moving forward, getting rid of that feeling will be the primary focus of my work.
Hey man, looking good! I too have been renovating my 1995 Rialta down here in Portland. We should totally have a show and tell at some point! I'm going to get some photos up as soon as I have this phase of the remodel ready.
Wow this is awesome Brian. I also have a 96 Rialta although a different floor plan. I'm going to have to steal some of these ideas.
And here's later; I've got the siding pieces glued and held in with what you can see is a sophisticated, professional clamping system.
I may have to get some kind of trim for the edges - you can see how the side pieces show an edge which has some gray stuff - hardiplank or whatever that stuff is - in there. If it bugs me I'll cover it with a little matching-color right-angle trim cap.
And finally a closeup of some of the flooring. This is engineered cork, obviously, it's strips of it laminated together. I love the way it looks. It's nice and soft and springy but very durable. I had cork floors at my last apartment I rented, or else I'd assume they'd absorb water and shred easily. They don't, they're great.
All told, tearing up the carpeting and putting in the cork took two full days of work (spread across a few weekends.) Putting the cork in took twice as long as removing the carpet, I think. Cutting the strips to fit the weird angled edges and stuff was what took most of the time.
I know it's been a while for you, but any suggestions on getting the refrigerator and carpet out of a Rialta FD double? I can't find anything useful about removing the refrigerator on the web on in Winnebago's docs.
On removing it? The fridge is held in with sheet metal screws on big brackets, and you just have to remove all of that and it'll pull out. The cabinetry is thin ply over a stick frame to make it light, and held together substantially with big staples. You may have to disassemble some of it to get to the fridge. I'm not sure because I gutted the kitchen cabinets entirely and built new ones so my way of removing the fridge involved a lot of dremel and sawzall demolition. :)
The carpet is a pain because it's glued down to cushioning foam so it's a bit messy to remove. I strongly recommend an oscillating multitool like this one: http://www.harborfreight.com/power-tools/oscillating-tools/oscillating-multifunction-power-tool-68861-8493.html
Harbor Freight is great for tools you only really need once, because it's $20 (versus the Dremel brand oscillating tool which is quite a bit more) but it'll probably only work for as long as you need to remove the carpet before it shorts out, trips your circuit breakers, and bursts into flames. But you won't care because it was twenty dollars and the carpet will all be removed.
Here's how I used it to remove the carpet: using the flat metal scraper blade, I held it sideways to cut the carpet into strips (making vertical slices through the carpet.) Then, holding it like you're supposed to, with the blade flat against the ground, I would pull up on a carpet strip and slide the blade back and forth at the bottom to get as much of the foam and carpet off the metal as possible. Made short work of it, hot knife through butter. Wear earplugs though, the Harbor Freight one is so loud it's painful.
Looks awesome! Glad you went with dark cork... I think it looks a lot better than the regular orangey stuff. Actually, our floors are pretty much the same color, now.
I had one exposed edge on the shower pan covering piece, and I just painted it... was surprised how it made it just disappear. You might try that, too.
BTW, two random RV living improvements I've stumbled upon in the past week:
1. You can use the big mirror as a white board for todos. I got these dry erase markers that are magnetic, and I keep one next to it.
2. I bought an orchid at the farmer's market, and now instead of smelling a little bit like dirty clothes and whatever I cooked last, the RV smells like sweet ambrosia of the heavens.
The opposing grain thing in the foyer was pure convenience - it meant I could do it with two pieces using simple cuts versus three with more work. It's not that noticeable in practice, at least not to me.
Good call on the paint, I'll give it a shot.
As for the orchid, that is an awesome idea. Of course, since I'll have two cats with me they'll probably eat every plant I put in there within a few days. I'll just have to make sure I don't bring in plants that are toxic to cats, like lilies.
Or maybe eventually I'll change it up and start deliberately bringing in lilies.
Awesome call on whiteboard markers on the mirror! I'm thinking I might try the slate blackboard paint on the cabinet doors, too, because (a) matte slate would look way better than the cheap wood veneer and (b) blackboards are awesome.
Can you keep the RV cool enough for the cats during the day? Specially when you are not in it to keep an eye on the rising temperature inside. Have you come up with any cooling solutions?
It hasn't been a problem. The solar panels cover most of the roof, and have air between them and the roof, which seems to help a great deal with the heat. Plus there's 1" of insulation in the shell of the RV and hot days are also infinite electricity days so I just leave the vent fan running on high speed.
I live in Seattle so we're talking 90s for hot days, not 100s or 110s. That would be rougher. It seems at this point most of the heat comes in from the moonroof and that part of the roof that isn't covered by solar panels. If it became an issue I'd probably get something reflective to toss over that part of the roof.
I don't really think I need to say this, but this is complete madness. If you eventually go crazy and become a weird hermit, I guarantee you that 99% of your day is spent making sketchup models of everything.
2005 FD Twin owner here: any experience with minimizing the hot air from fridge heating up the whole cabin? When using the propane to run fridge, the actual dangerous hot carbon monoxide direct from burner box is, of course, vented direct to the outside through insulated piping, but the hot air coming from the refrigerant vents from the area around fridge (the compartment around & behind the fridge- i.e.under the stove top) right up into the kitchen area. When RV has been sitting in the sun and is hot anyway, that hot air from fridge going into the cabin is NOT welcome. Any Ideas?
Also, possibly the "insulated" piping (going to the outside vent) may NOT be fully insulated (burned finger touching the lower end of it that was out of sight) but only way to reinsulate seems to mean removing whole fridge to get access.
Thanks for any ideas. Maybe we'll be able to boon-dock some day. MJ
You can try rewrapping insulation; yeah you'd probably have to remove the entire fridge to access it. The answer to most all refrigerator problems is to get a marine refrigerator. They're pricey, but they'll operate at any angle without ever having to worry about the problems that propane fridges have. If you're street camping, I don't know how it's possible to use a propane fridge because streets are never level. If camping in an RV park, they're probably okay.
With any fridge, especially propane, I highly recommend buying a small refrigerator thermometer to keep inside, or a digital thermometer that's kept outside of it with a thin wire probe that goes inside. I think the range you need to keep food fresh is 37-41F.
No updates for a while because I've been slammed getting everything ready (we have this weekend and one more and then we're out of the house and in the Rialta full time! Mostly I've been craning on the electrical system, and I'll post a bunch of photos of that in a bit, but for now a little taste to keep you from jonesing... seat covers from www.seatcoversunlimited.com came last night and I installed them. These guys asked me to take a ton of measurements - well, OK, specifically, they sent me these images:
I replied with these measurements for my Rialta seats (in case anyone just wants to crib the same ones - I wouldn't change anything about them, they fit perfectly)
C:49" circumference, 6" down from top
D:52" circumference, 12" down from top
E:56" circumference, 21" down from top
H:23" across, 9" back from front
I:16" side to side (all the way across - not sure what "width across front *from center of curve*" means, if you mean from the center of the front of the seat then I guess it's only 8" out to the side - does that make sense?)
The circumference is 16" at the pivot point and 14.5" at the front.
Measuring just the top edge, it is 15" long.
Measuring the from the center of the back to the center of the front, running down along the underside of the armrest, that distance is 18" (does that make sense? So that's the length of the underside plus half the height at the back and half the height at the front.)
The armrest is uniformly 2.75" wide.
They made them custom and it was about 5 weeks from when I sent the measurements to when the package showed up.
Here's what my seats looked like yesterday afternoon:
Just hideous. You couldn't ask for an uglier fabric, and it was getting threadbare on the seat just to make matters worse. Pretty much the worst thing in the world.
Putting the seat covers on was actually a multi-hour project, more of a pain than I expected essentially because you cannot stick your arm through the space between the two cushions (seat and back.) The way the Rialta seat is built, the back cushion kind of continues down and then wraps around the bottom. And the seat covers rely on you being able to run cords out the back between those to snug the covers on. So I was laying on the ground with a razor knife, tying string to a long screwdriver bit I used like a needle to try to shove it through the holes I was cutting in the back of the seat.
It was worth it, though! Here's what the seats look like now:
That's roughly a trillion times better. Here's a closeup of one of the seats so you can see the fit:
The only modification I made to the covers themselves was to add velcro under the armrest on both sides to help pinch the front and back of the cover together:
I can't seem to find the specifics but I think the cost, including head and armrests, for the pair of seat covers, was like $250 total. Easily worth it over other options I was considering. Real reupholstery was going to be $800. New seats would have been even more. These look and fit fantastically well and were super affordable.
My only real complaint is the armrest covers are kind of lame. The way they're made, there's a seam running down the center right where you rest your arm. I may just take them off and leave the gray viny visible. Minor quibble though. The seat cover and headrest covers fit like a glove.
I can't believe how good the fit is. It looks like they were reupholstered, not covered. I may have to do the same thing.
Yeah, they do have you take a ton of measurements, and then the way they work is essentially the cover is a single piece. You thread cords through between the cushions and tie them to something on the back of the seat, and that snugs the cover back into the crack between the back and bottom cushions. Then the bottom cushion has a drawstring around the bottom so you tie it back which gets it nice and snug that way. Then the back cover ties together, and I added the velcro for an especially snug fit.
I'm very happy with them. Right now I do have the armrest covers off because those do not fit snugly, they're like putting bags over the armrests, but the seat and headrest covers are fantastic.
For new readers to the site, or old readers who haven't been paying attention, I live in my small RV. I bought my first RV in 2007, and except for short term travel rentals, I haven't lived in a house or apartment or any other non-wheeled dwelling since then. This sounds rather extreme, but I honestly don't feel like I live in a car.
When I'm parked my RV feels like a small house, complete with all of the comforts of a stationary home. Of course, these niceties haven't come easily-- I've spent hundreds of hours working on my RV, coming up with new ideas and implementing them in the home depot parking lot. Because I actually live in this thing and the improvement process is ongoing, it's never possible to say that I'm done. That said-- I can't really imagine too much more that I can do to this thing. I only have one or two big ideas left, and no immediate plans to implement them.
Here's what's new this round:
1. Painted everything. For a long time I've been hesitant to paint the RV, because I worried that the paint wouldn't stick to the disgusting fake-wood walls. Luckily an all purpose primer did the job. My RV is only 20' long, but it took me fifteen hours to mask the whole interior, prime everything, and then layer on two coats of paint. It was the first time I'd ever painted anything, and most of the time was spent dealing with all of the weird little angles and protrusions. As I mention in the video, I was hoping to get a grey color, but somehow ended up with blue. I'm not entirely sure how that happened, but I do remember saying, "I'm sick of picking colors... let's do this one."
I used to dislike to work. I saw how most people lived their lives, slogging through work that they hated, and I was determined not to fall into that trap. I made the mistake of generalizing, lumping all work together in the same bucket.
Since then, things have changed. In terms of monumental personal life changes, becoming a hard worker is the most recent one I've undergone. About a year ago, for reasons I touched on in this post, I decided that it was imperative for me to become a hard worker. I didn't do it because I had suddenly fallen in love with work, but rather because I had began to feel as though I was behind. And believe me, it wasn't love at first sight.
To fall in love with hard work, you must understand why it's necessary. When I was young I was told that sugar was bad, but I never understood exactly why it was bad, so I kept eating it. Only when I learned how it chemically affected my body did I finally give it up. The same is true of work-- if you don't know why you have to work hard and love it, you'll probably never actually do it.
Work is your gift to the world. That sounds corny, but it's true. And believe me, you owe the world a gift or two. Think of all of the various things that millions of people around the world have done for you to enjoy the life you have. They made up languages, invented stuff, procreated at the exact right times to create your ancestry, and managed to not kill each other in the process. We're lucky to be here, and the high standard of living we all enjoy now is only because of those who came before us. Some, like Einstein, had huge impact, but even people you don't notice, like the janitors, are making your life better.