As with any do-it-yourself project in a regular home, resourcefulness and skill when building furniture for a camper can save a great deal of money. Complex items such as extending tables, beds and upholstered chairs are usually better bought incomplete, while closets, cabinets, shelving and appliance enclosures are easy to adapt from complete units or flat-pack, self-assembly products. Building classy and functional furniture for your camper on a limited budget is easier than you might imagine but, before any construction can be done, you must source the original materials to build with.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Carpentry toolkit
- Prefabricated base materials
- Light-weight construction timber
Buy your materials from home improvement warehouses and camping supply stores. Items referred to as "dorm room supplies" or similar are usually smaller than equivalent items manufactured for regular homes, and may well serve the purposes of furniture for a camper. They also tend to be moderately priced.
Buy your materials from brokers who specialise in recreational vehicles and fifth wheels. Some have pre-stripped parts on the shelf, ready for you to pick up, while others run more typical "salvage yards" where you strip your own parts and pay a discounted price.
Buy your materials at RV rallies, gigantic yard sales where everything on sale is for RVs: fixtures and fittings such as windows, doors and awnings; appliances such as 120- and 12-volt televisions and entertainment systems; high-end accessories such as bathroom and galley upgrades and computerised self-levelling systems. Almost every conceivable item of furniture, from single cabinet doors through expanding drop-leaf dining suites to full slide-out bedrooms, is available to be haggled over. Businesses that build furniture for the RV industry use these functions to shed scratch-and-dent bargains, model-year surplus stock and manufacturing overruns.
Check out the catalogues of bespoke furniture manufacturers who subcontract solely to the RV manufacturing industry. Many offer self-install flat-pack kits of furniture they make to your order, for your vehicle, then ship to you for assembly and installation.
Adapt your materials or make your own furniture from scratch by trading off weight against provision. It may be necessary to forgo marble countertops and solid mahogany cabinet doors to keep your camper under its Gross Vehicle Weight Rating. Use small timber battens to frame cabinets and lightweight plywood to build the sides, tops and bottoms.
Tips and warnings
- Always countersink screws to avoid snagging your clothes on protruding heads in a camper's close confines.
- A year-round cottage industry of surplus stores has grown in the vicinity of Elkhart, Indiana, where many RV manufacturers are based.
- Surplus stores usually guarantee their goods, while vendors at RV rallies are unlikely to.
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