Painting a vintage caravan

Posted August 2012

Hello, welcome to a little practical post all about painting your caravan!

For all you lovely peeps out there who are having a go yourself (good on you) I have found that it is trial and error I'm afraid.  Without giving all my secrets away I hope this little breakdown helps.

Caravan Interior wall surfaces vary from an almost "paint proof" vinyl to an easy to paint hardboard.

Give them a wash with good old sugar soap.

I use emulsion on the walls, sometimes it looks like it doesn't want to "stick" but be patient, if you wait until it is dry you will find it accepts a second coat!   It can take many coats especially if you are covering a dark pattern on the original boards.  I find emulsion called "one coat" quite good and its opacity is superior.  If you have children or animals then perhaps consider silk emulsion which can be wiped!

Similar applies to the furniture it can be made of veneer,  melamine or plywood.

Preparation is always key, most of my time is spent sanding and cleaning.  

I use oil based eggshell on woodwork over a good primer and sand in between coats.

Painting the exterior is quite a big job and I have had lots of practice to get a good finish however if you are having a go then preparation again is all important!

Wet and dry sand paper with plenty of water.

Good quality exterior paint (several coats) and lots of time and dry weather!

I use a short haired or sponge roller and small brush for the edges.

Time consuming but rewarding I would say that if you want to see a fast result then you will get fed up very quickly, by just painting the interior walls and putting a few crochet blankets over seats brings speedier results.

Remember this little lady?  She now works in Northern Island for the Tea Boutique.  

Lots of sanding and cleaning before the first coat!  If you want it to look good that is...

It is hard word and lots of preparation but worth it and rewarding!

Go on have a go!

Lots of love Sharon. xx


  1. Hello Sharron!!!!!!!! I have just bought a 10ft sprite 4 berth lady .. The woodwork in them is pretty, well, ugly. But im going to follow your lead and have a go.. My friend just bought that van of ebay the one you said 'A project i wouldn't let go of?' She and I going vintage camping this year! You have inspired me so much Sharron. Thank you!!! x x

    1. Hi Catherine!

      Glad to inspire you! Good for you ladies! I hope she is pleased with her car cruiser? They are such lovely caravans.. We did own one when our children where small and loved it. I wish you much luck with your vintage camping and do keep in touch and show and tell if you can on my facebook page? Much love
      Sharon xx

  2. Hi Catherine,love the site, I think your vans are lovely. I wonder if I could pick your brains....

    I'm about to start re-vamping an oldish ABI Marauder (1979, so not terribly vintage, but it was cheap...)I'm hoping the walls will take some vinyl emulsion, perhaps with a little PVA mixed in for good measure - have you ever tried that, and did it help? And the formica cupboards - fake wood effect - I hope will be ok with paint - do you think I'd need to use a special paint designed to cover formica kitchen cupboards, or do you just use eggshell? And finally, can I ask what you use for the inside of the doors - is it wallpaper, in which case what do you use to stick it, or is it sticky-backed plastic, in which case can you recommend a retailer?

    Phew! So many questions, I'm so sorry!

    Mine is a 2-berth and I really want a 4 (so that I can have a table for breakfast without having to pack the bed away immediately), so I may well come back next year and talk to you about getting one done up for me instead - I'm not sure i'm going to be very good at it.

    Kind regards,


    1. Hi Emma was wondering if you got around to painting your caravan? I think I have the same interior as yours and wondered if the eggshell worked on the fake wood.
      Regards kimmy

  3. Oops - I sent you a message earlier and called you Catherine by mistake Sharon, I do apologise. I had just read the post above.... Sorry. :-)


  4. hi I love your blog,I stumbled on it whilst looking for a caravan to have ago at myself.I just thought i would let you know about a great paint called Zinsser B-I-N,its so good you can even paint on glass and it wont come off! plus it cuts down on the amount of coats you is especially good on treated wood,my whole house was brown old wooden doors and skirtings ,and the chips were so horrendous! a nice lady in Doves paint store advised me of this paint 4 years ago ,I have 4 dogs and seven dogs and we have no chips anywhere its fab.
    thank you for such a lovely blog.
    best wishes Sarah Surrey

  5. Hi, thanks very much for great blog and I love the vans. I was wondering if you've ever painted a van with bobbly textured aluminium panels? We have an old Eriba like that and were assuming that it would be relatively easier to paint with a roller, the bobbles should cover a lot of defects, but if you have any experience of whether it works OK I'd be grateful to hear.
    Best wishes from sunny Sheffield

  6. Hi I have just finished renovating my folding caravan and ive now got the bug. I would love to do more but unfortunately do not have the space or time. I was wondering how you did the door panels however. I painted mine as i couldnt find any decent fablon to stick on. what do you do on yours?
    Love you page x

    1. Hi Jacquelyn
      In the post I recommend sanding and washing and oil eggshell for furniture... Hope this helps, good luck
      Sharon x

  7. Hi Sharron
    I read the piece in Practical Caravan. I am currently doing up and old caravan which is on my Mum's drive
    i have an Abi Marauder 500CT which we have been doing up for the last year or so
    We have used eggshell on the inside which has worked really well
    I have wanted to paint the outside but have not been brave enough.
    I note from the post above that you you say to use exterior paint - is that exterior eggshell or undercoat and gloss?
    Thanks for any advice you can give

    1. Hi David
      I have only painted aluminium caravans so am not sure what material your vans are made of? If it is likewise then the exterior paint of your choice will have clear instructions on how to apply it, hope this helps?
      Sharon x

    2. yes it is an aluminium caravan
      would exterior egshell be okay?


  8. Hello, Sharon,

    We have purchased a two berth 1968 Safari today! It seems to be in excellent condition, but there's some work to do painting the interior (I note your advice above) and fixing the bed/table arrangement which has been substantially changed. And on that point... There is currently an upholstered section, attached to the wall on one side. I shall need to install another on the opposite wall. The complicating factor (for me at least!) is that the wall is curved! How do I make a curved, upholstered strip to attach to a caravan wall, please? Or are there people who can readily make them? You will have guessed that I'm a total novice!

    With many thanks in anticipation,


  9. Hi Sharon,
    I currently have an old vintage style caravan in North Wales. It needs alot of work done to it as it has not been touched for 50 odd years. Is this something that you might be interested in?
    Thanks, Daniel

    1. Hi Daniel
      Yes I would be interested to know a little more about it, would you mind sending me a picture or 2 please? Could you also tell me if it is towable? Any more info would be helpful. Could you reply to my email if possible, that would be great, Sharon x

  10. Hi

    I have bee inspired by your blog and FB page. I have just brought today an Alpine Sprite I would like to paint the exterior in a pale/baby blue colour do you have any recommendations. Alsdo worried about hoew to go about painting the roof

  11. Morning,
    i have a 1972 Stirling caravan that needs some work as it has a few leaks. Do you undertake body restoration work? I am quite confident to tackle the interior but I'm a little worried about small areas of the bodywork.
    Thanks Janeen

  12. Hello, I am looking for a small caravan ( 2 berth) to use as an art workshop.. I quite like the Viking shape :) do you have any projects on the go ?
    Thanks x

  13. Hi we just bought an Avondale Leda cheviot its a bit tired looking inside and out can I paint the outside using a roller and brush ����

  14. Hi there I was wondering if chalk paint would be good for the woodwork inside??

  15. Hiya I wad wondering would chalk paint be a good alternative for the cupboards inside??

  16. Hi Sharon, I've just found your lovely blog!!
    Please could you tell me what you used to cover your door? I would really like to cover mine... Paint, vinyl or fabric? And what did you use as an adhesive?
    I love your caravan, soooo pretty!
    I've just renovated a cotswold
    Thanks, Jane :)

  17. I love what you have done with the caravan, we have a 1990 abi jubilee rallyman and I was fed up with the brown so we've done it in blue and white seaside colours as it is stored down Cornwall it's starting to look brilliant I've done all the sitting my son and husband have done all the sealing it's looks great so far


Hiya would love to hear what you have to say It will make my day ! xx