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Onsite caravan and annex renovation

Making a Splash
Making a Splash


This onsite retro caravan and annex combination was renovated with new paint, blinds, plywood and particle board.




The project


Hi everyone. Just thought someone might be interested in a reno I did on an onsite van down at Sussex Inlet on the NSW South Coast. I live about two hours away from it, so a lot of the work involved very detailed measuring and ripping down and prepping materials at home, prior to taking them down there and installing.


I did buy a cheap mitre saw to keep down there, but mostly I took all tools (except the table saw) and equipment to and fro. This is the second van I've renovated, but the other was done in the early 2000s, before it was a popular thing to do. I'm pleased with the outcome. It probably looks like it was only paint and styling which made the changes, but there was a lot of actual carpentry and renovating as well. There were a few jobs I had tradespeople complete for me (electrical, welding and occasional handyman).


I started with the annex. It had random groove, woodgrain-look plywood walls.




I repainted throughout, using the technique below, which I use for all slick surfaces that I want to paint. It works for me and never scratches or chips.


  1. Wash down surfaces with Sugar Soap and a Scotchbrite Scouring Pad. No need to scour, just lightly scrub clean.

  2. ESP to all surfaces, as per instructions. This helps adhere primer and slick the surface.

  3. Prime with Zinsser B-I-N, then very lightly sand, wipe dust, then repeat the Zinsser B-I-N only.

  4. Top coat x 2 with Dulux Wash&Wear in Low Sheen. I chose to use the Dulux colour, Lexicon Quarter, which turns out a very clear white. The great thing about this colour is that it has a lot of black in the tint, so it gives good coverage, quicker, which means less coats.






I had a new floor of Yellow Tongue Particleboard installed to overcome a flooring issue. I painted the floor with Bondcrete, which helps seal the flooring and create adhesion for the planks. I then laid Gerflor Senso Rustic Walnut Self Adhesive Planks over this. It’s a great little job, very easy to do with the simplest of tools (straight edge and utility knife), and gives almost instant gratification.


I attached recycled skirting around the base of the walls to hide some water damage. A new ceiling of gloss-painted Plywood was installed, and I ran some cornice around it to hide the joins at the edges. I just made the cornice from some old bullnose architrave I’d removed from my house. I ran it through my table saw to clean it up a bit, then primed and painted it before installation to make it easier.


I installed a custom canvas wall/screen to separate the bed end of the annexe, and the living area. I could’ve built a stud wall, but it would take up too much space, so the canvas was an easy solution and works well. It’s simply attached by cup hooks in the ceiling and floor.


I replaced the existing vertical drapes with slimline Venetian blinds from the Pillar range, which are inexpensive, easy to install and look very streamlined and neat. The furnishings were mainly cheap things I picked up from Gumtree or Facebook Marketplace, some I refinished, or altered to suit the purpose.




In the van I repainted throughout, using the same paint and techniques as above.


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For the cabinetry I used Dulux Aquanamel Semi Gloss, using the colour Antarctica Lake, which is a lovely sea glass green. I used quarter strength in the bedroom and double strength in the living areas.










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I continued with the vinyl planks in this area. 




Replaced the benchtop with laminate, also replaced the sink with a round, Mondella Resonance Stainless Steel, and an Estilo WELS Gooseneck type tap. I deleted a very small cabinet in the kitchen, which was pretty much useless. It enabled me to open up a larger space which had been behind it, install shelves and baskets and have more storage.




There were various areas around the van which were damaged, so I just trimmed them out, decoratively, with 3mm plywood, and painted them to match the rest of the area. 


Pillar Venetians again for the windows. 


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I also ripped down some 3mm plywood into planks and lined the end walls, and parallel walls with them, to afford a more beachy feel in the van. It broke up the plain white walls a bit and made a lot of difference to the feel of it. I changed the orientation of the upper cabinet doors, so they lifted up, rather than out. This makes them much easier to use in such a tight space. I soaked the hinges in Vinegar, then rinsed and spray painted with Dulux Gloss.




The underside of the upper cabinets had a lot of damage, and large holes. Rather than repair them, I simply ripped down 3mm plywood to size and cladded the underside, then trimmed out the edge with Pine moulding. The seats were reupholstered in fabric from Spotlight, and I had the existing table re-laminated at a local kitchen place.


On the exterior, there was necessary work carried out to the chassis, and I installed gardens and a small shelter. The shelter helps protect from the elements, but also gives a place for a quiet cuppa, (or other beverage!), and affords a little more privacy to the van. I made the shelter simply from treated Pine, and Euro Reed Screening, and lined it with builder’s plastic on the sides, and a bistro blind on the back.


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The roof was sealed using Sikaflex Pro, (sandable and paintable sealant), and Crommelin Waterproofing Membrane and paint. There were many screw-sized holes in the cladding, so I squeezed some Sikaflex into them, then inserted a screw in each hole. The cladding is textured, so this looks much more intentional than if I’d tried to fill each hole with bog. Once the van was painted, they weren’t very noticeable. I washed the van with Truck Wash, then Sugar Soap, then wiped any remnants of old silicone with acetone to remove it.


I primed with Dulux Etch Primer, then painted with Dulux Weathershield Maxiflex. The upper colour was standard white, and the lower teal colour was Dulux Riviera Sea. I finished off with a recycled plastic outdoor rug, and some Lytworx solar festoon lights, simply attached with Command adhesive hooks.


If anyone has any questions about any of it, I'm very happy to answer them. Van reno's are easy to do, and can be very encouraging for newbies to renovating, as the results are seen fairly quickly.


It's a good way to get into learning a whole lot of skills. 


Kind of a Big Deal

Good Afternoon @LizzieCro 

:surprised: Wooooo you have nailed it! I actually didnt think of it as a caravan until I got part way through! A brilliant job that has really brought it into modern stylings!


Did you take photos of the upholstery of the bench seats by any chance? I really like the colour pallet you have used throughout the van and really enjoye dthe description of "how to" It has broken it down into a "ahhh can do" :smile:


I dont think Id be wanting to come back from a holiday!



Making a Splash


Hi Dave,

Thanks for your kind comments. I have to say, it was a lot of fun and very rewarding doing this reno. Sadly I had to sell the van almost as soon as I had finished it, which was pretty painful. I'm doing another onsite van now, and have done a touring van as well, which I completed last year. (It's somewhere on this site).


Regarding the upholstery, I had an upholsterer do that for me, so no, I have no photos of it. If you're wanting to do some upholstery yourself, I can recommend looking it up on You Tube for instructions. I've learned many things on You Tube, including upholstery (which I have done elsewhere), so it's all out there.

Thanks Dave.

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