You spend a ton of money for a new RV, no matter if you bought a bumper pull, 5th Wheel, or motorhome, shortly thereafter things start falling apart. These things are built as cheaply as possible. Nearly every component is the cheapest thing the manufacturers can find. Unless you can afford a top-of-the-line Prevost or Newmar, soon you’ll notice how cheap things are in your coach.
There will always come a point in any furniture’s lifespan when it starts to look a bit rough and you begin wondering which is the most effective way to deal with it. Do you buy new or is it better to reupholster the furniture you already have?
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One of the first things we noticed with our 2019 Thor Challenger 37YT was that the couch was showing some pre-mature wear. We’d only had the motorhome for about two years and the pleather couch was starting to flake. Soon after the driver and passenger captain’s chairs started flaking too.
I started investigating what was going on and found that not only Thor motorhomes but other brands including 5th Wheels, bumper pull trailers, and everything in between were having the same issue. The material used for RVs is just not made to last.
Of course, when it happens the coach is just out of warranty and the manufacturer won’t even talk to you about it. So what do you do?
Replace or Reupholster
There are a few options, you can replace the furniture with something new. But will it hold up better than the stuff that came in your rig? There is no doubt that reupholstering your old furniture can be more cost-effective than buying new but that’s only if there are a few factors in place first. One thing you need to know is that reupholstering wooden frame furniture is different from reupholstering metal frame RV and automotive furniture.
We’ve heard mixed reviews of some of the replacement furniture. Some of the replacement furniture starts flaking too.
It seems one of the best sources for replacement furniture is RecPro. Their modular furniture is designed to fit through the slender doorway of RVs. Each section can stand alone and ship in individual cartons. Just unbox and add the backrests.
We probably would have gone this route but our couch is “L” shaped. It’s challenging to find new furniture for an RV. If you’re going to buy new furniture, you have to consider the dimensions and shapes this new furniture has to fit into.
Even if you do find pieces that fit into these spaces, it will be a nightmare to make these pieces match for a cohesive look. We couldn’t find a suitable replacement through RecPro or anywhere else for that matter. We thought about just going with a standard couch or recliners, but with our layout, it would make watching TV a bit uncomfortable.
We decided to have our furniture reupholstered. One of the hardest things we discovered when we were searching for someplace to do the work was that if we called an auto upholstery shop they didn’t want to do the couch, saying it was too much like furniture. If we’d call a furniture upholstery shop they didn’t want to do the captain’s chairs or dinette, saying it was too much like auto stuff.
The guy we actually got our work done from said if someone says they can do autos and furniture, they probably aren’t that good at either one. With that said he didn’t want to do the couch.
Captain’s Chairs and Dinette
February 2022 we decided to finally get our furniture reupholstered. Nearly three years into owning our RV, the flaking was getting bad, and our dog Ruby did a number on the driver’s seat. We tried finding someone in Brownsville, Texas to do the work. Searching out at least half a dozen upholstery shops we had no luck finding any open.
I expanded our search and found a guy in Austin that had great reviews. I sent him pictures of the work needing to be done. He agreed to do the work and we scheduled the last week in February to drop off our furniture. I got some samples and sent them to him for review. He didn’t use the brand I sent but recommended another brand of material.
The Friday before we were to drop off the work we stopped by to go through his sample book and pick the material we’d use. We picked a tan and a brown that was close to the shades of the original material. He looked at our captain’s chairs, dinette, and couch, and thought the couch would be too much for him to do, and told us it was too much like furniture.
We agreed that we’d just do the captain’s chairs and dinette and do the couch another time when we could find a furniture upholstery shop.
The following Monday we dropped off the work and went on our way. We were told it would take about a week and a half to complete the reupholstery work. Nine days later Doug called and said our seats were ready to pick up.
Excitedly we arrived to pick up our renewed seats. I walked into Doug’s garage and instantly stopped in shock and said “That’s not our color!” As I looked bewilderedly at the captain’s chairs with their tan and red material I couldn’t believe what I was looking at. I just kept saying “That’s not the color we picked!” I didn’t know what to do!
The workmanship was great the stitching of the tuck and roll was amazing! But the color was not what we chose! They looked more like Corvette seats than seats for a Class A motorhome, especially one with blue as one of the main colors. Doug tried to tell me that was the color I chose in the sample book. I kept saying nowhere did I ever say I wanted red! I kept telling him I sent him tan and brown samples and I picked tan and brown samples in his book.
He looked at his notes on the order form and said red was the color we chose. I looked on my phone at the pictures from the sample book I took when we chose the colors. Sure enough, the color I chose had the same number as the red sample in the book. There was a mistake in the book and the color I picked was marked wrong. Doug said he had never seen that in all his years of doing upholstery work.
Frustrated by the whole situation we were scheduled to meet up with family in Oklahoma the following week and then head on to have our slides replaced at Vroom Manufacturing in Tucson. We couldn’t wait around to have the seats redone plus Doug was already booked solid for the next couple of months. We decided to return to Austin in October to have the seats re-reupholstered. As frustrating as it was we knew Doug would make it right.
Arriving back in Austin the last week in October we were anxious to get the seats redone and back to a normal RV color. We stopped at Doug’s on Monday to drop off our furniture. We initially planned on Doug doing the captain’s chairs and dinette again and having the couch, which now had another six months of wear and more flaking going on, done at a furniture upholstery shop.
I had pulled all the furniture out and loaded it into a U-haul. We were scheduled to drop off the furniture at Doug’s on Monday and the couch on Tuesday at the furniture shop. The couch came apart in five pieces so it could fit out the door. Once it was apart it didn’t seem to me to be much like furniture pieces and could easily be like auto pieces. I wanted to see if Doug would do the couch too.
He agreed to do the couch also and rescheduled some other work. He was still a bit nervous about doing parts of it but said he could reverse-engineer it if he needed to. The captain’s chairs and dinette were free to have redone, and he quoted us a price for the couch. It was quite a bit more than I was quoted from the furniture place, but Doug’s timeline was much shorter than the 6-8 week timeline it was going to take at the other place.
We easily could have bought a couple of replacement couches or recliners for the price to reupholster the couch. It was shocking, to say the least, but we didn’t have any other options for an “L” shaped couch.
I liked the idea of Doug doing the work so everything would match. We picked the colors again and came back two days later to verify the right color came in. All was good and Doug started working on reupholstering our furniture.
Other Work While Seats Out
While our seats were in the shop to get reupholstered we decided to do some other work to get our coach back in tip-top shape. We’ve owned our motorhome for 3½ years and there was a growing list of items that needed to be repaired, replaced, or upgraded.
- The bathroom fan was on its last leg as we arrived in Austin and died a day or two later. Changing out the 6″ single-speed fan for a Heng’s Vortex II fan is a very simple upgrade we should have done long ago.
- The threshold extension was broken again and the bottom step sagging on the opposite side from our previous repair. I don’t know why I didn’t replace the second side when I did the first.
- Some burnt-out marker lights on the front of our motorhome needed to be replaced. This was an easy fix.
- While our seats were pulled out we decided it would be a good time to upgrade our flooring. We decided to replace the cheap linoleum with higher-grade vinyl plank flooring. This upgrade made one of the biggest improvements in how our home feels. It just gave our motorhome a more finished feeling.
- The dog house, engine cover, had a bunch of chips and missing paint that needed to be repaired. With the seats out and the new floor going in it was a good time to do some fiberglass repairs.
It took three full weeks to get the furniture completed. Doug once again did beautiful work on our seats. And this time the colors were what we expected! We couldn’t be happier to have our home back in like new condition. We know this material will hold up to the daily use our motorhome gets being on the road full-time Doug also made some additional seat covers for our Captain’s Chairs so our dog’s nails will not snag the thread in the tuck and roll while we’re parked.
Before and After
Here are a few of our before and after shots.
We are really pleased with the way our furniture finally turned out. It was way more work than we would have liked but we got it done.
No matter what type of RV you have whether it’s a bumper pull, 5th Wheel, Class A, B, or C motorhome there will probably come a time when you have to make a decision on what to do with your furniture. The manufacturers continue to use the cheapest materials they can find to build these things. The furniture is no exception when it comes to the vinyl they use. While I think most people would be willing to pay a bit more knowing that the furniture would last longer, the manufacturers aren’t going to do it anytime soon. With that it may make more sense to you to buy new furniture or as we did have it reupholstered. No matter which way you go it will more than likely be much better than the original material.
Have you reupholstered or replaced your RV furniture? What way did you go?
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