Easy RV Mod -> Re-Cover & Update Your Window Valences (For Under $100!)
So we’re finally ready to do the big “reveal” of our past week’s work. This is by far the most ambitious RV mod we’ve done solo so far, especially given we had zero experience with fabrics before this. Most of our steps were derived from reverse-engineering our existing valances and asking around on forums and at fabric shops. Overall, once we got the hang of it, it was a straightforward project, and the result is (if I say so myself) stunning. A total updated interior look for under $100!
We completed the valence re-wrapping in ~3 days of work scattered over the space of a week. One full day to remove all the old material (including about 3000 staples…argh!), and two days to saw the wood edges (we went from curved to straight), re-wrap and re-assemble. Some folks will wrap over old coverings, but I feel you get a neater and more professional look by removing all material down to the original wood and starting from scratch. This is a longer mod post, but hopefully it will inspire and guide those of you who decide to do it for yourselves.
1/ Materials List
The entire project for our living room (4 windows) was done for under $100, including the purchase of a new staple gun. Here is the full materials list
- Upholstery Fabric – Finding the right fabric is the biggest challenge of this project. I highly recommend a thicker or upholstery-type material rather than a thin cotton so that it does not stretch or deform as you’re wrapping. Thicker material will also give a cleaner look. Our project took 3 yards of fabric ($36)
- Quilt Batting – We used a 6-oz quilt batting behind the fabric to give it a smooth and upholstered look. You can also use foam, but we found the quilt batting was a tad more “squishy” and gave a cleaner finish. Batting is optional, but it’s cheap and I feel it gives a nice touch to the project. Our project took 3 yards ($9)
- Fabric Glue – We used Fabri-Tac Glue to attach our base and cover. The glue is a little pricey ($15 for a large bottle), but totally worth it. It’s safe for all types of fabric and backing, dries clear and has a little “give” which will alow you to work the material (and correct alignment mistakes) for a few minutes before it sets. Once it sets, it is rock-hard.
- Staple Gun – We bought a DeWalt Heavy Duty Staple Gun ($20) which was just fabulous. This is the highest-rated staple gun we could find and fired true everytime. It can do nails too. We also bought 5000 pieces of 5/16″ staples, 8mm wide ($10).
- Miscellaneous – A good pair of scissors and measuring tape, iron & ironing board, cat and dog (the latter two being optional)
2/ Applying The Batting Material
We decided to use 6 oz quilt batting on all our valances. It gives them a pleasing rounded, smooth look. This is optional, but it’s a cheap step and I highly recommend it. Here are the basic steps:
- Apply fabric glue to your base
- Press on the quilt batting
- Trim the edges
- And voilà…the base is done!
3/ Wrapping the Outer Valence
Wrapping the valence is actually really easy. The trick is to secure one side first and then firmly stretch and smooth your material around the valence before you secure the other side. Also it helps to cut darts into the corners before you wrap them so that the corners are not overly plump and fold cleanly. Once again, here are the steps:
- Cut your material to size
- Apply fabric glue to one edge
- Wrap the edge around one side of the valence. This is the time to make sure your alignment is right. You’ll have a few minutes to work the edge before the glue sets.
- Staple your edge
- Apply fabric glue to the remainder of the fabric
- Stretch and wrap the fabric around the valence. You’ll want to put some force behind the stretch to get a tight look.
- Work and smooth out any wrinkles before the glue sets
- Staple the remaining side in place
- Cut darts into the corners of the valence to remove excess material
- Glue and fold the corner like a Christmas present
- Staple and secure
- And voilà….the outer valence is done!
Note/ We did not hem our fabric edges since we felt the glue was enough, but those of you with sewing machines (and the extra gumption) could decide to add this as an extra step before wrapping.
4/ Finishing The Inside Of The Valence
Because of the unique circle pattern of our fabric we decided to finish the inside of our valence with some recovered material from our old wrappings, just to make the look more harmonious. This is purely a cosmetic step and you could easily skip it by simply deciding to leave the inside bare, or wrapping your outer material the whole way around. If you decide to do this extra step here it is:
- Cut your inner piece to size and iron a thin fold along all 4 sides to create a clean edge
- Glue the inner piece into the inside of the valence
- Staple along the edges
- And voilà….the valences are finished!
That’s pretty much it. Once all our valances were wrapped we simply re-assembled and clipped in our new MCD shades (separate post coming on that). So far we’ve only redone our front (living room) windows, but have enjoyed the project and results so much that we’re out hunting for fabric for our bedroom too. Pretty neat mod, and if we can do it anyone can!
Got a cool RV mod of your own? Feel free to e-mail me with photos and details and I’ll highlight it on the blog in a future post. Full credit will be yours!SPONSORED LINK:
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We LOooVE Comments, So Please Do
jil mohr says
A job well done Nina…we opted not to have Valences so that is a project I doubt we will need….BTW I love the fabric big difference from the old one and very upbeat and modern….and I am impressed with how well it matches going across…
Thanks! It took a bit of fiddling to get the alignment done just right, but it was worth it in the end.
Ray Burr says
Great Job! Looks good. You have more patience than I would have, haha, I’d end up rushing and making a mess of it. I know because I can’t wrap a Xmas gift properly to save my life. Just not my forte. Lucky our fifth wheel is fairly new so won’t have this issue for a while.
Wrapping is definitely a skill that comes in handy for this particular mod 🙂
Well, color me impressed! Your valences look professionally done.
Thanks! We’re very pleased with how they tuned out!
Amanda Watson says
Awesome step-by-step directions! You are the most organized blogger ever- perfect pictures every step of the way. Oh and I’m jealous that you have room in the RV for a full size ironing board and iron. That’s a luxury we could never, ever fit. Looking good 🙂
You know this is the FIRST time we’ve used the iron and board since we started RVing? It’s a table-top ironing board (so, about 1/4 size), but still takes up precious space. By the way I so enjoyed meeting you both (and lovely Phineas) in the park and having a few drinks together. Good travels to you this winter! Here’s hoping we’ll meet up again down the road.
That looks great! Excellent project and really spruces up the RV. Now you need some new sofa pillows to match the valences… 🙂
You know it’s funny. The new valences DO make those pillows look kind of old and shabby. That’s the problem with updating one part of your look…suddenly the other parts don’t look nearly as nice haha..
Not shabby at all — just not quite the right colors. I’d go with a brick red to match the color in the valances. Or a pattern in the same color. Ever the decorator… I do love the changes you’ve made!
Impressive project! One tiny correction to your terminology – you used quilt batting, not backing. I’ve made at least 200 quilts over the last 25 years so I recognize your product. 🙂 it appears to be polyester batting or a poly/cotton combo.
Oh thank you for that correction! We’re total newbies with all the terminology so that’s helpful to know. I think the guy at the fabric shop thought i was a bit nuts when i asked for some squishy stuff to put in an RV valence..thank goodness he was knowledgeable and patient haha. I’ll update the post when I get a chance.
Nina, I worked in a quilt shop for over ten years and taught classes. Trust me, the clerk has heard much stranger requests than for “squishy stuff”! 😉 You did a great job, no matter what you call it! Peggy
Post has been updated…cheers!
our fifth wheel was new, but it burned to the frame, our inherited Is an 82, with seventies decor, yuck, sill apply you lesson to it
Sorry to hear about your new 5th wheel burning down. That must have been terrifying! Hope my little mod gives you some inspiration for that 70’s decor.
Looks fantastic. I did that to a 5th wheel we had once–14 windows later I swore never, ever to try recovering valences again! Our current motorhome has covered in some sort of very neutral suede looking fabric–we like! I used to ask RV salesman–“who picks the colors for these motorhomes????” You guys did a great job! Looking forward to the post about the shades.
Wow…14 windows. Yeah, that takes some doing! Thankfully we only have 4 in the front and 3 in the back, so not nearly as much work. And I agree with the colors…must be the same guy who picks the colors in ALL the motorhomes. It’s like the manufacturers are terrified of producing RVs with anything other than brown or tan.
Russ Krecklow says
O.K. I was wrong! Looks like you guys did a fine job, there. That really looks wonderful.
Great job Nina and Paul. Looks very professional and I really like the way it ties into the rug color. Making the sides straight gives you so much more window, good idea. Now to see them in person!
Yes, yes….come on over!!
Very nicely done. I do think though that Hubby is as nearly “done” as you’ll ever find. Just sayin’.
Yeah he keeps telling me he’s fully cooked too…but hope springs ever eternal haha
Anne H says
Good job! My windows are pretty blah . . . I may have to think about something like this project.
It’s made SUCH a difference in the interior look. I wish we’d done it earlier. I’ve hated those valences for over 3 years.
Lookin’ good. Love the new fabric. 🙂
Thanks Lu…you gotta come over and see the thing in person. One more project to add to Terry’s list eh?
Actually his list isn’t very long, just get a new coach (lol)!
I love the fabric, but not sure I have the patience for 10 windows in my living space. Yet I’m bookmarking the page for the awesome directions just in case. Now the shades.
It definitely takes time (and patience) to do this project. Because of other things going on we weren’t able to complete it all at once so we also had to live with 12 bulky pieces of valence and no window coverings for a week before we managed to get the new ones installed. A bit of a pain, but so worth it in the end.
Great Job,you guys always find a way to improve and be creative.
Way to go
Thanks! We thorougly enjoyed this one.
Love the new look! Sending a virtual High Five!
Cheers…right back at ya!
Linda in NE says
Your “new” valances look great. You never know what you can accomplish until you try. I like the way you include your pets in the story. Dogs like to observe the goings on, but cats like to get right in there and help. Especially if it involves fabric.
Yeah, the cats LOVED being part of the fabric process. In fact it was kind of hard to choose fabrics because the cats would automatically sit and cover up any piece we had lying around haha
Kathie Maxwell says
You guys are amazing! Great job. Anxious to have a personal tour. Kathie & Bob
Nice looking fabric….very up to date. When we were shopping for RV’s I had such a tough time with the ugly decor in the majority. Great job!
Yeah, it sometimes hard to overlook bad internal decor, even though it’s often one of the easiest things to change. We were mostly OK with our rig decor when we bought it except for the brown carpet (that HAD to go), but we lived with the rest until now. Glad to have the update done!
Bob and Jo says
Cats are the best helpers and according to us are not optional.
Hehe…yeah, our cats didn’t really ask us either. They help whether we want it or not 🙂
Stillhowlyn in 2012 says
Well this gives me hope that replacing our old shades and valences might be an affordable happening. Thanks for the “how-to-do”….Lynda
The MCD shades are pricey, but the valences are definitely do-able…and very affordable.
Boondock or Bust says
AWESOME JOB you two!!! I really love the fabric!! :-). Hope to see it in person one day.
Thanks. I was SO happy to finally find a fabric that we both liked. Took a while!
roxanna johnson says
Love the valances. Any tips for one piece dinnette cushions. Current cushions are two piece and slide off.
Thank you…keep the great articles coming.
Hmmm…haven’t tackled a project like that yet, but I would think you could create a one-piece with some decent foam and sewing a cover. Just throwing out some ideas 🙂
Trent & Barbara says
Looks great! You did a good job describing the details of what you’ve done. It looks like you added new shades as well. I’m looking forward to what you did there as well. We’ve had our RV less than a year and have already had to re-string two of our pleated shades…don’t like them at all! Still enjoying you’re posts. We hope you continue to have a great winter in the San Diego area.
Trent & Barbara….T&B Travels
Just posted the MCD shade mod today. It’s pricey, but super-easy. We re-strung several of those old shades over the past 3 years too…hated them!
Love the fabric you chose. I am inspired to update
Cat Brooks says
Great job guys, the husband looks pretty good to me 😉
Quick question, will two cats work? LOL
Indeed it will. We actually used 2 cats during the installation, although only one agreed to pose for a photo 🙂
Really an excellent job with the valances! Im going to make curtains to go over the shades but under the valance boxes – for more privacy.
I also LOVE your sofa! Did it come with your home or did you put one in? I really those not sold in home so am curious?
Thanks so much!
The sofa came with the RV (so, it’s original RV furniture). I “think” it might be a Flexsteel sofa?
Eric and Ginny. says
How do your valences attach? We are doing this mod next week and our valences have scews right through the fabric. If your is the same did you cut tiny slits for the screws or just screw them in through the fabric letting the screw heads cutt through on their own? The screws are the only part I’m fuzzy on. We also have MCD shades and they are easy to remove and replace. Thanks for the detailed instructions.
So our valences attach in two places:
1/ via metal brackets on the arm pieces -> there’s one bracket on the bottom of each of the two arms that attaches the arm piece to the slide wall.
2/ via some long screws that go through the top piece and into the cabinets ontop of them -> this secures the top of the valence to the cabinet above it.
We didn’t do any slits. We just screwed the screws right through the fabric after wrapping. We did however make a note of WHERE the screws were located (before wrapping) so that we could re-use the same holes and not have to make new holes in our valence & cabinets.
Hope that answers your question! If not let me know and I’ll try and be more specific.
Thanks for the idea! I recovered ours and they look great if I do say so myself. I didn’t use the fabric glue. I used the staple gun only.