Monday, September 25, 2017

Why A (Ikea Hacked) Class C?

Our Class C Renovation! 

But first, let's answer the burning question people ask us - why a Class C? You have a motorcycle, so why didn't you just buy a toyhauler?
Well, when we started looking at RVs, we had four 'must-haves':

A walk around bed. When we lived in our itty bitty efficiency, we built a loft bed to make the space more efficient. This means we know first hand what a pain it is to have to make a bed you can't walk around, as well as added fun of going to the bathroom in the middle of the night. We spent nearly five years climbing over each other and fumbling for steps in the dark, and we really didn't want to go back to that!

An RV around 30 feet. We want to be able to stay at public and local campgrounds. Most of these campgrounds have length limits, generally around 30-35 feet.

Must work for an 1100 Shadow. Our bike's wet weight (weight of bike plus gas) is 650 pounds, so this means we need a system that makes it easy to load and carry a fairly heavy bike. (The number refers to engine size - the bigger the number, the bigger the engine and the bike)

Storage. Motorcycles are like babies, they require stuff. Rain gear, jackets, chaps, helmets, boots, tools - the list goes on and on. We also need to carry animal chow and pet supplies for the dog and the cats. 

Fortunately, we live (lived?) in Central Texas, where there a lot of RV dealers. We also were able to check out three RV shows. We kept running into two BIG issues with toyhaulers.

First, there seems to be a running competition among RV manufacturers to see who can make the most shoddily built small toyhauler. (Our personal favorite was the Thor Outlaw that had glops of glue and visible staples holding together the kitchen cabinets) 

Second, most small toyhaulers clearly are not designed for bikers. We saw gear cupboards that weren't deep enough to fit helmets, tie down systems that seemed purposely designed to let a bike fall, and ludicrously steep loading ramps. We even stood at a dealership and watched a guy and his buddy struggling to load his motorcycle. The problem was the too steep pitch of the ramp - and he had a smaller 750.

After looking at - and giving up on - toyhaulers, we began checking out Class C's. We quickly were drawn to Winnebagos. Not only are their Class C's well built and reasonably priced, but the schematics and manuals for all their RVs are available online. We knew we would be doing some remodeling, so having these available was a big plus!
Eventually, after a year and half of looking, we lucked into buying the Otterbee,  a 30 foot 1999 Itasca Sundancer. Winnebago built the Sundancer for a little over 10 years, and designed the model to be a true all season coach. This means the Sundancer is taller than Winnebago's normal Class C, and has a full basement.  Yep, we have a lot more storage than most Class C's. 

It also means the water pipes are completely enclosed, and turning on the propane furnace heats the basement, ensuring stuff doesn't freeze (which is kind of important if you are going to be living in th RV all the time). The Sundancer also has insulated bay doors, insulated sides, an insulated ceiling, and the A/C system has ductwork, just like a house. It's really too bad that Winnebago stopped making the Sundancer, because it's ideal for full timers.
Of course, there were a few things we didn't like about our 'new' RV, and a few upgrades that needed to happen.

 Let's start with a floor plan. The top schematic is the original floor plan of the Otterbee, and under it is the new floor plan. Just a couple of small changes, but oh what a difference!
Before. Yep, the 80's hotel look had to go. More importantly, the couch and the dinette were not very comfortable, and made the space feel very cramped. 
The very first thing we did was scour the hardware stores for more modern handles. We eventually found a bulk pack of very simple nickle-plated handles for under $2 a handle. Woohoo!  Getting rid of the old brass handles that seemed to be everywhere instantly updated the entire coach.

Next, we tackled making the coach more cat friendly (priorities - we have them!).  We bought an inexpensive rug from Ikea, cut it to fit the 'shelf' over the cab and removed the fussy side curtains.  Our cats now have a comfy, warm place to sit and watch the world go by. 

We also replaced the front and back ceiling fans with Maxxair fans, with rain guards. We bought Maxxair instead of Fantastic because they were on sale, but we're really happy with our fans. They're quiet, energy efficient, and the screens pop off for easy cleaning.
Before. We (happily!) removed the very floral couch and the dinette, and replaced the old (blue-green!) carpet with Stainmaster Oyster Travertine. This is a good quality vinyl which should hold up to biker boots and dog pawsWe opted to lay the vinyl in a 'L' pattern. This required us to buy a little bit more vinyl, but we love our new floors.
We painted the walls in the living room and the bathroom with Sherwin Williams Rainwashed, which is a great color and changes beautifully in different lighting.  Not pictured is the tiny recliner we found, which just fits on the slide. 

We also bought an inexpensive Ikea chair, which we move around to wherever we need it. If we watched a lot of TV, we would've probably put in two recliners, but we just don't sit down that much!
Oh look, it's  an Ikea hack! We measured the space where the dinette had been, and discovered two Ikea Galant cabinets fit perfectly. These cabinets have soft close hinges, so the doors stay shut even when we are rolling. 

We had initially considered putting a narrow breakfast bar here, but we're glad we decided to go with additional storage instead. We can still pull a chair up and use the cabinets as either a desk or a table. (Like I'm doing right now😄)
Here's our updated Class C!  Even with the slide in, there is now plenty of room for two people, a husky, and the cats. We also upgraded all the old light bulbs to energy efficient LED lights. We bought two packs, one was soft white LEDs and one was bright white LEDs. This worked great, letting us tailor the light needed for each space.
Before. The bedroom when we bought it. Winnebago makes good RVs, but their decor choices are, um, questionable.
Here is the updated bedroom, before we bought the mattress. We hung light blue wallpaper on the back wall, painted the walls, and recovered all the valances. We stalked Joanne's for a sale, used a coupon, and nabbed a free shipping deal, so all the fabric for the valances only cost us $50!

OK, Confession time. We couldn't see spending obscene amounts of money to replace an RV 'short queen' mattress, so we just bought an inexpensive double bed mattress from Ikea. We've always slept in a double bed anyway, so we figure we'll never miss the extra 5 inches of mattress.
Before. Yep, more fussy floral. Under this atrocity is a hidden feature that really sold us on this model. Most of the time, manufacturers have mechanical stuff hidden under the beds, but the entire space under this bed? Is dedicated storage! 

The wooden platform under the mattress is even on gas struts, and lifts easily. This gives us plenty of room to store extra motorcycle gear, boots, and animal chow. Oh, and those cupboards above the bed? Deep enough to store helmets and still squeeze in some clothes. Yes!!
Here is our updated bedroom. The pillows are from Ikea and we found the bedspread at a thrift store. 

We think the paint color is Behr's Practical Tan. We had a paint color picked out for the bedroom, but then found a gallon of oops paint at the hardware store that was one shade darker. It was cheap and also Behr Ultra, which is our absolute favorite paint. We painted our kitchen cabinets with Behr Ultra, back when we didn't have a clue about painting stuff correctly, and the paint job still held up for eleven years.
Before. Seriously, who at Winnebago though that florals AND pleats were necessary? We had a weird challenge in the bedroom. It's a tiny room with three big windows, so there was actually too much light.  We also needed to match the walls and valances, so the room would feel bigger and the blue wallpaper behind the bed would be the room's only focal point. 

We've never been big fans of taupe, but it really worked for this room. The taupe fabric and taupe paint blend perfectly together, while toning down the extra glare from the windows. 
You're probably wondering about that white cabinet. It's an Ikea media cabinet that we found in the clearance section of our Ikea store. We turned it sideways and bolted it to the floor, next to our power outlet (it's also got soft close hinges so stays shut while we're in motion). We use it to store jeans and shorts. On a hot night, we can also set a fan there to blow across the bed. There's a Maxxair fan directly above the bed as well, so its easy to keep the bedroom cool at night.

Now the big question. Are we happy with our Class C? Absolutely! In fact, we kept finding reasons to have to go and hang out in the Otterbee even before we hit the road!  It's roomy, even when the slide is in, and the new layout works perfectly for us.

To be perfectly honest, though, there are two cons and one maybe. The first con is a large Class C like ours is already pushing the weight limit of chassis. Then we add on upgrades, pets, pet chow, two people, and the tongue weight of the motorcycle trailer. This leaves us only able to carry about 1000 pounds of other stuff.

Our Otterbee is also built on the old Ford 450, which is a gas hog. We average around 7-8 miles to a gallon, with trailer. Finally, there is the maybe. A 30 foot class C is perfect for us right now, but we keep looking at even smaller RVs and wondering. Maybe, someday, could we downsize even more?  Hmmmmm.


  1. Great job on the remodeling and upgrades. Can't wait until I can get a smaller Class C to replace my 34' Class A. No more toad for me. I want something small enough so I can just crank up and go. I get between 6.5 - 7.5 mpg now. Getting a smaller unit probably won't help,the mileage but I don't really worry about that...after all, I'm carry my bedroom/kitchen/bathroom around with me and that keeps costs down. Again, ya'll really did a good job on the remodeling...I'm proud of you.

    1. Hi, fellow blogorino! Yup, I finally, finally got that post up I promised about our class C.

      Thank you, we really like the way it turned out - especially freeing up space in the living area. Since we're in a very tight spot in this RV park we haven't even bothered to put the slide out!

      And man, our 30 foot Class C feels like a huge lumbering beast when we're squeezing into a parking space or gas station. I can only imagine what its like when you are driving a 34 foot Class A!!

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