1988 Dolphin - Stripping Vinyl Graphics and Painting the Fiberglass Outside

Well, let me start out by not sugar coating it, Wow was this a big job for my husband. We are incredibly happy with the final results, but it was a big job.

Under ideal circumstances it wouldn't have been such a long process, but in reality it look a long time.

1. If he didn't have to go to work already for 8 hours each day, you can't expect him to get home at 8:00 at night then go work some more (in the dark no less).

2. If it was smaller and fit into a garage the weather would not have been an issue, but she's 27ft.

3. If it was rainy, or too hot you couldn't work.

4. The product has to be used between 50 and 80 degrees, so you lose several months right there (we live in Wisconsin, so you lose 5-6 months from winter, then you lose a couple of summer months because it's in the high 90's.

So, between working, working outside, temperatures and winter months he did not have many good days, where he could work and accomplish a lot per sitting.

First, some before shots, while the fiberglass shell itself was in great shape, the vinyl graphics were really chipped, faded and everything lost it sheen. The Rubber stripping around the RV was also very dull and yellowish, so removing all graphics and stripping was the plan.

Here's how she looked on the outside when we first brought her home, so the first thing was a good bath. Here is a shot where the sides/front have been washed but not the top yet. She was really dirty on top. We purchased this from an elderly couple, the husband passed and the wife didn't drive and obviously being a senior wasn't going to climb the ladder for a good cleaning.

Now, some zoomed in photos of the graphics and rubber:

Yuck!  To remove the graphics, I purchased 2 of the 3M stripping wheels that you attach to your drill.  Initally we tried chemicals, that was a mess, then I searched for others options and found the 3M, it did make removing the graphics a pretty quick task. Once the graphics were removed, you could see the shadowing from the graphics. That's when I starting searching for the painting options: pay someone or do it yourself. Someone else: several thousand, ourselves: we thought about $1,500.

Here is a couple of shots of work in progress:

and now a couple of shots with the graphics now removed, hopefully you can see the shadowing:

Now you can see what I mean on the outside, the body is in good shap, but with the shadowing we also had dull and satiny areas.  It's hard to tell on these photos but the color was not white, it was more an antique creamy white. We decided to do a crisp white and not stay with the antique white.

For our paint we used fiberglass yacht paint from Jamestown Distributors. We used Interlux Brightside White. This is a thicker, self leveling paint. You use a roll and tip method and the site has videos for you to watch first. When we saw people doing their own campers, yachts and motorhomes, we knew we could do it also.

The paint is expensive, but on the other hand, it's not compared to having someone else do it for you.

Like the cabinets, it was a multi step approach, Clean, sand, filler if needed, sand, wipe, primer, paint. Then sand, wipe, paint again, then repeat. With this product you decide how many coats you want to add, the more coats you add, the glossier and shinnier it gets. My husband did his initial test with the door, one coat, two coat, three coat, then when he got to the 4th coat, we didn't like the shiny look of it, we wanted a softer satin sheen, so then we agreed to 3 coats the max.  Some of the others on the forum board said they went as high as 5 coats, 7 coats, etc. But they wanted that very high gloss, high shine, like glass on a showroom floor look. So it's up to you, we stopped at 3.

Here are a few photos during the painting process so you can see there is a color difference, but it's subtle:

  You can see the color difference above the door here:

Now the difference in colors really shows:

Side one, all done, 3 coats of paint. Hopefully you can see the sheen, you can see the fence showing in the image: The windows are still turned inside out and the compartment doors are still off in this shot. The old awing is still on, but it was great for shade, we'll replace that at the end.

All 4 sides are now done, so how did we do on our $1,500 estimate. Here's our total and how much supplies it took.

From Jamestown Distributors: Final Total was $940.24.

These purchases were for:

5 gallons of Interlux Brightside White

4 gallons of Interlux White Primer

1 pint of surface putty (for places where there were scratches from tree branches)

2 gallons of fiberglass solvent cleaner (to really clean good before painting)

2 pints of Interlux 333 brush liquid (thins the paint to allow for longer working time, a little goes a long way)

Hazmat handling fees: $20.00 (I ordered 4 times, each time had a $4.95 hazmat handling fee, this is included in the $940.24)

From Amazon: Final Total was appro. $50 w/shipping

2 - 3M Strip off wheels @ $22.00 each

I didn't keep receipts for this, but for a few rollers, a pan, a few brushes - I'll be generous and say $100.

POST UPDATE, I forgot a very important expense, I didn't pay for it, so it wasn't on my mind when I posted, my husband picked it up.

From Home Depot: Sand Paper: $200

2 packages 100 grit, 2 packages 120, 2 packages 220

Our estimate: $1,500, actual expenses: $1,290.24 and a lot of time! But it was so worth investing the time and saving several thousand. We would definitely do this type of painting again, but when we retire and are not trying to fit a job in at the same time. Unless of course the item was smaller than 27ft. Work, the size, not being able to work in a protected garage, weather wise, made it a slower process than we thought.  BUT, we are extremely happy that we did it and love the results and would do it again and again.

Next Up: We'll move back inside and it's booth replacement next.

Views: 619

Tags: How much does it cost to paint your rv yourself, How to Remove Rv Vinyl Graphics, Painting Your Own RV, stripping RV Vinyl and painting Fiberglass Outside

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Comment by Stephen Moss on April 19, 2014 at 9:12am

Really nice job. Goes to show that great results often take a lot of time.

Comment by P. Vallerie on March 25, 2014 at 6:43pm
Annette. Shoot - if you have the ability and good connections for large format printing at a reasonable cost you could do some really fun, wild designs with an unlimited color pallet. It just depends on how much $$ & or time you want to put into your project. Can't wait to see the results. P.
Comment by annette phillips on March 25, 2014 at 6:11pm

Hi Barbara, welcome to my newbie blog. I have not decided on the graphics yet. I am a display designer and if I go that route, it definitely would not be just strips. It will be lots of color, swirls, graphic elements, blog name (we will be traveling with our 2 black labs so I am putting together a blog that will be called Tilly Tails, etc.  But I also appreciate the comment from P. vallerie who used just another color of paint to add character and not have the problem of vinyl graphics fading again.  I am just up in the air right now, and have been playing with a number of graphic designs for possible vinyl graphics. Being a Large format, display and exhibit designer for 16 years I am very confident about installing the graphics myself so that will be another DIY project for the design/installation part.

Good Luck with your Toyota. Because we didn't have a large garage, we just took it one side at a time until it was done, and like everyone says, "it's all in the prep work". Have Fun, it's a lot of work, but oh, so worth it

Comment by P. Vallerie on March 15, 2014 at 10:36am
No problem. We actually used the Petite topside paint very similar to the Interlude paint. Both are self leveling. Which I love. Gives that shiny gloss finish right off the bat. I have used both paint systems on various projects in the past coming from a marine background. Both have a long lasting resilient finish. I did 2 coats of primer, 3 coats of the base color then 3 coats for the stripes over the the base coat. Check out my blog. " 72 Dodge It's Coming Alive!" You can add color for the stripes with the same paint. No need for decals!! Regards, P
Comment by annette phillips on March 15, 2014 at 10:18am

Thank you Vallerie for stopping by. I will definitely come check you out, using the same products, I would love to see how yours turned out.  As soon as winter is done and we give her a spring wash, I'll post photos of the entire coach, and zoom in on the new, clean edgeing. It's a huge difference.  Thank you again Vallerie!

Comment by P. Vallerie on March 15, 2014 at 8:22am
Outstanding job! We used the same marine paint system on the "Queen". Three coats worked wonders. It is amazing stuff! Fantastic detail on the how to, photo's & cost! Thanks for sharing
Comment by annette phillips on March 14, 2014 at 4:21pm

Thank you Pat, I'll make sure to do that with each post, add our expenses. I think it's helpful as well. Thank you for visiting my newbie blog. I'll have lots more to add.

Comment by Pat Daly on March 14, 2014 at 9:33am

Wonderful blog Annette. We'll feature it this week. I'm sure folks will find the cost estimate really helpful too.

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