Do you dream of hitting the road for good but have this pesky thing called work getting in the way? If you’re too young to retire, why not take your career on the road and work from your motorhome or trailer?
Because RVs are called recreational vehicles for a reason, most don’t have work spaces included in their floor plans. But if you’re even the slightest bit crafty and own a few simple tools, you’ll find that it’s simple to convert a RV bunkhouse into your personal office or workshop.
Choosing Our RV Bunkhouse Model
When we bought our first full-time RV – a 24′ fifth wheel trailer – we had no idea that our year-long sabbatical would turn into a permanent road trip.
As time went on and we knew we wanted to stay on the road for good, we found a few different ways to earn money while living in our RV. One of those early projects turned into my jewelry design business.
As my orders started growing, it became more of a chore to make, assemble and ship pieces of jewelry from our kitchen table. Each time I had to set out and tear down my production line so we could eat a meal. It was frustrating, and soon I started nagging my dear husband for a bigger RV.
Making jewelry in my RV.
Finally, after seven years of running my jewelry business from our 24′ home, my nagging stopped. No, we didn’t get a divorce. We purchased a 27′ Arctic Fox fifth wheel trailer with a bunkhouse. Made by Northwood Manufacturing, we knew we would be happy with this 2010 rig since we already loved our first Arctic Fox trailer so much.
As you can see by the floor plan, this trailer had an RV bunkhouse and was clearly made for families with children. After all, no full-sized adult could ever comfortably sleep on these little beds. As a child-free couple, we could repurpose the space into a work area to allow us to make money from the road.
Our Arctic Fox floor plan.
You may be wondering, “If you wanted a work shop, why didn’t you just buy a toy hauler?” After all, most toy haulers have a bare bones, large rear end that would make a perfect starting point for an RV work shop or office conversion.
My answer is simple: we don’t like toy haulers. Most are too large, drafty and feel too much like a garage for our taste. Because we were already comfortable with a fifth wheel trailer and Northwood has a reputation for building well-insulated, rugged RVs, we wanted to stay with a tried and true model.
Envisioning the Work Space
After we purchased the Arctic Fox 275B fifth wheel, we brought it back to our cabin in the woods to start the demolition and construction project. But before my husband ever swung a hammer (did I mention that he did all of the real work in this project?), we first sat down to collaborate on a bunkhouse design.
As a seasoned jewelry maker, I already had a strong sense of what I needed in this work space: a sturdy table for hammering metal, lots of lighting, and a place to store tools and inventory. My husband also wanted to use some of the space for general storage, so we worked together in designing the layout of the new 6′ by 9′ work / storage area.
These bunks needed to go.
We talked about where I wanted work tools to go, the kind of surface that would accommodate a laptop or bench block, the best table height to keep from getting sore, and how much additional lighting would be best. With those ideas in mind, we created a sketch of our new work space.
The Demolition Begins
After finalizing the ideal work space design, the fun really began. That’s when my husband used a long screwdriver to carefully dismantle the kiddie beds, framing and existing paneling. As frugal RVers, we saved these materials in case we could reuse them for the remodel.
Removing the bunk supports.
Once our workspace was clear of the manufactured clutter, we had to choose places for additional lighting and outlets. Although we had to keep them relatively close to the one existing wall outlet for ease of installation, it was quickly apparent that a couple of new lights and one extra outlet would provide good working conditions. We paid close attention so we wouldn’t overload electrical circuits and used 110 Romex wiring for the outlet and 12v wiring for the DC lighting fixture.
Additional lighting is a must.
Building Our New RV Office / Workshop
To save money on lumber and building materials, we went to our nearest Habitat for Humanity ReStore, which sells donated construction materials left over from home improvement projects and commercial job sites. For less than $75, we located most of the basics needed to begin our office workshop project:
- One solid core wood door for the desk
- Linoleum for storage compartment decking
- Wood-grain paneling
- Framing lumber
- Oak trim
- Wood screws
- One funky ottoman chair
Although we had to visit our nearest home improvement store to buy new framing lumber, wood varnish and some hinges and a handle for the storage compartment, the total construction materials bill came to less than $150.
As you can see, we didn’t create the framing with traditional 2x4s used in typical stick house construction – those would be too heavy for our RV. Instead, we used 1×2 pieces of lumber, most of which was cut from 2×4 wood. 1×2 pieces are thin and narrow, and pre-drilling our screw holes helped to keep us from splitting the wood when screwing into it.
Feeding the cabling through.
Because we salvaged the wood planks from the original bunk beds, we saved more money by repurposing the wood into shelving and decking. When constructing the shelving, we made sure to include a 4” lip along the edge to keep things from falling onto the floor while the trailer is in motion.
We considered the project finished once the basic work bench, shelving and storage compartments were built. Although we could have added more wooden storage compartments, we opted for lightweight plastic drawers instead. It’s always a good idea to lighten the load and stay within your gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR).
Taking Our Work on the Road
We hit the road with our brand new bunkhouse workshop three months ago. We’ve never been more productive! It’s not the RV with the largest work space out there, but it’s big enough to enable the two of us to make jewelry, store extra business materials and keep household clutter from interfering with work. It’s hard to believe it took seven years to get to this point, but as any wife can tell you, persistent but gentle nagging often pays off. 🙂
Completed work area in our RV.
If you’re searching for ways to convert an RV bunkhouse into your mobile work space, check out these resources:
- LiveWorkDream: DIY Fifth Wheel Workshop Remodel
- RVLove: How We Converted Our Bunkhouse Into an Office/Workspace for Under $200
- The FunTimes Guide: Lightweight RV With Bunkhouse + A Stackable Washer/Dryer = Full Time RV Dreams Come True
- RV Bunk Remodel ~ Turning a Class A Master Bedroom in a Bunkroom