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Our Mobile Home Project Update: Floors and Ceilings

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Several months ago, Gabe and I took a leap and bought a 40 year old mobile home to move out the farm, renovate, and live in for… at least several years.

But – spoiler alert! – neither Gabe nor I know anything about renovation, so it’s been an extremely slow process since getting it moved out to the farm.

Image shows a child working on a home project o the wall with the text "Our Mobile Home Renovation Update"

Gabe has the benefit of being handy with tools, and having some idea of what will or won’t make the house fall down around our ears, but when we first started, I would stand there in the middle of the room going “well, I know we have to take out these cabinets, and the ceiling beams, but I have no idea how to do that without breaking something that shouldn’t be broken”.

So, we cautiously started digging in, tearing up carpet, taking off trim that was obviously cosmetic in nature, and carefully pulling staples out of paneling.

But after a few months of replacing sub-flooring at a rate of about three sheets of plywood per week, we finally decided to hire someone with the skills and tools to get it done quickly.

The flooring contractor tore out all the old flooring and put in new subfloors throughout the whole house in three days.

Three days!

At that point, we hit the pause button on flooring, and after much deliberation, and talking to other contractors, went to work on the ceiling and walls ourselves.

Taking on the DIY Project Ourselves

When we first bought the house, I was determined to replace the paneling with drywall on all but a few statement walls (which would be covered in shiplap thankyouverymuch).

But since we’re already six months deep in this project (which means we’ve paid rent on our current house three more months than we had hoped), and since drywalling was going to cost us a minimum of a thousand dollars (closer to $5,000 if a contractor did it), assuming we hung it ourselves, we decided to replace the water-damaged ceiling, and paint over the paneling instead.

I’m not thrilled with this idea… but priorities.

The ceiling had to go, the walls didn’t.

So in the morning, we pack up our lunch for the day, and head out to work the walls and ceiling.

Another thing that had to go was the cabinets. The sections that weren’t falling apart were gross, not to mention ugly.

One of the interesting modifications that has been made to this trailer is that the HVAC and water heater were taken out of their built-in cubby, probably partially because the duct work under the mobile home is severely damaged – to the point that we’ll have to put in all new if we decide we want central heat and air later (I do, Gabe’s not convinced).

So while the HVAC was completely removed, the water heater was replaced by a larger model (yay!), and put in what was the master bedroom’s walk-in closet, soon-to-be tiny office.

the upside to all this is that it left a place in the kitchen for a pantry, which makes me equal parts annoyed at the lack of central heat and air, and ecstatic that we have pantry space. Probably the biggest annoyance in the two mobile homes we’ve lived in previously was the lack of storage space.

You can only put so much under beds and in closets. 😉

One of the biggest boost in productivity we’ve had this last week has been my fifteen year old brother, Boaz, coming to spend the summer with us.

Image depicts a young man in a wood paneled room near a door

He is SO much more adept at knowing how to do all this renovation stuff than I am, and he’s about 99% responsible for taking out the ceiling and getting it ready for the new drywall to go up.

I’m a pretty goal driven person, so at the beginning of the week, I set the goal of getting the ceiling pulled out, and put back up (not finished, just put up) by Saturday (today), but after spending Monday being a slave driver, I could see that nobody else was on board with it.

I was all “ceiling, ceiling, ceiling” and everybody else was chasing squirrels (in the form of useful tasks, but nothing that would get the gallons of paint out of my car’s trunk – because we have to get the ceiling up before we can start painting).

So Tuesday, I promised Boaz that we’d go see Wonder Woman if we got the job done by Friday.

On Thursday, we were ready to put up the new ceiling – yay! – brought in the drywall – yay! – and then kind of petered out when we realized that all three of us didn’t have a lot of confidence in cutting out the necessary holes correctly and getting it up efficiently.

I offered to run to town and buy a rotozip, which is a tool that really saved our hides back when I helped dad hang drywall in the house he built, but in the end, Gabe decided to talk to a local handyman, who had all the necessary tools and expertise to get it done quickly, and I agreed that it was a good idea.

After that, Gabe will be dealing with the septic system, and I’ll move on to framing the new closet which we’re putting in the master bathroom where the garden tub used to be, kitchen cabinets, and other finishing touch kind of things.

Image shows a young boy working with a screwdriver on a ceiling

One of the biggest expenses we’ll face when we do move in is furniture. Most of the furniture we currently use belongs with this house, and Gabe and I are both pretty serious about doing without before buying something we don’t really love and want.

After using hand-me-downs for the last seven-plus years, I have a pretty strong idea of what kitchen table and couch I want. 🙂

And that’s it for this little, long over-due update.

If you’ve read this far, thank you for bearing with my rambling! A lot of you were asking for an update, and I hope I did it justice.

But like I said, this project is SO far out of my league, I don’t even know what came over me when I encouraged Gabe to buy it.

NOT that I regret it at all, it’s been a great experience, and I’m looking forward to moving in and having our own house.

But it’s definitely been a learning experience, and it makes me uncomfortable forging ahead with something I know so little about.

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35 Comments

  1. You may feel uncomfortable with where you are at in the process right now, but once it’s done – it’ll all be so very well worth it all.. My husband and I have been living in our remodel for almost 3 years now. It’s been a very slow process as he’s away during the week for work, but we are almost done – just finishing a few projects and a few touch-ups here and there, then we are putting it on the market and selling it so we can start a new chapter in life. Don’t lose hope – do what you can and also realize that nothing is perfect – even the best contractors in life and their best work – has some slight imperfections. A interior design friend gave me some of the best advice – “Just don’t look at it”…. lol… Sometimes easier said than done – but it does help…

    Many blessings to you & your family…

    1. Thanks Roni! It’s an adveanture for sure, and I’m looking forward to being able to say we did it! 🙂

  2. I know how this feels. This week I ran pex and built a wall. We have a single wide that was already gutted. We have redone all the electric, and plumbing. Cabinets were given or bought at the restore. I have been painting and distressing them.We got carpet cheap for the bedrooms and I’m doing a rock floor in the bathroom. For living room I’m doing and grain floor. I got 24 4 by 4 s for five dollars. I’m also building a pantry along the kitchen wall and making an Island table in the middle. It’s been fun, but …. never again.

  3. You are making progress, despite the Texas heat, making wise discernment when diy is ok, and when to call in the pros.Some things are merely cosmetic (the paneling) and other things are genuine safety concerns. I think you will be amazed at how good light colored paint looks on 40 year old paneling! Just sand lightly and wipe down with damp cloth. Our 1970 add-on cheap bedroom looks nice with light paint and a stylish light fixture. Keep up the great work!

  4. Hi, don’t worry your home will be lovely when you finish and it will be exactly the way you want it. there are so many products on the market to help redo your mobile home now, that you will love the results. You can go online to the mobile home parts store for hard to find items that actually fit.
    We have done that over the years. They make items that actually fit into the smaller areas that are part of mobile homes. Ikea has great ideas for every room too. It is all a great adventure that you will remember and talk about for years. There are many, many sites online about decorating mobile homes from people who have done this and survived.

  5. Love your journey! My husband and I are going through the same. Please post about your next hurdle, the septic install!

  6. My husband and I bought and fixed up a trailer just like this when we were first married 18 years ago. We had just bought a farm and didn’t even know what we wanted to do for a home on this farm. We both continue to agree that it was, by far, the best financial decision we ever made. By the time we sold it 4 years later, we basically lived in this house with 2 kids for almost free. It was the WISEST decision, even if some people thought we were crazy. While I’m not sure I would want to go back to this way of living, I don’t regret the money we saved at this time. Good for you! Keep it up!

  7. Elise,

    My husband and I bought and remolded our first home (a mobile home) two years ago. We are wanting to start a family soon, but are worried about the space. We only have two bedroom’s, ours and the very front end of the mobile home that we are using as an office. The third bedroom we converted to our laundry room, so the laundry wasn’t in that cramped space by the door. Do you have any tips/tricks/advice/pictures of a child’s room that you have done now or in the past? We also don’t have central air, any advice on heating and cooling in that room, it has a lot of windows.

    1. We lived in a mobile home when both our kids were babies. I’m not sure I have any advice really, but you do what you gotta do. Our little one had a pack ‘n play in our room so that I could nurse her at night without any trouble, and I shared my dresser with both kids. The second bedroom was our toddler’s, the third was storage space/pantry, and our office space was in the living room.

      In this new mobile home, we’ll have a mini barn for storage, so it should be better. 🙂

  8. It may be you have already painted, but throw some mud into the paneling cracks to.smooth it out before painting. If you want to get creative, rent a texture gun after the mudding of cracks to add texture.

    1. I started to do that! But then I was afraid that with paneling flexing over time, the mud would eventually pop out, so we just painted over it the way it was.

  9. If you’re comfortable saying, what is the cost of a complete remodel like this? I was looking at some new mobile homes but they seem so uninteresting. Lol I like the idea of a remodel but I have no idea what that would look like financially. Thanks in advance and best of luck with the rest!!!

    1. It’s hard to say – especially since we’re not done yet, but I’m think we’ll come in under $10,000 not including the septic system.

      That includes paying $1,000 for the house itself, and $2,500 for delivery and setup.

  10. Girl, super understandable.. It takes time.. Money and knowledge…
    My husband and I brought our first home together almost 5 years ago.. A double wide 35 ur old beauty… Ha. But at the time it was needed having 3 boys and 5 months pregnant with a girl in a tiny tiny two bedroom house in the city..
    We got enough done to move in quickly (jack floors patch roof ect)
    We’re still here.. Still fixing and changing.. It never stops..
    But it looks like a totally different place.. And we’re pretty proud and excited about it..
    It’s gone and that’s all that matters to a family 🙂
    Best of luck

  11. You know me and my girlfriend of 15 years have done nothing but rented all along since we have lived with family for short stents out of requirement we were flooded out of one of our rentals living right by a dam.

    We currently live in an old farm house like you talk of we are currently both in our mid 30’s and having no kids you would think making a living is a simple affair but I’m here to tell you after 13 years of working at my job wages greatly fail to keep up with inflation.

    We were given the new rental agreement this year and they want to raise the rent to 50.00 more per month. We have required very little out of them over the years the old house had wall sockets that were so old they were crumbling fire hazards the windows were old and required silicone around the frames and around the windows the ceiling fan had to be replace several broken light switches the outlets in the kitchen were aging and unsafe not up to code with GFI the power is heavily linked together on certain circuits so new outlets needed to be put in so you were not tripping breakers. There were several plumbing issues including the bathroom faucet having the hot water dripping all the time a rather costly thing over the course of a year. The driveway which they promised to fix two years prior we manually hauled about 20-30 buckets of gravel from there pile of gravel before they took a hint and fixed it. They promised to fix the upstairs toilet and shut off valve 5 years ago and it still is rigged with a bunch of wire ties. Our kitchen light over the sink was faulty so we had to replace the whole fixture. So much effort into this home so much money keeping it livable stuff that would have cost them quite a bit over the years we made nice because we wanted it that way.

    But our landlords are great to be honest I really like them as people and in honesty they really haven’t raised our rent in the 7 years we lived here with the exception of having to put in a bit of TLC here and there and them not following through on issues and addressing them. Except on two occasions when they were fix it or have a flood moments.

    They cited the reasons for needing to raise our rent because of farm costs getting out of whack. Yet the farm has expanded since we have moved in they appear to be doing rather well they have about 3-4x’s the amount of cows they had when we moved in. They have all kinds of new farm equipment new trucks for hauling crops several tractors. They have had several new vehicles over the time we have lived here. If that is the idea of having hard times count me in I think to myself…

    Anyways we have until June to turn in our lease I am currently off work due to injury and they hit us with this.

    I am seriously considering the ramifications of everything I found a nice house but the payments would be even more than what we are paying now but it had 6 acres of land and so forth just as much living space as we have if not more. I’m looking at it online one day I look for it and it is pulled off the websites I think well what the hell that sucks there goes that idea…

    Then we come across a listing for a mobile home with land septic water and electric all there and ready to go on 1.58 acres for 22k we checked what payments would be for something like this much to my amazement the rooms are 13×14 10×14 and 12×14 there was no pictures of the interior they said on the listing the trailer isn’t worth much etc… But I sit here thinking you know we could pay something like that off in a matter of years even if we took out a 30year loan the payments would be something like 125.00 per month with no down payment just crazy considering we have been paying 600 per month and they want 650.00 now I thought every year we would be saving 6,000 dollar imagine the insane difference thats enough money to purchase a decent car every year! If we invested that much cash every year we could retire comfortablly as well. I just keep thinking man if I would have thought of this sooner and not have been so stubborn I could have been in rather decent shape right now not that we are not making it but do we really need half the crap we have? I don’t think a lot of it is really needed to be rather honest.

    Its going to be difficult to give up on 1GB/1GB internet this is the hardest part for me as I rely on a good stable connection to support my VOIP telephone provider and things like netflix and so on.

    But the thought of being able to have something of your own is a great thought and the possibility to pay it off in 3 years flat if we made high payments is enticing as well.

    1. We are exactly the same.. rented for 20 yrs, rent is 600 month, we have updated etc… now beside us an older singlewide.. $25k, can pay off in a few years, right when hubby retires. We are going to buy it and then remodel.. hope all works out for you.

  12. I am actually looking for this ancient wood paneling. Some of ours is damaged but the owner would like to keep that same paneling because its “antique”. Would you know where I could find some or if you have any extra from remodeling that I could purchase? It is honestly the worst choice for walls to me but the owner wants it and I can’t find it any where.

    1. We sent all ours to the dump. ????Have you tried looking at a Habitat For Humanity store? They sometimes have older/vintage materials.

  13. I’m about to do the same thing – move into an old mobile home that needs EVERYTHING but I love the rural area. Have you moved in officially, still there and enjoying the fruits of your labors?

  14. I would love to see how you finished it we’ve now bought a 40 year old mobile home we’ve now got to completely gut it and start again I hope you are happy living in your new home x

  15. Can you send pictures of your kitchen Reno? I’m really interested in seeing your finished project, as your kitchen is the same set up as my mobile home.

  16. I am so in the same boat as you so i truly underdstand! Our subflooring is done except for the hall and our bedroom. Because our single wide is small also,im going with light colored flooring thruout,this gives the illusion of a bigger space. We also just painted and its fine! We still have alot to do but shes ours and no more making a landlord rich! Please keep me posted! Feel i know you! Thanks! Patty

  17. Gah! You all are so making me want to buy myself a mobile home to fix up! I’m currently renting and I absolutely love this place, except for the fact it isn’t mine. But after stalking Pinterest and vice versa (you know those notifications, “Hey Rachel check out this new mobile home Reno pin” or something of that sort). Idk but it’s so exciting and my dad is a carpenter and houses are just way too expensive to build ????

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  19. Love the progress on the mobile home project! The floors and ceilings are looking great. Can’t wait to see the finished product. Thanks for the updates!

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