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William is a consultant and technical writer who full-timed with his wife and two kids for 2 years. He’s a builder, fixer, and tinkerer by nature, and outside of work he’s usually making, fixing, or breaking one thing or another. William’s hobbies include RVing, camping, cycling, and spending time outdoors with his family. You can find him on LinkedIn.
Hi, I’m William. When my family started full-timing in 2018, we had a hard time finding an RV with bedroom options that met the needs of our four-person family.
By chance, we stumbled upon a used toy hauler and realized that the garage (which had been used to haul a Harley) could make a great bedroom. We ripped out the convertible bench and table, hung curtains, covered the rear door with creative upholstery, and hit the road.
Toy haulers can be a compelling “off-the-menu” option for RVers seeking a customized bedroom or office space.
What is a Toy Hauler?
Toy haulers are RVs designed to house people in the front and “toys” such as ATVs, motorcycles, and snowmobiles in the back. However, the garage in the back can be an excellent bedroom option for RVers with more people than toys.
Here’s what you must assess before you convert a toy hauler garage into a bedroom.
What are the Advantages of Converting a Toy Hauler Garage?
Fair question. With so many configurations of travel trailers, fifth wheels, and teardrop trailers available, why bother renovating a toy hauler?
These rugged, versatile RVs offer four primary benefits:
- Wide open spaces: Floor space and walls that are open and not covered with cabinets and built-in furniture. They’re the blank slate you’ve been dreaming about.
- High weight capacity: Toy hauler garages are designed to carry heavy loads like motorcycles, ATVs, and snowmobiles without compromising the ability to tow the rig safely. This capacity is handy when looking for a place to plop down a queen-sized bed, night tables, and an entertainment center.
- Affordability: While nothing is cheap these days, patient shoppers can sometimes snag a used toy hauler on the cheap at the end of a season (snowmobiling or motocross, for example) or when the previous owner is moving on to another rig.
- Patio potential: Rear ramp doors can make outstanding patios that double the “good weather” living area. Square footage is the ultimate metric for RV living, so the potential to double that is intriguing for many RVers.
Interested? Here’s how to get started:
Prioritizing the Necessary Steps When Converting a Toy Hauler Garage into a Bedroom
Before getting too far into the details of how to best redesign the space, it’s crucial to understand the nature of what you’re trying to do.
This project boils down to converting a space designed to store things into a room that can safely and comfortably house humans.
Things don’t care about ventilation, lighting, textures, and colors, but people do. Therein lies the challenge.
With this understanding in mind, let’s start digging into the details of housing humans.
Stage 1. Assess Any Upgrades Needed for Sustaining Life
Your first goal is to ensure that the finished product will be an environment that is safe and comfortable enough to enjoy for hours at a time.
Toy hauler garages often come up short in two areas:
● Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC)
● Moisture Control
HVAC and Electrical Upgrades
While many models have at least one built-in HVAC vent that blows into the garage, in some cases, more is needed to cool the space. This is especially true when it’s occupied by one or more heat-producing humans.
In a hot climate, inadequately cooled garages can be substantially warmer than the rest of the RV, and the same effect holds true when it’s cold out. Temperature extremes can render the space uninhabitable.
Some RVers who frequent hot or cold climates add cooling or heating equipment to ensure they can enjoy their new space.
If you choose to upgrade your HVAC, it will likely be the most complicated and expensive part of the renovation. The work may involve:
- A new roof penetration
- Structural changes
- Modifications to the electrical system
- Installation of the equipment and controls
This is an instance where you should only work with licensed professionals with the qualifications to install your new HVAC system without adversely affecting the rest of your rig.
This is also a good time to think about electrical outlets. One of the challenges of repurposing a cargo hold into a bedroom is that bedrooms typically have numerous outlets for lamps, TVs, and charging mobile devices.
Most toy hauler garages will come up short, leaving two options:
⚡ Add electrical outlets
⚡ Get creative with extension cords and surge protectors
- All the Power You Need: Features 12 AC outlets, 1 USB-C port, and 2 USB-A ports to give you everything you need to power up all of your appliances and mobile devices.
If you need more electrical supply options, consult a licensed electrician familiar with RV electrical systems.
This should be addressed in tandem with any discussions around HVAC upgrades because both will place increased demands on your RV’s electrical system.
Electrical fires are a significant risk for RVs. Any modifications to the electrical system must be handled safely and professionally.
Increased Moisture Control
Moisture control issues are a common problem with toy hauler garages, and ramp doors are notorious for leaking. Many rigs also have side vents originally included to ventilate equipment fumes.
While the vents are great for airing out noxious odors, they are not so great for stopping water intrusion during heavy rainfall. Identifying and fixing any leaks before investing in the new space is best.
Checking the thick rubber gasket around the rear ramp door opening is a good first step. Look for places where the gasket is dry rotted, cracked, or missing, and replace it where needed.
Keeping the rear gasket in good shape will also make it harder for insects and other pests to sneak into your new pad. You might have to get creative to waterproof the side vents.
In some cases, it might be best to caulk the vents shut from the outside. Another option would be to cover them from the inside.
- SEALS OUT WATER, AIR AND MOISTURE: Gorilla Waterproof Caulk & Seal 100% Silicone Sealant seals out water, air and moisture and is great for kitchen, bath, window, doors, auto, marine, plumbing, gutters and more! as cured
Just make sure you don’t create a condition that traps moisture in the vent. If in doubt, ask a professional with expertise in modifying your particular rig.
Stage 2. Create a Functional Floor Plan
With the major utilities worked out, it’s time to design the layout of your space!
It’s best to begin the renovation with a clear picture of the desired outcome in mind. Now’s the time to pour over thousands of beautiful renovated RVs and look for ideas.
Think about the floor plan. While toy hauler garages offer a relatively large space for an RV, it’s still tiny compared to a typical bedroom in a stick-and-brick structure. Set priorities so you don’t overwhelm yourself with options.
There are a couple of helpful lenses through which to view your new floor plan:
- How will you use the space daily?
- What essential elements – the “have to haves” – are you unwilling to compromise on?
How Will the Space Be Used?
Form follows function, so the first question to ask yourself is: What will you do most of the time in this space?
It’s essential to be practical and prioritize daily needs over more complex and exotic renovations.
While a full-size bookcase might be lovely to have, don’t let it displace a desk if you need to work from the new bedroom/office daily.
Thinking about flow and how you anticipate moving around the space is also important.
Large beds, for example, can limit the ability to have a fully “walk-around” option.
In most rigs, a queen-size bed centered on the floor will only leave a foot or so of room between the edge of the bed and the wall. If you want more room to maneuver, choose a twin bed or a futon that can be folded into a sofa during the day.
Taking a more vertical “mezzanine” approach is an innovative way to maximize the functionality of your new living space. Enterprising RVers find ways to stack furnishings and take advantage of underutilized vertical space.
As is typical in tiny house designs, beds can be elevated to maximize storage and seating options, as seen below.
Depending on how you will use the space, your essentials may include a bed, headboard, cabinets or side tables, a small desk, or even furniture for a companion animal (dog bed, cat bed, etc.).
As you plan, keep in mind that you’ll have to tow this palace to all the amazing places you will go. Be mindful of the weight and how many pounds you have to work with. Make sure you have options for securing furniture and decor to the wall or elsewhere.
Stage 3. Begin Demolition & Decorate the Space
While the finishes are our third priority, they are still significant. After all, they will make the space feel how you want it to feel.
Ironically enough, your finishing touches should begin with demolition.
Most toy hauler garages come with at least some sparse furnishings. The rig you select may already have overhead cabinets, flip-out tables, or a small futon bolted to the floor.
Remove everything before selecting finishes. This is an essential step for a few reasons:
- It’s optimal to see the entire space before you start.
- You’ll have to remove unwanted items anyway, and working in an empty space will be easier.
- You may find damage concealed under or behind built-ins. It’s best to find out before going any further.
Once the space is empty, measure the items on your floor plan. Tape outlines of each item’s footprint onto the floor.
This will provide a clearer picture of what’s feasible and give you a way to “test drive” the flow of the space. You can also revisit important questions like, “Are 14-inch wide walkways wide enough?”
Now, focus on the fun stuff:
The flooring can be as straightforward or complicated as you’re up for, and you can wait to decide this.
One good option is to use the moisture- and stain-resistant flooring already built into the garage. It’s typically a durable synthetic material resistant to nasty spills like oil and fuel leaks from recreational equipment. This is a huge benefit because, like all residential spaces, your toy hauler bedroom will need a deep cleaning periodically.
Garage flooring can be mopped and disinfected without too much hassle, and you can easily dress up the flooring with a stylish patio rug that will keep your feet off the cold floor first thing in the morning.
Wall Colors, Textures, and Window Treatments
Repainting or recovering the walls may be an option, depending on the existing wall finish.
- 1 roll - 20.5 inches wide x 16.5 feet
The rear ramp door will require a novel approach. Manufacturers design them with durability and traction in mind rather than creature comforts.
Keep in mind that if you envision using the ramp door as a patio, you won’t want to overdo it on the interior finishes. A set of full-length curtains or even repurposed bed linens on a closet rod are great options for hiding the ramp door without rendering it useless.
Here’s an example:
Read 20 Incredible Toy Hauler Garage Transformations for more toy hauler conversion ideas!
Conclusion: Converting a Toy Hauler Garage to a Bedroom
Overhauling a toy hauler garage is not a project for the faint of heart. However, toy hauler garage renovations are high-risk and high-reward projects that can pay off big!
Those willing to take on the task get a personalized, multifunctional space that feels more like a custom tiny house than a renovated RV.
Have you ever tackled a toy hauler garage renovation? We would love to hear about your experience! Leave a comment below to tell us about your victories, trials, and tribulations.
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