Fix’er Up: Guide to Upgrading the Bathroom in a Camper or RV

Elegant Camper RV Bathroom with Cassette Toilet. Rving in Style.

When it comes to fixtures, the first thing that probably springs to mind is light fixtures, right?

That’s fair, but fixtures encompass so much more than lights. Almost anything that sits in one spot in your camper trailer is considered a fixture. That means your fridge, freezer, cabinets, sinks, showers, and yes, even your toilet are all fixtures.

You might have purchased a used camper with fixtures that are a little worse for wear. You now have to think about getting some replacements. How do you do it?

I’m glad you asked. In this article, I’ll go step by step and tell you how to replace two of the arguably most important fixtures in your camper trailer: the shower and sink.

Next, I’ll help you shop. After all, what makes for a good camper fixture? What should you be looking for if you have to get new ones? What about brands and materials? By the time you’re done reading, you’ll have all the information you need to get yourself a nice, new, shiny fixture and install it yourself.

How to Replace Shower Fixtures in Your Camper

There are many reasons you’d want a new shower fixture for your camper trailer. Poor quality and old age are two of them. If you don’t get enough water pressure, that’s another compelling reason to change out your shower.

Now, of course you know that not all campers are the same. Thus, you can expect that replacing your own shower might be a little different from what you’re about to read.

Recommended tools:

  • A crescent wrench
  • A bucket (for any minor leaks)
  • A replacement shower fixture

Step #1: The first step to replacing your shower, regardless of your camper setup, is to ensure the water supply isn’t running. This way, you can avoid sudden splashes from pipes or hoses as you work. You can also prevent most leaks. Some small leaks may happen, and that’s okay. It’s only abnormal if the water is coming out strong and fast.

Step #2: Check that the water is truly off. The toilet should have no water in it, nor should the faucets. If there’s still water coming to these fixtures, double check that you powered down all water supplies.

Step #3: Now you can take off the shower faucet. Slowly remove all rubber washers to make the process easier. A crescent wrench can be used here.

Step #4: Fit your new shower fixture on where the old one was. Restore the rubber washers. Again, you might use the wrench for a tight fit.

How to Replace Sink Fixtures in Your Camper

An old, unappealing sink with poor water pressure is no fun to look at or use. Replacing your camper sink should be a relatively simple job that takes roughly an afternoon.

Recommended tools:

  • Plumber’s tape
  • Plumber’s putty
  • Putty knife
  • Bucket
  • Crescent wrench
  • The new sink fixture

Step #1: Like you did with your shower, the first step is to make sure all the water is off. Empty the water lines and the drain in the sink so it’s completely free of water. You can do this with a water tank that’s low on water. Run the faucet and ensure the water pump is on. The lines will then begin to drain.

Alternately, remove the water lines (via a crescent wrench), power down the water pump, and let the water come out that way. You’ll need a bucket to catch the excess water.

Step #2: Remove the faucet with your crescent wrench.

Step #3: Next, free the sink from the countertop with a putty knife. Be careful as you do this. You don’t want to accidentally cut yourself or damage the countertop.

Step #4: Add plumber’s putty where the sink was. Now set up your new sink, placing it where the old one was. The plumber’s putty should allow it to fit firmly.

Step #5: Replace drain lines and water lines.

Step #6: Try the sink. If the joints seem a little loose or leaky, use plumber’s tape.

What Makes for a Good Fixture?

Okay, so what exactly makes for a good fixture?

The answer is a combination of things. Brand recognition is important. If you know a brand produces high-quality items, then you can reasonably assume if you buy a fixture from them, it too should be high-quality. Is this always true? No, but it’s a general guideline you can follow as you shop.

Another characteristic of a good fixture is its price. Yes, sorry, but you know you get what you pay for. Of course, some companies pride themselves on reasonable pricing, so that old adage doesn’t hold true in every last case. For the most part, though, if you buy a cheap fixture, you can’t really complain if it breaks in a year or two.

High-quality materials are the third characteristic of desirable camper fixtures. Is your toilet made of porcelain or plastic? Are your showers strong and durable or cheap and flimsy? If you paid more for the fixture, then the material chosen for assembly will probably last for years to come.

Preferred Brands

The following brands are all camper-friendly:

Toilets

  • Thetford
  • Dometic
  • Aqua-Magic
  • Sealand
  • Bravura

Showers

  • BodySpa
  • Lyons
  • Lippert
  • Stoett

Sinks

  • Dayton
  • Elkay
  • Ruvati
  • Kingston Brass

Ideal Fixture Materials

Depending on the type of fixture you’re looking for, there are going to be ideal materials for each.

For instance, let’s take Dometic toilets. Yes, they make both toilets and fridges as well as furnaces, ventilation solutions, doors, windows, awnings, air conditioners, and more.

Let’s just focus on their toilets for now. If you were to browse around on a site like Camping World, you’d see many toilets from Dometic. One of these is the brand’s 320 standard toilet, which retails for about $245. It’s made of ceramic like the toilet you’re used to back home. Compare that to their Portable RV/Marine Toilet. This five-gallon gray and white boxy toilet is built of heavier ABS plastic.

You wouldn’t really want a kitchen or bathroom sink made of plastic though, would you? More than likely not. Porcelain or another ceramic is standard for bathroom sinks, but that will require careful use and cleaning. Otherwise, you could break this delicate material.

For some sinks, stainless steel is an option. Sometimes even cast iron is used, but it’s covered in a layer of enamel. Plastic and even porcelain are more common for bathroom sinks. Most of these materials are suitable for long-term use.

Materials to Avoid

There are certain materials you should stay away from when shopping for your fixtures. They will wear down quickly, which means you’ll be shelling out for new fixtures sooner than you anticipated.

Although I mentioned stainless steel as a popular material for sinks, you have to be careful. Stainless steel can rust when oxygen and water mix. That mean that that pretty, sparkly silver sink you bought will probably look browned and crusty after several years of use.

Kind of gross, right? You can use such solutions as club soda, cream of tartar, lemon juice, baking soda, vinegar, and even lighter fluid (which is recommend as an absolute last resort) to remove rust. That said, due to the nature of stainless steel, rust will always eventually return. 

If you can find a sink that has aluminum in it, it should hold up better. Aluminum does not rust, which is quite handy.

Tips for Online Shopping

Okay, at this point, you should have a pretty good idea of which brands to shop for if you want a particular bathroom fixture. You’re finally ready to start ordering the materials for your new camper bathroom.  

Not so fast. To ensure you get the best-quality fixture possible, here are some tips to follow when shopping online.

New Over Used

Always buy a new product instead of a used one, unless you can see the used bathroom fixture in person (which is not very likely when shopping online). Sellers can make anything look good in an image via Photoshop and other photo-editing software. What you see isn’t always what you get.

Go Direct

If you can, shop directly from the manufacturer’s website. This way, you know the manufacturer themselves are the ones who have made the item and will pack and ship it. There’s no question about quality. It should also arrive unbroken.

Reputation Matters

Otherwise, shop from reputable websites only. CampingWorld.com is one site I’d recommend. Amazon is another great one, but you do sometimes have to be choosy. That brings us on to our next point…

Beware Some Third Parties

Read carefully if you’re shopping on a site like Amazon. Remember that every product listed on Amazon is from a third-party seller. Sometimes these third parties are the manufacturer themselves because they realize people like the convenience and speed of shopping on Amazon. Other times they’re undefined parties. This is where things can get dicey. Long shipping times, expensive prices, and inaccurate products can ruin your shopping experience.

Reviews Are Your Friend

Make sure you’re getting the highest-quality product by reading reviews. If prior users weren’t happy with their bathroom fixture, then you should be weary about buying from this seller. There will always be a few negative reviews for every product, but these shouldn’t deter you in every instance. You should only find another site to buy your fixture from if there are more negative reviews than positive ones.

Look for User-Uploaded Images

I said it before and I’ll say it again: don’t always trust pictures. Manufacturers and third-party sellers will of course use the best images available to highlight their product. That will get people clicking on the listing and hopefully buying it. The pictures may be edited, like mentioned above. On Amazon in particular, users can upload images of the actual product in use. This gives you a realistic picture of what the product will look like, no frills.

Watch It in Action

Today, it’s not uncommon for manufacturers and other sellers to upload videos along images to sell a product. If the bathroom fixture you’re looking for has an accompanying video, you should certainly check it out. Again, this lets you see the product in action before you spend several hundred (and sometimes several thousand) dollars on it.

If the manufacturer themselves doesn’t upload a video with the product, may I recommend YouTube? You can surely find a tutorial, unboxing, or installation video from some other camper enthusiast who tried the same bathroom fixture before you.

Can I Get a Price Check?

You may have found the perfect site in which to buy your fixture, but don’t click that checkout button until you do more research. I suggest a Google search for the fixture so you can see what the competitors’ prices are like.

For one, this lets you make sure you can get the best deal on the fixture. There’s another reason to compare prices, too. If you found a great third-party site that’s offering the fixture for an unbelievably low price, you’ll know to avoid that listing. After all, if something seems too good to be true online, it often is.

What to Do If You Got a Poor-Quality Fixture

Sometimes you can take the above precautions and still end up with a bathroom fixture that’s not quite what you expected. Whether the quality is poor, the design is off, or the materials are bad, here’s what to do if you get stuck with a bad fixture.

From the Store

Most fixtures for your camper trailer will be available in a box from department stores, hardware stores, and home improvement shops. You may get the box home and find that the fixture isn’t quite right. Maybe you’re missing pieces for assembly. Parts of the fixture may be broken. You may have noticed some discoloration, scuffing, or other slight aesthetic issues.

There’s no need to just grin and bear it. Instead, if you have a receipt and it’s been less than a month, you should be able to return the fixture and get all your money back. You can then get a replacement fixture that’s a much better fit for your camper bathroom.

Online

If you ordered a fixture online, sending it back and getting a new one isn’t quite as easy. Every online retailer has a different return policy. You’d have to either call or email the retailer and get their return address. You might have to pay to box and ship the item, which is a pain.

If you bought your fixture from a third-party seller, returning it can be tough. If you used a reputable site like Amazon, you should be protected under them for your returns. eBay has a good return policy as well, giving you 30 days to get the item sent back. The fixture doesn’t even have to be broken, either. If “the item is not as described,” that’s all the impetus you need on eBay to send the bathroom fixture back. That should, at the very least, protect you if you deal with a less-than-savory seller.

What if you did go the Facebook or Craigslist route? You might be out of luck. It all depends on how generous the seller is feeling. Some sellers will vanish off the Internet after selling bad items, and others will make you go through hoops to get your money back. You might be expected to take pictures of the damage, pay for postage, and more.

At that point, you have to ask yourself if getting your money back is even worthwhile anymore. That’s why you should really be careful about where you buy your bathroom fixtures.

Conclusion

A fixture is anything on a camper trailer or RV that’s nearly permanently-installed. In the bathroom, that means your shower, toilet, and sink are considered fixtures.  

Replacing your own camper bathroom fixtures is easier than you think. Showers and sinks should come out quite easily with little more than a wrench and a putty knife.

When the time comes to buy your fixtures, be careful of where you do it. Third-party sites can deceive you with edited pictures and cheap deals. Read reviews, watch videos, look closely at images, and ask questions if you have them. Any seller worth their salt will be glad to provide more info about the product.

Now that you know what to look for in a bathroom fixture, you should be able to find high-quality additions to install in your camper trailer. You can then enjoy the creature comforts of home wherever your adventures take you. Good luck!  

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2 Comments

  1. This is the first time I have ever seen a positive endorsement of Camping World.

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