Are you doing RV renovations and need a new sofa but don’t have the budget for an expensive, factory-made couch?
If you’d rather put your money toward camping trips instead of RV furniture, you can DIY an RV sofa for under $250, and I explain all your options right here.
From RV sofas with storage to DIY sofa beds, you’ll be on your way to having a comfortable and functional recreational vehicle by following the steps below.
When you learn how to make an RV sofa, it gives you the freedom to create a custom size and shape, so it works perfectly for your needs!
DIY RV Sofa – Where To Start
After you have measurements where you want to install your RV sofa and have drawn out a plan, you’ll need to buy supplies and gather tools to complete the project.
For a basic wood frame DIY sofa with foam cushions, the following items will be necessary:
- 2x2s and 2x4s for framing and bracing
- Construction adhesive/wood glue
- Heavy-duty hinges (for RV sofas with storage)
- Nails and screws
- Screw-in leg bracket kit (for flip-out sofa bed)
- Paint or stain
- Upholstery foam and padding
- Upholstery fabric and zippers
- Circular saw or table saw
- Drill driver
- Pocket hole jig and various drill bits
- Paint brushes
Most RVs sofa designs include a rectangular wood base and arms. Most will use an existing camper wall as the back of the couch, but your plan may need one out of wood.
Since most DIY RV sofas will not be one-size-fits-all, there is no set number of plywood sheets or lumber you’ll require. Instead, you’ll need to do the calculations for your specific sofa plan to ensure you buy enough material.
Some people, like me, choose to build their RV couch over existing components such as the freshwater holding tank or the water heater or wheel well to streamline the look of their RV interior.
Others will have the space open underneath and want to access the area for storage.
Both options will require either the top of the couch seat or the front panel to open on hinges, which will alter your design slightly.
Many RVers want their couch to double as extra sleeping quarters, which is why I also include a section on how to DIY an RV sofa bed.
A great tip is to try to increase the length of your DIY couch enough for comfortable sleeping for at least a child, if not an adult, to increase your RV’s sleeping capacity.
Before shopping for supplies, check out these DIY RV sofa plans and ideas that may inspire you to alter your final design.
How To Make A DIY RV Sofa
Follow the steps below to construct your DIY RV sofa using your measurements, sketches, and plans as a guide.
Step 1. Construct The Wooden Frame
Use your saw to cut the lengths of 2×4 and 2×2 lumber to form your sofa base.
Glue and screw the bottom sections to the flooring, then add vertical bracing to raise the seat platform to the height you desire.
Any sections of the sofa that will fit up against a wall or cabinet will need the framing braces attached directly to those components, so they are level with the front framing of the sofa.
Add in the top framing sections, screwing it into the vertical braces and any that attach to the wall or cabinets.
If your RV sofa design includes arms or a back, add the framing for those structures.
You’ll want to add a support beam across the center of the sofa framing from front to back to ensure the box of your sofa will not collapse.
Screw these supports and all other pieces together with long screws and consider adding glue or adhesive between joints for even more stability against the rigors of road vibrations.
Step 2. Cover the RV Sofa Frame With Plywood
Now you can cut plywood into sections to cover the sofa framing.
I suggest you use 3/4-inch plywood for the seat and move to lighter 1/2-inch plywood for the sides, arms, back, and front. If you plan to cover the front and sides of the plywood with a finish material, you can go with 1/4-inch plywood.
Take your time during cutting to ensure a nice fit on all the edges to reduce filling and sanding the gaps.
For non-storage sofas, run a bead of adhesive over the framing before attaching the plywood and screwing it down.
Move onto the next step if your DIY sofa will open up for storage.
Step 3. Install Hinges For Storage RV Sofa
Don’t glue or screw down the plywood covering either the top or front of the sofa where you want it to open for storage.
Instead, install hinges to the framing and plywood in several locations so you can open it up safely.
Step 4. Sand, Caulk, and Paint or Stain the Sofa
Once the sofa base is complete, it’s time to finish the wood by filling holes or gaps with caulk or wood putty and sanding rough surfaces.
If you plan to stain the sofa, fill holes with wood filler. Use a stain color that matches your RV cabinetry for a built-in look, or go with a contrasting shade to make your couch feel more custom.
For painted surfaces, a non-silicone caulk is best to use.
Use a primer to seal the wood for a painted sofa, so the result will resist scratches or peeling.
TIP: Another great design option is to cover the front or side of the sofa base with something more decorative than plain plywood.
Elements such as aged wood planks, embossed metal tiles, grasscloth, or other unique finishes will upgrade the look tremendously.
Step 5. Cut and Sew RV Sofa Cushions and Upholstery
Decide how you want your couch cushions to fit and look.
Lower back cushions look more modern but may not be as comfortable for taller people. Cushions can be a solid section for the entire seat or back of the sofa or split into sections.
How you choose to pad and upholster your RV couch is up to you, but I do suggest going with a solid cushion the entire length of the seat if you plan to lounge or sleep.
Padding for sofa cushions is generally a four-to-six-inch thick block of high-density foam with about an inch layer of batting on top. The batting isn’t necessary, so skip it if you want.
Cut the foam to size using a long serrated knife or have them custom cut at the store where you purchase the foam.
If you want the foam thicker, you can use a spray adhesive to stick two layers together. For example, if you’re going to make the back cushion a wedge shape, you can glue two foam blocks together and shape them with a knife when it dries.
Once you cover the cushions with fabric, the foam won’t slide apart.
Covering your cushions will require sewing skills to have them look professional and hold up to constant use.
Thankfully, even a newbie to sewing can tackle this task because most of the stitches are in a straight line. Go slow and follow online sofa cushion sewing tutorials to help guide you through the process.
Make a Sofa Cushion in 30 Minutes (Video)
If DIYing the cushion covers isn’t possible, ask friends or family members for assistance or hire a local sewing expert who can put them together for you.
How To Make A DIY RV Sofa Bed
Most of the steps for making a DIY sofa bed are similar to the ones for an RV sofa above, but for a sofa bed, you’ll need to design the top seating area differently so it can expand into a full or even queen-size bed.
Planning an RV sofa bed DIY requires extra steps to ensure you have the space to extend and navigate around the bed when it’s open for sleeping.
There are two simple ways to build your RV sofa so it can open up into a bed, which I explain below.
Step 1. Construct The Wooden Frame Base
Create your sofa base framing as instructed in step one of the RV sofa directions above.
Step 2. Choose a Bed Platform Design
There are two ways you can design the sofa bed to open up into a wider platform for sleeping:
- Add an additional plywood section hinged onto the main couch seat platform
- Form an expandable slide using interlocking slats of wood
An extra layer of plywood is the easier of the two choices to build but will require more work to open up the couch into a bed since you must remove the cushions, add in support legs, and flip the platform up and outward so it can sit on the floor. Here is a how-to flip-out sofa bed video that can help you see the process.
DIY RV Couch/Bed Built Out of a Locker (Video)
A slat-style bed platform will slide directly forward of the sofa, bringing out half of the couch seating supports, so you have enough of a base for the mattress to lay flat. For a good visual, check out this how-to video for this style of RV sofa bed design.
Step 3. Cover Framing and Add Bed Platform
Using plywood, cover any areas of the sofa base framing that will remain stationary. After that, follow the steps for the type of sofa bed you are building.
FOR FLIP-TOP SOFA BED DESIGN
For the flip-top sofa bed design, you want to use a long piano hinge or four or five hinges across the front edge of the seat platform to attach the second sheet of plywood cut to the same dimension as the seat.
Ensure you attach the hinges so the top wood sheet can flip up and outward away from the sofa. After you have the hinges in place, shut the bed platform so you can attach the screw-in leg bracket hardware.
You want to add three brackets along the back edge of the upper platform as it rests on the sofa seat platform. These brackets stick up just a bit, but the cushions will cover them so you won’t see or feel them when using the couch.
If you feel the platform will need more support, you can add more brackets where you see fit.
You can cut legs from a 2×2 and attach the threaded bolt from the bracket kit to complete the bed supports.
FOR SLIDE-OUT SOFA BED DESIGN
You’ll need to create a line of slats made from either 2×4, 1×4, or 1×6 lumber for the top of the sofa seat platform on a slide-out style of bed.
Alternating slats will attach permanently to the rear of the sofa platform framing, while the other half will connect to a separate front framing you build so it can slide out from the sofa base.
You will attach a stopper bar to the underside of the “sliding” slats so they won’t come out of the sofa frame when you open it for sleeping. Please refer to the tutorial video above for clarification of the process.
The front wall panel of the sofa holds the sliding slats on top and works as a support for the outer edge of the bed when open.
This sofa bed design takes more time to build but is a cool feature to add to your RV.
Step 4. Finish Off RV Sofa Bed Base
Once the sofa bed base is complete, fill holes or gaps with wood putty or caulk and sand down rough surfaces.
If you plan to stain the sofa, fill holes with wood filler. Use a paintable caulk if you plan to paint the sofa bed base.
Water-based stains give off fewer fumes and dry quicker than oils, and a gripping primer is an excellent base for painted sofa bed projects.
Step 5. Cut and Sew RV Sofa Bed Cushions and Covers
Decide how you want your sofa bed cushions to fit and look. For ease of transition into a bed, using two full-length cushions for the seat and back of the sofa is best.
I suggest using a 6-inch thick high-density foam cushion for the most seating and sleeping comfort or buying a full or queen-size memory foam mattress and cutting it to size.
Ways to Cut Costs Making a DIY RV Sofa
Buying new materials for your DIY RV couch will run you around $250 for wood, paint, padding, and fabric, but you can cut these costs dramatically if you are on a tight budget.
Find Wood to Recycle
The first suggestion is to search out free wood you can use for your framing. Then, keep an eye out at the junkyard, around the neighborhood on trash day, or ask friends or relatives if they have any wood scraps they are willing to part with.
Use Alternatives to New Foam Padding
The second biggest expense when making a sofa is the cushions. Foam padding sold at fabric or upholstery stores is pricey, especially if you want it thick enough to lounge on comfortably.
You can find second-hand cushions at online marketplaces, resale shops, and garage sales for little cost. Once you remove the covers, the interior is nearly always in excellent condition.
If you’re unsure about safety or cleanliness, you can spray used cushions with a disinfectant and set them in the sunlight for a day to clear them of odors or germs.
Another great option is to purchase a twin-size memory foam mattress that is six or eight inches thick. I got mine at Walmart for around $95 and only had to cut it down slightly to fit my sofa base.
You may also consider picking up various large throw pillows from resale shops to use as your sofa back cushions. Not only will you save money, but if you can find them in the right colors, you can also save sewing time!
Rethink Fabric and Accessory Choices
Lastly, you’ll need a lot of fabric to cover your DIY RV sofa cushions, so finding material with a lower cost-per-yard adds up to immediate savings.
Many low-cost, non-upholstery fabrics are fine to cover a couch with as long as you follow some guidelines.
Look for a dense weave and thicker material to withstand constant use. For example, thin cotton broadcloth will stretch and tear within months, whereas a cotton canvas is very durable.
By searching the clearance section of fabric and craft stores, you can find a quality, low-cost fabric, so don’t feel you need to spend $10-20 a yard for sofa material.
You can also save a bundle by not using zippers on your cushions. You can opt for button closures or fabric ties and use envelope-style covers over back cushions or throw pillows.
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RV sofas are a place to chill out on camping trips and provide extra sleeping space when necessary.
Unfortunately, the seating or sleeping arrangements inside many campers are awkward or uncomfortable.
The solution is to use the steps above to create a custom RV sofa or sofa sleeper to provide the perfect place for your family to gather and rest after a day of camping adventures.
When you DIY an RV sofa, you’ll improve your camper’s function and comfort level, making all your future RV trips more enjoyable!
"Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore."
-- Andre Gide