Our motorhome came with one of the most common types of RV window coverings: pleated day/night shades. Anyone else who has them will likely agree with us that they kinda suck (poor design, generally cheap, and all-too-frequent re-stringing required). We’ve talked about RV replacement blinds for years, but we just hadn’t gotten around to making the switch… until now!
We recently upgraded our whole rig to modern roller shades and we’re incredibly happy with the results. So, we decided to share our experience for our fellow RVers who may be considering a similar upgrade… now or in the future.
Do we have any regrets? Just one — we wish we’d done it sooner. A LOT sooner!
So, let’s talk RV replacement blinds…
- 1) Why an RV Blinds Replacement?
- 2) What RV Replacement Blinds Did We Choose and Why?
- 3) Which AutoMotion Roller Shades Did We Install?
- 4) What Do We Like About AutoMotion Shades?
- 5) What’s the Installation Process for AMS Roller Shades?
- 6) Our Final Thoughts on AMS RV Replacement Blinds
- 7) Our Visit to Bradd & Hall
Why an RV Blinds Replacement?
We’ve had pleated day/night shades (similar in design to cellular shades, but with visible strings) on our windows for nearly 20 years. We had them in our Fleetwood Bounder for 2 years, and we’ve had them in our current Newmar Mountain Aire for nearly 18 years.
From the start, we knew that they aren’t a great design. With strings that wear out and break from sliding through metal eyelets, they’re destined for failure.
Here’s what we disliked about the pleated day/night shades we originally had in our RV:
- The strings break! (Did we already say that? It’s worth mentioning again because it’s infuriating — they’re designed to fail.)
- They use a stacked setup, with the room-darkening portion above the light-filtering material. This requires moving both the day & night sections of the shade each time a window is completely covered or uncovered. That generally happens every morning and every evening, which adds to the wear on the strings and is less convenient.
- The string tension has to be juuuuust right. Too loose, and the blind won’t stay where you put it. Too tight, and the blind is difficult to open and close. That tension increases the wear & tear on the strings, causing them to wear out even sooner.
- Wider windows require more tension on the strings to keep them up, increasing cord wear. Those wider blinds also have two knobs for each section (day or night), which requires two hands to open or close them. That requires you to position yourself properly in front of them (reaching up from the sofa with one hand at an odd angle to open or close a wide pleated blind generally doesn’t cut it).
- They look dated and cheap. (that’s our personal opinion, of course, but we think lots of people would agree with us)
- They’re hard (practically impossible) to clean due to the fabrics used and the pleated shape.
- They require strings installed along the sides of the window, from top to bottom. These are unsightly if left uncovered and require holes in the wall for the hold down brackets that secure the bottom of each string.
- Did we mention that the way they work (strings sliding through metal grommets) makes them designed to fail?!?!
We can’t even begin to count the number of times we’ve had to re-string our pleated shades over the years. Literally dozens and dozens of times. Most of our blinds have been re-strung repeatedly over the years.
Our solution today is different. Rather than restringing the typical RV pleated shades over and over again, we finally upgraded our RV blinds and shades to modern roller shades. Our only question now is “Why did we wait so long?!”
Knowing what we know now, if we had to do it over again we definitely wouldn’t wait.
What RV Replacement Blinds Did We Choose and Why?
The two best-known brands of roller shades for RVs on the market are AutoMotion Shades and MCD Innovations. We decided to go with AutoMotion Shades for a couple of reasons:
1. Our RV came from the Newmar factory with motorized AutoMotion shades/visors in the cockpit, and we felt they were a quality brand. (In fact, we replaced those with brand-new AutoMotion shades as part of our RV renovation. Stay tuned for an upcoming post about them.) With AutoMotion Shades we feel we got the highest-quality roller shades available.
2. We sourced our new blinds from an amazing family-owned business right in the RV capital of the world — Elkhart, Indiana. Bradd & Hall has a stellar reputation for providing top-quality RV and marine furniture, decor, and parts for the past 40 years. They carry AutoMotion Shades exclusively, making it an easy choice to go with two companies we already trust.
Which AutoMotion Roller Shades Did We Install?
AMS roller shades come in your choice of either single or dual rollers, and either manual or motorized shades.
We went with manual shades in the living room, bedroom, kitchen, and bathroom areas. That’s primarily because we don’t have power available at each location and didn’t want to run new wiring. We also don’t have any particular desire or need for power blinds while we’re stationary. We reserved the power shades for the cockpit area, but that’s a topic for a future post!
We primarily used dual-roller shades. With these, the rollers are stacked one above the other which helps to keep the mechanism from intruding too far into the RV from the window. (Note: You do need to plan for this with your window covering if you don’t want the roller to show.)
We also chose single-roller light-blocking shades in two locations – one over the kitchen sink and the other in the bathroom. We have narrower window coverings (not as tall) in these locations so a stacked dual roller would have been more visible. These are also the locations where we had miniblinds before, and didn’t feel the need for day/night shades.
What Do We Like About AutoMotion Shades?
In addition to the fact that they’re such an improvement over our old pleated blinds, there’s a lot to like about these roller shades. Here are some of the features we like best about our AMS shades:
- They’re easily operated with one hand: a single pull fully opens or closes the blind of your choice (either light filtering or light blocking).
- They have a sleek, modern look so they provide an aesthetic upgrade to our RV.
- High-quality, silent operation.
- There are no strings to break! 🎉 (aren’t you impressed that we waited until this far down this list to mention that?) 😁 And the lack of strings also means nothing to worry about tensioning correctly.
- Complete blackout blinds are available. (When our new night shades are down, it’s like night in here any time of day!)
- The durable fabrics used, and the smooth non-pleated design, makes them so much easier to clean.
- No attachments or strings along the side of the window because the rollers are fully mounted and self-contained at the top.
What’s the Installation Process for AMS Roller Shades?
So, here’s the deal regarding installation.
First of all, we installed all of our blinds ourselves, so we can attest to the fact that DIY installation is absolutely possible. But we’d rate it as a job for confident DIY RVers because each installation (even each window!) can vary. That can call for some ingenuity, which we definitely had to employ in our case!
For example, we installed a total of 10 blinds, completely replacing all of the shades throughout the living area of our RV. We found that even on a single RV, mounting methods vary based on the window treatment, cabinet locations, and available space.
AMS dual-roller shades are primarily designed to be hung from clips that are mounted above them rather than side-mounted to the wall. So the typical installation process is to screw the included mounting clips into a solid surface above the window… then clip the header rail of the roller shades into those mounts.
But wall mounting can be accomplished with optional clips/brackets (ordered separately), or a little DIY creativity.
While the locations for most of our shades were fairly accessible and easy to install, two of them (in the driver’s side slide-out in our living room) were located where there wasn’t a good horizontal mounting surface directly above the window. And there was very little room to work, up behind the cabinetry.
So we MacGyvered some brackets with a few simple items from a home improvement store. We then mounted those brackets to the back of the cabinets.
This was the most challenging mounting location of all our windows. But we were able to create the necessary mounting points for the black spring clips that AMS includes to mount the blinds.
If you’re wondering how we were able to screw into the back of our (extremely hard wood) maple cabinets in such a narrow space, the following right-angle adapter is one of our favorite tools, along with our Dewalt 20V drill and a long magnetic extension that we used to drive it. Sometimes it’s all about having the right tools on board!
- The right angle drill adaptor features Best-in-Class Performance and Accessibility, with 1.5-inch front-to-back design
- The right angle drill attachment has magnetism for fastener retention
- Dewalt drill has compact and lightweight design that fits into tight areas
- High performance motor of the power drill delivers 300 unit watts out (UWO) of power ability completing a wide range of applications
- [Extension Bit Holder] It can be flexibly used in situation of narrow space, extensions in lengths 300mm (12 inch) for superior access for...
- [High Quality] Made of premium Chrome Vanadium Steel and Stainless Steel material. Heat treated high hardness, wear resistance, durable and long...
If you’re not confident in your window-shade-installing skills (or would simply rather leave it to the pros), Bradd & Hall provides complete installation services at their facility in Elkhart, Indiana. You can simply call them at (800) 445-1830 to discuss your needs, pricing, etc. Or you can stop by their showroom to go interior shopping!
Our Final Thoughts on AMS RV Replacement Blinds
Having completed the installation and lived with our new AMS roller blinds for a bit, we’ve concluded that pleated shades suck and roller blinds rule! We’re also kicking ourselves for not making this upgrade years ago.
We love our new roller shades for several reasons: there are (finally!) no strings to break, they’re very easy to clean (and don’t really get dirty in the first place), and they’re so much more modern and stylish. It’s also great that they’re available in both power and manual styles.
We’ve found that the manual AutoMotion Shades are very easy to operate. With one hand, you simply pull them down to where you want them and let go. To retract them, we give a light tug and release. That’s it.
Bradd & Hall even has some gorgeous hardwood valences that’ll complement the AutoMotion Shades beautifully, if you need them.
All in all, we’re patting ourselves on the back for choosing such great roller blinds and buying them from a company we’ve come to trust and appreciate over the years. We’re also taking two pats on the back for our installation job!
Our Visit to Bradd & Hall
We enjoyed our visit to Bradd & Hall’s facility so much that we decided to make several other upgrades while we were already in Elkhart. We’ll be reporting on those in future posts, but overall we felt that Bradd & Hall made the trip to Indiana well worth our time.
This enduring family business has earned its stellar reputation for the highest quality RV (and marine) furniture, decor, and parts over the past several decades.
They’re wonderful to work with and they offer a wide array of RV interior products including captain’s chairs, sofas, recliners, dinettes, tables, computer desks, flooring, and even mattresses. And Bradd Neidhamer just might be one of the nicest people we’ve ever met.
Bradd and Hall also offer repair parts, seatbelts, and several innovative items they designed themselves… how about a small convertible table that doubles as an armrest on your sofa, and holds your coffee securely in place?
Combining all this with the fact that we like to take our business to people we trust made the drive to Indiana well worthwhile. Of course, if you’re not near, or planning a trip to, Indiana, you can order directly from Bradd & Hall and have everything shipped to you, too. If you’re looking to upgrade your RV’s blinds/shades (or any number of other great interior upgrades) look no further than Bradd & Hall!
Looking back on how many times we had to re-string our old pleated day/night shades, it’s no wonder we made a video about how to do it. We knew that if we were re-stringing our RV’s pleated window shades over and over again, other RV owners were very likely having the same issue. So we wanted to share our technique for re-stringing pleated RV window shades. (This should hold you until you get your order for roller shades in to Bradd & Hall! 😉)
The video below says it all — a big pain in the butt on a fairly routine basis!
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Wednesday 30th of November 2022
Started RVing in 2001. First one Monico knight, Second on Damon Astoria pacific, which has pleated blinds that thanks to you guys I was able to restring myself (thanks guys). I am now considering installing roller shades (again thanks guys). After years and watching numerous RV blogs on line, I now primarily watch the RVgeeks witch I see as one of the best if not the best one out there. I do follow your advice on places to have my RV serviced. I scheduled an appointment at Cummins Coach Care at the end of March to have work accomplished on my rig. (Thanks for the info.) Keep on providing useful and valuable information for the RV community.
Tuesday 22nd of November 2022
Great article, Gentlemen. When we bought our coach two years ago (2013 Tiffin Allegro) I was pleased to see that it did not come with those horrible pleated shades. It has stacked Night and Day shades all around (except for the "doggie window"). The windshield has the same product motorized, much better than some of the motorhomes out there with hideous curtains!
Sunday 20th of November 2022
Thanks guys. Another well written, informative and amusing, article. I do have one question. Did you ever have any problems with the strings on your pleated shades ?
Monday 21st of November 2022
Never!😂 Seriously, one of them broke THE DAY we were doing the roller shade installation! Thanks for the kind words, Billy.
Sunday 20th of November 2022
Hi Guys, They look great, did you mention the cost? My guess is they are pretty expensive. I want to share a lower cost alternative we choose in replacing our string shades in our 2009 Monaco Knight. The first thing we did was to remove the old shades and valances. (The valances take up a lot of room and weight, ours were top and sides. Then we measured our windows and made a trip to Lowes and found off the shelf Pleated blinds in both black out (for the bedroom) and light filtering for the rest of the coach. 10 windows cost between $450 & $500. Will vary depending on number and sizes of your windows. I would love to send a few pics but do not see a way to attach in your comment format.
Pleated blinds may not be the right term, cellular blinds is more correct, simple pull down, push up. Tear down and installing was a DIY project.
We love ‘em and enjoy the extra space the removed valances have give us around the windows.
We are 4 1/2 years into our Full Time Adventure. We are a young 78 and 73 and have told the kids that we will eventually decide what to do when we grow up. LOL
Tuesday 22nd of November 2022
Hi Doug! Cellular blinds are an excellent, and yes, less-expensive option. But we love the day/night choice on all our windows, especially when we're in RV parks, and extra-especially at night. We know that some cellular shades are available in day/night configuration, but those we've seen have either a top-down/bottom-up design that probably wouldn't work as well in an RV as it does in a sticks & bricks house, or have strings rather than a pull-down tab, or both. As far as cost, we ordered the top-of-the-line upgraded shades (we figured we were only going to do this once!) which ran about $3,000, including shipping. But had we decided to go for their standard fabrics, we could easily have been around $2,000 instead. Of course number and size of windows will vary in each rig. Definitely not the cheapest way to go, but a really high-end result. By the way, congratulations on staying so youthful. We joke with friends that I (Peter) although usually the oldest in the group, am actually a 12-year-old trapped in an older body. Stay young!
Sunday 20th of November 2022
Okay, it’s time for me to spend a little and do this too. Great article! If Peter likes them, I’m in. Thank you both yet again.
Sunday 20th of November 2022
👍 It was well worth the time & money, Scott. We're LOVING our new roller shades!