Working on a Trillium 5500 - Fiberglass RV


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Old 08-29-2015, 04:43 PM   #1
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Working on a Trillium 5500

We finally bought our 1st FG trailer earlier this month. There was only one model we were really interested in, the Trillium 5500 (wife wanted the shower). They are very rare, and we watched them for 3-4 years before we settled on this one, a 1981 Deluxe.

Like any old trailer, is has some issues, but so far I didn’t find anything I can’t fix. FG shell is in decent condition, frame is like new, floor is solid. We’re not planning a full remodel (we love the floor plan as it is), but certainly a significant redecoration. The interior look will change, we’re thinking of a «*retro modern*» style that will include some modern items but keep the Trillium ‘vintage’ legacy alive. We figure it’ll take at least two years to complete.

I’m apparently the 4th owner at least. Owner #2 owned it from the early 90s up to last year. He tinkered a LOT with the trailer, making a lot of modifications, especially to the plumbing and electrical systems. There are wires and plugs and junctions boxes everywhere, as there are pipes and valves and T’s, I have no idea why he made all this so complicated. I can’t wait to clean this up and get back to simpler systems, closer to what the trailer was initially.

Owner #3, from who I bought the trailer, said there was no water leaks anywhere. The only thing he mentionned is the front right dinette seat has a spot where water has leaked in and damaged the wood, just below the front right window. He said he has no idea where the water came from. Well, just by looking I was pretty sure I knew where the water came from: the window just above!

We towed the trailer back home under pouring rain. Once home, I found a bit of water in the front right corner, and the rear left corner. And on the following days, with the trailer parked in the driveway, a bit of water still leaked in the same spots after rainy days. I need to fix this ASAP, so the first job on the list is to reseal the windows. Then the roof vents. Then if it still leaks, I’ll look at the parking lights, and finally the belly band, which I know I’ll probably have to remove one day.

Today I did my first window. I started with the front right one. Thanks to the numerous threads on the forum and the good advise from those who tackled this job before, it went quite smoothly.

Most of the screws were badly rusted, but they came off easily. Then I saw that this window had been pulled off before. The original butyl tape had been scraped off, then the window was basically glued back to the camper with silicone. There was LOTS of it. So that window was pretty tough to take off. The previous owner botched the job so much that he failed to completely remove the old butyl tape, and that’s what helped me getting the old silicone off.

Once off the camper, as expected the plywood frame was badly rotten. So this window had been «*resealed*» but the damaged frame hadn’t been replaced... The worst part of the job was to get the ensolite off the plywood. I knew from reading the forum that this wasn’t going to be easy, and this is true. I don’t know what type of glue they used, but even on wet rotten plywood this damn glue just wouldn’t let go. Pretty good glue! I finally managed to do it slowly, without any tear in the ensolite.

It hasn’t rained here for a few days now, but the old plywood was soaked wet with water. Just for the fun of it, I threw one piece in my pool, it sank right to the bottom!

To replace it, I hesitated between exterior grade plywood or strips of cedar. After some dicussion with my Dad, I followed his advise and went with the cedar. Boy that smells good when you cut it!
The original plywood was 7/8in thick. I had choice of 3/4in or 1in cedar. I went for 3/4in.

I thoroughly cleaned the window flanges, pulling off all the old silicone. That wasn’t too bad, I just pulled on it and off it came. I bought some aluminium wheel spray cleaner at Canadian Tire, I sprayed the window and used a small brush and a scotchbrite pad to clean it as much as I could. After I rinsed, it came out quite nice.

The only place I could find large rolls of butyl tape is at a nearby RV center. My local hardware store doesn’t have it, and the guy at Home Depot had never seen this in his life. I bought two large rolls of 3/4 inch wide.

My daughter helped me putting back the window in place, properly positioning the wood strips and pushing on them from the inside while I started the first few screws from the outside. Then it was just a matter of putting on all the screws, not too tight, letting the butyl stuff ooze out. I used my cordless drill but did the final tigtening by hand (I’ll retorque all of them a few times over the next few days, allowing time for the butyl tape to spread and seal properly). I used 3/4in #8 stainless screws, Robertson head.

I don’t know if I will reuse the screw covers. They have seen better days… I know they are available on the web but I’ll try to find them locally.

I didn’t glue back the ensolite. If some other guy, in another 35 years from now, wants to reseal these windows again, he won’t have to unglue it again.

Now I need to find some interior framing to put around the windows. One previous owner did put some MDF mouldings that I didn’t reinstall as they were not very good looking. Maybe some aluminium molding or decorative trim.
But this can wait, as the 5500 has a total of 7 windows!
1 down, 6 to go!
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Old 08-29-2015, 06:07 PM   #2
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Sounds like you've got a handle on it Carl. How 'bout some pics?
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Old 08-29-2015, 06:30 PM   #3
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I took a few. Still in the phone!

I'm thinking about starting a blog to document the 5500's reno. I did just that when my Dad bought his 1975 Dodge Travco motorhome (a fiberglass RV BTW! ) and started working on it.

I'll be back with the pictures.
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Old 08-29-2015, 07:14 PM   #4
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Ok first are two pictures of the trailer when it was on sale.
On the first look you can see that the original "Trillium 5500" decal has been changed. Later I learned that the original was damaged or faded and a previous owner had these made to cover the old ones. I HATE them and the very first thing I did is to take them off (more on this below).
Also, as I mentioned the previous owner tinkered a lot with the trailer, and on the rear bumper he put a square storage tube he used for awning posts, a home made metal box in which he carried a small Honda generator, a bike rack, and (later removed before I bought the trailer) a portable grill support.
On the front bumper is the spare tire, two 20lbs LP tanks, two 6V deep cycle batteries, and all the (very sturdy) hardware to secure all this to the A frame (yes, very heavy tongue weight...)



Now here is a picture of when I towed it home.


Now it sits at the back of my driveway, behind our Coleman popup.


Here's a picture after I pulled the ugly Trillium decal. It already looks much better. There is an identical decal on the other side. There was a remnant of the original logo under the big decal, we removed it also. Just like others have reported here, a "shadow" of the original decal remains visible, since the gelcoat under it has not weathered and is still very shiny. We plan on putting new decals, and once waxed that 'shadow' will pretty much disappear.


I'll have the window reseal pictures on my next post.
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Old 08-29-2015, 07:36 PM   #5
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Unfortunately I thought about taking pictures only after the window was off the trailer. But here's what I have.

First photo with the window out, top left corner. Notice that the screws on the side were not even going through the fiberglass. But after thinking about it, it doesn't matter much, the fiberglass being still solidly sandwiched between the window frame and the inside wood.


Top right corner. I do have some cracking right at the corner, seems to be only the gelcoat. I have a similar crack at the opposite corner (bottom left). Might be some stress on the shell at these points, I don't know. I didn't think it really needed any reinforcements, but since I had some around, I spread a layer of LePage PL Premium construction adhesive on the inside. Not sure if this will help or do anything, but it didn't cost anything!


Bottom left corner with the cracking.Wood looks better on the pictures than it actually was.


Working on ungluing the ensolite:



Rotten wood removed:


Here's the water damage I was talking about on the front right dinette seat. Right under the window. I'll have to replace the plywood. Floor under that area is just fine, no trace of any water.


Water damaged wood:
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Old 08-29-2015, 07:41 PM   #6
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One of the badly rusted screws I removed.
I replaced all of them with SS screws. I read about galvanic corrosion of aluminium vs SS and the use of nylon washers. I couldn't find any nylon washers around here so I didn't use any, but I'll be looking for them. I can probably add them later I guess.


Silicone galore!






Aluminum wheel stuff I used:
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Old 08-29-2015, 07:58 PM   #7
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12ft 6in cedar planks. Cuts don't have to be super accurate, I didn't bother putting the guide on my circular saw, I simply marked and cut. Widest part is 2 1/4 inch, with one side cut at 45 deg angle.




Old silicone removed from trailer and new wood frame in.



Window is back in place, first few screws in, and putty tape starting to ooze out.


All screws in, now I'm removing excess putty using my plastic 'spudger', which will not scratch the gelcoat.


Job done!
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Old 08-30-2015, 01:47 AM   #8
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XLNT redo of the window Carl....the rest will be a piece of cake . Not sure if it would make any difference to the metal contact but I wonder if there is something you could coat the screws with to minimize corrosion. May not be a big deal though, look how long the steel ones lasted.
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Old 08-30-2015, 04:08 AM   #9
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Nice trailer I really like those 5500's.


Sent from my iPad using Fiberglass RV
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Old 08-30-2015, 10:48 AM   #10
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Bonjour Carl, ça semble vraiment bien partie tes rénovations. C'est super de la remettre en bon état. Je t'invite à te joindre à notre groupe FB afin de partager avec d'autres propriétaires de roulottes de fibre de verre. Il serait aussi plaisant que tu te joignes à nous pour la rencontre de septembre, même si tes rénovations ne sont pas terminées. Tu trouveras les informations sur la page FB ou sur l'autre lien que je t'envoies. Bonne continuation.
https://www.facebook.com/groups/117575571626204/
Bolerama 2015 - Le coin du campeur
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Old 08-30-2015, 12:07 PM   #11
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Salut Lucille

Je ne suis pas sur Facebook.
Il est possible que j'aille faire un tour à la rencontre 2015 comme visiteur, mais la Trillium n'est pas dans un état pour aller camper présentement. Peut-être l'an prochain!

Merci
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Old 08-30-2015, 01:17 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Borrego Dave View Post
XLNT redo of the window Carl....the rest will be a piece of cake . Not sure if it would make any difference to the metal contact but I wonder if there is something you could coat the screws with to minimize corrosion. May not be a big deal though, look how long the steel ones lasted.

I used stainless steel screws on a couple of mine and 3/16" aluminum pop rivets on others both work very well.. I sure wouldn't use standard steel screws, they will start rusting and leave brown streaks down the side of the camper.....Bought my screws off e-bay very reasonable, try to never use something that will rust later, just doesn't make sense to do all that work then use cheap screws you want save more than a few bucks.. Stainless steel ones are not that expensive......
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Old 08-30-2015, 02:14 PM   #13
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Thank you for the info and pics. Re doing windows on my Boler is on the to-do list.

Linda
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Old 08-30-2015, 02:57 PM   #14
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Many thanks to Carl, Linda, Dave and Randy for the pictures and inspiration. I'm about to tackle the window removal and resealing in my Boler this fall. You've led me into the 'Why Not ?' stage.
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