Replacing the floor? - Fiberglass RV


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Old 01-03-2010, 08:48 PM   #1
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We have a (Trillium-like) Surfside that has a floor with wood rot. Any suggestions on how to get the plywood flooring sections that haven't rotted and are adhered to the trailer's fiberglass underside up without tearing the fiberglass shell up in the process?


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<=== The front, curbside floor under where the gaucho was. You can see the dark, discolored, and rotten plywood.


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<=== After the corner was cut out, with bits of fiberglass mat extending over where the floor used to be from the trailer's fiberglass walls. That's how the walls were supported before the plywood gave out. The cleaner white floor is the newer stuff the prior owner put in just before selling the trailer. Too bad he didn't replace the rotten wood under the gaucho or other cabinets; now most the entire floor has to be re-done.
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Old 01-03-2010, 09:28 PM   #2
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I can't completely get a sense of it from what I'm seeing, but I've experienced similar issues when re-coring the decks of fiberglass boats (the deck being a sandwich of fiberglass/balsa wood/fiberglass.

The rotten core comes out like butter but the decent or semi-decent stuff does NOT want to be removed. In past years I chipped it out bit by painful bit with a chisel/putty knife/screwdriver/whatever worked; but nowadays I would use a Fein Multimaster with a scraper blade.

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Old 01-03-2010, 09:35 PM   #3
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I use a Fein Multi-Master to cut the flooring from the shell when working on Scamps. Dremmel, Rockwell, Craftman and Harbor Freight ($39.) make similar tools. I use Harbor Freight blades since they are much cheaper than the Fein blades. The Multi-Master is also a great tool for removing carpet and glue using the flat blade.
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Old 01-04-2010, 01:32 AM   #4
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Thanks Raya and Eddie. I'm just kinda hoping to tackle this job without buying yet another tool, so I'm still looking for suggestions. (Buying a new tool is OK, but (as Lynne might comment) even though I have a good sized workshope I am running out of places to store my tools. Adding yet another tool that's really only good at one specific thing might not be my best choice if I can use another tool I already have.

As for the pics, the previous owner replaced some of the floor and looks to have done a pretty reasonable job in the area he replaced, where it is solidly attached. Problem is he only replaced the center of the floor, cutting and pulling the old stuff up from just in front of all the existing cabinets and leaving the edges untouched. Alas, the Surfside is built such that the sides of the trailer are supported by the edges of plywood floor, so the net effect was the sides of the trailer are no longer supported. Predictably the front curbside door shell dropped almost 1" on one side of the door as compared to the other due to lack of support.

I've annotated the pictures in my first post to identify the pictures.
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Old 01-04-2010, 09:29 AM   #5
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I haven't used the $39 Harbor Freight MultiMaster knock-off, although my sense is that it would work fine for a one-time job. Doesn't solve the storage problem though...

On the other hand, speaking of the MultiMaster, yes it is expensive, and yes, many of the things it does *could* be done (less efficiently) by another tool, but I will say that I'm almost sure you would find yourself reaching for it to do a lot of jobs, once you had one. It's definitely not a one-trick pony. And there are things that it can do that you would be hard-pressed to make another tool accomplish.

As a side bonus it makes/flings a lot less dust than a typical cutting power tool, and if you accidentally brush your arm or finger with it, it won't cut you (due to the motion, it just pushes skin around). So you can justify it as a safety expenditure
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Old 01-04-2010, 10:25 AM   #6
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Attachment 25767


This sounds like my favorite TV show.
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Old 01-04-2010, 11:06 AM   #7
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Quote:
I haven't used the $39 Harbor Freight MultiMaster knock-off, although my sense is that it would work fine for a one-time job. Doesn't solve the storage problem though...

On the other hand, speaking of the MultiMaster, yes it is expensive, and yes, many of the things it does *could* be done (less efficiently) by another tool, but I will say that I'm almost sure you would find yourself reaching for it to do a lot of jobs, once you had one. It's definitely not a one-trick pony. And there are things that it can do that you would be hard-pressed to make another tool accomplish.

As a side bonus it makes/flings a lot less dust than a typical cutting power tool, and if you accidentally brush your arm or finger with it, it won't cut you (due to the motion, it just pushes skin around). So you can justify it as a safety expenditure
I agree wholehardedly with this with the exception it "would not solve the storage problem" When you get this tool you would find that it will do the job of many of the tools you now have and be able to get rid of. end of storage problem
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Old 01-04-2010, 05:51 PM   #8
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Peter,
My Trillium floor had some rot in the same areas you are having trouble with. I removed both plywood floors under the rear benches (came out fairly easily) and the curbside front corner under the gaucho (what a b#[at]&%!). The main walking area of the floor plywood was solid and is covered with gel coated fiberglass that is part of the molded in cabinets. I handled the front corner by excising the front plywood back till I had solid wood, about a third of the way across. I also used a Fein Multi tool. With good depth control, a circular saw would also do the job. The solid wood was bonded to the fiberglass below so I cut 1/4" curfs thru the plywood then used a chisel to remove. A disc grinder cleaned up the leftovers. There were voids in the bond and places that were stuck down very hard.
Eat this elephant one bite at a time.
I bonded the new plywood in with resin and flox cotton, then 6 plys of bid over and up onto the walls.

On remoldel jobs, my Fein multi tool is first on the job site and last off.
Dave
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Old 01-05-2010, 12:04 AM   #9
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Sigh. I guess I have to go out and buy another tool, Lynne! Everyone says I need a new tool. So very sad . . .

Yea. I figure on cutting the "new" floor up into 2x2 inch squares with the circular saw, then removing the floor one small bit at a time. Will the multitool do the right thing if I try to slide it between the fiberglass shell and the plywood, or will it tear through the shell? And should I do a frame-off before I start, or can this be done while the trailer rests on its frame?
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Old 01-05-2010, 08:22 AM   #10
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I don't think the scraper blade would damage the fiberglass. The resin penetrates into the wood grain and becomes one with the fiberglass. I had tearing of the wood during this process and the scraper blade won't cut the wood effectively. I used a wide wood chisel.
On frame is fine, just be careful where you step once plywood is out.

When I was working this problem, I tried to figure a way to deal with any moisture that might show up in the future. The bottom fiberglass shell keeps out moisture from below, but also retains any that comes down from above. I decided against any penetrations thru the glass but to go with sealing the new plywood on all sides. My plan ended up being to seal instead of draining. If I have a leak in the future I'll need to deal with it immediately.
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Old 01-05-2010, 03:16 PM   #11
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That part I'm pretty clear on how I we need to deal with the problem.
  • Larger drain holes at the lowest points in the gutter-like lower edges of the fiberglass shell, screened off with mesh to keep vermin out.
  • Use marine plywood for the floor, coat all sides with resin, tab it into the shell, then create a series of drain holes at 2" intervals around the perimeter.
Eventually we will have to do a frame-off to clean, inspect, repair, and re-paint the frame, but because we'll be replacing the axle when we do that I'd like to get an accurate empty weight on the trailer before we do the frame-off.
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Old 01-05-2010, 04:12 PM   #12
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I may be mentioning something that's already old hat to you, so feel free to ignore, but I would also overdrill/fill those holes (in addition to coating the plywood). This is something that's done on boats, to close the core.

Essentially what you do is any place where there will ultimately be a hole going through the plywood (say, for a fastener or as a drain), you drill the hole larger than necessary. Then you fill the entire hole with epoxy. To do this you first wet out the "walls" of the hole with neat (unthickened) epoxy, and then you fill the whole completely with thickened epoxy (colloidial silica, etc.).

Once this all cures, you re-drill the intended hole through the middle of the thickened epoxy and proceed as usual. Not only does this seal off the core - it also produces an epoxy annulus that helps to avoid crushing/denting (say if you are tightening a fastener).

Note that you can mound the fill slightly and then chisel it flat relatively easily when it is in the "green" stage (that's when it's somewhat hard but still dentable with a fingernail).

I usually use clear packing tape to cover the bottom of the hole - that way I can see how the fill is going (as opposed to blue tape), and yet it peels right off after the epoxy has cured.

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Old 01-05-2010, 05:04 PM   #13
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One suggestion that may sound weird is when you get down to pulling out the last little bits, get an old wood chisel and intentionally blunt it.

This will make it much more a 'splitting' tool that follows any weakness in the thing you're hitting/splitting, whereas a normal sharp edge will tend to go only in the direction it's pointed.

The fiberglass boatyard where I worked had an older supervisor who would pull chisels out of anyone's hands (including the boss') to check they were blunt. After a while any of the lads using a chisel would stop and pass it to him 'for inspection' if he walked near...

Andrew
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Old 01-05-2010, 05:35 PM   #14
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One suggestion that may sound weird is when you get down to pulling out the last little bits, get an old wood chisel and intentionally blunt it.

This will make it much more a 'splitting' tool that follows any weakness in the thing you're hitting/splitting, whereas a normal sharp edge will tend to go only in the direction it's pointed.

The fiberglass boatyard where I worked had an older supervisor who would pull chisels out of anyone's hands (including the boss') to check they were blunt. After a while any of the lads using a chisel would stop and pass it to him 'for inspection' if he walked near...

Andrew
Andrew,
I'm with you. Ihave a sharp set, a blunt set, and a really fine set that nobody is allowed to touch.
Dave
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