13' Casita Trailer Off Restoration. - Fiberglass RV


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Old 08-02-2017, 08:41 PM   #1
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Name: Bill
Trailer: Casita
Florida
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13' Casita Trailer Off Restoration.

My fiance and I inherited a 1996 Casita. It was used by her grand parents as a extra room at her parents house. It pretty much just sat in the driveway and was un-cared for various reasons. Long story short, it became ours.





We knew were wanted to do a few small things to it to make it our own. I am pretty handy, and can do most things when it comes to fabrication and construction. So I figured I would take it on as a weekend project here and there. Small projects... You know, like changing out the laminate flooring, cleaning the carpeted walls, fixing some of the leaks, and repainting it.

Should have known better... Where there are leaks there are nightmares... As I was going to change out the old laminate flooring, I realized the wood that was used as the sub-floor that is sandwiched between the two layers of fiberglass was rotted out in its entirety.


I used a cut off wheel to cut the top layer of fiberglass all the way around the perimeter of the floor and wood. Once this was done, the fiberglas came out in two big sheets (front and back). The old wood literally was able to be vacuumed out. Next step was to get rid of all the rusty bolt heads that were left behind. Cut off wheel once again was used. I then rough sanded the whole floor to ensure a good bond to the new floor in later steps. I bought some 1/2'' marine plywood to use for the new sub-floor. I would rather have used 3/8'' but I couldn't find any at the time.

I made a template with some cardboard and then cut the plywood with a jig saw. I then drilled holes in the plywood so that I could ensure a good bond and no air gaps when setting the wood in fiberglass resin on the floor. I poured a good amount of the fiberglass resin on shell floor, then evened it out with a bush. I then set the plywood on op of that and placed weight on top of it to make sure it set level all the way around. Once that had set I poured another layer of fiberglass on top of the wood, filling all the holes, and also applying a layer of fiberglass cloth. Working in small sections is the only way to do this because the cloth and wood will soak up so much resin and you can only mix and apply so much at a time. I layered layer after layer of cloth and resin around the edges and door to get everything even with the plywood. Same process for the back elevated area.


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Old 08-02-2017, 08:54 PM   #2
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Name: Eric
Trailer: 1987 Casita 16
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Looking forward to following this thread -- I am thinking of doing something like this. I have read a number of these and think it might be a project to take on. Still haven't canceled the Scamp I have on order, in case it turns out to not be what I thought.
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Old 08-03-2017, 05:14 AM   #3
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Name: Bill
Trailer: Casita
Florida
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Once I had the floor back in, and the camper wasn't just a flimsy fiberglass shell, I lifted the the shell up off the trailer and put it on jack stands. I figured I would never have the opportunity to take the shell off the trailer again, because there were no bolts holding it to that trailer at this point. May as well right?

Once the camper was off, I took a angle grinder with a wire wheel and went to town. I live in FL and don't have a place to do this inside so anywhere that I cleaned off had to be wiped down with alcohol and primed pretty quickly or it would start rusting again. Not only is the humidity super high in the summer, but it also rains and I am close to the ocean which means lots of salt in the air.

If I were going to do this all over again, I would have paid someone to sand blast it. This was a LOT of work and it was dangerous. Because of all the sharp edges on the trailer and nook and crannies, you have to be very careful with a wire wheel/angle grinder combo. It will grab and cause mayhem and destruction anywhere it touches you on the way down. It will also start slinging out little lighting bolts of wire bristles that will penetrate through your clothing and in your skin. I highly recommend protective clothing, face shield and replacing wire wheels as soon as you notice them losing bristles.

I used Rustoleum rusty metal primer, and their black enamel paint with a roller and brush. I also re-enforced the trailer with some additional cross bracing with some 2X3 .120 wall box tubing and put a new rear bumper on it.




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Old 08-03-2017, 06:28 PM   #4
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Trailer: Casita
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Now that the trailer had been painted, it was time to put the fiberglass shell back on. Before I could do this, i had to clean up the underside of the camper. I filled all the minor imperfections from the old bolt holes with bondo. When I cut the bolts, I almost cut them flush with the bottom of the fiberglass, so there really wasn't much to fill in here. I put a coat of rubberized undercarriage paint on it and moved on the next step.

To get the trailer back under, I just took the wheels off the trailer, put it on some dolleys and rolled it up under the fiberglass shell. I then used a jack to lift the trailer back up to normal height and reinstall the wheels/tires. I then lowered the shell onto the trailer and re-positioned the shell back into its original position.

I then went under the camper and drilled holes through the cross supports up through the floor of the camper. This way i knew i was centered on my crossbeams and other anchor points. I then went to the top side and countersunk the tops of all the holes so a flat head stainless 3/8'' bolt would sit just under the floor surface. The holes were filled with silicon, the bolt inserted and tightened. Once dry, I fiber-glassed over the top of the bolt heads to prevent water intrusion.

What a bunch of work that was... Glad that I did it, and will never have to do it again...

Once I got the shell back on the trailer, it was time to start doing body work. One of my ideas for this camper was to completely get rid of all the rivets through the body of the camper. This is what caused many of the leaking points originally and I also hate the look of it. Off came all the rivets, widows, doors, awning, lights ect. I used bondo to fill in a bunch of the holes. My advice with filling small rivet holes is to fill them from the backside if possible this creates a base for the bondo for strength, as opposed to just plugging a hole from the outside. I usually fill the hole from the backside and then sand it down, then feather the outside with bondo, because generally the rivet has created a small indentation in the fiberglass.

I also chose to fill in some of the other vent holes on the drivers side of the camper. I am not going to be using propane except for the stove so I really didn't need the additional vent. I left the one vent on the bottom so that I could have access behind the refrigerator if I needed to get back there for some reason. It also will help vent some of the heat from the fridge out of the camper.


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Old 08-03-2017, 06:49 PM   #5
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Nice work!

Not questioning your method, just curious: why Bondo to fill instead of patching in new fiberglass? I've seen it done both ways, and have no idea if there's an advantage to one vs the other, except maybe the fiberglass is more difficult.
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Old 08-03-2017, 06:52 PM   #6
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I also filled in the roof vent, as I plan on putting some solar panels up there. I can always add a roof vent later if I want one.



It was now time to fiberglass mounts in for all the interior parts to attach to, since they no longer can be fastened through the camper shell. I took some premium pine ferring strips and fiber glassed them in where all my mounting points will be. Pretty easy to do. Mount your interior pieces, mark lines where you mounting strip will be, and fiberglass them in.



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Old 08-03-2017, 06:57 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by rbryan View Post
Nice work!

Not questioning your method, just curious: why Bondo to fill instead of patching in new fiberglass? I've seen it done both ways, and have no idea if there's an advantage to one vs the other, except maybe the fiberglass is more difficult.
Bondo is fiberglass in all reality. Instead of being two liquid parts, they add fibers to the mix to give it volume and filler. There are a couple different types of bondo. Fillers and finishers. the finishing bondo is pretty thin while the filler bondo can add some significant depth. I honestly did bondo because it is easier for me to do it that way. Even when using fiber glass, you usually have to fill with bondo at the end because you expose these little tiny air bubbles in the fiberglass when you sand it that are too big to be filled with primer. If the patch is bigger then 3/8-1/2'' I will use fiberglass to fill it.
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Old 08-03-2017, 06:59 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by CasitaInFL View Post
Bondo is fiberglass in all reality. Instead of being two liquid parts, they add fibers to the mix to give it volume and filler. There are a couple different types of bondo. Fillers and finishers. the finishing bondo is pretty thin while the filler bondo can add some significant depth. I honestly did bondo because it is easier for me to do it that way. Even when using fiber glass, you usually have to fill with bondo at the end because you expose these little tiny air bubbles in the fiberglass when you sand it that are too big to be filled with primer. If the patch is bigger then 3/8-1/2'' I will use fiberglass to fill it.
Thanks for the explanation. I guess thats true, particularly since theres no gelcoat in the patched areas. The fine filler takes the paint better, I get it.
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Old 08-03-2017, 07:04 PM   #9
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Name: Fernando
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I agree nice work

I'm also doing a restoration on a Jubilee 1980 and a I'm using fiberglass resin jelly to cover the holes.




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Old 08-03-2017, 07:12 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by rbryan View Post
Thanks for the explanation. I guess thats true, particularly since theres no gelcoat in the patched areas. The fine filler takes the paint better, I get it.
That and there is generally more build up with fiberglass that takes longer to dry and sand. With bondo I can get the shape pretty close, using a flexible putty knife, then I don't need to spend the additional time sanding.
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Old 08-03-2017, 07:16 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Falicea View Post
I agree nice work

I'm also doing a restoration on a Jubilee 1980 and a I'm using fiberglass resin jelly to cover the holes.



Attachment 109787Attachment 109788Attachment 109789

Cool project. My best advice it to get it as smooth as possible when applying it to save time sanding. I HATE sanding fiberglass. I put on a tyvek suit and respirator. Nothing worse then trying to sleep in bed after getting fiberglass all over you.
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Old 08-03-2017, 07:43 PM   #12
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After many hours sanding and re applying bondo, I was getting close to where the camper needed to be for the first coat of primer.

I still had to get all the decals off, which wasn't too bad with a sharp razor blade and soapy water to keep the blade sliding on the fiberglass. The sticky glue residue took some elbow grease to get off though.

I also chose to close in the tail light holes. I never was a fan of the tail lights. They just looked kind of cheap, and they also had a chance to leak. (I'm not doing leaks again). Be prepared for lots of finishing work on these curved areas...

If you have a big air compressor, I highly recommend getting this sander from harbor freight. It will save you HUGE amounts of time and it is only $25. The downside is it uses a ton of air. I have a 60 gallon 3 hp air compressor and it barely keeps up with this thing. But it saved me hours.

I also epoxied a little wood block to the wall up front and hooked up a distribution block so that I could hook the trailer up and pull it around. This way I could remove the cord when painting it. I wanted to paint the camper at someone else's house with a bigger property so I don't get over spray on all my neighbors cars.

For the primer, I will be using a product by Interlux called "Pre-Kote". It is a topside primer for single part polyurethane paints. I like it because it is already pretty thin for spraying, it dries relatively fast, and it sands great. Its not cheap, at $44/quart, and I will need 4 quarts to do two coats of primer. It does have a nice build to it which allows me to fill in and cover a lot of the minor imperfections.

Here it is after the first coat of primer. Came out so good that I almost wanted to clear it and call it a day. But there are still some imperfections that need to be filled and I will keep on with my original plan and sand this coat down and do another coat.


I should have taken a picture of this, but I didn't... In my opinion the best way to sand the primer is to take a can of cheap fast drying dark paint and lightly speckle the whole area that was just primed. you just want little microscopic dots of paint everywhere. This allows you to see how deep you are sanding when finishing the primer for its second coat. It will also show if you have any low spots as they will not sand away. The speckles will not completely go away unless you sand all the way through the primer. This is also helpful when applying the second coat of primer, as its hard to see where you have coverage if you are spraying white on pure white like I am here.

I just sanded the first coat of primer the other day and painted another coat of primer on today. At this point, we are all caught up and I will make sure to document things a little better. I am sure I forgot things, as this has been over a couple months.
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Old 08-03-2017, 09:00 PM   #13
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Lol
My previous experience with fiberglass give me a good lesson.
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Old 08-03-2017, 09:06 PM   #14
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Looking very good my friend
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Old 08-04-2017, 07:36 AM   #15
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That's really looking beautiful!
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Old 08-04-2017, 09:40 AM   #16
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Nice job!
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Old 08-05-2017, 01:18 AM   #17
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Nice job! Looking forward to seeing whst happens with your trailer.
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Old 08-05-2017, 06:09 AM   #18
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Going to sand down some of the primer today and get the camper ready for paint.

There are a couple different options available for paint. The paint I ordered for this project is made by a company called Epifanes. It is a single part polyurethane (they call it a mono-urethane) paint as opposed to a two part. Now I am not a pro on this stuff, but after quite a bit of reading, I feel like the single part paint is a better fit for this project. It seems as though the two part paint creates a harder finish that is more scratch resistant, while the single part isn't quite as hard and doesn't have as good of scratch resistance. Because this camper flexes and wiggles all over the place, I think I softer more flexible paint job, in the long run, will end up being a better choice. Less likely to develop cracking issues.

The colors I chose for the paint will be white on top, and "moon dust" on the bottom and door.


Paint should probably be here sometime next week. I am going to spray this, however, I hear it works very well with rolling and tipping. I already have all the tools to spray it and it is less complicated for me this way.

On another note, has anyone replaced the rear window in a Casita with a Boler style rear window??? My rear window had an AC unit installed into it and the frame is in bad shape. Bunch of screw holes and corrosion on the braces and frame. It looks to me like i could cut a piece of plexi-glass (or other similar material) and use a locking gasket around the edge to put the window in. Making the interior work on the other side may be a a little work though. I really like the look of the one piece window in the back. smooths everything out really nice.
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Old 08-05-2017, 04:48 PM   #19
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Nice work!

Not questioning your method, just curious: why Bondo to fill instead of patching in new fiberglass? I've seen it done both ways, and have no idea if there's an advantage to one vs the other, except maybe the fiberglass is more difficult.
:yes nice work on your trailer, in the automotive world that sander is called a Jitterbug & yes it takes big air.
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Old 08-05-2017, 07:06 PM   #20
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Great idea to fill those holes and glass in some interior mounts.

Super info on what Bondo is. I was going to use it to fill imperfections in my floor repair, just to smooth out some rough spots before hitting it with two part garage floor epoxy and color chips. I was hesitating because I was unsure of how well it would bond with fiberglass. Now, I'm going to tear right through this finishing phase. Thank you!!!!
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