Adding a hatch. - Fiberglass RV


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Old 07-27-2008, 01:54 AM   #1
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I'm adding this hatch so I can easily access the storage space under the dinette benches of my Scamp 5er.


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This is a continuation of the Converting dinette into a "U" with more storage thread I started earlier, which shows how I re-structured the dinette area, moving the fresh water tank and other stuff to open up more space under the benches.


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I bought two T H Marine locking access Hatches, one 13x24" hatch for the curb-side, another 13X17 street-side hatch. (The smaller street-side hatch to allow room for the electric and water hookups.) West Marine sells them, but I found them for 2/3 the price from an eBay retailer, A Bass Boat Store, and they were very easy to deal with. These are the same hinged poly units that Camper Bob installed successfully in his Scamp 5th wheel.

I started by removing the curb-side bench and re-locating my fresh water tank and other hardware (see the topic about converting my dinette to a "U"). Removing the bench is actually pretty easy to do; the bench is secured by a bunch of screws that bolt the back of the bench to a "curb" that's mounted to the hull and a couple more that screw through a bit of wood at the bottom front of the bench and into the floor. Once the screws are removed all that holds the bench in place is a mess of silicone caulk attaching the bench to the kitchen cabinet at the front and to the floor; cut through the caulk and the bench comes free.

With the bench removed I drilled a hole at the forward- and upper-most point where I wanted the hole in the hull for the hatch to go, then I drilled another hole at (what I thought was) the rear-most upper edge point. I also detached the electrical outlet from the hull so I could move it to a new location later.


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After filling that hole in with epoxy putty and drilling a hole in the correct spot, I lined the upper corners of the cardboard template that's printed inside the hatch's box with the drill holes and marked my cut lines with a Sharpie marker, then drilled holes at the inside lower corners of the cutout area.


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I masked off the inside of the trailer to prevent fiberglass dust from getting everywhere. Fiberglass is nasty stuff, it can irritate your skin and do real damage to your lungs if you inhale the fiberglass dust created while you saw holes in fiberglass SO WEAR A MASK TO PROTECT YOUR LUNGS.


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I used a cordless saber-saw to cut straight lines from one hole to the next, then used the same technique to cut a close-fitting hole for the electrical box and pulled the wire through.


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Old 07-27-2008, 02:22 AM   #2
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Here are the wires pulled through to the new hole then the second test-fitting of the hatch frame and installation of the electrical box. It took two tries to get the hatch in; the original opening I cut was a fraction of an inch to narrow where I cut a bit further inside the line than I should have, but a couple more minutes with the saber saw fixed the problem.


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After that I drilled 3/32" pilot holes through the center of all the hatch frame screw holes and secured the hatch frame with 1" #8 stainless steel machine screws, tight-ish at the top and mostly snug at the bottom to hold the frame in place without deforming the door frame or the curved hull of my Scamp and put the door on.


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I'll come back next week and finish the job by removing the door frame and roughing the gelcoat under the frame margins up with 80 grit sandpaper, then use 3M 5200 Marine Sealant Adhesive to make the installation permanent, water-tight, and to fill the gaps at the lower margins of the door frame. I will also contour some wood members to match the inside trailer hull and screw them in on the vertical edges of the door frame up to the bench-support "curb" to help support the weight of the trailer over the door and prevent stress cracking in the fiberglass.
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Old 07-27-2008, 12:50 PM   #3
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That's great, Peter! Thanks for the detailed instructions! You rock!
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Old 08-01-2008, 10:11 PM   #4
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. . . I'll come back next week and finish the job by removing the door frame and roughing the gelcoat under the frame margins up with 80 grit sandpaper, then use 3M 5200 Marine Sealant Adhesive to make the installation permanent, water-tight, and to fill the gaps at the lower margins of the door frame . . .
I need to follow-up on which adhesive I plan on using. After looking at 3M product books I found the 5200 product didn't specify that it adheres to plastics, so I'm switching to 3M Marine Adhesive Sealant Fast Cure 4200, which adheres to fiberglass (including the gelcoat once it's been roughed up with sandpaper) as well as "most plastics." Actually putting the stuff on will have to wait, though: the caulking-gun sized tubes are about $20 each and specify that they have to be used within 48 hours of when the seal is broken.

Made some minor advances this week. I backed the door with Reflectix insulation to help keep the cold outside (or inside, if I ever get an AC unit) our trailer. To do this I un-screwed the little arms that lock the hatch door down, cut some Reflectix to fit inside the inner rim of the door and around the lock mechanism housing, masked off the edges and sprayed 3M Super 77 contact adhesive on the back of the door and the back of the Reflectix (From Lowes heating/plumbing section), waited a minute or so, and carefully put the two together. (This is a job that's best done before the hatch frame is permanently mounted to the trailer, btw. Once the hatch frame is attached it will be more difficult to detach the door.)


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I want the doors to stay open while I'm getting stuff in and out. Me being me, I used some of fancy, scary-strong neodymium magnets to do the job. First I figured out where my door came into close contact with the outside wall of my Scamp and taped a magnet there. Then I ran another magnet around the rat-fur on the inside to see where the magnet stuck and locate the magnet taped to the outside. Then I cut a slit through the rat fur and underlying Reflectix insulation with a utility knife, inserted a really strong 1" diameter x 1/8" thick N50 magnet through the slit. (Yea, the picture shows me sliding a quarter in, but that's because I've already inserted the magnet and glued it in place with a gob of hot-melt glue. If I tried to insert another magnet I'd either pull the magnet I'd just glued in-place off the hull or have the magnet pulled out of my fingers, and then I'd never get it loose wthout pulling the first magnet off. They're that strong.) A tuft of left-over rat fur from the hatch install tucked in the hole and you'll never find the insertion spot unless you know where to look for it.


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To give the magnet something to grab onto and hold the hatch open I used white plastic epoxy to glue a smaller, 1/2" diameter x 1/8" thick N42 magnet onto the matching spot on the corner of the hatch door. The resulting look is pretty unobtrusive and holds the door securely open without having to mess with mechanical latches and the like.


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Old 08-02-2008, 11:28 PM   #5
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Peter-

The magnets are a terrific idea! Thanks for sharing. I installed the vent for my new refrigerator today. I was surprised by how easy cutting the fiberglass was. The hatches I ordered should come on Monday and I'm really looking forward to following your plan.
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Old 08-11-2008, 03:25 PM   #6
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thanks again Peter, another great post. I'v been thinking about this for a while.
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Old 08-11-2008, 07:58 PM   #7
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Over the weekend I removed the shore power and city water connectors, which were located smack-dab in the middle of where I planned to put my door, from the shell and cut the street-side door hole using the template printed inside the box, and I discovered something very important: the template is not quite the same shape as the 13"x17" door frame. It is a little small in the shorter dimension and slightly longer in the longer dimension. The net result is I had to enlarge the hole slightly in one dimension and will need to install some sort of backing (I'll epoxy in some 1/4" plywood) for the screws to dig into the other way.

<sigh>

Actually this isn't as big a deal as I'm making it out to be. I was planning on glassing in a buildup of 1/4" plywood to better distribute stresses that used to be borne by the fiberglass that used to be where the doors are now, but it would have been nice if the screws holding the door in had a solid section of fiberglass to screw into.

So, if you're planning a similar project you might want to TEST FIT THE DOOR TO THE TEMPLATE before you mark up and cut your fiberglass.

One more but of progress: Today I took the doors to our neighborhood locksmith and had the locks re-keyed to match the key for the Bargman lockset on our trailer door uses. At fifteen dollars per lock the conversion ran $60 and change for taxes, but I didn't want to stow our stuff inside a hatch that uses the same stamped-metal key as a gazillion other cheap RV hatches.

Like I said, this peace-of-mind re-keying cost us $60 and change, but I could have kept the cost to $30 by having only the forward-most door latches re-keyed and dripping a little Super Glue into the other locks to prevent some trickster from using the stamped-metal key for their trailer to lock our doors shut.

And, coolness!, Lynne and I bought a blue Coleman RoadTrip LX grill (the one with a separate stand and no wheels) and were able to fit it, it's companion griddle and stovetop ring accessories, a couple 1lbs propane bottles, and our roll-up, fold-up camp table through the hatch into the curb-side bench. It's somewhat tight getting it in there -- we tried the red Coleman Road Trip LXE stove with the wheels and integrated stand, but it didn't fit through the door -- but it fits with a small bit of room left over for some grilling tools and related goodies. Yay!

Soon this project will wind to a close. Next weekend or the weekend after I'll epoxy in my plywood reinforcements and install the city water and electrical hookup connectors in their new spot just forward of the street side door. Then this project will be DONE!
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Old 08-11-2008, 08:51 PM   #8
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Then this project will be DONE!
Dreamer Oh wait, you have another trailer waiting in the wings
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Old 08-12-2008, 12:35 AM   #9
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Dreamer Oh wait, you have another trailer waiting in the wings
Not done with the trailer, Donna, just the hatch project! There's another year or so of odds-n-ends I still want to do on our 5th wheel before moving on to the Surfside. But the 5er's list list is getting shorter. The major things still left to do are to make a new overhead cabinet for the rear of the trailer over the dinette, install new counter tops and double-bowl sink, install a lightning-rod hot water heater element, and finish putting down the wood-look laminate floor (currently only the dinette floor is done), but there are a dozen or more smaller projects, like installing reading lights in the loft, that'll probably be done here and again for years.

Lynne is eager to get started on the Surfside, though, and I've promised her that we'll start working on it next summer. We're hoping it'll be travel-worthy for a NOG next year, but first it needs a new axle and brakes and perhaps some frame welding before we do much of any travel with it.
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Old 08-20-2008, 02:24 AM   #10
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I had some plumbing problems to resolve, so I'm running a little behind on the hatch project. I moved the shore-power connector and moved and installed a new city water hookup (one with a built-in pressure regulator) to make room for the street-side hatch, and got the hole cut made the plywood support framing for that side.


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The support frame is two "L" shaped bits of 1/2" plywood that are joined at the bottom to form a "U" that extends across the bottom of the hatch opening and all the way to the bottom of the "curb" the dinette seat rests on. The hatch frame is secured by ten stainless steel screws into the plywood "L"/"U" structure and into the curb. To attach the two "L" pieces I peeled the rat-fur and Reflectix insulation back and epoxied the two "L" shaped pieces to the shell.

The reason I installed the plywood frame is I worry that the shell fiberglass where the doors were probably supported a lot of weight, and I'm concerned that the shell will develop stress cracks if I don't reinforce the hull there. I made both "L" shapes with a radius inside corner that matches the hatch door frame to help distribute stress.

You can see one of the the uninstalled "L" pieces for the curb side hatch on the floor in the foreground as well as the re-located city water and shore power connections just in front of the new hatch. They both used to be located in the fiberglass panel I cut out to make room for the door.

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Old 08-24-2008, 05:43 PM   #11
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I glued the curb-side plywood frame inside the shell on Friday. Each "frame" is made up of three pieces: the top of the door frame braces and screws into the "curb" the dinette bench sits on, and to this I added a large 5/8" plywood "L" shape that extends from the curb and 2/3 of the way across bottom edge of the door hole and another "L" that extends from that point forward and up the other side.

Before gluing the "L" shapes in I stripped the rat fur and Reflectix insulation from the interior hull, then coated the appropriate side of the Ls with a liberal amount of 5-minute epoxy and clamped them into place for 30 minutes each. Here's a picture of the curb-side's rear-most L being glued into place.


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And now the doors are in. The curb-side looks pretty much the same as in an earlier picture I posted before gluing in the plywood frame, but here's a picture of the smaller street-side hatch with its relocated electric and city water hookups.


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Old 08-24-2008, 08:18 PM   #12
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Again, very nice work Peter.

Are the water and power hook-ups original Scamp or aftermarket? I need to get new hook-ups for my Boler.
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Old 08-24-2008, 08:35 PM   #13
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Again, very nice work Peter.

Are the water and power hook-ups original Scamp or aftermarket? I need to get new hook-ups for my Boler.
They are after-market accessories.

The shore power connector is the twist-lock socket connection I installed shortly after buying the trailer. I just broke the old one out of the Scamp stock entry housing and installed it in the manner it was originally designed for.

The city water hookup is a SHURflo "Pressure Regulator Water Entry." I bought it because it makes it easier to connect and tighten the hose connection, has a built-in water pressure regulator, sits more flush with the side of the trailer and generally looks nicer.
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Old 08-24-2008, 10:51 PM   #14
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Ah! ... thank you. I have to do that power cord mod too!
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