Is There a Renovation Basics and/or FAQ? - Fiberglass RV


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Old 04-24-2016, 10:23 PM   #1
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Is There a Renovation Basics and/or FAQ?

I'm thinking of picking up a cheap trailer as a "project," probably a 13 footer, and remodel/renovate it. My goal would be function, not restoration to original conditions. Is there an FAQ or some type of tutorial that explains the basics?

The "project" trailers that are in my price range typically have water tight shells but the interior requires near total rebuild. Can you rebuild everything by cutting/building from materials available at the local Home Depot? Or do most of the big pieces require that you buy an original part from eBay?

Also, if there are some cost estimates, that would be helpful. Approximately how should one budget to do a complete rebuild of a 13 foot trailer? (Assuming you do all the labor). I'm sure there will be a big range of numbers, but ... still it'd be nice to have some numbers.

Thanks.
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Old 04-24-2016, 10:46 PM   #2
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Hi John. Safety would be first on a project. Things like checking the frame for cracks, tires less than 5 yrs old no matter how great they look, brake lights & turn signals in working order, and all leaks repaired. Remember that most fiberglass interior furnishings are structural. Things like closets, benches, etc. help give structural support to the main body of the trailer, so whatever is taken out must be replaced, even if just out of a different material. Whatever is important to you might not be important to someone else. Some never use their showers, stoves, microwaves, heaters, water tanks, etc. while others can not live without them, so to find a step by step info. on how to remodel is going to be next to impossible.
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Old 04-25-2016, 01:53 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by frv91745 View Post
I'm thinking of picking up a cheap trailer as a "project," probably a 13 footer, and remodel/renovate it. My goal would be function, not restoration to original conditions. Is there an FAQ or some type of tutorial that explains the basics?
The "project" trailers that are in my price range typically have water tight shells but the interior requires near total rebuild. Can you rebuild everything by cutting/building from materials available at the local Home Depot? Or do most of the big pieces require that you buy an original part from eBay?
Also, if there are some cost estimates, that would be helpful. Approximately how should one budget to do a complete rebuild of a 13 foot trailer? (Assuming you do all the labor). I'm sure there will be a big range of numbers, but ... still it'd be nice to have some numbers.
Hi John, David B's reply pretty much nails it. I would add to check and repack the bearings and make sure the floor is solid, no soft spots. Depending on the age of what you may buy, say 20 years and older you may also be in line for a new axle. Just figure $600 for a round number on that. Not sure what you mean by a total interior rebuild as most molded trailers have FG interior components other than doors and such. Yes, you could take out everything and rebuild it all from box store material but the extra weight you would be adding????? a bunch. Interior FG parts on Ebay, think hens teeth . Refers, heaters and other items like that are no problem as they are not a dedicated molded TT item and are standard RV items.
Bottom line, at least to me, would be to buy the best one you can find. From what I see here from members.......their rebuilds were 2 to 3 times the cost they were figuring on spending.
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Old 04-25-2016, 04:40 AM   #4
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Once you have a good frame and shell I'd first get it watertight. Gut it if that's your plan. Rewire the whole thing from front to back. Then start your cabinets and other interior stuff. Most of mine was rebuilt from Home Depot materials except for rv specific parts. Lots of great threads and people here to help you out.


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Old 04-25-2016, 08:16 AM   #5
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Is There a Renovation Basics and/or FAQ?

Many first-timers underestimate both the time involved and the cost of materials to take on a project. Most shells in the project category are not watertight- that's how they got to be projects.

My opinion is that project trailers are best for craftspeople with deep pockets, well-equipped workshops, ample time, a broad skill set, and who consider renovation a hobby, not a means to an end.

The person who just wants something minimally functional for the least cost should aim a bit higher. A trailer with good bones- sound frame, solid floor, intact shell, basic interior components present- can be had for $3-5K with some time and effort searching. It will almost certainly end up costing less and get you camping faster. Keeping an open mind about brand and layout helps. Late summer and fall can be a good time to shop.
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Old 04-25-2016, 11:42 AM   #6
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Like any renovation, most people underestimate the time and the money involved. My 13 ft Boler reno took much longer than I planned and cost more than I expected. RVs and campers are a specialized market and the materials you use are sometimes hard to find and usually not cheap.
You asked about ball park figures, I spent as much on my renovations as I paid for my trailer. A big chunk of the cost (25%) was a new axle with brakes, new tires and lights and wiring. I painted mine too with auto paint so add another $900 onto that after I prepped and sanded and primed.
So if you really enjoy the process, go ahead.
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Old 04-25-2016, 02:45 PM   #7
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Do not miss the part about all of the interior pieces are structural. Really important.


Scamp has parts and in many cases they will fit going back a lot of years. However the FG components generally are not what fails. Even if cracked it can be repaired.
Fiberglass Body Pieces or full catalog Welcome to Scamp Trailers Parts Store

The way a Scamp anchors the benches, seats and closets is by using fiberglass to "tab" a piece of wood to the shell or part for screws to attach to. Seats are just a top and front, the back edge screws to a wood ledge tabbed to the side with FG. The bottom of the seat front has a wood lip tabbed to it that is screwed to the floor. This in effect makes the bench seat a corner brace connecting the wall to the floor and the back wall to the side wall. Braces the curved corner.

Based on my one scamp and what a lot of folks have shared on the forum:
Someplace leaks, window, a rivet, the door seal whatever. This either damages the wood that is attached to the wall for anchoring the interior parts OR the water rots the tabbed wood anchors AND the floor. Which is attached to the walls with tabbing. This allows things to flex out of position, as in door opening is crooked, that type of thing.

Floor and/or anchors are shall we say non-trivial repairs but basic construction, a job that folks here can help provide guidance on assuming you have ability to safely use power tools. And own the ones you need or you will drop some $$$ at harbor freight

Leaks are a PITA to track down and if you don't get them all... well there goes the new floor same as the old floor.

Axles are good for a couple of decades then the rubber inside them tends to slowly degrade and the camper sits lower and lower on the wheels. Without suspension from the rubber torsion bars the frame and inside components and fasteners take a beating.

RV bathrooms, and appliances such as stoves, furnace, refrigerator all tend to be expensive. At least browse the Scamp store before looking to buy just so you know what replacement parts will cost. Some parts are just no longer available Bargman door handle & lock for some makes of FGRV can be a few hundred dollars if you can find one. That means you have to modify the door to fit a handle and lock you can actually afford and find.

You might find this thread on FG repair informative You Can Repair Fiberglass

You also should look into window remove and reseal. Not expensive but almost mandatory at some point in time so worth looking at what others have done and deciding if that would be a job you would tackle.

If you have a good frame without bends, cracks or broken welds, and decent axle, and good shell, and good windows, with an interior that doesn't leak then... wait trailer lights have to work too. Then depending on your needs and minimum standards you can go camping.

Using an ice chest and a camp stove under a canopy outside. Just a hard sided tent that gives you an easy way to store your camping gear ready to go. Then fix it over time but remember you buy a project you are buying one that someone else declined to fix. Or ran into a brick wall on.

Some photos of my floor and front couch repair. http://www.fiberglassrv.com/forums/m...albums549.html

My stove had a broken latch and has been out of production for 30 years, had to make my own. Same with the window latches that were broken.
http://www.fiberglassrv.com/forums/m...albums529.html

It did turn out pretty nice..... eventually. Note the wheel well is much lower on the tire in the first and last picture. Second picture it is higher that is after axle replacement.
http://www.fiberglassrv.com/forums/m...albums532.html

Don't be scared off but do some research and figure out what stuff is going to cost so you don't pay a lot for the opportunity to dump money into it until you sell it as a "project" for someone else to fix.


I should add when it comes to a specific problem just ask, folks here will help you figure out options and how to implement anything from cleaning stuff to off frame restoration there are members that will share their experiences.
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Old 04-25-2016, 03:22 PM   #8
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If the trailer you are looking at is watertight, but needs total renovation that means that it is probably not watertight!
The floors rot due to .....water.
The rest of the trailer is fiberglass and will not rot.
If the trailer smells moldy it is due to the mold.......from the water that leaked in and the wood rot eating the wood bits.
If you need to replace water heater cabinets floor etc. then budget around $4-5000.
I rebuilt a 16' Scamp, floors. A/C, cabinets, water heater, fresh water tank, black water tank, and the bill (with the donor trailer at $3400 was over $7,000.
No I don't think I could buy as nice a trailer as I have now for the money. Twin beds etc. but the big difference is you still pay for a good trailer, but it is over time and your time is $ 0.00.
Lots have rebuilt the trailers, but my guess is we buy them and then find out we are going to have to rebuild it.
If you want to do it then by all means it can be done, it just takes the doing and some cash.
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Old 04-25-2016, 05:02 PM   #9
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Lots of good info and based on my experience, I'd encourage you to pay close attention to John and Jay's posts, as far as whether you really want a project camper.

Sometimes going through it is the only way to find out and really learn, but it can be a tough lesson. The project vehicles, and project camper that I've bought in the past have taken more money than just buying a non-project version would have. I have bought a $2,300 camper, and proceeded to put $4,000 into it. I maybe should have bought a $6,000 camper that didn't need any work...

I bought a 1983 pickup and then after a rebuilt engine, transmission, and many, many new parts, interior and exterior...I probably could have bought a late-90s Tacoma for less money. But man did I learn a lot, and do mechanical work I never thought I'd be doing.

But if vintage is what you want, and a project is what you want, and you have some money to throw around, it can be a very rewarding and educational experience.

My experience from my camper rebuild: For about 1 1/2 years, 90% of my waking hours were spent thinking about and researching camper stuff. 70% of my spare money was spent on camper stuff. 70% of my off-work hours were spent working on camper stuff. Think house renovations. On a small level, I now get what my friends who bought a house, gutted it and rebuilt it went through. Most of my waking hours, my brain was on "camper stuff".

But I tend to be flood or famine. If I don't have a project, I'm real happy to just be a relaxed, well balanced person. When I have a project, it becomes all-consuming...
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Old 04-25-2016, 07:22 PM   #10
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reno

All the above posts are correct.

There will be much more time and money involved than originally thought. I am enjoying the work that I am doing, but have put it on a more relaxed priority level. I have spent much time and frustration so far and am thoroughly
convinced that I would have been out camping sooner, and more often, if I had just spent the extra money(at the beginning) and bought a more modern and usable unit.
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Old 04-25-2016, 09:34 PM   #11
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Mine was a total rebuild. The structural interior components were solid but needed refinishing. Other than that, it was a total gut. I put on a new axle and brakes, rewired it, paint, windows, insulation and lining, upholstery... on top of repairs.
I bought it for $900 and put about $1800 into it. I saved by doing it all myself....and lots of great advice from this forum.
If you've got a half decent mechanical aptitude it's all pretty straightforward just takes time.
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Old 04-25-2016, 10:46 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Jon in AZ View Post
My opinion is that project trailers are best for craftspeople with deep pockets, well-equipped workshops, ample time, a broad skill set, and who consider renovation a hobby, not a means to an end.

Sage advice... thanks.
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Old 04-25-2016, 11:00 PM   #13
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Then fix it over time but remember you buy a project you are buying one that someone else declined to fix. Or ran into a brick wall on.
Great point.

This is the one I was thinking of:

http://www.fiberglassrv.com/forums/n...reply&p=583346

It's only an hour away from me, and, on second look, the interior isn't as bad as I thought. Maybe the fixes needed aren't so bad: cushions, drawers, etc.

I would appreciate any opinion you have on the camper.
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Old 04-26-2016, 11:15 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by frv91745 View Post
Great point.

This is the one I was thinking of:

http://www.fiberglassrv.com/forums/n...reply&p=583346

It's only an hour away from me, and, on second look, the interior isn't as bad as I thought. Maybe the fixes needed aren't so bad: cushions, drawers, etc.

I would appreciate any opinion you have on the camper.
Well it is a project, that is for sure and certain. Exterior looks nice enough from what I can see in the pictures. Really hard to say without poking around the actual camper.

Can you do the wood work to rebuild the interior? If not that is going to run some $$$ unless you have family that can do it that owe you a favor.

Might want to call a place that does canvas repair and find out what that top replacement will be, at least a ball park. Use a VW camper pop top as a possible example to get some sort of a general price.

Frame, Floor, and Shell are the big ones. Remember any water that gets in always finds the floor, often it will be at an edge. Use a strong flashlight and look inside and under everything all around the edges for signs of water damage.

Crawl around under and check the frame for cracks or being bent, tapping with a screw driver on the frame can disclose rotted metal. It thunks rather than tings or rings. Anyplace the frame is bent from the factory is weaker, look there for signs of broken welds or cracks. String and tape can be used if something looks like it might be sagging or bent. Tape the string at one end and pull tight to the other. If you have ever heard the phrase straight as a string this is what it is from, tight string makes straight line. Only bother if something looks off.

Ask about wheel bearing last inspected and packed, make sure this has been done or have it done locally before towing home. There should be a date of manufacture on the tires, make sure they are not really old. Tires deteriorate from the inside. People have different tolerances for tire ages but 5 - 7 years is generally acceptable. Certainly not if there is cracking and dry rot.

Shell look for cracks or blisters especially ones that look like when a rock hits a windshield. Bullseye cracks are usually from an impact.

LIGHTS! these have to work to tow, if not there are cheap units at Harbor Freight that you can cable tie to the back bumper or have magnets. They come with a long set of wires you run to the front. Ask about what type of plug the trailer has and make sure you can plug in or have an adapter.

Assuming the big stuff checks out it wouldn't hurt to offer less than the asking price but I would go with enough cash in my wallet to close the deal if you want it. They don't generally hang around for long.

If you are up for the project it can be fun bringing one of these old models back to useful life. It can also be a royal pain in the rear.

Read Not Poliglow time will tell thread for how to make old FGRV shine like new.
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