1983 16' Casita Repair/Rebuild - Fiberglass RV


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Old 02-08-2020, 09:54 PM   #1
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Name: Zach
Trailer: Casita
Oregon
Posts: 10
1983 16' Casita Repair/Rebuild

A while back, my wife was in the next town over and spotted a worn-out and damaged Casita sitting in the yard of an old friend. The trailer had been rear-ended and the back panel had torn away complete from the rest of the trailer.
She asked if she could buy it, and $600 later we towed it home.

Once we got it home, our hope of just fixing the damaged area vanished. The floors were soft and rotten, both at the damaged area, and where the trailer had sagged near the door. There were quite a few components that were rusted out or broken. So we tore everything down to the fiberglass.

Here's what it initially looked like:
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After tearing everything out, then pressure washing the interior to get rid of the foam backing, our first big job was to tackle the damage. I cut away all the splintered fiberglass from the cracks and used thin strips of wood to hold the pieces together while it stitched things back together with fiberglass resin and mat.

Here's what the damaged area ended up looking like after patching with resin and mat.
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And here's a view from the inside.
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I'm currently working on fairing it out with some fiber-reinforced filler.
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Old 02-08-2020, 10:45 PM   #2
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Name: Zach
Trailer: Casita
Oregon
Posts: 10
As mentioned before, one of the major areas of floor rot and sag we found was next to the door. Like many of these campers, the shell has sagged over time and the door wasn't fitting snugly, leaving a good 1" gap for water to enter by the kickplate.

That got me thinking. I had the fiberglass bulkhead that made up the shower out on the ground and I noticed that the trailer door almost exactly matches the contour of that fiberglass piece. Much more closely than the door opening on the trailer. I then checked that contour with all the other bulkheads I had pulled from the trailer, and they were all almost exactly the same contour. So I decided to laminate some plywood braces to help the trailer retain the original contour.

Here's what I have so far:
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The final pieces relaxed just a bit from the original contour, which should work perfectly when fitting them into place.
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I used 8 layers of 1/8" plywood laminated with epoxy resin. I wanted these to be as strong as I could get, so I used some boat epoxy I had lying around. This might mean I'll have to attach them to the shell with epoxy, due to the bonding issues of fiberglass on epoxy.
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Old 02-09-2020, 02:03 PM   #3
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Name: lee
Trailer: trailswest campsterl, 1996 Scamp 16 foot
Idaho
Posts: 512
Casita repair

Great job , please keep us posted with pics of progress . i am very interested as to how you tackle some of the issues . i have already got an idea from your first post as to how to deal with our door which has lost some of it's curvature. Lee and Norma
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Old 02-09-2020, 07:09 PM   #4
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Name: Shelby
Trailer: Casita SD
Tennessee
Posts: 385
Well done! Please post updates as you continue.
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Old 02-12-2020, 01:20 AM   #5
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Name: Zach
Trailer: Casita
Oregon
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I spent the last three days filling in all the many rivet holes, exterior holes, and some more damage on the front where the shell was resting on the trailer frame. I taped up all the windows so that I could run a heater and actually get the resin to cure. So far, so good.
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Old 02-12-2020, 02:29 AM   #6
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Name: Zach
Trailer: Casita
Oregon
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Thinking about layout

In 1983, our trailer started out its life as a Spirit Deluxe model. It served its owners valiantly for 35 years, until it was rear-ended. It had a front bathroom and closet, the side bunks/couch, and rear dinette/bed.

After a lot of consideration, my wife and I decided we want to do something a bit different. We like the idea of bunks, but they were flimsy. We mostly boondock and cook outside, so we are ditching the kitchen sink and stove, as well as the bathroom. I might add a hood to help vent, but not sure. I don't like the idea of another hole in the shell that only occasionally gets used. But it would be great to have the option to cook on the Coleman inside.

The layout we like is similar to the Independence, but ours is a bit shorter, and instead of a bathroom/closet, we will have bunks.

Here's a rough sketch:

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Old 02-12-2020, 07:12 AM   #7
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Name: Shelby
Trailer: Casita SD
Tennessee
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Do you have kids who need the bunks? Seems a shame to give up the toilet and holding tanks. Even when boondocking it's not a good practice to throw out your dishwashing water.
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Old 02-12-2020, 07:22 AM   #8
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Name: Jon
Trailer: 2008 Scamp 13 S1
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I like it.

Consider cantilevering the beds a bit to maintain more open floor space between the underbed storage compartments. Room for pets to sleep if you have them, room to tuck shoes and other items out of the way, and more room to access the storage. Oliver did that on their twin bed model, but Casita did not on the Independence, and that’s one of the complaints I’ve heard.

I do agree with Shelby about boondocking. Seems like that’s more reason to preserve the toilet and waste tanks, not less.
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Old 02-12-2020, 10:13 AM   #9
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Name: bob
Trailer: Was A-Liner now 13f Scamp
Missouri
Posts: 2,966
first of all

first I cannot believe the work put into this project. Way past what I could ever do my compliments to them.

I think eliminating the stool and tanks is a good idea. We just use a portapottie and it works fine. I do want to put it in the seat area if I can figure out how to do it. Floor space is at a premium in these small campers.

I cannot figure out how they get bathrooms and waste storage in a 13f scamp that is really 10f? Our porta pottie stores 3 gal I wouldn't want much more but we are boondockers and aren't at any campgrounds.

very very good work

bob
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Old 02-12-2020, 10:37 AM   #10
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Name: Michael
Trailer: Casita 16ft.
California
Posts: 316
One can look at these old delipidated trailers as clean slates just waiting for the next owners new palette of colors to be applied. Because you are essentially saving them from a sure death in a landfill, you can feel free to experiment until you create the trailer best for your individual use. That would be hard to justify financially in a trailer that one has heavy cash investment in.

I did very much the same as you when I bought our Broken Back Casita a little over two years ago for $300. She is still a work in progress but after doing the initial repairs to make her roadworthy again, I have kept her in usable condition while the modifications progressed. We have enjoyed a lot great dry camping trips up and down the north coast of California since we bought our trailer

Good luck to you on your trailer adventure!

P.S. I look forward to seeing your repair project as it continues. I have similar issues with my door but haven't tackled it yet. I am always open for new ideas.
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Old 02-14-2020, 10:18 AM   #11
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Name: Zach
Trailer: Casita
Oregon
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Thanks for the feedback Shelby, Jon, Bob, and Mike!

We do have two little ones. I would expect that we will get about 6-7 years out of the bunks before the kids either want to be in a tent or are busy with other things. I want to build permanent bunks with curtain tracks on the top and bottom of the curtain, so they have a space when we are out and about.

The previous owners didn't ever use the bathroom. Of all the people I know with trailers and RVs, I don't think I've used a permanent trailer bathroom more than a few times, just because of the inconvenience of dumping. I'm thinking I would rather have a porta potty that I can pull and dump when needed.

@Jon, thanks for the tip on the cantilevered Olivers. I think doing that, coupled with a hinged bed platform for access beneath, would be way better than drawers underneath the platform. Maybe lift-assist pistons as well.

@Mike, do you have a build log on your trailer? We hope to take the 101 down along the Oregon/California coast with our kids this summer if we can get everything going in time.

I think the biggest set-back I see right now is the trailer frame. It is in rough shape, so I'm stuck between fixing it and getting a new one built.
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Old 02-14-2020, 10:27 AM   #12
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Name: bob
Trailer: Was A-Liner now 13f Scamp
Missouri
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your trailer

we finally broke down and put a porta pottie in we were using walmarts but that sort of got old. would be a big deal with little ones.

on your trailer frame there are some real experts here they can tell you exactly where to get a new one this isn't an uncommon problem. mine has been repaced on our 13f scamper.

best of luck to you

bob

QUOTE=zgrammon;768472]Thanks for the feedback Shelby, Jon, Bob, and Mike!

We do have two little ones. I would expect that we will get about 6-7 years out of the bunks before the kids either want to be in a tent or are busy with other things. I want to build permanent bunks with curtain tracks on the top and bottom of the curtain, so they have a space when we are out and about.

The previous owners didn't ever use the bathroom. Of all the people I know with trailers and RVs, I don't think I've used a permanent trailer bathroom more than a few times, just because of the inconvenience of dumping. I'm thinking I would rather have a porta potty that I can pull and dump when needed.

@Jon, thanks for the tip on the cantilevered Olivers. I think doing that, coupled with a hinged bed platform for access beneath, would be way better than drawers underneath the platform. Maybe lift-assist pistons as well.

@Mike, do you have a build log on your trailer? We hope to take the 101 down along the Oregon/California coast with our kids this summer if we can get everything going in time.

I think the biggest set-back I see right now is the trailer frame. It is in rough shape, so I'm stuck between fixing it and getting a new one built. [/QUOTE]
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Old 02-14-2020, 11:54 AM   #13
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Name: Michael
Trailer: Casita 16ft.
California
Posts: 316
Quote:
Originally Posted by zgrammon View Post
Thanks for the feedback Shelby, Jon, Bob, and Mike!



The previous owners didn't ever use the bathroom. Of all the people I know with trailers and RVs, I don't think I've used a permanent trailer bathroom more than a few times, just because of the inconvenience of dumping. I'm thinking I would rather have a porta potty that I can pull and dump when needed.
Our trailer didn't come equipped with a bathroom. As someone who mostly drycamps or boondocks in out of the way places, I appreciate not having a plumbing hanging below the chassis. We use a porta potty sparingly for only middle of the night bladder relief. However we do like having a private space to use the little pot. During my rebuild, I installed a forward bathroom/ closet partition which closely the standard front bath layouts in most Casita/ Scamp trailers. Our porta potty resides in there.

Quote:
Originally Posted by zgrammon View Post

@Mike, do you have a build log on your trailer? We hope to take the 101 down along the Oregon/California coast with our kids this summer if we can get everything going in time.
When you are planning your trip send me a PM. I will let you in on a couple of special places that we like to camp on the coast.

I do have a thread in this forum titled, My Broken Back Casita. It won't be hard to find/ Unfortunately, the photo links in the first half of the thread were broken when the Photobucket hosting site changed their policy and demanded a king's ransom for using their service. I moved my photos over to another hosting site and tried to edit in new links but the Fiberglass RV website apparently doesn't allow edits after a given length of time. I was unable to repair the broken links.

Quote:
Originally Posted by zgrammon View Post
I think the biggest set-back I see right now is the trailer frame. It is in rough shape, so I'm stuck between fixing it and getting a new one built.
My Broken Back Casita thread has photos of my chassis repair. They came after the broken link debacle so are still intact.

Good Luck!
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Old 02-14-2020, 03:13 PM   #14
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Name: bob
Trailer: Was A-Liner now 13f Scamp
Missouri
Posts: 2,966
the north cal mike

Mike is the expert here and guru to many! He has done it he has all my respect he can help on any trailer frankly.

I too use the porta potty idea in a 13f scamper we need all the room we can get! but you can make do by using your head there is no way to have enough storage tank for a shower either. we just do military baths and call it done. we put the water in a 5gal bucket for disposal later! and we are boondockers also!!!

thanks mr mike for you generosity

bob

QUOTE=Nor Cal Mike;768481]Our trailer didn't come equipped with a bathroom. As someone who mostly drycamps or boondocks in out of the way places, I appreciate not having a plumbing hanging below the chassis. We use a porta potty sparingly for only middle of the night bladder relief. However we do like having a private space to use the little pot. During my rebuild, I installed a forward bathroom/ closet partition which closely the standard front bath layouts in most Casita/ Scamp trailers. Our porta potty resides in there.


When you are planning your trip send me a PM. I will let you in on a couple of special places that we like to camp on the coast.

I do have a thread in this forum titled, My Broken Back Casita. It won't be hard to find/ Unfortunately, the photo links in the first half of the thread were broken when the Photobucket hosting site changed their policy and demanded a king's ransom for using their service. I moved my photos over to another hosting site and tried to edit in new links but the Fiberglass RV website apparently doesn't allow edits after a given length of time. I was unable to repair the broken links.


My Broken Back Casita thread has photos of my chassis repair. They came after the broken link debacle so are still intact.

Good Luck![/QUOTE]
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Old 02-21-2020, 06:51 PM   #15
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Name: Zach
Trailer: Casita
Oregon
Posts: 10
Slow going

Since my last update, I finished patching the rivet holes and smaller holes and cracks in the shell.

I also purchased some ACX 3/4" plywood, cut it to shape, and have been fiberglassing it in. This ended up going a lot slower than expected, because the shell has sagged so much over the years.

I've been trying to make the shell conform to the plywood, which involves lots of clamps and screws. I started out putting junk plywood on the trailer, underneath the shell. Then I covered the shell floor in resin mixed with small bits of glass and laid the cut flooring plywood over it. Next, I screwed the two pieces of plywood together, one below the shell, and one above it, which forced the floor to conform. Once I'm done with attaching the floor, I'll drill out the screw holes, tape the bottom of the hole, and fill with resin to seal it all up.

Here you can see the final form of a particularly troublesome area. When I first started, the shell dipped at the edge away from the plywood by about at least a 1/2".

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While I still had the screws in, I poured a layer of resin/glass in between the shell and the edge of the plywood. I think this really locked down and sealed the edges.
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Old 02-21-2020, 10:58 PM   #16
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Name: Eric
Trailer: 1987 Casita 16
Illinois
Posts: 475
Looks good! I had many of the same troubles with the sags, etc. I found if I made sure the supports were on the frame, and ran all the way to the top it worked a lot better. I have a thread here as well, 87 casita rebuild, probably had dropped to third of fourth page of the mods section since I haven't posted to it lately. I plan on getting back at the changes when it warms up. I got rid of the water, but not the toilet, and will just have a jug of water to flush with. Also am making a storage, drawers area where the sink was, and a desk set up where the storage was. I also took all the floor out, power washed the inside, and then did the floor. One thing I found is that when you FG new in, make sure you sand the old really well, or it will not hold. The new to old stuff will break away under a little pressure. I also got rid of almost all the holes in the shell, even the air vent for the heater and hot water, etc. since I really don't want to deal with leaks and I also want things tight for keeping the warm in. I will use small electric heaters when plugged in, and a stand alone AC unit when it is really hot outside. I have 200 watts of solar panels, and a 5000 Watt inverter for 12dc to 120ac and will run a 900ah Lith for power needs on the camper.



Haven't been on laterly, reading your post makes me want to "get back to it" when I get home from keeping the grandkids.
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Old 02-24-2020, 12:12 AM   #17
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Name: Zach
Trailer: Casita
Oregon
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Finally finished the floor!

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Old 02-24-2020, 08:04 PM   #18
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Name: Zach
Trailer: Casita
Oregon
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@EricAllyn Your thread on your rebuild has given me a lot of food for thought on what to do with my trailer. I really appreciate what you've shared in your struggles, especially with the door.

Next step would be to glass in the supports for interior stuff, but I need to modify a lot of it first. I've figured out a way to use just about every piece of old fiberglass molding in the new layout (think 17' Independence with bunks instead of bathroom), but it will take a bit of modification. I was in to the weeds for the last few weeks researching exotic ways to create a lightweight interior, then I thought "hey, I have a bunch of fiberglasses pieces. I should use those." The good part of this plan is that it will still look like a Casita, and I don't have to start from scratch.

Some things we need to start considering are:
  • what insulation/carpet combo to use?
  • add a propane furnace back in to the build?
    This will probably be a yes. We will probably cough up the $500-$600 for one of the little Suburban heaters.
  • order new windows?
    We are thinking about expanding the passenger side of the trailer to a one of the 40"+ slider windows so that we can park at overlooks at look out while we make a meal

Is the best approach to order windows from Casita directly? We will also need to order a new rear window, and they appear to have a direct replacement for ~$100.
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Old 02-24-2020, 08:27 PM   #19
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Name: Eric
Trailer: 1987 Casita 16
Illinois
Posts: 475
The insulation that I used was available at Lowes, it was in a roll -- silver bubble wrap, that I cut and glued in -- I sprayed the Upholstery glue -- Home Depot -- 3m brand -- the highest stuff they had. I put in two layers and then covered it with the carpet from Home depot. They have 6x9 sections and they worked will for the size and handling. Nothing is straight so In this last re-work I am not going to try to get big pieces fit, but rather work on getting the cuts better so they aren't seen. I also took out a couple of the FG pieces I had tried to use. I found that a light weight fir was less weight, and a lot more rigid where I was using it. I also took off the awning and will use a tarp and poles when I want it. That was a savings of about 70lbs and with only an electric heater, I may also not carry the bigger propane tanks, since I will only use them for cooking, and the small green ones will work well for that.



For the back window I bought a Lexan sheet from General Plastics (I think) but I think that was more than the $100 that you found.



If you put in the bigger window, make sure you get good support -- I didn't have enough and the camper bowed out, and that put everything out of alignment.


BTW your floor looks great -- I would be tempted to leave it, and not cover it with anything, maybe a floor run in the winter. Sure looks nice!
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Old 02-25-2020, 10:02 PM   #20
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Name: Zach
Trailer: Casita
Oregon
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So I started on the bunk bulkheads today. I'm scratching my head a bit over just how much to pull the sagging shell up to snuff.

Here are a few snapshots of one of the bulkheads against the shell. The bulkhead was cut from the profile of the piece of shower stall fiberglass.

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