Karin's Campster Renovation - Page 2 - Fiberglass RV


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Old 06-04-2016, 11:17 AM   #21
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Aluminum framing, tell us more?

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Originally Posted by k corbin View Post
The aluminum framing system I use makes it easy to quickly add in a new upper cabinet area.
KC, I'm fascinated by your aluminum "framing system." While you're sharing about your reno, would you include a few details about how you fabricate this system? What material do you begin with, what tools needed?

Would love to know more... (the "closet" in my Lil Bigfoot was completely gone when I got it... I've installed a temporary shelving and plastic drawer system which is temporary and needs a better solution).
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Old 06-04-2016, 01:19 PM   #22
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KC, I'm fascinated by your aluminum "framing system." While you're sharing about your reno, would you include a few details about how you fabricate this system? What material do you begin with, what tools needed?

Would love to know more... (the "closet" in my Lil Bigfoot was completely gone when I got it... I've installed a temporary shelving and plastic drawer system which is temporary and needs a better solution).
I use 6061-T6 aluminum angle, that is the type that is considered to be structural aluminum. I use aluminum pull rivets to put it together. Two at each intersection put on a diagonal. Because that type of angle has a rounded inside corner the piece that comes up to meet it on the inside of the angle needs to have the end rounded over to match that radius profile. By getting that end right up against the surface of the piece you are joining it to you increase the strength of the join since it can't rock sideways out of square as the movement is constrained. So rivets on the diagonal and a tight butt joint make for a strong structure that will remain square without a lot of extra diagonal bracing.

You can cut the angle to length with a power miter saw if you have a carbide blade in it. You will also need a metal file for smoothing off any burrs on the cut edges. But really it is only a few tools you need. The saw, a drill motor, a square, measuring tape, some clamps, a file and a rivet puller. Helps to have a disc sander too if you don't want to spend a lot of time hand filing to round over those edges

I pre-fabricate on a flat floor surface sections such as the front face of a cabinet run. Then using a square bracket as a brace I stand it up in place and measure and cut to length the pieces which go back towards the wall. I do it that way because the wall of the fiberglass RVs tend to be wavy with variations in the distance to the front face of the cabinet plus of course those walls are not square to the floor since they have to be fabricated at an angle to get the shell structure to release from the molds they are layed up in.

When I get started building cabinet frames I will create a photo tutorial with more photos of making the joins. But really it is very simple to do even for a beginner as long as you have the tools for it.

In the Sunrader i do have a closet for which I did some wood framing and added a drawer system. My drawers are food service tray pans which were designed to slide into tracks or be put into recesses for things such as salad bars. Here are some photos of that closet.


The runners are made from some PVC pieces that are for supporting PVC lattice fencing around the edges. They are mounted to upright 1 x 2 boards which are solidly glued to thin plywood sides. It is important that you have very good glue coverage between the 1 x 2 and the plywood. The uprights and plywood form a lightweight structure that is part of the class of structural types called "stress skin panel". A stress skin panel is actually quite strong for carrying a lot of weight, it will hold up to some flexing movement without fracturing apart. The individual pieces in this type of building system do not have to be large as by means of that complete surface adhesive bonding they share the load as one large unit. Monocoupe constructions such as an Airstream trailer or airplane incorporate the stress skin panel theories.

My closet walls were then attached to the floor and to the ceiling. There are three wood shelves, top, bottom and middle which control the distance of the sides to each other. You will see a small block of wood under each of the rails on those upright 1 x 2 boards. Those blocks keep the plastic drawer runners from rotating down under the weight of the contents of the drawers which is why I could get away with using that light weight plastic. They are essential to the project in terms of strength and longevity of use. So the drawers slide smoothly, they weigh very little and they don't rattle.

It looks a bit patchy on the inside because I had to splice one of the plywood sides not having a full piece long enough as I made that side out of 1/4" Baltic Birch which is only 5' long. Come to think of it the other side, the on the left in the photo below was only 1/8 thick plywood underlay since it was next to the shell of the fiberglass bathroom. The load is primarily carried by the 1 x 2 's not the plywood It is amazing how light weight you can build when you put the principals of stress skin panel construction to use Most people over build RV cabinets thinking that they have to be done like kitchen cabinets from a house. What you really need is a light weight structure than can take movement without falling apart.
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Old 06-04-2016, 05:16 PM   #23
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Awesome info

Thank you so much for the details on your aluminum framing. I really look forward to more details. The closet with shelves looks *really* we'll done, and I like the American ingenuity of using something made for one thing in a new and different way!
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Old 06-04-2016, 05:25 PM   #24
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table brackets for bed side support conversion

Instead of having wood support cleats the whole length of the dinette side benches I will use 4 pairs of these. There will still be a support to the floor in the center and at the foot of the bed as well as the center board resting on a cabinet at the far end under the window.

These are removable table brackets in stainless steel sold by Sea-Dog through marine supply stores. They will bolt to the face of the benches and under the table top. Much lighter than having two 75" long pieces of wood that also take up width in that narrow area. I don't anticipate putting the table down into the bed position very often but I do want to have the option to do so. These are also a great option if you just want to add a few extra inches of space at the end of a counter top or for mounting a little removable shelf and of course you can hang one end of a table off the wall with them. Being stainless steel they could even be used on the exterior if you put a backing block on the interior for screws to grip into. Adjustable table leg(s) at the other end of course.
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Old 06-06-2016, 08:18 AM   #25
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Progress, the old interior has gone into the dumpster. Of all the stuff in it there was only one original light fixture with an intact curved shade that was worth salvaging. Well that is not totally accurate I have hung onto the poptop fabric for now as I need to measure it and make a pattern from it.

It think going to Seattle Fabrics tomorrow and getting some red fabric to remake the popup will be my reward for my completing this first phase of the renovation .

Of course even when I am not physically working on the project I am still working on it gathering supplies and brainstorming how I am going to reconstruct it.

One chore I am not looking forward to is replacing all the bolts that go from the interior and through the frame. They are ALL badly rusted as are the brackets that were used for anchoring the cabinet fronts in place. We did purchase a nut splitter which will help with some them. The framing that is just on each side of the door that the kitchen cabinets tied into and supported the cabinet shelves was a real bear to remove as the bolts had to be severed from inside the interior. Thank goodness for Dremel cut off disc,they have gotten me out of tough spots more times than I can count. They could not be budge with an impact driver except for one bolt that sheared off just under the head from that effort. Too much moisture in that area by the door for too many years so that even soaking with a rusty bolt removal solution for several days did not yield any results.

I used a HF cutoff tool to remove my rusted bolts. It's an inexpensive and useful tool. It did the job easily. I put some red locktite on the bolts.


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Old 06-06-2016, 01:52 PM   #26
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We all realize there is more than one way to do things and this thread is a history of how I am doing things. This is not my first fiberglass RV renovation or the first time I have used tools.

Today's rusted bolt removal job is on the trailer tongue. The new tongue jack I am installing is the type that bolts into three holes and installs through the hole in tongue upper plate. However a PO seems to have had a problem in the past and could not get the old mounting bolts out so they cut them off flush with the upper surface of the tongue. Then they welded on a second plate over the top but did not get it perfectly aligned. That misalignment meant I could not use an Easy Out screw removal type of tool to get the old bolt remnants out. While I was able to drill out majority of the bolts shaft some of is still trapped because of that welded on second top plate. So I will have to reach up through the hole in the bottom of the tongue and grind off the remaining shaft sides of the old bolts that the drill did not take out. I will need to install the new jack with through bolts so I need a flush surface for the nut to pull against.

My hand is small enough to reach up into the lower hole to reach inside to the bottom of the upper surface but of course a large grinder or cut off tool would not work to grasp onto and control in such tight quarters. So out of the tool box comes something I bought years ago. A Harbor Freight Micro Die Grinder. The shaft is only 5/8" in diameter but it will run at fairly high speeds; I won't need to run it at maximum speed for this job. You need an air compressor to run it but I do have one of those, a nice portable workshop sized Dewalt.
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Fortunately being a major tool junky for all of my life and sharing workshop space with another major tool junky I do have a lot of options on hand for cut off tools and grinders both large and small. I am also good at accurately drilling the heads off bolts and rivets as that skill was needed in my job as an aircraft fabricator and mechanic. I simply had no choice but to be able to accurately drill the head off a screw or rivet without enlarging the hole it went through. I learned to do that nearly 40 years ago and it is certainly a great skill to have for renovating older fiberglass RVs.

The tongue is strong and functional enough but it sure is ugly looking. The lumpy surface rust was painted over with Rustoleum or some such product. So while I am working on the tongue I am also cleaning up that lumpy paint job, smoothing it out, treating the rust, adding some steel epoxy filler to level the surface and giving it a new paint job. Soon I will be able to check that tongue off my list of needed repairs But right now it is too hot out there to work on the tarmac so I will get in air conditioned car and go see if I can find replacement trim parts for the windows.
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Old 06-07-2016, 10:41 PM   #27
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Uh OH
When I removed the bolt inside the door that went through the steel framing tube that runs front to back underneath where the floor rot was what happened was a slightly wider diameter of the tube came out along with the nut, the rust got to it. Rust is mother nature's version of Locktite, you will only have to wait a few years for it to stick stuff together.

Guess I will have take the shell off sometime this next year and get a new tube section welded in to replace that one. In the meantime I will move the bolt to a solid section and reinforce that damaged area. This was a localized issue related to the water coming in from the improperly installed door frame that was leaking for years. That bolt hole was acting as the drain outlet for the water coming in. I will be replacing all the bolts that tie the shell to the trailer, hopefully I won't see this problem on any of the others. I dream of someday having an aluminum trailer frame built for it but being a poor peasant will settle for steel no doubt.

When frustrated go shopping to cheer one's self up. So I went to Seattle Fabrics and got the fabric, zippers and screening for the popup canvas section. Tomorrow is another day
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Old 06-08-2016, 06:29 AM   #28
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Karin----I have neither the need or desire to completely reno my trailer.....but I am really enjoying reading all about yours.

Thanks for documenting your step-by-step. It's not only greatly educational, but entertaining, too.

I look forward to seeing the finished product.
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Old 06-08-2016, 11:18 AM   #29
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Karin----I have neither the need or desire to completely reno my trailer.....but I am really enjoying reading all about yours.

Thanks for documenting your step-by-step. It's not only greatly educational, but entertaining, too.

I look forward to seeing the finished product.
Thanks, I seem to have to amuse myself with renovating houses and now little fiberglass RVs. I should know better but always seem to go for the sweat equity since I have the skills and that is what I can best afford to do. I don't actually find it to be a lot of fun getting covered with various kinds of dirt, paint and adhesives but I do enjoy learning about methods and materials, problem solving and the planning stages of it.

Maybe it is just part of the cycle of the very young girl I once was who always dreamed of building her own home and liked making and fixing things and using tools. To thine own self be true, I have always been and still am who I was even at a very young age even before I was old enough to go school.

My best friend that I share workshop space with has a welder. He is going to do a patch up reinforcement on that weak area of the frame for me. But of course I will use that as an hands on lesson opportunity with his machine as I might have a need to weld more things in the future on this project. I once took a short course from an artist on basic welding but that was torch work. I just wanted to try it out of curiosity. I did have a good touch for it since I am a tool user.
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Old 06-08-2016, 11:45 AM   #30
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finding a forgotten treasure

Yesterday I was prowling around in my friends garage looking for some tools and other stuff I knew I had. He lets me have some storage space in his garage. That garage it is an unholy mess but that is because it is a lifetime's worth of project stuff from a very creative person. While looking for stuff I discovered a 6 piece bundle of 8 foot long aluminum angles. When I walked to the other end and looked at the shipping label on the bundle I discovered it was my very own aluminum angle I had ordered it several years ago for my Sunrader project and then in the exhaustion and sometimes mental confusion created by a bad health episode (now resolved) I had forgotten that I had it on hand. Hooray for me now I have pretty much all the materials I need for building the cabinet framing for the Campster. No more stress worrying about trying to fit the purchase of it into an already too tight budget. I am glad I had put off ordering the angle, I had planned to do it last week but my progress was slow due to the heat wave so I delayed placing the order since I was not ready to start framing. There were also two 8' long pieces of square aluminum tubing, I knew those were lurking somewhere and was glad to see them turn up
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Old 06-08-2016, 04:25 PM   #31
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Campster Windows

I got some pictures for you. 2 Surprises, one of my window pulls is also missing and I have screens on the windows. I will try to post more on the screens later.
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Port window 1.jpg   Port window 2.jpg  

Starboard window 1.jpg   Starboard window 2.jpg  

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Old 06-08-2016, 09:09 PM   #32
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Looks like the only logical place to put a handle is at that leading edge of the inside pane that extends just past the center divider.

I will be interested to see more of the screen detail.

Thanks for taking the time to get photos. Eventually working together the collective owners who are members may well be able to gather all the facts and come up with a restoration plan and materials list for those windows.

I really need to take a drive up to Evergreen RV and pick the brains of the guy in the repair shop there who knows his after market exterior seal replacement supply catalogs. That is assuming he is still employed there.

I have a package waiting at my mail box service. I am hoping it is the felt gaskets I ordered but then again it might be my hitch anti rattle device.

If I can't find another way to make affordable window screens I am going to 3D print the curved corners in a profile to work with standard household window screen framing components. That will keep the cost under control versus ordering everything from the RV supply system. I can also print retaining clips to hold the screens in place if need be. I was wondering when I was going to take advantage of my friend's 3D printer that is here at the workshop for making RV parts.
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Old 06-08-2016, 09:55 PM   #33
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Fascinating. Pretty handy having a 3D printer available. They are still relatively rare. I'm glad to help because I know I will need some help in the future. You've already helped with front window. I appreciate that. I'm taking a trip east to my nieces wedding in about a week or so. Was going to use the trailer, but that turned out to be a bit ...... ambitious, so I'm taking the train. Will be returning the 1st of July and then start looking at all the little things I want to fix. Don't know if I will have time to have the original refrigerator installed before I go. The place I'm taking the trailer is called Dr George, the RV Doctor. He has a salvage yard for rv's as well as a repair shop.

I'll get back to you on the screens, but I'm not sure when.

Roger
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Old 06-08-2016, 10:30 PM   #34
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Campster thru the frame bolts

I made a discovery pertaining to the bolts that tie the shell to the frame. They installed the those bolts while the epoxy slurry that secured the plywood floor in place was still uncured. Those bolts are basically impossible to remove without a ton of work as they are completely bonded in by the epoxy that is under the plywood. The nuts are rusted firmly on underneath and while I could use a nut splitter to remove those I would even then still be unable to take the bolts out. Without grinding them all the way down to the fiberglass shell they are there to stay. It makes no real sense to bother with removing the bolts at this point in time, I will save it for a future time when I replace the frame. So for now I will leave them in place since the bolts are functioning but I will also install some additional new bolts through the frame as a backup security measure.

I am also working on removing the old steel angles that bolt only through the fiberglass shell. Those were the tie down support for the old wood cabinets. Two are out and four more to go. The bolt heads also have to be ground off to remove those angles as those bolts were also epoxied in. So for now they too will have the bolt shaft with a nut in place underneath the trailer. It does not matter if I do that, they are doing no work except for plugging a hole in the floor. One of these days I will grind it flush to the fiberglass and put fiberglass cloth and resin over the hole. But that is not high on the priority list this summer.

I only need to replace 18 inches worth of the plywood floor area that starts at the door as that is the only rotted section in the floor. The rest of it just needs sanding to remove the dirt then I will coat the surface with some epoxy paint and seal all the edges too. Then I will put a fillet of caulk around all the cut edges and seal it to the fiberglass so that no water can get into the voids underneath. Nothing difficult about that part of the job except for too much bending and kneeling. It is times like that when I literally do lay down on the job
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Old 06-09-2016, 09:07 AM   #35
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My best friend that I share workshop space with has a welder. He is going to do a patch up reinforcement on that weak area of the frame for me. But of course I will use that as an hands on lesson opportunity with his machine as I might have a need to weld more things in the future on this project. I once took a short course from an artist on basic welding but that was torch work. I just wanted to try it out of curiosity. I did have a good touch for it since I am a tool user.
Nice to know a good welder, isn't it? I can't pick up my newly-purchased 1972 Compact Jr for another week (it's three states away from me) but when I do, I want to get a friend of mine who is a professional welder to reinforce the frame, since I hear that it can be weak at the tongue/body point. Are you planning to just add steel reinforcement bars there, or are you going to add a central beam going under the front center, and out to the hitch? I'm not sure exactly what to tell my buddy to do when I get mine home.
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Old 06-09-2016, 05:13 PM   #36
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Nice to know a good welder, isn't it? I can't pick up my newly-purchased 1972 Compact Jr for another week (it's three states away from me) but when I do, I want to get a friend of mine who is a professional welder to reinforce the frame, since I hear that it can be weak at the tongue/body point. Are you planning to just add steel reinforcement bars there, or are you going to add a central beam going under the front center, and out to the hitch? I'm not sure exactly what to tell my buddy to do when I get mine home.
Unfortunately I do not yet have a decent background knowledge of trailer framing specifics or hitches and tongues. So I will have to take a pass on this question.

I would suggest you re-post your question in the section designated for towing, hitching, axles and running gear. I would very much appreciate it that no one answers your question in this thread as it will then be lost from easy access by others who also are also very much in need of that valuable specific knowledge.
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Old 06-12-2016, 07:36 PM   #37
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removing a section of rotted floor

I have been working on removing a section of flooring just inside the door that had significant rot in it. Along that doorway wall the rot went fully along the edge of the 4' wide area against the entry wall and also extended further up the sides. Then there was a large area right as you walk in the aisle that extended in about 15".

If the rot had just been a small area I would have cleaned it out and filled it with thickened epoxy. However this being an area that will have a lot of stress on it from the in and out traffic and also while standing there to prepare meals I decided that structurally I really needed to replace a wider panel that ran all the way from side to side so that the point load of a human body would be spread out over a wide area for stability and longevity of use over the years.

The plywood floor in my Campster was installed with thickened epoxy onto the fiberglass under shell. I do appreciate that it was done that way even while I am doing the fairly miserable task of prying up that old plywood. At least that is what I keep telling myself as I am working.

The first task was to decide on how large a section of flooring needed to be removed. I settled on 17" as being the minimum and of course it had to be at least 4 foot wide as was the original flooring. My piece is a little longer as they had also added some addition plywood sections at each side of that 4' width. The original floor is 3/8" thick, my plywood piece is metric so it is very slightly thinner which is nice as that leaves room for adhesive under it to level it up to the rest of the floor.

I did some testing to see what would be the easiest way for me to remove the old flooring given the tools I had and also my hand strength and comfort. I do have some wear and tear arthritis in my hands so I do want to take it easy on them to avoid getting into too much inflammation. Slow and steady is the speed I drive My test quickly sorted out that if I scored the plywood into approximately 3/4" inch squares I could quickly pop out the chunks using an old garage sale purchase chisel. This is not a task for your good chisels.

First I used my replacement piece of plywood to mark my line onto the old floor for the area I was going to remove. Then guiding along that line with a straight edge I cut that line down into the original plywood floor using my small Porter Cable circular saw that was set to just shy of 3/8" in depth. That nice straight line will give me a good fit between the original floor and the replacement piece.

To create the hash grid of small squares I used a carbide coated, grinding type of blade in a Dremel Saw Max. That carbide grit coated blade is forgiving of not being guided with a straight edge or run in a perfectly straight line since it is a grinder rather than a regular saw blade. So that made cutting the small squares go very quickly as I did not have to stay as focused on not binding up the saw blade while making cuts. My back is not as limber as it used to be so being able to be a little sloppy in cutting the hash grids was of real benefit as far as personal comfort went. I can work very precisely but don't always need to . The grinding blade also gives me a wider space for getting a chisel into the kerf. This saw depth was set just shy of 3/8" to avoid any possibility of cutting into the shell.

I did need to be sure to avoid cutting into the bolts in this area that tied the fiberglass shell down to the trailer frame. I could not get them out because they were epoxied in place with wet epoxy engaging into the threads when the original floor was set in place. You can see in the photo below where I stopped that lowest line on the left where I stopped the cut line just short of one of the bolts. Oh well, no big deal, I just cut around them and leave them in place. They are not hurting anything being there. I will make clearance holes for them in the new floor panel and add in two new hold down bolts through the new floor section. Someday a new frame underneath but not this year.

Hooray, only 15 more inches of old plywood to remove then some cleanup work with a different style of carbide grit grinding tool to get rid of the last of the old wood fibers. Tomorrow I can mix up thickened epoxy and install the replacement plywood piece. Of all the remodeling work that needed to be done this is actually the most yucky of the jobs with all that sawdust it generated. (Yes of course I take safety precautions and I use respiratory protection!)
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Old 06-13-2016, 09:48 PM   #38
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More window handle/latch pix

Passenger side window from the inside. The handle/latch is missing from the other side so I'm interested in what you come up with to replace it. It appears to be held on by glue or some such (no rivets or screws in sight)

There is a spring clip that latches into a grove in the vertical bar. The window is NOT latched in these pictures but you can see the grove where the latch fits...

I figure that a piece of wood or some such in the track should be a good enough latch so I'm not obsessing about the latching part. Besides, right now the windows are hard enough to open without messing with the latch.

I'm also really interested about the screens. I tested a piece from one of the build-it-yourself screen kits in the grove outside the sliding part of the windows and its a good fit. Actually maybe a bit tight. I think I'm going to use some old bits from that kit to rig up something temporary if the bugs get bad when I go camping in a couple weeks. Not a big trip but the first time I'll actually get to sleep in my trailer.
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Old 06-13-2016, 10:25 PM   #39
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My back was locked up today so I thought it was going to be a get nothing done day but then a friend came to the rescue I decided in order to get that old resin and plywood remnants leveled without making a long term career out of it that the job it would be best done with a nice sized belt sander and some coarse grit sandpaper. That meant I needed to borrow my friend's sander since I had sold mine several years ago. Fortunately the man came with the tool and he job got done with no stress on me. He also got out his offset grinder and took care of removing some old rusty bolts for me.

Tomorrow is plywood installation day! That is a big step forward. I would have done it this evening but I crawled in bed with a muscle relaxer and the two cats.

It is good to celebrate whenever I get to cross something major off the list such as the floor repair. I think I will celebrate with buying a much needed new 30 amp electrical inlet. Gee I sure do know how have a wild celebration
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Old 06-14-2016, 05:17 AM   #40
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Karin---you party animal, you!

Hoping your back is feeling much better. I am looking forward to seeing the new floor.
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