Continuing Pop-up Camper Rebuild Project – Part 1
I inspected this camper as best as I could before making a purchase, but there was no way to identify all of the problems. Most of the cabinetry needed to come out to fix the problems I knew about. The process of removing the cabinets, however, revealed a few hidden problems. The screws coming out in some places were badly rusted. Some of them would not even back themselves out without the help of a flat bar. I ended up removing everything because of the additional rotten spots.
You can easily see the damage to the right corner and the big melted spot in the linoleum. The back wall is suffering from a little rot along the center, but it isn’t quite so obvious from a distance. All four corners were rotted, in places, from failing corner seals. 🙁
Since I’m in there anyway
My original plan had been to just patch the one corner with Luan panel board. Now, I will need to rip out several feet of wallboard from each corner. Furthermore, there was that rather large chemical hole in the linoleum. It made the most sense to go ahead and replace all of the wallboard and linoleum while it was already gutted.
Getting all of that old material out was a real chore. The areas with water damage pealed up easy. The rest, was thoroughly glued. After prying it all off and pulling all of the staples out with a pair of pliers, there was still a lot of glued-on-bits that needed the help of a hammer and chisel.
The flooring was pretty straight forward. I just cut a square section out, back to the beam. A few self tapping screws through pre-drilled holes in the trailer frame, and the new wood was installed. I did have a bad time with the screws. A few of them rung off before getting through the steel. Hard spots, perhaps, but I think they were just cheap screws. The thickness of the steel was within the specs on the packaging.
It was a little tricky rebuilding the ends of the side walls. There were some funny angles that I had to duplicate. Some of the measurements had to be tweaked because the 2″ x 2″ wood I was using was a little larger than 2″ x 1.5″ originally used. The tweaking of the measurements, of course, threw off the angles. Once everything was cut and assembled they needed to be glued to the exterior siding.
Front & Back
The front and back walls of the trailer were very different from the side walls. There was a wood frame around the outer edges, but the rest of it was basically a very thin piece of Luan glued to a Styrofoam board. I didn’t want to remove the Styrofoam from the aluminum siding. It was in pretty good shape and would have been difficult to remove. The Luan had to come off. It was quite firmly glued too, but a good bit of it was water damaged and peeling. Taking advantage of it’s condition, I just peeled off the outer layers of the Luan, leaving the that was adhered directly to the Styrofoam. More time with hammer and chisel…. a lot of it. The new wood was to be glued in a similar fashion to it’s original construction, so I really wanted a flat surface to encourage a good bond.
Regular 1″ x 2″ furring strips from the local building supply were a perfect fit around the edges. I was able to use a 1″ x 4″ to replace the rotted sections in upper two strips of the back panel. It wasn’t an exact fit but I was able to shave away some of the Styrofoam to allow for the larger board.
Tweaking the back wall
A previous owner had fastened a bike rack. I found the original nut and washer embedded in the wall, where it had pulled through from the weight. They had installed a significant piece of angle iron on the inside for their second attempt. That worked, but it looked rather jagged and was certainly overkill so I took the opportunity to re-enforce the wall to handle the rack without the angle iron by replacing that section of Styrofoam with solid wood.
Finishing the walls
I like the natural wood look and was planning to polyurethane the wallboard, rather than paint it. That somewhat limited my options at the local building supply. The high grade plywood was ridiculously expensive so I settled for a 7/32″ underlayment plywood. It was just a little thicker than Luan, approximately 1/16″ thicker than what was previously installed. The look was good but I had to be selective, avoiding those sheets with fillers in the finished side.
Cutting the wood was not quite as easy as I would like. The structure of the trailer required most of the cuts to go in the long direction. The front and back walls use Styrofoam filler, so there could be no seams in the middle. The sidewall panels had similar limitations. The lift posts that pass up through the walls are the same width as the frame wood. Most of the support in the end segments come from the plywood and siding glued to the other side. It would not be good to have a seam in my plywood fall too close to one of those lift posts.
Long cuts are hard to keep straight with the right tools…. and I had circular saw. After some digging, I found a long and, fortunately, straight board to use as a guide. Each cut I made required two sets of marks. The first to scribe my cut line and the second to mark the edge of my guide board, offset by the distance between the blade and guide on my saw. With guide board lined up on my marks, I screwed it in place, sandwiching the board I was cutting in the process. The guide board and firmly secured board ensured nice straight cuts.
Glued and fastened
Since all of the wall-board was getting glued into place, I didn’t have any wiggle room for mistakes. Every piece was cut and pre-fitted before applying any glue. There were a lot of gaps in the original Styrofoam insulation so I filled them in before sealing it up.
The front and back walls were originally glued. There wasn’t really a better way, so I went with contact cement. A note of caution, the solvent based cement will dissolve Styrofoam. If you are attempting to glue directly to the Styrofoam the water-based contact cement is what you want. It can be a little tricky to work with since it grabs instantly when the two pieces touch. The trick not mentioned on the can, is that it doesn’t stick to surfaces that do not have glue on them, at least not once it is ready to bond. A few dowel rods laid out, to keep the glued sides separate while I got the panel in position. Starting with one end, I carefully lined them up and then remove the dowels as I worked down the sheet, pressing firmly to glue it all together. Repeat until done.
The side-walls were much easier. I used construction adhesive along the frame, then placed both pieces of the side pictured. The construction adhesive is still malleable for a few minutes, unlike the contact adhesive, and the seam on this wall is visible so I wanted to make sure the edges met well before stapling them in place.
The polyurethane is best applied all at once. There was nothing to tape. A little thinner in the poly before spraying and I was ready to go. Using an gravity fed paint gun (works well, considering the price), I applied 3-4 coats of poly to the inside in no time. In reality, most of the wallboard only has 3 coats but there where a few spots that needed some touch up when I inspected the sheen with flashlight.
Securing the seams
The 2 back corners only met the beams on 3 edges. There was about 1/4″ of give in the floor which could crack the linoleum over time. They both fell inside of the storage area in the camper so they would not need to deal with traffic, but it still needed a little more support. I cut a couple of 4″ strips of scrap sheet metal and screwed them in well, over the joint. The extra strength reduced the give in the floor and spread it over a few inches.
Laying the flooring
Camper’s need sturdy, waterproof flooring. I really didn’t want to glue a full sheet of linoleum in the tight confines of the camper and the self adhesive squares leak between the seams. Happily, those are no longer the only options. The click-lock vinyl sheets bring the best of both worlds. The locking seam is just as water tight as traditional linoleum and glue is not required, as it works like a floating laminate flooring. It installed beautifully. Some of the seams close to the wall were a little tricky to lock into place but, it was still loads easier than dealing with glue.
Until next time
That’s all for this post. Next time we’ll look at installing the cabinetry and painting the exterior. I hope you enjoyed the read. God Bless.
Pop-Up Camper Rebuild Project Part 3 ….Coming soon.