Friday, March 11, 2011

Beauty is not skin deep...

We will be working more this weekend, trying to close up the gaping back end of Frankie.  The weather is cold today, so hubby is driving cross-country (seems like) to get some birch paneling so we can closer her back up.

We live in a pretty large city (Raleigh) and one would think there would be lots of hardwood distributors around here that carry 1/8" birch.  Well, after many phone calls, we found a place on the other side of the city that carries "bendable birch 1/8" plywood.   So, hubby took the van on a mission to get some.  He came home and we looked at what they loaded into the van.  It's bendable, all right!  A little too bendable.  The original birch was 1/8" and had 3 layers - two birch exterior good faces with an inner layer of inferior grade wood.  The "bendable" birch that we picked up had just one face layer and a back layer of inferior wood.  Two ply, not three, and barely 1/8 inch thick.  It just won't work as paneling.  So, he's returning it to the store.  While he's gone, I'll bring this blog up to where we're at in this process.

Last week, hubby removed a gazillion rusted, painted over screws so we could remove the dinette windows and also open up the back end.  The interior paneling was shot, a PO had used multiple layers of polyurethane to cover up the damage.  We decided to completely redo the back end before we take her camping this season.  It looked severely damaged and we were afraid of the rot we'd find behind the skin, with good reason!!

So, we began the task of removing the back skin, taking off the lights first, which had gobs of silicone caulk on them, removing drip rails on both edges, and the rear window.  The offending screw was just the tip of the iceberg, evidently.  Eeek.  They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so here's my novel:

Eyebrow removed over the rear window, rear Hehr window removed.  The original caulk is still in place under the eyebrow.  It's different from the putty tape we'd expected.  It's more like plumber's putty, and it's still soft.

Our first glance at the damage under the skin.
Here's the back lower skin removed, we tried everything to get this thing loose, turns out it just lifts off.  We see some damage, but it's not as bad as we feared....yet.
This is where the Shasta assemblers nailed through the exterior into the potty closet frame.
Streetside back end.
Curbside back end.  Lotsa rot.
We found this symbol stamped all over the back of the paneling - Made In Canada.  Eh?
Peeled away the insulation and you can see the problem right away. 
Left side.  Lots of problems here, too.  Don't worry, we'll fix it!

This is where the water ran down inside the wall from the nail that protruded through the skin.  There were a couple more pinholes near the window frame on this side, also from the roofing nails that a PO used to secure some plastic sheeting over a broken window.  The PO had covered this damage up on the inside with some lauan and some polyurethane.  We'll rebuild this whole area.

Here's the majority of the back end removed.  We'll finish tearing out the interior paneling from this part of the camper, and replace it with new birch, shellacked to match. 
Just a heads-up for anyone who is reading this blog and thinks that you would "see" damage right away and know if a trailer is in good shape before you buy it, or that you can take a seller's word for the condition of a trailer.  This trailer looked pretty good in photos.  The owners had done some cosmetic fixes, and we were enticed enough to drive an hour to look at it.  When we arrived, we did a more thorough inspection, and we were aware of what damage probably lay behind the walls.  We knew that the wrinkled paneling meant that water had gotten into the walls, and probably damaged the framing.  The owner told us she was "solid."  I'm sure that the owner didn't mean to mislead us, he was probably just not aware that these things will hold together and defy gravity regardless of the condition of the framing.  She certainly is a gravity - defying piece of work, isn't she?? 

We were aware that she would need a few months of work and quite a bit of cash to fix her.  We bought her anyway.  We'll make her strong and sturdy, and she'll bring many years of enjoyment for our family.  She may never be a showpiece, but she'll be a lot of fun!!


  1. Same situation here Dee! Not quite honest seller on the phone, long drive to take a look and in hindsight the sensible thing would have been to keep our cash and walk away. But, I'm impatient and being in a rural area, a small canned ham camper is very hard to find so we decided to part with our money and take a chance.

    Haven't ripped into her yet but we're gonna do a total restoration from the inside. One good thing, this one didn't collapse on the drive home like the Shasta Compact we bought last year did *lol*

    Also, I'm having a hard time finding 1/8" birch myself. Gonna use 1/4" on the sides and non-curved parts on recommendation from someone who's been there and done that and then I'll track down some 1/8" birch if it kills me! :) Good luck!

  2. I don't think the seller was trying to be dishonest, he just really had no clue. The benches he made were out of pieces of fencing, he used pressure-treated wood on a repair to the ceiling framing. I just think he didn't know better.

    Yeah, we're going with 1/4" birch as well. I'm hoping it will wrap over the curved back end satisfactorily. We need to compensate for the extra 1/8" when we put the cross-pieces back in so that the skin will fit right.

    Hope you find some good birch!