Monday, February 2, 2009

Demolition and Reconstruction

While we had the top half of the door off for repair, we used a tarp to cover the hole. I thought it would be a short project. Ha.

We then removed the metal strip that was screwed to the bottom edge of the upper shell. We knew we were in trouble when most of the screws broke off, rusted through. DS removed the rotten wood from the space between the aluminum skins, and cleaned up the area with scrapers, pliers to remove staples and broken screw heads, and finally with a wire wheel on the drill.

This is the flap system from inside the Trailmanor - what connects the top shell to the bottom shell with velcro when the camper is in use. All the wood used was rotten, the vinyl nasty and it smelled of rot. It was a definite replacement item. As a matter of fact, what we removed looked as if it had been homemade, and I don't think it was original. We ended up purchasing a new set from Trailmanor.

This pic shows the rear edge of the upper shell, with the trim strip and bag seal removed, opened and the rotten wood scraped out.

Here's the wood, or rather, what's left of it. It was basically mulch, we found only a few chunks of semi-solid wood. I think mostly what was holding the camper together was just habit, and maybe a half dozen screws that were still in somewhat solid wood. The white piece of "lumber" you see is what we bought to replace the pieces that held on the flaps, and it's not wood, it's solid vinyl. Never going to rot.

Ok, I promised you scary. Here's scary. DH decided that it would be much easier to work on the wall, if it was on sawhorses. So he took it off the camper. EEEEEK! First we took the load off of the arms. With shells in upright position, we removed the clamps from the arms underneath the camper (see diagram above, courtesy of Happytrails and Ed at Trailmanor), removed and set aside the shims and clamps, and pulled the end of the spring out of the tube, then gently let the shell back down with people on each side to keep it level. Then we removed the bolts on the lift arms at the pocket stops and removed the wall. I know TM changed the lift arms to a different style around 1994, I'm not sure how you'd go about taking those apart.

Another angle......that hole at the curved area is the end of the cabinets that are above the front bed. We had to disconnect the wires to the front lights and the porch light.

Lower part of the front can see where we opened up the aluminum skins and removed the rotten wood, as well as the nasty old bag seal and flaps that came off later.

Here's the wall on sawhorses.....the big hole in front of DH is the upper door opening. He's inserting square aluminum tubing into the space between the skins, replacing the rotten wood. We found a great price on the tubing - $1.16 a linear foot - from a place in our town that supplies to companies that make screen rooms and the like. Shop around - a metal supplier in the same town wanted nearly twice as much.

The tubing on the left came from Trailmanor, the tubing on the right is what we bought locally. Same thickness, the only difference we could see is the white paint and the corners were less rounded off.
And another shot of the wall with DH spacing out tubing to see how much we needed.

Here's the door opening with the new tubing inserted. Just dry fitting at this point.

This is the other side of the door opening. The area around the door was the in the worst shape of the entire camper. The aluminum had started to degrade.

This shows just how bad the deterioration was - the top of the door frame had NO support left at all. When we took it down, it was completely empty, the rotten wood had just crumbled away, and you could see right through it.

The pictures above show the "pocket" and "pocket stops", the rubber chunk with a strip of metal and a screw. The U shaped metal brackets are called "pocket stop repair kits". The first picture is the pocket located by the door frame, toward the rear of the upper shell. It was encased by two metal plates, and bolted together with a wooden frame. We used aluminum tubing with treated wooden plugs glued into the ends to replace this, shown in the next picture. Sorry it's so blurry. We used Liquid Nails Polyurethane adhesive to glue everything together, it was the only one we found that was rated for wood, metal and foam and also was weather proof. The third picture shows the old pocket stop, made of rubber, a piece of wood, and a screw, the rubber much flattened from years of use. Bottom is a picture of the inside of the pocket, before we put the metal bracket and new stop in. The lighter spot on the right is where the stop was located.

This picture shows the top of the wall with new aluminum tubing installed, glued on all sides and clamped with wood strips to ensure complete pressure and contact. I was starting to relax, we could do this. All we had to do was finish glueing the aluminum strips around the edges of everything, add strips of treated wood to have a surface to staple the bag seal and reinstall the trim strip with screws into, and we could put the wall back on. What I failed to take into account was 1. How long it would take us and 2. How cold the weather was getting. We'd started this project in late September, in Michigan, and the glue we were using wouldn't set up at less than about 50 degrees. And our garage was already full, no room in there for a new project. So I did what any self respecting Trailmanor owner would do. I gave up my kitchen to the cause:

We balanced the wall between the table and the rolling bar we have in the middle of our kitchen, and continued working. It wasn't so bad, it only took us another few days to finish, and it was definitely warmer.

This picture shows the ends of the aluminum tubing, and the wooden plugs DH cut to fit and glued into the ends. This gave a solid place to drill and screw everything together.

Here's that area at the bottom of the door frame area where the aluminum was so degraded. I wrapped it in plastic wrap before we clamped to avoid having the wood we used for pressure from becoming glued to the wall when the glue oozed out from the degraded areas. The second pic shows everything clamped, with some spare pieces of wood and aluminum in the pocket to avoid crushing it. Once everything was cured, we put away our tools for the winter, put the wall in the garage and wrapped the camper up tight in tarps for the season.

Next post: In the spring, putting it back together, taking off the street side wall, and installation of new bag seal and flaps.