Tag Archives: restoration

Catching up, Again

So, picking up where I left off in the post “Replacing Rotten Wood in a Vintage Camper.” I’m going to try and squeeze a few days worth of progress into this post. And again, I’m going back to June/July (wow, it’s crazy that it’s been that long! I have so much catching up to do here on the blog and so much to share! If only there were two of me – one to wield the drill all day and one to blog about it at the same time!). This stuff was all happening in June, in preparation for Tiny House Summer Camp, in the beginning on July. Okay, let’s get to it!
So where we left off I had replaced the rotten framing on the starboard (door) side of the trailer. Now we’re moving over the the rear port side of the trailer, to replace what was rotten there. The damage hadn’t reached as far as on the starboard side, which was a relief.

Here, I’m just removing all of the rotten framing to make room for some replacement framing.

I used a pry bar, a five in one, and the Rockwell SoniCrafter (again, can’t recommend this enough to vintage trailer restorers – it’s a life saver) to dig out the old, soft framing to the place where it was solid again. And as on the other side, we cut the studs to 5 1/2 inches above the trailer frame, so that we could replace it with the 2 x 6 on end.

Same as the starboard side replacement joist – we bolted it to the frame (notched the 2 x 6 for the length of the longest bit we had) and used metal strapping for extra structural stability. No way my house is falling apart now! At least it’s better than the original stapled construction 🙂

Here you can get a feel for the bigger picture. Also, in this photo I want to point out something that I knew I wanted to change in the rebuild: on the left side of the photo, spanning across the rear wall of the camper, the 2 x 2 that is right in the middle of the rear hatch opening really bothered me. It’s right in the middle of the only large storage space, making it so that you can’t fit large things through that door. I decided I needed to re-design the bed/couch framing so that it didn’t interfere with the rear hatch opening.

Well, it’s time for me to get back outside and keep working on the COMET. I’ll be back later with more catching up on the last few months of progress and bringing the blog up to speed.


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Updates, Updates! Plus: Vintage Trailer Eye Candy


I need to apologize for my lack of uploaded photos of the COMET progress from the past month. It’s so frustrating, because I really want to share them with you all, but I am having technical difficulties with the camera, alas! HOPEFULLY I can resolve the issue soon and we can get back on track!

Until then, I have some other news:

1. Just got back from a 2 day “Greenhouse Design” workshop at Yestermorrow Design/Build School, where I finalized the design of my “bumper” garden – a mini, lightweight greenhouse mounted to the back of the trailer, supported by the bumper. It was great to learn about the different material options for building a greenhouse. In order to be as lightweight as possible, I’m going to go with aluminum framing and polycarbonate  sheets – a structural panel. Can’t wait to get started on the fabrication/building of that!

Greenhouse made from recycled windows, as seen on Apartment Therapy. Such a good idea! I also thought of upcycling an old carport into a small greenhouse.


2. Lloyd Kahn, my favorite tiny house/alternative dwelling author, is coming out with a new book and guess what it’s all about? Campers and houseboats! yay! He recently released his Tiny House book, which had a full page spread about mobile dwellings, but I can’t wait to get a hold of this book dedicated to unique camper houses and house boats. I think it is going to be titled “Wheels and Water”. If you live in an awesome trailer or houseboat, he is looking for submissions too for the book. Head over to http://lloydkahn-ongoing.blogspot.com/ for more on that!

3. I’ve been on a fermentation rampage the last few weeks. Saurkraut, Curtido (Salvadorean suarkraut for papusas), and Kombucha have been filling the fridge and the dark corners of the basement. I’ve been experimenting with double fermentation of the Kombucha and have been perfecting the Curtido recipe (which is extra magical as it uses whey as part of the fermentation process). I have more Kombucha mothers than I know what to do with at this point, but it’s nice to have enough to try all different flavors with. My first batch turned into straight up vinegar, but I have been planning on using that for salad dressings and other vinegar drinks that I have recipes for from the book “Making It” by Kelley Coyne + Erik Knutzen. I will share my super affordable, DIY $5 fermentation set up and some recipes soon!

4. I’m addicted to looking at Pinterest pages that are all about vintage camper eye candy. I have 4 new ones to share with you. It’s such a high concentration of vintage camper pictures in one place, it is almost overstimulating. Each one is full of good ideas for design + storage too.

Here we are:

Trailer Parks + Trailers I LOVE!

My Vintage Trailer Restoration

Creative Camper Interiors

Fun Little Campers

Some of them have some of the same photos, but for the most part each one is worth checking out if you love vintage trailer eye candy!

I am always trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up (I feel like the answer will always be “Everything”). While at Yestermorrow, I get so excited about each subject I learn about it’s like a new career path unfolds in front of me every other week! I’ll be a solar house designer, I’ll be a Greenhouse builder, I’ll be a tiny house builder or a teacher. I made use of the drafting tables at Yestermorrow while I was there and after class did some “architectural” drawings of camper designs of the future (We can all agree that most modern RV designs are terrible and tacky, right?). Maybe I’ll be an RV designer and try to usher in a new era of campers that look like old campers! While I work towards the silliest degree in the world (I think I’ve explained my major before – vintage trailer restoration and the culture of mobile dwellings?), I try to see how I can apply it to the future of our culture and the planet. Not sure where I’m going with this, but that’s okay once in a while right? One step at a time! Sorry this was a bit of a rambling paragraph.


Anyway, I really hope to have the camera situation fixed very soon and then I can share more COMET progress and trailer restoration how-to’s. Until then, have a lovely day! and THANK YOU for reading!


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Interior Floor Demolition!

This is what I was doing the last few days. Later on I’ll post pictures of what it looks like now, with the new framing, insulation, and flooring.

Basically the entire rear floor, under the bed/couch under the window, had been destroyed by a combination of water damage and termites or carpenter ants. There was no framing left in the rear 4 feet of flooring, it was just dust at this point. We ended up pulling out an entire wall’s structural members and floor studs: there was a lot of day light coming through. This is the most structurally-intense renovation/repair I have ever had to do in a trailer, but it was similar in nature to the repairs I had done to fix water damage in other trailers, so progress has been going very quickly!

I’ll walk you through peeling back the layers of rot. Don’t let this discourage you  if you’re considering repairing your own vintage trailer. If I can do it, anyone can. Oh, and a big thank you to my friend Matt for helping me out in these hectic weeks before Tiny House Summer Camp, and all the other weeks he’s helped as well.

The thing about repairing the framing in these is that you peel back one wall to fix one problem, which then allows you to see about 8 other problems that you hadn’t noticed before. And everything is built originally from the frame up, so you’re trying to get into places that were put together in an order that makes it challenging to get at things retroactively. We ended up pulling back some of the exterior aluminum to be able to reach certain spots better.

This is the rear of the camper where I pulled back the linoleum sheet floor to find a soft pile of dusty wood. You can see the corner was just rotted through. But I didn’t know how far the rot had gotten until I dug deeper.

I used the SonicCrafter and my hands to pull out all of the rotten wood framing. The wood was so rotten it just came right out for the most part. Some of the stuff I pried out with the Wonderbar. you can see the black wood in the corner, where day light is coming in. That’s not good! Basically water rots where it sits, which is why the wood under the window is fine but the floor is ruined. Even though the water was coming in through the window, it was flowing down into the floor and had no way to escape.

I then tore out the kitchen, realizing that the floor framing on the starboard side was rotted out beneath the kitchenette. I also knew by stepping on it that the floor next to the heater, below that big round hole in the wall where the vent was, was all rotted out. I carefully removed the kitchen so I could get at the floor there.

This is the view from the outside. This entire length of member was rotten with water damage.

Here you can see where I used the SonicCrafter to cut out the rotten wood to where it was solid again. Those straight cuts are where the wood is no longer rotten. It looks like a huge mess, but is surprisingly simple to fix when you have control over how you want to re-build. I knew I wanted to rebuild it ten times stronger than it was originally. Originally, the studs in the wall were stapled (yes, STAPLED) to the floor beams. Not exactly sturdy construction.

I’ll post pictures of what we did to fix this mess later on. I think it turned out pretty good!

Anyway, one of my best friends just bought a vintage trailer to live in (we’re going to have a caravan!) and she’s in the process of repairing the rear rot as well. Today she’s coming over to help me out and see what you can do to fix that sort of damage. If I can convince at least one other person that living in a trailer is an awesome idea, I would say this project has been a success already!

**Another huge thank you to Green Building Supply, who really helped me out yesterday on such short notice. I was having a really hard time figuring out what to do about the countertop in the COMET. I wanted to re-use an old Formica table, and I ended up getting one off of craigslist, but it turns out is isn’t the right size for the counter. I called up Green Building Supply looking for a solution and they recommended Marmoleum, the same stuff that my flooring is made of! You can get Marmoleum in tiles or planks for floors, or you can order it in flexible sheets, which works like a natural laminate countertop. It’s completely non-toxic, natural linoleum and basically indestructible. I picked out a really cool teal color, Azzuro. It is a similar pattern to the flooring, sort of swirly and marble-y.

I also got some of the non-toxic Forbo (who makes Marmoleum) adhesive to put the countertop onto a piece of plywood I have lying around. I’m going to re-use the vintage aluminum retro trim from the original countertop around the edges, so it will still have that vintage look. Can’t wait to get this in the mail!

As always, thanks so much for reading. I’ll update again later on, gosh-willing I can keep my eyes open after I’m done in The COMET.

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Exterior Paint Design Concept

Good morning!

I’ve been working on some paint schemes for the exterior of the COMET. I think that because I’ll be towing it around so much in the next few months, going to Tiny House Summer Camp With Derek Diedricksen in July, and the KOA vintage trailer rally and sustainable weekend event in Brattleboro, VT, it’s really important I have the outside looking nice and giving people some info about the project.

I love the little stripe details that reference a comet in the seafoam section. I’m also going to put a seafoam colored atomic-looking comet shape behind The COMET text, to tie it all together. I still need to figure out where to put the website and other info.

What do you think? Any suggestions? Let me know in the comments!


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Demolition: Tearing out the Trash in The COMET

Two days ago I began pulling out the rotted wood and un-salvageable parts of The COMET. This post will be most useful to those of you who are thinking about (or in the process of) restoring/re-doing a vintage camper. Here are some of the “fun” things you might find when working on a camper that is over 50 years old!


Here’s the rear wall panel. As you can see, there is visible dry rot and water damage under the window. I took off the window frame and decided I need to replace the wood from half way down the window and below (imagine a straight horizontal line continuing off of both sides of the window where the gap in the panes are – everything below that). I began going at it with a chisel before deciding that the job needs a more precise hand held multitool, something like the Rockwell SonicCrafter, which can cut flush up again the walls. I peaked behind the wall panel, and all of the wood back there looks great, no damage. I’m still going to super reinforce the framing of this wall with more beams though, because I’ll want the extra supports when I go to mount the bumper greenhouse later.



This is a photo of underneath  one of the front dinette benches, where the original water tank was. The water tank was a big hunk of rusty metal, so I used a sawzall to cut it out of the wall and then pulled it out. You can see that this area once kept a mouse very warm! I’m going to clean this area up and put down some new wood, maybe paint it all white so that you can see it better, then have the new water tank (which I ordered yesterday from Timbucktu RV in Worcester, MA) installed in here. I don’t know why there’s an outlet in this box, but we’ll find out!



Here’s where I tore out the old camper toilet. Kinda gross! I’m going to try to re-use the tiny camper toilet seat from the original toilet, since it’s so small and perfect sized for the tiny closet. You can see that the toilet closet is a step up from the rest of the floor of the camper. I think I’m going to saw through the floor of the toilet closet and replace it with one that is at the same level as the rest of the camper. It’s probably a little higher right now to make room for a black water tank and plumbing, but the composting toilet doesn’t require a tank or any plumbing for water, so it doesn’t have to be a step up like that. Can’t wait to take out the floor and see what’s lurking under there… Can’t wait to show you all the mock-up for the squatting composting toilet.



Here’s the 30 amp/120V AC inlet that is on the exterior wall of the COMET. The male inlet is missing, so I got a whole new assembly (Thank You TIMBUCKTU RV!!). This is just temporary, so that I can use the lights and outlets in the camper, until the PV system is installed.


It’s been pouring rain the yesterday and today, so I’m hoping it lets up soon so I can get back to work! Someday I’ll have an indoor workshop and won’t have to rely on good weather. I’ve been collecting all of the materials I will need for the first few repairs (hardware, electrical, wood) so I won’t run into any unexpected roadblocks.

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