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.