Off of the Grid

RV Remodel

Welding

Sorry for the silence. A lot has happened in the last weeks. We found a welder, and drove Winnie over to his shop. He and his guys went over the chassis with a fine tipped comb and discovered a lot more welds that had popped. In one instance an entire steel cross support bar was only attached at one weld point. So – … wow. If we hadn’t taken the floor off we never would have discovered the actual condition of the very core of the RV. Scary! They got started a bit later than we were expecting and we have a personal emergency. The friends we are staying with here in WA – she had a heart attack and was immediately scheduled for a quadruple bypass. A lot of last week was spent at the hospital. She came through like a champ and was happy knowing we were here so her husband didn’t have to worry about things like pets, garden, mail, etc. She has been my friend since 1995 – a long time and seems young to have had this occur so we are all feeling our mortality a bit. She came home yesterday and I was sitting up with her. She said, “You and I always believe that everything happens for a reason. This [welding] set you back but in the long run, it has probably saved your home.” My response was, “Ya. And your heart attack could have been so much worse! As it was, you were able to get to the hospital and get help before it became catastrophic. It could have been so much worse!” We agreed that our respective guardian angels have been working overboard these past few weeks and expressed our gratitude. I generally am one to appreciate the little moments but you have no idea how grateful I was to be sitting at the table talking to my friend; savoring that moment. She is still here. She is strong and recovering well. She has a second chance and in much better shape to live healthy. Ironically heart disease runs in her family so her doctor monitors her cholesterol closely. All her numbers were good.

OK – on to RV news now that I have gotten all maudlin and sentimental. This welding bill means we are WAY over budget. We will not be able to afford the filon skin for the entire rig. The average cost of the skin for arctic white at 35′ is about $700.00. Our friends are happy to have us here but don’t want us here forever!  LOL! We have to finish paying off the welders next paycheck and need construction money. The next paycheck after that will be mid Sept. Add in the 5 to 7 day lead time we would need and that has us here until October.  For now, we will construct the roof and outer walls. The roof we will cover and the rest of the RV we will paint with exterior home paint. We can add the filon later. This will at least get us going. We want to have the cabinetry in place so that we are not bolting things to the walls again and will hit the road with basically an empty shell again. The Tucson weather is gentle in the Fall and Winter and we will be able to finish her off down there. LOL – remember I wanted this all done in a month? BWA-HA-HA! I am so silly.

So, that’s where we are. We are going to go over to the shop today and visit Winnie and see if they have started the work. I will take pictures if I can and post later.


Waiting, waiting, waiting…

This is always the hardest part of any remodel I think. It doesn’t seem to matter if it is traditional home based or a home on wheels. At some point in the process, there is a period of time where you are just waiting. You fill your hands with busy work that needs to be done but honestly you are pretty much just waiting.

We cannot move forward until the chassis repairs are made. We have had trouble finding a welder. Turns out, this area is a bit old fashioned about welding and no-one would respond to my calls all last week. Over the weekend, I told Daniel that he would need to call since I wasn’t getting anywhere. It was probably a combination of luck and timing that he made one call and was able to immediately speak to a mobile welder (I sent him the number) who will be coming out later this week. Arg. I am very glad we finally have someone coming out to take a look at the job but so very frustrated that it took Daniel to get someone out here. Regardless, the important fact is we will be able to move forward.

During this slow period Daniel has been treating the steel with rust reformer. We didn’t have any terrible rust but a significant enough amount that we wanted to treat it. With the entire undercarriage protected against water, salt, and grime, our home will last that much longer. Xander and I have been spending time scraping off the old butylated rubber from around the windows. Talk about a thankless task! We don’t want to use a chemical solvent since Xander is helping with this task, so we are doing it the old fashioned way. A flathead screw driver and patience. First you scrape with the screwdriver and get the sticky black stuff to release. Then you just grab it. Turns out, once you get a nice sized ball in your fingers, you use that to ‘grab’ the rest. Lifts right out and leaves the metal as clean as can be. Your fingers are stickier than all get out, but it does the trick and no chemicals needed. Thank heavens for goop hand cleaner!

Next week I should have more news for you but for now, we are just keeping busy. Thanks for stopping by!


Teardown Complete!

YAY! We finally got the last of the old flooring out. Now there is just the frame and the chassis of the trailer. We have some wood cobbled together in-case we need to make the RV street safe but that is off to the side.

WOW! Just had to get that off my chest. OK. Here is what we found.

  • We found both steel beams bent by the passenger side rear dullies. Not sure what would have caused this kind of damage in this spot. Massive over burden? Improperly placed jacks? Accident? These will need to be removed and replaced.
  • Rust – a bunch of rust but fortunately less than we were expecting. You can tell this rig was not an East Coast vehicle. I was terrified we would get everything off only to discover that road salt had eaten away the very base of our home. At that point, we would be game over and homeless. There is a reason I haven’t been sleeping very well at night. The rust that we did find is treatable. PHEW!
  • The back steel beam going across the rear of the RV is slightly bowed up. You can see from the pictures. Again, not sure what would have caused this damage. We know from the people we bought the RV from there was extensive back end damage from them backing into something. I can’t remember what. This damage could have been caused by that. It looks like something we can hammer back into place but I will defer that to the hubby and a body shop.
  • We still have that one steel beam that is broken off the ‘C’ bracket extension. I showed that image previously but will edit the photo to make it a bit more obvious.

Otherwise, things look good! Everything from this point forward is a step towards putting Winnie back together. Stronger, and Better than before. When we are done, we will have a custom brand new 2017 RV.  🙂


Ripping Off the Roof…

We have progressed!

We ended up taking a day or two off just as a sanity break and also to try and find a welder who would come out and weld some additional aluminum supports that will support the changes we want to make. We have called people, talked to shops, shown pictures of our chassis and now feel confident that we are good to go! Our RV chassis was already extended – presumably by Ford when they make it. Apparently our model was designed to be a sporty model with the ability to tow. There are already big ‘C’ brackets in the back of the frame with diagonal steel beams that go up to the bed. These diagonal braces will support the house extension. We are going to add one more steel brace just because we are paranoid and this is our only home but we are told we don’t need to.

We are having some trouble finding a welder. If we can’t get the extensions to the aluminum frame welded, we will have to extend the aluminum frame using bolts and brackets. It will still provide the additional support/strength we want, it just won’t be as clean.

This has been an interesting process. We have experience in general construction, and RV construction. We are paying extra attention to weight, the frame, the design, and the chassis. Every aspect of this rebuild is being closely examined. The conversation never stops about what we are learning/discovering/confirming. We are not taking this rebuild lightly. This is our home. And it will be our home for some time. We are doing what we are doing to ensure our home provides the stability we need for it to last for the next however many years. However, the comments we are getting from some people are incredibly offensive. One welder we called to weld the additional aluminum beams, actually said these words.

You have gone to far! You never should have exposed the frame like that!

He had no idea who we were, why we are doing what we are doing, what our experience level is – the only thing he had to go on way my initial 5 minute call and the two in-progress pictures I sent. “I am not taking on this project. No.” He says.

Another person on a forum we participate in, just posted:

“Holy crap, 3 foot extension!!! Make sure to come back and post pics of your RV when it breaks in half.”

WTF? Really people?

Obviously we are sharing this with the world wide web. Obviously we are going to get comments from people who are going to disagree with what we are doing. I get that. What I don’t understand is the rudeness. The absolute lack of any effort to either find out who we are and what we are capable of.  To what purpose are such comments made?

Moving on – our next steps are to remove the floor. We want to get up close and in person on that chassis. We want to see everything top and bottom before we start rebuilding. We will be putting Winnie up on ramps so we can really get under there. Since our rig came from the midwest, we know there is a lot of salt road damage that we are expecting to find. We know that the aluminum sheet at the bottom of the floor on the chassis is full of pits. That will have to be replaced. So, lots more work to do. I will keep you posted.

 


Deconstruction almost complete

We have the walls completely off. We disassembled the cab-over yesterday and got all the rotted wood out and exposed the frame. Now we are working on the roof. Yesterday Daniel spent time on the ladder trying to get the roof off from the center out. Sounds weird until you remember that we had a piece of filon tacked up there to patch a leak. So, instead of trying to pull the roof off from one of the sides, we just went to the place in the center where we had already ripped and cut the worst parts of the damage out. Daniel just pulled off that filon strip and got to work on the rest of the roof. Xander and I spent some time picking up the small pieces of insulation off the ground. Our friends are being so incredibly awesome to let us work here, I am certainly not going to pollute their property! We have enough debris for another dump run so we will get that done today or tomorrow. Then we will remove the floor, and check the aluminum sheet on the bottom of the bed and replace the wood that we see that is rotted down there. Bit worried we will have to replace that sheet since aluminum is pricey!

You have to keep a sense of humor in all this, so Daniel has been having some fun with Gimp and editing our progress photos. Check ’em out!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Here are in-progress photos of the rig, the frame and where are at with this project.

Here are our ‘To-Do’ tasks for the day:

  1. Go talk to more service shops about the frame and our ideas. We don’t think we will need to do any additional extending to the frame with out 3′ addition based on our discovery of the ‘C’ bracket extension already there but we want to ask as many shops as we can before building.
  2. Start calling welding shops and metal supply shops
  3. Do the drafting to get the placement of the changes to the frame we need, and finalize the floor plan with the measurements.
  4. Get to dump (maybe – if we have time)
  5. Remove more of roof this evening and get that back section that is hanging removed.

There ya go! We will keep you posted. Would love to hear your comments – other than ‘You’re Crazy!’ – we already know that. LOL!


Rot! One word you NEVER want to hear

We knew that there was a leak in the cab-over when we bought the rig. We taped it up, put it on our ‘To-Do’ list to fix and would re-check that the super sealing RV tape was covering the spot.

When we finally got to the cab-over yesterday to rip apart, we were shocked to see that the rot was much worse than we ever knew. If Daniel had not reinforced the cab-over we would have fallen through a long time ago. The wood disintegrated to dust when touched. Apparently there was also a leak in the seam of the curve of the cab-over that we never knew about and rot all around the front window.

Our remodel will NOT include windows in the cab-over. Ugh…


And so it begins…

Ok. We have made it to our construction destination – now it’s time to break everything down. These are our goals in breakdown:

  1. Take a good look at the metal frame that is supposed to exist and make sure it is in good condition. We plan to stabilize/repair/or replace what we need to.
  2. Start from scratch so we can build what we want. Ripping the walls and ceiling off will give us a better idea of the space we have to work with.
  3. Finalize our floorplan based on what we find and what we want.

Our needs for living in Winnie long-term are as follows:

  • Have space to live and not feel like we are living in 176sqft of space.
  • Have room for Daniel to work.
  • Have homeschool room.
  • Have a usable, workable kitchen that will support our love of baking and visiting.
  • Have room for Xan to play and mom to craft.

BIG goals considering our space! However, we think we can do it. It took us about two days to get the RV empty.  I have a large tent that I purchased last Fall. We set that up and discovered in the manual that the tent has an interior that is 200sqft. That is more space than our RV has! Needless to say, everything we had to move easily fit into the tent. I posted pictures of that earlier.

We started breakdown about four days ago and it’s going well. The frame is MUCH less substantial than we were expecting. Kinda scary when you REALLY see what is between you and the rest of the world. Not much. However, I am supremely impressed by Winnebago’s wallpaper. What is that stuff? While the luan wood broke easily, that wallpaper held on so tightly I am convinced it was part of the construction design to keep everything held together. Thus far we have one whole wall removed and the back is unattached. The filon on the back wall extends onto the roof so although the back is unattached, it’s still dangling there until we disconnect the roof. We have been doing this as a family affair and I am so proud of Xan. He knows how to use a power screwdriver like a pro, uses his own hammer (it’s real) to help break down the walls and is our pro screw picker-upper (we are using this cool long magnet thing on a pole). I tell him often, we couldn’t do this without his help and input.

We each stated what we really wanted in the rig.

  • Xan wants a gypsy pull down bed, and he wants Internet antennae on the roof. He says they will make us look like a robot transformer.
  • Daniel wants some private office space so he can close himself off if he needs to and he wants a real kitchen where he has the counterspace needed to really cook!
  • Paula (me) really wants to add tile to our design in the bathroom and a bathtub, no matter how small. (I think this has more to do with the fact that Xander has some cool Playmobile and Octonaut bath toys that I just can’t bear to give away.)

For Xan’s bed, we have found the space and can reinforce the wall to make sure his gypsy pull down bunk bed is as he wants. I mapped out the painted interior of the bed and gave him a few designs on how we can paint it (gypsy beds are always very decorated) so he is pretty stoked.

We decided to add an additional 3′ onto the back of our RV. Our Minnie is a rare, diesel 28′. We have heard so many people say that it can’t possibly be a diesel and that Winnebago didn’t make a 28′ rig. Well, they did and we have one. But – it gave us the idea. Since most of the longer Minnie Winnie’s are 31′ – why not just extend ours? Voila! Daniel will have a hidden room at the back of the RV 3’L x 7 3/4″ W where we have extended the rig. In the back, there will be a floor to ceiling cabinet to help stabilize the RV. There will be two other floor to ceiling items that will form a triangle in the RV to provide equal support to the frame as a whole. His desk will be behind the wall of the shower. We will add a small opening window to the space so he has some airflow and natural light. This fulfills his major need to be able to work separate from the family. We have designed our kitchen to have a nice work space by the stove and convection over, with the refrigerator near-by and a place for his spices. It will be an ‘L’ shape with an extendable counter on one side and he wants a double sink where before we had a single. We will use the traditional RV design where we have a cover for the sinks to turn the space into workable counter space.

The bathroom and my vision. In a small space, every opportunity to be alone is a treasure. The bathroom is one of those places where you can satisfy a bodily function AND get some alone time. In our old bathroom, it was so small, it was hard to use, impossible to relax in and dark. YUCK! In our remodel, we will have a real bathroom. How are we planning to do this? We are rotating the toilet so it sits at an angle on a raised platform (think squatty potty). We have to have the platform to get over the wheel well. Before, only the toilet was raised so high your legs would dangle cutting off circulation to your feet and was very uncomfortable. You were not encouraged to linger. The solution, a nice rounded platform to support the height of the angled toilet and our knees will no longer be hitting the door as we sit, and our legs won’t be dangling anymore. Our knees will be at the appropriate height for comfort. There will be a nice sized small vanity where I can put bathroom things. Our hand hammered copper sink will go there. This was something from the original time we remodeled. Then, the shower/tub. Originally I was thinking a walk in shower where we tile the floor and a wee bit up the wall. They frown on tile in a rig because they don’t think the tile will adhere to the wall with all the driving vibrations and bumps. However, I am seeing tile on counter-tops on newer models so we are going for it! We will tile the floor of the walk in shower and treat the heck out of the walls to ensure they remain waterproof in as many ways as we can find.

I have been brainstorming different ways to get a tub of any shape in there until I did the math. Originally I was thinking we could extend the height of the shower rim to something a bit bigger. Maybe 8″ to 12″ high? This wouldn’t be a soaking tub but would be enough for a kid to play, to wash a dog or rinse something out. Weight is always a concern. The volume of our walk in shower if we go to the full foot in height for a rim would be 12 cubic feet which works out to about 89 gallons of water. That’s 742 lbs. And that’s just the water. Not the weight of the tile, person, supports, etc., etc., etc..   Hummm… Nope!  No tub for us! I HAVE found another person who tiled their shower and kept the weight down by using alternative materials. I was very excited to find that! So I can have my tiled shower, just no tub.

Here is a rough – not perfectly to scale floorplan. We need to go out and measure everything again so I can start the different view plans and we can put in the electrical and plumping details. Under the master bed we are building a lazy susan dresser thing where our clothes will go. The cabinet you see in the back is a floor to ceiling as is the pantry you see by the door and there will be a cabinet thing on top of the bookcases.

IMG_3179

Looks like we will be able to get almost all of our ‘WANTS’ in this remodel. We have started breaking her down. We have the back wall disconnected and dangling by the skin. One whole side is off and we are almost ready to pull off the other. We have discovered how little of a frame there is which is a bit disconcerting and have plans to beef it up a bit. Check out the pictures and let us know your thoughts.

Here is a quick video of Daniel driving Winnie to bed. She has a nice covered shelter that she goes into. Night Winnie! More pictures to come and everything is down. Woo-Hoo!

Goodnight Winnie!