I have set myself a goal. I need Gracie to be leaf-proof, mold-free, and sleepable (like, with beds and stuff) by the last weekend in July. She doesn’t have to be done. She doesn’t have to be pretty. But I need her to be functional, because I wanna party. That’s my 50th birthday weekend, and we are heading to MidWest Reggae Fest at Clay’s Park in Canton, OH. It is sure to be an outstanding weekend, and I would love to bring Gracie along as part of the celebration. Plus, it means not sleeping on the ground in a tent. A big plus for me.😉
(If you are interested in Reggae Fest, check out the website here. So. Much. Fun.)
That gives us about 8 weeks. Therefore, we can’t be sitting around. We got work to do.
Before we dig in to the dirty stuff, I want to give you an idea where we are starting. So here are some “before” shots for reference as we go along. Hopefully, at some point, we will look back on this fondly and laugh. Without crying.
A close up of Gracie’s boo boo. Apparently, one of her previous owners jack-knifed her into her own car while backing up. Oops.
A peek inside the front door.
I’ll be honest, this is what captured my heart. These countertops and cabinets are nearly perfect.
The dinette, also nearly perfect. Just don’t look at the wall.
Kinda proud of this, the original logo.
A look toward the back bunk area, with the top bed down.
Not sure why I don’t have good pictures of the cabinet opposite the kitchen area that has the larger cupboards and the fridge, but trust me, they’re there. The fridge is not original, but that’s ok. Yay, cold stuff and ice cubes.
Some of the less attractive features, the (really gross disgusting) (I think it was blue, but I can’t be sure) carpet in the back half and the (what the hell where they thinking) green “marble” stick on tile in the front half. And those nasty mini-blinds on the front window, along with the side roller shades that were screwed to the wall (see the inside the door pic). Don’t ask me, I don’t know either.
Love that carpet/tile combo. Not.
But here is our biggest problem… so far…
Yeah, that’s mold in the corner, over the top bunk. Try not to breathe while you look at these pictures, just in case.
There is a similar, although less damaged section in the opposite corner. So that is where we start.
Technically, the very first thing I did while I was waiting around for the tow truck on that first day was rip up the carpet. Might as well be productive, right? Out it went. Cough, wheeze. Next, as soon as we were home, and I mean almost immediately because it bothered me that much, was to get those hideous window treatments out. I literally threw them out the door with glee. Also quick to go were the foam cushions for the bunks. I was hoping to reuse them, but closer inspection left me grossed out, so I think they will serve as templates for new cushions instead. I was astonished at the amount of foam also wedged under the bottom bed inside the bed frame. Add it to the list of Why Did They Do That.
At this point I was able to do a bit of cleaning. Walls, cupboards, surfaces. The cupboards are surprisingly intact. The insides are very clean in the undamaged sense. And if it weren’t for the holes in the front overhead cabinet from the (insert cuss word here) previous owner poking holes in them with a screw driver to hang speakers, the front cabinets and insides almost look like they did when she rolled out of the factory in 1960. Thanks, (insert cuss word here) previous owner.
The next morning I was able to start putting a plan together. And that plan entailed getting into the moldy corner. I started by taking out the bed platforms (2 for the top and 2 for the bottom, because they slide out). Then off came the moldings that held in the top bed frame. And then out came the bottom bed frame, but not without a lot of swearing and yelling at old stubborn screws.
This little blanking screw was the only thing holding the bed frame to the camper.
One screw… I will not let it beat me.
Once the beds were completely out, I could start ripping into the wall and ceiling panels. Literally. Much of them came off in my hands, they were that water and mold damaged. Blech.
Note: safety glasses, masks and ventilation are critical here. Just do it.
On first examination, it didn’t look like there was much frame damage from whatever leak was plaguing our girl. That was wishful thinking. However, considering her age and the condition I have seen of other similar models, I still think we got off pretty light.
I will admit to you that I do not believe I have ever uttered a string of curse words more vile and lengthy than I did during this portion of demolition. You know how they say that things built in the mid-20th century were made to last? They came close. I seriously believe that no one ever intended these interior panels to come down again. They used a fastener I have never seen before in my life. From the front, it looks like some sort of decorative brad or pin. But on the back-side, it has a sick twisted screw end. There was no way to grab them from the front side of the plywood. My dream of getting the panels off semi-intact to be used as templates for the new plywood crumbled in a sea of profanity as I had to literally rip off sheets inches at a time until the Nail From Hell was exposed and then pry it out with the claw end of the hammer. What. The. F#*&. They are now my mortal enemies. Get thee behind me.
Looks so innocent, doesn’t it?
Demon spawn hardware
Along with all the old plywood came the moldy insulation. That was fun. But finally she is exposed. Her insides. Gross.
I need to stop here a moment to reiterate that I am a rescuer and not a restorer. It is at this at this point in our story that a more financially lucrative person would opt for a full frame up restoration to completely rip out and replace the rotted part of framework and put all new skins on to start over. I am not that person. I fully understand that the steps I am about to tell you are going to make some die hard renovators gasp in horror. Too bad. This is my camper. Get over it. She and I are getting along just fine for the moment, and when we need to take more drastic steps, we will. Until then, bite me.
Side note: we found evidence of a few former inhabitants. Some dead. Some still alive. Imagine me, in full safety gear, jumping back in horror and doing a writhing shuddering dance. That was me, meeting the ant colony.
A little spider nest. I can handle this.
Abandoned wasp nest. Kinda cute.
No. No. No. No. No. No. No. There is no video, but the floor was moving.
First up (after insecticide)… get rid of the mold so we can all breathe. Everything moldy that could come out came out. Everything else got sprayed down with a heavy dose of bleach and left overnight.
In the morning, I was breathing easier. Literally. But now it was more obvious the locations and extent of the damaged framing. Two spots in the floor took the worst hit. The screwdriver test (poking it to see what flakes off) pretty much took out whole sections of mushy wood. Ungood. So, a little google and you-tube action led me to 2 products… Wood Hardener and Wood Filler. I used Minwax products found at Home Depot.
The wood hardener looks and smells like nail polish remover. Once you clean away all the loose stuff, use a small disposable brush to apply over anything that remains soft and let set for a couple hours. Like magic, you have hard wood. (Don’t make me go there, perverts.) Then mix up the wood filler (mostly putty looking stuff with a little hardener mixed in) and use a putty knife to fill in the gaps. But work fast. And I mean like lightning. The instructions said to only mix up what you could apply in 15 minutes. But they meant 2 minutes. By the time you get the first layer down and figure out how to work it, it starts petrifying. I won’t show you a picture of how it looks applied, because eventually the new wall will cover that sin. Live and learn.
Now that the insides are more stable and I am fairly convinced we won’t disintegrate on the road, it’s time to go outside to see specifically where that water was getting in. It didn’t take long.
Here’s a tip… if you take off molding and replace it with something else, and your new piece is not as long as the old piece, DON’T LEAVE A GAPING HOLE WHERE THE OLD NAIL USED TO BE. I didn’t think I would have to say such things out loud, but apparently I was wrong. Another item added to the Why Did They Do That List.
At some point, all of this molding will come off and be cleaned up and/or replaced with new (of the correct length), along with new butyl tape underneath to ensure a good tight seal. In the short term, I plugged the hole with caulking, as well as several other places along the trim that were a bit, shall we say, drafty. No longer.
It is during my foray into the caulking gun world that one of my neighbors told me “You need a man for that.” I am fairly certain that he understands now that I do not. For the record, I have several awesome very supportive and helpful neighbors. He is not one of them.
Up On The Roof
(For your listening pleasure and ear worm of the day…)
Now that I have seen the condition of the roof up close and personal, and the source of the water has been eliminated (I hope), the roof top itself needs some attention. From my elevated kitchen window, the roof looked discolored. Closer inspection revealed that whatever old roof sealant there was had long since worn away, and the aluminum roof panel was exposed, allowing it to start to rust in places. This is no good. No wonder it gets so hot in there. It’s like a giant Easy Bake Oven. The roof was brushed off and scraped, cleaned with a mild dishwasher detergent in water with a broom and rinsed, then left to dry. The next morning, I hit the worst spots with a rust inhibitor and let it dry (it’s fast.) Then I put on 2 coats of roof sealant, which pretty much goes on like a thick paint. Oh my gosh, the difference. It almost glows.
Roof before. No bueno.
Roof after. I don’t know how to say “better” in Spanish.
Later that night, a storm blew over, giving us the first test of my handiwork. The roof was wet. The insides were dry. You rock, Gracie. As an after note, the roof work was done about a week ago. I got up and checked again today. You can see where some spots that didn’t get adequately scraped before have started to come up. At some point in the near future, I will have to go back up there, do another better job at scraping the loose stuff away, and give her at least one more coat of sealant. But for now, this is so much improved, I am gleeful.
It is about here that progress begins to slow significantly, because demo is fast, but reconstruction is much slower. I spend a lot of time staring at things trying to figure out what is supposed to happen next and how the hell I’m going to do it. So I will end this (excessively long) post here, and pick it up with putting things back together.
Stay tuned, because I get really excited about using new power tools. In case you are keeping track, we are ahead of schedule. Damn. I just jinxed it.