Accessory Painting

While we had some time at home away from the Shasta, we touched up a few accessories– the curtain valances and the refrigerator shelves both had a serious need for a fresh coat of paint.

Rusty fridge shelf

This rusty refrigerator shelf is a little less than appetizing.

The shelves originally had a white rubberized coating, but it had shrunk and cracked over time. The metal beneath rusted, and the whole situation was a mess. It took a lot of elbow grease and scraping to get the wire shelves down to the metal, but they eventually were cleaned and ready for spray painting. The nice even white coat looked great!

Rusty valance holder

This rusty valance holder could use a new look!

The valances had rusted a bit too, and we wanted them to look good with the new curtains. After a pass with steel wool, it was time to paint.

The gold spray paint wasn’t exactly the same shade as the original, but it was a huge improvement! It was great to have a task for the Shasta that only took a day to complete.

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Roof On

Getting the roof back on was damn near impossible. The sides had been tough at times, but it always felt like we were going to succeed eventually. The roof, on the other hand, nearly defeated us.

Roof and sides

The roof was the most difficult obstacle to overcome.

At first, it didn’t seem like it was going to be too difficult. We planned to nail down the roof along the curbside from back to front, then do the streetside. It fit on before, so logically, it would fit on again. The curbside did go on reasonably quickly, and we made sure that we had it lined up correctly because we were able to match up the original holes in the skin and the wood. Once we started working on the streetside, we saw that the roof didn’t overlap the sides in most places. We pushed down and tried to flatten it out, which helped a little, but we were well short of getting it back in its original position.

We tried stretching the roof, pulling on it from one side and pushing from the other, and managed to get a few more nails in. Still, it was far from a good fit. We hooked up two ratchet straps and tried squeezing the frame together, thinking that it had spread more than we thought when it had been disassembled, but had to stop when the boards creaked ominously with the roof no closer. It actually seemed like the strap made the very top of the frame splay out as it was compressed closer to the center of the boards.

We had set aside an entire long weekend to reattach the roof, and after spending all day Friday and Saturday working on it, we were further behind than when we started. We had to take the roof off and try getting both sides on at once, starting in the back and alternating sides. We gathered all of our available helpers together on Sunday, and pushed the frame together from the sides. We had three people on the scaffolding on each side of the trailer pressing the roof down, and one person running back and forth to nail it down. Every nail was a struggle. After hours of effort, we managed to get the last section of roof to overlap the side and secured it. It took all weekend, but we finally triumphed over the skin, and could start replacing the windows.

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Skin Replacement

Replacing the stripe on the curbside.

When the pieces matched up, it was magical.

No, skin replacement wasn’t a medical procedure needed as a result of a power tool mishap. We finally had all of the bad wood replaced, and the next step involved putting the aluminum skin back on the front, rear, and sides of the trailer. It felt good to be putting her back together!

We used non-galvanized stainless steel nails and staples to reattach the skin to the wood frame, working in the reverse order in which we had removed the large sheets. Remember, galvanized stainless steel doesn’t play nice with aluminum. As we matched the aluminum skin to the original locations, we saw that they must have originally cut it to fit, leaving a tiny bit of overlap between the front and sides, and virtually no overlap at the rear. The edges of the skin aligned perfectly with the edges of the wood frame, leaving no wiggle room.

Not quite a match

So close, and yet so far. We needed this to line up exactly.

Most of the sections went on easily, but as we reached the rear on the curbside, we couldn’t get the skin to line up with the replaced frame. We had replaced both board that formed the back corner, and the frame had shifted slightly while they were off. We pushed, squeezed, and grunted, but the frame was about a half inch longer than the skin. After fighting with it all day, we eventually conceded that it needed to be taken apart and reset, and dismantled the corner. Pushing the frame together as hard we we could, we screwed the boards in position again, and this time, we were able to align the skin with the frame, more or less.

Curbside finished

It’s starting to look less like a cabin and more like a trailer!

With the sides on, it looked a lot more like a trailer again. The roof needed to be set back in place next, and we hoped that it would be an easier fit than the sides, now that the frame was in the correct position. Spoiler alert– the roof was the worst.


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All’s Well That Wheel Wells

Close up of pitted aluminum wheel well

This dull and pitted surface has got to go!

You want your aluminum to look it’s brightest, but what do you use to get that beautiful gleam back after 40 years of grime? The answer: just about everything. For the trim and windows, we used Mother’s Aluminum Polish, Diamond Brite Truck Box Polish, and lots of elbow grease (see our previous post on this topic). But for the trim around the wheel wells, which was in much worse condition than the rest of the trim, we had to take it up a notch.

Close up of shiny polished aluminum wheel well

Put on some shades and dig that shiny wheel well!

The dirt on the wheel well trim laughed at the polishes we tried on it. It scoffed at Goo Gone, and yawned when we threatened it with detergent. We decided to call on our friend, electricity, and bought a bench grinder from Harbor Freight with a 3 inch fiber wheel. This worked beautifully and removed not only the hardcore road crud, but eliminated most of the pitting too! Woohoo! Plus, it was a lot easier on the elbows than hours of scrubbing. You need to go lightly when you use a fiber wheel though, because you can scuff or gouge the aluminum if you’re careless and press too hard or too long.

Partially Polished Wing

It only took a few minutes to polish a section of this wing!

We used the same wheel to shine up the vintage wings we purchased, and it cleaned up the edges brilliantly! It couldn’t reach the center of the wings though, so they’re a little duller in the middle. The aluminum is thinner there, so it’s probably for the best that we polished that area by hand. When you’re doing work like this, good tools make hard work fun, and the bench grinder was a major win.

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RV R-Value: Choosing Insulation

Repaired wood with insulation

Frankenstein’s monster, or Shasta front end?

The Shasta originally had an incredibly thin layer of yellow fiberglass insulation on the front and rear of the vehicle. It pretty much fell apart as we removed the skin, so we needed to find replacement insulation. After browsing through our options, we found a great fit– reflective roll insulation. It was made of aluminum and had an R value of about 9. The R value of insulation measures its effectiveness, and even though 9 wasn’t what you’d want in your house, it was better than factory. It also meant that we didn’t need to deal with the itchiness of fiberglass on a sweaty summer afternoon. It came in a width of 48 inches, so we needed to buy a roll of aluminum tape to attach two pieces together to match the original size of the old fiberglass insulation. There was quite a bit of overlap, which increased the R value a little more. Woohoo! We taped it, and in standard Shasta fashion, stapled it, and nailed it.

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Fixing a Hole Where the Rain Gets in

Poking up through the roof vent hole.

Sometimes, the gopher approach is the best way to sneak up on old caulking.

We were FINALLY ready to address the real problem plaguing the Shasta – the holes in the roof that were one of the main sources of damage to the frame. We’d already repaired and replaced the luon interior roof of the trailer, and now we were ready to take care of the actual perforations in the aluminum skin.  We knew we had to get a solid fix on these, because if we didn’t, water was going to continue to seep into the frame from the top and all of our other repairs would be for nothing.

While we’d been working on the trailer from the inside, the aluminum roof was on the ground in the barn, with the center propped up by cardboard boxes to keep it from bowing and to allow us enough room to creep underneath the roof and seal it from underneath.

Photo of the puncture divet in the roof

Here’s a shot of the puncture divet from the inside. This little spot was responsible for the water damage in the middle of the roof.

It turns out that the tree hadn’t only put a couple of tiny holes in the roof but it had also caused a break in one of the roof seams.  This seemed like it would be pretty easy to deal with – we just had to reinforce the seal between two panels.  There were some dents in the roof too – we went at these with a rubber mallet, and actually did a reasonable job of repairing some of the cosmetic damage done to the aluminum.

Applying Eterna Bond

Rolling on Eterna Bond on the underside of the roof– it ain’t glamorous, but it’s effective!

We researched different products to use for the repairs and ended up with two solutions. To reinforce the roof from the inside, we used Eternabond Mobile Home RV Rubber Roof Repair. It came on a long 4″x10′ roll and was applied by unrolling it and pressing it on. This would take care of the split in the side of the roof and seal the seams in the metal.One of us slid underneath the trailer and pressed the epoxy along the seam while the other one slowly fed the tape underneath.  This really seemed like it did the trick, and provided a great seal.

Marine Tex repair

The Marine Tex dried quickly and filled the puncture divet nicely.

To fill the holes in the roof, we used the Marine Tex Mighty Repair Kit, a two part epoxy designed to fill holes in boats. We used the logic that if it could keep water out of a boat, it could keep water out of a trailer!  This went on smoothly once it was mixed, and also seemed like it would provide a great and lasting seal.

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The Only Trailer with a Black Walnut Frame

Cutting the curve for the streetside rear support.

Cutting the curve for the streetside rear support.

In our last post we talked about how we removed all of the rotten wood from the trailer with prybars and prayer.  Replacing the rotten wood would prove to be just as frustrating as everything else we’d had to do with the Shasta!  We were lucky enough to have an uncle with a wood shop nearby – and since he cut the replacement pieces for us using wood he happened to have sitting around, we wound up with some of our replacement frame being made of beautiful black walnut!  At least now we know she’ll hold up for another 40+ years!  (Thanks Uncle Ron!)

The taillight wires need to make a 90 degree turn in this board.

The taillight wires need to make a 90 degree turn in this board.

Actually, replacing most of the wood that we’d removed was relatively easy.  We’d taken careful measurements – twice – probably at least three times – and had the pieces cut for us.  It wound up being over 20 replacement beams, but nobody was going to tell us we weren’t being thorough!  Some of the easiest to replace were around the windows in the front and rear.  We used wood glue and staples, and filled in as many gaps as we could with a spray insulation to guarantee a secure hold.

The difficulty came when we were trying to replace the beams on the streetside rear of the trailer.  Removing the rotten beams had caused the trailer to sag slightly – and so even though we’d had the angles marked, we had an incredibly frustrating, multi-day process trying to get the back pushed and held into the proper shape so the skin would fit when we went to put it back on.

The streetside rear corner with the gleaming new boards in place.

The streetside rear corner rewired with the black walnut in place.

We would have one of us pushing the trailer into place with all our might while the other tried to secure the new wood in just the right spot.  We’d hold it – hold it – hold it – and then, once we thought we could count on the seal, let go – just to have the trailer sag again and the beams shift.  We got so frustrated we had to give up and come back to it the next day – and even though it took nearly a whole weekend just focused on the back corner, we FINALLY got everything level and square.  Again, this is why most people take the trailer apart from the inside, and leave the skin on.  We did manage to almost completely save the thin interior paneling by doing it this way – but unless you are, like us, devoted to salvaging as much of the original interior as you can, we’ll be the first to tell you we’re sure it’s much easier to do it the other way!

New plywood for wheel well corners

The new corners for the wheel wells look just a little better than the originals.

We did manage to finish it – and it was a wonderful feeling to step away from the trailer and, for the first time, have the entire thing free of rotten wood and water damage.  A new roof… new sides beams… now all we had to do was repair the actual holes in the aluminum roof and just… put it all back together.  That’ll be easy, right?

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Mandatory Screening

The window screens that came with our Shasta were a mix of fiberglass and aluminum, and a few had holes in them. Over the summer, we always tried take some repair work home with us, and replacing the screens was a perfect project. The windows were lying along a wall of the barn, and we piled them up in the back of the car in a few trips. The window on the door needed replaced too, and we just barely managed to fit it in and close the hatchback. We took the windows home in batches because there are quite a few of them in the Shasta, and we don’t have the biggest car!

We measured the width of the rubber spline that held the old screens in place (most of the windows on this 1972 Shasta 1400 were .125″) and then calculated the total amount of area we needed to screen. We decided that we wanted the classy shine from aluminum screen to complement the other shiny new parts, and we picked up a roll of screen at the hardware store. Removing the old screen was quick and painless, and after a few failed attempts, we became decently adept at installing the new screen. It’s important to leave some slack in the screen to prevent it from getting pulled too tight when the spline is pressed down– a couple of our early attempts were so tight that they warped the frame and had to be redone.

Mouse, spline, screen, and frame

This self-feeding mouse worked pretty well for installing the spline, but by the end, it was completely worn out.

Make sure you measure the spline width of all of your windows before you go to the store if you’re redoing all of the screens on a vintage trailer. The spline for the window on the main door was slightly smaller than the spline for all of the other windows, and if you measure everything first, you can save yourself a second trip to the hardware store.

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Bad Wood, Be Gone!

Replacing the ceiling had gone pretty darn smoothly. After a break to work our real jobs, we were back in the barn, ready to remove the rest of the rotten frame boards. In some places, just a board or a section of a board would need to be replaced. Other places, like the streetside rear, would need major reconstructive surgery. We sketched out the frame of the trailer from all sides and marked the boards that needed to be replaced, with rough measurements. After adding them all up, there were 23 boards that we’d need to cut. The frame boards were 3/4 inch thick pine, and ranged in width from 1 11/16 inches to 2 3/8 inches.

Removing the bottom board.

Here we see the elusive prybar in action as it deftly removes the board below the access door.

Since we wanted to keep the interior intact, we needed to remove the bad frame boards carefully– true to Shasta form, they were stapled and nailed to the finished plywood veneer. But, praise the trailer gods, they weren’t glued (for the most part). The pine frame boards were stapled to each other, sometimes with a quarter inch gap in between.  Clearly, they hadn’t been concerned about the boards fitting exactly together – this made us a little more relaxed.  Again, we were confident we’d probably do a better job than they had!

Frame Around Wheel

Guess what… staples!

The boards in the worst condition were the easiest to remove, since the staples rusted and the wood crumbled away. We had to use a lot of force on the boards that were only partially rotten and employed an assortment of pliers, hammer and chisels, and prybars to ease the pressure on the plywood paneling.

Bad wood removed from the frame

Rotten wood, may it rest in peace.

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Replacing the Ceiling

We had gotten the last of the rotted ceiling section out, and now we needed to find a board to replace it. We needed an 8′ x 4′ x 3/8″ sheet of plywood for the new board, a nice standard size. One of our uncles was in the barn working on a truck in the next bay over, so we asked the best place to go to buy the sheet. He looked around for a minute and pointed to a pile of boards a few feet away from us. “One of those should do, they’re the right size.” Sure enough, there was a huge stack of Lauan that was nearly identical to the piece we had just removed, minus the decay. As we would learn many times during this project, everything we needed was in the barn.

The original board had been installed as one single piece, with the front streetside corner cut out to allow for the refrigerator vent and a notch cut out for an electrical line. We couldn’t squeeze the new one into place as a single unit, so we decided to cut it into thirds and slide each piece into place– first the streetside, then the curbside, and finally the center. With the help of our uncle, we had the board cut and ready in minutes.

Inserting the first replacement ceiling piece.

Trying to wedge the ceiling board in place. You can see the plastic groove where this board meets the central ceiling piece.

We bent the first board to fit into the plastic tracks and with a lot of grunting, slipped it into the grooves. Huzzah! But when we tried to slide it sideways into place, it wouldn’t budge. We tried smacking it with the heels of our hands, then hitting it with a rubber mallet, then butting a scrap board against it and whacking it with a bigger hammer, but it barely inched along.

We brainstormed for a few minutes and decided to pull the board out and lubricate the ends with a bar of soap. After grabbing a bar and applying it to the edges, we managed to pop the board back into place.

Soaping the edge of the board.

Fresh and clean!

We were very happy to see that the board slid with much less force, and we banged the first board into place.

First ceiling board in place.

Fits like a Lauan glove.

The second board also went in without too much effort, and we just had the center board to get in.

Second ceiling piece in place.

This piece slid into the plastic grooves on three sides.

Two out of three ceiling pieces in place.

Two out of three in place. You can see the large cutout in the first piece for the refrigerator vent.

We had the thickness of the sawblade as leeway between the boards, and after we strained to bend the final one in place, we slid the other two to sit as close to it as possible so there wouldn’t be a visible gap. Finishing nails every few inches held the Lauan to the thick pine ceiling beams.

All three pieces in place

That’s a much sturdier looking ceiling.

We couldn’t believe that we had replaced the rotten board so quickly, but only about an hour after tearing out the bad one, we had the replacement board installed. Maybe this wasn’t such an impossible project after all! Ha, ha, ha.

A job well done.

Easiest part of the entire project accomplished.

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