With some help from our family, we had just gotten the roof off of the Shasta, and it was time to dig in to that rotten ceiling. Since we live about three hours away from the barn where we worked on the trailer, we had to go home to our real jobs and visit our cats during the week, while we stewed over the next work we had to do. It was usually a blessing to be out of sight of the Shasta (it was never out of mind, no matter how hard we tried), and we had a break between when the roof came off and when we breached the water damaged ceiling.
The soggy ceiling was the main problem we had set out to fix, and the one problem we’d know about for sure when we bought the trailer, but by the time we got to it, we already had a dishearteningly long list of repairs and just a few more weekends before Labor Day. The goal had been having it out in the field to camp in for the holiday. The work so far had taught us to expect worse than the worst, and we tried to figure out how they were going to throw more rusty staples at us.
Looking at the trailer from above, we cut away and pulled back the thin fiberglass insulation and saw the water damaged ceiling boards from the top. It was a relief to see that they looked like plain old Lauan, and not some exotic material. The ceiling was made of three of these boards, and only the one towards the front of the vehicle showed water damage. We checked the thick pine supports that ran horizontally across the roof, and were also very relieved to see that they weren’t rotted at all– just the one piece of Lauan towards the front of the vehicle needed replaced. If the pine boards had been bad, we might have called the whole thing off. They’re shaped to fit the curved roof and carving out a new one to fit precisely would have been a project on its own.
From the inside of the vehicle, the peeling vinyl wallpaper was all that held the soggy Lauan in place. When we’d bought the trailer we’d used white duct tape as a short term fix to hold the ceiling paper up and seal the damp areas. We just hadn’t wanted to deal! But it was finally time to see what we had been putting off. After tearing off the duct tape (and some of the wallpaper with it) we pushed through the remaining wallpaper and up through the damp Lauan with our bare hands. To our surprise, some truly horrid water and debris dropped down onto us. The trailer hadn’t been out in the elements in a year and it still had water accumulated in the ceiling!
We put on gloves and face masks and started pulling handfuls of squishy rotten ceiling out, throwing them in a large trash can. It was kind of unbelievable how damp and awful the plywood was, and we felt better with every handful we removed. Daylight shone in, and the ceiling gave way to the expanding hole. This was pretty fun, actually. We enjoyed tearing the ceiling out.
It became more difficult to remove the board as we reached undamaged areas and got closer to the edges. It was especially difficult over the cabinets and over the wall that separated the closet from the main living area, since the Lauan was pinched against the pine crossbeams.
We used pliers, prayer, and brute force. The Lauan was wedged in a little plastic lip that ran along the edge of the roof to support it and hold it in place. At least it wasn’t stapled. Eventually we had the entire board removed, and enjoyed the new view.