Archive for November, 2011
Yesterday the weather was awesome. The sun was shining and it was very warm. Almost like summer. So I took out the rubberized tar roof repair and went to work on the roof of my off grid camper. For about $15 I got a gallon of this roof repair that claims to penetrate deeply and seal leaks for good. It has a ten year guaranty.
So I am trying it out and hope the roof will be waterproof now. If this stuff works, I will recommend it in my survival list. You will need good roof repair materials in a long term survival situation. Camper roofs can spring a leak at any time. Imagine, you bug out with your nice survival camper and get settled into a quiet, safe place in the mountains. You make camp and settle in for the long haul. When the first rain comes, you find a leak from the stress of driving up into the mountains. If you have no repair materials, then you are finished with that camper. It may last the season, but you will have mold and health problems if you cannot fix the roof leak.
You put this stuff on with a trowel. The only condition is that it must be over 50 degrees or more so that the stuff can be spread. Any camper roof will start to leak with time. Campers are under a lot of stress and flexing when you drive them around to camp sites and off road. The seals and seams will leak on any camper that I have ever heard of to date. So I patched up every seam on the roof of the camper.
You spread a bit of this goop evenly over every seam. Make it thick enough to ensure a good seal. Cover every seam and crack evenly. By the way, I am not affiliated with nor endorsing this product. Just trying to get my camper fixed up.
The brush was used to brush off any loose dirt or leaves. I patched up around the ceiling vents, crank up tv antenna, air conditioner unit and every seam on the camper. I even ran a bit of tar along each side seam all the way around the camper roof. This roof should never leak again, I hope. After the tar cures I will cover it all up with my aluminum tape to make sure the tar will be protected from the elements longer. This should make sure the seal lasts even better. And it will help keep the roof cool in summer. Black absorbs heat. The aluminum will reflect it and help keep the camper cool.
If the roof does not leak anymore during the next rain storm, I can finish the roof repair in the living room area. Right now it is a construction zone. The camper ceiling is pulled off and insulation is hanging down. I am waiting for the wood do dry and then I will replace it all with new wood. If it does not dry, then I have a problem and need to look for more leaks.
This is some work I did a few months ago, but I took a lot of photos and wanted to share it anyway. The slide in truck camper is my first ever camper and when I got it, the guy told me it had no water leaks and everything was good. Not.
Right after I got it home, we had a hurricane. Then another one a week later. The camper leaked everywhere. I had leaks all over the place. And where he had told me it was old water damage and did not leak anymore was leaking the worst. There was water running in by the back wall of the above cab bedroom area. The wood and insulation were soaked.
I had never had any experience with repairing a camper before, so I was a bit afraid to start ripping things apart. But it had to be done. I had mold starting to grow. So one day I just tore out the whole bed floor and part of the back wall behind it. Then I had to let it dry out for a couple weeks with a fan running on it. I had a 12 volt fan running off a battery which was being charged during the day by a 5 watt solar panel.
The photo above shows some of the rotten wood after I pulled out the floor board and some insulation. The frame in the truck camper is only 2 x 2 inch pine boards. The floor was 1/4 inch particle board, which broke apart under my knees while looking the stuff over.
Above you can see the floor board had been removed. I also pulled the back wall out. There was water running down through the window frame and streaming into the back wall. Also the old marker lights on the top front of the camper were missing most of their lenses and were leaking water. So I removed all the lenses and light sockets and filled the holes with spray foam insulation. The next day I covered the holes with tar coated aluminum rv repair tape. It has tar on one side and aluminum on the other. Perfect for a fast and permanent repair.
I also caulked around the window frame. But another rain storm showed me that the frame was leaking around the window itself. So I took my tar coated aluminum repair tape and made a rain guard over it. This worked perfectly well. In the above photo you can see the repaired camper window. You can also see where the old broken marker lights had been. No more leaks on this part of the camper.
Back to my bed repair project. After the wood had dried up I was able to lay down new insulation and wood. I went to the store (wont mention which one) and got advice on what is the best insulation for my project. I was told to use the thickest stuff possible. Now, the frame on this camper is only 2 inches square. I was advised to get 9 1/2 inch thick insulation for its r30 insulation factor. I asked him if he was sure and was told yes, this is what I want. He also mentioned a vapor barrier. Never heard of one before, but I bought some plastic sheeting to place down on the work area first. The vapor barrier keeps wind out of my camper. It is laid down before putting the insulation in. Well, the insulation looked fine. It was compressed into a roll and looked about 2 inches thick in the roll. I figured I can probably manage it then. So I bought it and took it home. After I started to cut the insulation, it started to expand. Now I have cut it and cannot take it back to the store. Now I have a roll of 9 1/2 inch thick insulation on my hands. This stuff expanded to its full size. But the guy told me it was good. So I tried to stuff it into the little 2 inch space.
In the photo above you can see the first piece of fat insulation sitting on my new vapor shield. I knew I was in trouble. I was now wishing I had purchased that 3 inch roll of insulation I had been looking at instead of listening to a “professional”.
In the photo above you can see that I somehow managed to get one half of the wood down. I got 3/8 inch plywood to replace the weak, flimsy 1/4 inch particle board. I wanted to be sure I wasnt going to need to fix this ever again. And I wanted a bit of strength to it. That particle board was too thin and flexed way too much for my comfort. To press the thick insulation into a 2 inch frame was a job. I put the wood onto the top of the insulation and sat on a corner. I worked my way very slowly and carefully to the back until I was laying down on top of the whole board. Then I was able to nail it into place while keeping a full downward pressure on the board at all times.
Above is a closeup shot of the board after I had it pressed down a bit better. I would never advise anyone to try and cram too much insulation into their camper. It is just too much work. But the guy reassured me that the insulation will retain its full r3o factor even in my camper. I was later told by a carpenter that this is not true. Oh well, it is done now and I have learned a lesson.
Above you can see the finished above cab bedroom area. It is nice and cozy in there now. I got a free zero pressure hospital mattress that I put in there. When I got the camper it did not even have a mattress at all. Now I can sleep in comfort and feel like I am floating on air. This is a $300 mattress, hardly ever used and has sort of a rubbery outer shell so it washes easily. It has special layers of foam to make you feel absolutely nothing when you lie on it. Oh, what comfort.
While I was fixing up my camper, I caulked every single seam and seal on the whole camper. I caulked around every window, frame, door panel and seam. This was an old 1979 camper after all and it had its share of leaks. I figured while I was at it that I might as well caulk the whole thing. In this way I will catch any possible leak in it and cover any future leaks as well. Campers flex and twist a lot when you are on the road and these seams get a lot of stress on them. The camper seams are filled with a flexible filler substance that squeezes out of the cracks with time. It also gets hard when exposed to the elements too long.
Since the original fridge and heater were taken out, I also caulked and sealed off their access panels for good. They also both had vents to the outside. I sprayed the vents with foam sealer and then sealed off the doors with my aluminum and tar rv repair tape.
This is my survival camper, so a fridge will not be added to this camper. Heat is important, but in a survival situation, you wont have much propane with you. You may have enough for three days at most. So I want to find a heat source that is sustainable for survival. For cooling, I will dig a hole in the ground and use evaporative cooling methods.
In summary, fixing a camper is pretty easy and very cheap. I only paid about $100 total on caulk, wood, insulation and repair tape. Now the whole camper is leak free and mold free.
Check out our DIY Camper Category for more camper repair and upgrade articles.
It rained a few days in a row, quite heavily. The leak above the sofa that I found was worse than ever. I decided to rip down the ceiling panel and see how bad it was. The photo shows the wet ceiling board.
The next photo shows the ceiling panel removed. Doesnt look too bad there. You can see someone patched this up before with a piece of wood, sort of.
But where the water was coming in there is very bad rot and damage. The main roof support beam is rotted to nothing on the corner. That caused the roof to sag in this spot and the seams were leaking. No wonder. There was an inch of water on top of that spot. If the people who patched it previously had only replaced this whole board, it may never have leaked again. But with this piece sagging an inch downward, it was just a pond on top.
Its not actually going to be much work to fix this up. Two support beams should be taken out completely and replaced. They are 2 1/4 by just under an inch by 8 feet. Shouldnt cost more than a couple dollars. A new ceiling panel costs only $12 for an 8 x 4. That is double what I need. The insulation was surprisingly not even dirty. I may use it. Maybe I will just replace the piece where the water was coming in.
Camper repair is not really that expensive, nor is it hard to do. You just have to overcome the fear and dig in. Forget trying to save or keep old stuff and just replace it all. Then you will have a long lasting camper.
I will post updates when I get new wood. But before I close this up again, I will patch the roof better and wait for a good rain. Then, if it doesnt leak anymore, I can put up the new ceiling board.
Winter is coming fast and if I want to use this camper for off grid living during the cold months, then I need to get it ready soon. I plan to stay out in the camper during the winter and see if I can manage without any power or water hookups from the utility companies. I will need to provide heat, light, water and waste treatment on my own.
So I started to winterize the camper. I started by sealing off any access doors I was not going to use with aluminum duct work tape on the outside. It sticks very well and is designed to stop air leaks. Then I got some styrofoam insulation to seal up the access panels inside the camper. I got a 6 pack of 14 x 48 inch by 3.4 inch thick foam to seal off the access panels and unwanted vents. It was only $6 for the pack.
This is one of the access panels I wanted to insulate (below). It was missing a door on the outside of the camper and the previous owners just left it open to the outside. So I first sealed it up with a board, some silicon and some of my aluminum tape on the outside. This panel was located underneath one of the beds, so it had to be sealed up well to keep out the cold during the winter.
Here is the storage area underneath the bed. You can lift up the mattress and the board that is underneath it to have full access to the storage compartment. The hot water heater is also located here. It is missing the thermostat and was not working, so I will probably hook it up to a solar heating system. It is a 2,000 watt electric heater anyway and way too power hungry to use on my solar power system. The access panel I am sealing is on the left side of the compartment.
So I measured the access panel and cut some foam insulation to fit tightly into the panel slot. I cut it very close so it will fit snugly and make a good winter seal. I used an old shirt under the foam while cutting so I would not ruin the table under it.
I had to press and force the foam carefully into the access panel frame. It was a nice tight fit. Exactly what I wanted. And I used my favorite aluminum tape to seal it all off. Now this panel will not have any water or air leaks for the winter. You can hear the sound proofing now that the foam is in place here. It really made a difference.
I am sealing off all of the outside access panels for the winter. The ones I want to keep usable I am just going to stuff the foam into the frame behind the panel but not tape it off. This will help winterize my camper without permanently blocking off any access panels. If I ever want to use one, I simply need to push the foam out of the way.
I am also using household window sealant kits to seal off all the windows, except for two of them to allow for fresh air on warmer days and to allow moisture to escape. I am also going to remove all the window trim and use brown colored caulk to seal off the window frames to the wall. This will stop drafts from coming in underneath the frame and past the window seals. I will probably seal off the windows on the outside as well to stop air from coming into the walls. The camper windows do not seal well and they allow a lot of air past them when closed.
I will also close off two of the three roof vents for the winter with my foam insulation.
Well, this was the first step in getting ready for off the grid winter camping.
I just picked up a huge 1986 32 foot fleetwood camper for free out of the classifieds. This thing is loaded. Except, I seem to always get them with no fridge and no heater. Again, they are missing in this one. Wonder why people keep pulling these out.
This camper has a full sized sofa bed in the living room with a fold down table that extends the length of the sofa. You can serve 8 people at this table. (The tv came with it). On either side of the sofa are huge bay windows. Such a nice view through them. Above the sofa is a cute shelf with a mirror and a light above it. There is storage on both sides above the sofa and more underneath it.
There is a full kitchen with a double sink, a 4 burner stove and an oven. It has both hot and cold water faucets. Look at all that storage space 🙂
On the front, right of the photo is a tv stand with 12 volt and 120 volt outlets. Underneath is more storage.
The dining room table and bench seats fold down to another twin bed. More storage above the dining room area and under each bench.
There is a bedroom with two twin sized beds and tons of storage space under each bed. There are two huge access doors on each side, and you can lift the mattress for full access to the storage.
There is a closet and two cabinets above each bed. On one side is a fold away tv table and both 12 volt and 120 volt sockets.
A bathroom with a bathtub, shower, sink and toilet. The toilet is a water free flush system, which makes it so much better for off grid living. Water is so valuable when you have to ration every single ounce. There is a very nice medicine cabinet above the sink, storage underneath and above the toilet is a small storage space. On the left, off the photo, is a huge closet and more storage cabinets from floor to ceiling.
The bathtub is quite large for a camper. And a nice surprise as well. There is a shower with hot and cold water. Both hot and cold water in the sink too.
The camper still has all its gas lines and electrical hookups. I will put in a fridge later and run it off the solar power supply. I put two 6 volt 210 AH golf cart batteries in it already. I am waiting for 600 watts of solar cells from ebay to be delivered so I can solder them together and have some power. I converted the 15 watt incandescent lamps to 12 volt LED lights. The LEDs really give off some light. I think they are brighter than the original lights. Some people dont like the white light of an LED, but I do.
The camper also comes with hookups for two 30 lb propane tanks. Only one tank came with the camper though. I am trying to find a propane heater to hook up for now. Later I will put a fireplace outside the camper and pump the heat in for warmth.
After I get the solar panels and heat hooked up, I will probably stay out in the camper for the winter and blog about it.
Now, here is why the camper was free. First, there is no fridge and no heater. And there is a lot of old water damage. The past owners had repaired the roof, but did not take care of the damaged wood. Once wood starts to dry rot, it will keep on going, even with the water leak patched up.
The wood is dry. There is no longer any leak at all. But the wood continued to deteriorate until stuff started to fall down. This is the ceiling and wall just above the bathroom door. I will patch it up for the winter, but in the spring, this will all be replaced. Shouldnt cost more than $50 to $100 to fix it up nicely with new wood and insulation.
On the front of the camper there is also a lot of dry rot. I patched up the frame for now with a new piece of wood and closed up the holes. It was also dry. But I did find a new leak, probably from moving it 3 hours to my yard, that I am trying to track down.
Overall though, it is a very nice trailer. A good place to really practice off grid living.