We’ve been busy working on the trailer the last few months. That’s literally about all we do on our days off! I’ve got to give a lot of the credit to Gus. Although this has been a team effort, he has been working extra hard building everything from scratch. Measuring, measuring again, cutting, re-measuring, etc. It’s been amazing watching this thing really come to life with his building skills. What’s great about this project is we’re both learning so much from it. We were both lucky enough to have a mini training session from our electrician who explained all the wiring for us, so if we have any future issues we should be able to tackle them, and pretty soon we’ll be tackling the plumbing. Gus is strengthening his woodworking skills, and I’m strengthening my patience, haha.
I can’t lie and say there hasn’t been rough days. We’ve both had our moments of frustration where one of us had to calm the other down and step away from the project to take a deep breath because things either didn’t go our way, or something was a lot harder to pull off than we anticipated. We also have run into disagreements about how to do something or how we want something to look, but we make sure to talk through everything until we find a middle ground where we can both feel happy with the result.
We started this project wanting to document all of our steps to help anyone else who is interested in taking on a project like this, but unfortunately we haven’t been so great at photographing all the steps in detail. We also wanted to take pictures with a real camera instead of our iPhone but that didn’t work out too much either sooooo we’ll share what we’ve got and hopefully you can fill in the gaps!
This part of the process was definitely the worst. You think it’d be easy to rip things out, but there are many staples and nails and screws and you’ve got to be careful when removing everything so you don’t damage the outside aluminum. We’ve seen other people completely remove the aluminum and rebuild the frame from the outside, then put new aluminum over it, but since nothing was really wrong with the exterior shell, we decided to work from the inside out. This proved to be difficult at times because we had to frame the wood within the aluminum rather than the other way around. We spent hours trying to figure out one corner one day and learned our lesson from that. (See below.)
Notice how both corners are without framework? Yeah, don’t do this. If you’re working from the inside out, keep the general area as stable as you can and work one corner at a time. This is what caused our aluminum to become misaligned because we built one corner and when we went to the other corner, the seams wouldn’t meet up together anymore. Since both ends were free standing, we miscalculated our measurements and it pushed the aluminum out by just a fraction of an inch, which was enough to mess everything up.
Anyways, we decided to take different job titles. I focused on demolition while Gus worked on rebuilding. So I’d take apart a corner, rip out the wood, cut out all of the staples, clean and de-mold, and by the time I was done and moving onto the next corner, he’d go in and measure and cut different pieces of wood to restructure it.
Here’s me taking a corner out:If you’ve ever got a demolition project, use this tool. It will save you time and stress.
And here’s Gus fixing up a corner I already removed:
Gus fixing up a corner
We used a Dremel to carve out little ditches for wires to sit in so that paneling will sit flat against framework:
We were working on the framework for what felt like a couple months. What sucks about this process is that it doesn’t really feel like you’re getting anywhere because everyday you walk in and it looks the same: bones. Just to be extra pre-cautious, we used clear silicone on all of the aluminum seams from the inside to help prevent further water damage. We also siliconed the seams from the outside too. We have gone through so many tubes of silicone because we never want to run into any issues again!
Also, shout out to this dweeb for spending 7 hours removing staples. We couldn’t have done this project without you, Christen!
We spent a while researching what kind of insulation we should use. We looked at denim, fiberglass, foam core, sawdust, etc. We opted to use foam core because our framing was so shallow. The only insulation we could find in stores was designed to be used with 2×4’s, and our framing was made with 1×2’s. This process was surprisingly easy and fulfilling because we were finally starting to see some changes!
Gus worked on measuring and cutting the insulation for each space and I worked on taping it in and sealing it with Great Stuff Spray Insulation. This stuff is MESSY. And sticky. And gooey. And tricky to work with at first. Don’t go spraying willy nilly, you’ve got to make sure your pressure is just right and you work small and build your way up because the foam expands tremendously. Put down butcher paper to cover the floor and anything else, wear gloves, and work quick yet efficiently.
At first, I’d just let the foam expand and then go in and saw off the excess. This proved to not only be time consuming and annoying, but also very messy. Not to mention at times I was unable to cut it perfectly and the spray foam would sneak behind the foam-core, pushing it out, so I was worried this would cause issues with bulging when we started the paneling (spoiler alert: it did).
So I started duct taping over the foam before it dried so that it wouldn’t expand passed the framing.
Cue choir music. Ohhhh happy day. We can’t begin to describe how incredible it felt to finally be at this stage.
For the most part, this was Gus’s department as he’s better (and more patient) with the cutting and measuring. First he started measuring each space and taking notes. This proved to be really difficult, because not everything was perfectly square. One side of the trailer would measure 82 1/4 inches, the other end would be 81 5/8, etc. He did nearly a third or maybe even a half of the trailer with this method of measuring before he came up with the brilliant idea of tracing the space with a piece of paper, cutting it out with a razor blade, and taking that piece of paper and using it to trace the shape on the paneling board. (Shown below)
This immediately sped up the process, and since it made it so much easier to achieve accuracy, I joined in on making pieces too. Time lapse of the cutting process and placing shown below.
We used 1/8th of an inch paneling because we needed something light-weight. We were fully expecting to run into a few warping and bulging issues because a couple areas of framing/insulating weren’t perfect, so we also needed something flexible. We intended on using the largest size pieces we could to prevent too many seams, but paneling was pretty tricky, and since the kitchen side of the interior would be covered by the sink/cabinets/backsplash, we decided we could get away with just cutting smaller pieces and puzzle piecing them together as shown below.
To seal up the seams, we patched them up with Fibatape and DAP’s Presto Patch. (We had tried Plastic Wood but it kept cracking after it dried.) Presto Patch is a powder that you mix with water. I recommend working in small amounts, this stuff was drying so quickly on me and I went through many buckets and scrapers. (It’s easiest to clean up out of the buckets and scrapers when it’s completely dry, because then you can just crack it off.)
Apply tape, apply patch, wait to dry, sand down.
(Wear a respirator, sanding is very very very dusty with this stuff)!
Final patches with an area tested for paint.
While Gus started paneling, I put the floor in. We used Stainmaster Vinyl Planking in the color “Dove/Oak”. We wanted a textured, yet airy/light color to keep the overall interior feeling bright and spacious. Vinyl planking is light-weight, waterproof, and incredibly easy to install. The planks are tongue and groove, so you just piece them together. I found it’s easier to slide them in. Cutting to fit is very easy, you just score the area with a sharp razor blade and bend and it will break in half right where the cut is. I watched this video to help me get an idea of how to do it. (Be sure you start in a corner!)The following image I found on the internet gives a great simple visual on how to place the flooring:
Since all of the edges of the floor would be covered by built-in furniture, we were able to get away with using smaller pieces to fill in small gaps as you can see at the top of this image. This allowed us to use up every single scrap of planking we had and saved us from needing to purchase another case. For the rest of the floor where the water tank and electrical will go, Gus cut out some fresh pieces of ply wood and screwed them down to keep everything level and looking clean.
ElectricalGus built an area to keep all of our electrical in order. This area will be hidden in one of the dining seats and has access from the exterior for the 120V connector. This was the first thing we tackled once the paneling was in so we can be sure nothing got lost in translation during demolition. After a couple meetings with our electrician, we learned all the mechanics of how Pierre’s nervous system works. We had to replace a few headlights, our inverter switch, and a few connectors, but other than that, he’s good to go!
All and all, we’ve been learning SO much. It’s unbelievable. And although some days I’m cursing all of this work, we are both actually very grateful the water damage happened because it’s giving us so much experience for our future. We intend to rebuild more trailers, tiny homes, and even build a house of our own from the ground up.
Stay tuned for our next post where Pierre’s insides start looking pretty!