Pierre’s Makeover : Part 2

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!

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Demolition/Reframing

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.)

DSC00254Notice 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:DSC00238DSC00244If 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:DSC00248

IMG_6791ABefore de-molding

IMG_6795AAfter de-molding

IMG_7927before re-framing

IMG_7925after re-framing

IMG_6787before re-framing

IMG_7863after reframing

IMG_6796AGus fixing up a corner

DSC00229Unscrewing the window so he can remove the old framing around it.
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Sanding down a corner piece for fitting

We used a Dremel to carve out little ditches for wires to sit in so that paneling will sit flat against framework:DSC00383DSC00384

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!

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Insulation

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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!

DSC00377Gus 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.

IMG_8291At 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.

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Foam dried behind duct tape

Paneling

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Cue choir music. Ohhhh happy day. We can’t begin to describe how incredible it felt to finally be at this stage.

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Gus taking measurements for paneling

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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) IMG_8844

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.

 

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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.

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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.)

IMG_9007Apply tape, apply patch, wait to dry, sand down.
(Wear a respirator, sanding is very very very dusty with this stuff)!

IMG_8420Final patches with an area tested for paint.

Flooring

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!)_42A8617_42A8610The following image I found on the internet gives a great simple visual on how to place the flooring:pattern for laying wood tile in small area - Google Search:

IMG_8510Since 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.

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ElectricalDSC00382DSC00403IMG_8426Gus 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!

 

 

Pierre’s Makeover – Part 1

We’ve been putting some blood, sweat, and tears into our little Pierre these past few weeks.

The good news is we applied a fresh coat of paint to the wall, drawers, cabinets, and even hinges and knobs.

The bad news is all of that work was declared null after a few rainstorms exposed some serious water damage to all four corners of the interior. We were so bummed upon discovering this! We went into this project hoping to only deal with aesthetics in an attempt lighten any stress load for the months preceding our wedding. However, we do know that we would love to flip more trailers in the future, so we are choosing to look at this as a blessing in disguise. Not only is it better to have found this kind of damage during our renovating process as opposed to being out on the road in the wettest area of the US, but the experience will give us an opportunity to learn the structural troubleshooting we would need to know for any business prospects in the future.

Having said that, we’ll show the process we had prior to the water damage and where we’re at with this huge DIY project right now.

BEFORE:IMG_6349

So this is how it looked when we purchased it. Cute, right? We loved it, don’t get us wrong. It was just a little too yellow for us. And not the bright sunny kind of yellow, either. This yellow looked like the sun-faded, house-of-a-long-time-smoker kind of yellow. We wanted it to feel bright, airy, and open, so we opted for white. We really didn’t go into this with intentions of changing too much aside from the color.

IN BETWEEN:IMG_6348

Here’s where we left off before the rain damage happened. We painted everything that was once yellow, white, and all the brown trim, turquoise. More details of this design process are discussed below.

NOW:IMG_0057 (1)

WHOA. I know, right? It was NOT easy tearing down these walls after spending a few days painting everything with precision, let me tell you. Each rip pulled at my heart. But once we discovered mold and severe hidden water damage, we knew were ultimately making the right call to gut this entire thing and start entirely from scratch.

So let’s talk about the details! I’ll first discuss what we were working with before the damage, then what we found when ripping everything apart.

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Spray Painting the Knobs and Hinges:

We originally had plans to replace all of the knobs and hinges because they weren’t too pretty. But then I remembered we had purchased Krylon copper spray paint from Hobby Lobby a few months ago and I tried it out just to see how it looked, and I’m glad I did. This probably saved us a good $60 at least.

IMG_6273LEFT: Before, RIGHT: After

IMG_6271TOP: After, BOTTOM: Before

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 This stuff is great! They looked brand new after applying just one coat, and it dried quickly. As for longevity, I’m not sure how it withstands. We did spray some sealer over it, but I recommend getting a high gloss sealer because the one we bought dulled the shiny copper look. (Example below)

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(Left: After Sealer, Right: Before Sealer)

I also used that copper paint on the light fixtures and outlet plates. You can see them in the photos below.

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Pictured below is the floor we intend on putting in. We want a modern feel to the trailer, so going for a white washed wood seemed to be the best option to give us texture while keeping it bright and airy. It’s actually vinyl planking we found at Lowe’s, and it has the tongue and groove edges for easy installment, and it’s lightweight and easy to fix if there’s any damage done to a single plank.

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So that’s how far we made it before the damage happened. The last thing we’d done was go out and buy some wood sheets of Walnut for the kitchen counter and dining table.

So here’s what we found after the rain storms:

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We saw some ripples near the windows. We were in a bit of denial first. “Oh that was there before, it’s okay. It’s fine.” After we were able to easily peel back the paneling, we realized it was a legitimate concern.

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After pulling apart one corner, we realized this damage wasn’t caused by one rain storm. This was years of accumulation. We decided it’s best to gut the entire thing to be sure there’s no other hidden areas that are potentially hazardous. That’s when we found the mold. Thankfully it wasn’t an intense amount, but still scary to think we were about to live in this small space for weeks a time without knowing what was lurking behind the walls. The darker areas of the wood were just crumbling like powder, so if the mold wouldn’t have gotten to us first, the structural integrity of the frame surely would have.

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Safety first!

So now we’ve got the entire thing gutted. We’re going to remove any damaged framing, replace it, and repanel it. We designed a new layout together because we figured, hey, if we’re removing everything, why not make a few changes and really make this thing our own?

I am as equally excited as I am dreading this project. It’s 10 times more than we anticipated taking on, but we can do it. Gus is assuring me we can do it. Can’t tell you how many times I gave him a look and said, “..This is a big project. This is a lot.” I’m typically the one to go into panic mode and he helps keeps me calm, collected, and focused.

Stay tuned for more progress posts in the future!

Adopting Pierre

For the last few weeks, Gus and I have been on the look out for a small, vintage trailer light enough for his car to tow. We’ve been scouring Craigslist and eBay. At first it was just for fun, but then we started taking the search a little more seriously. We plan on eloping to Washington in August, and we thought it could be really beneficial and cost efficient for us to have a small home on wheels for the two weeks we’ll be on the road together. Not to mention there are plenty of other locations we want to explore one day, so we knew it would be a good, long-term investment.

It was difficult for us to find a small trailer under 1,500 pounds, let alone one that fit within our budget. We toyed with the idea of renting one, but the estimated cost ended up being more than half of what we’d expect to spend on owning one. We figure, if we’re going to stretch that far into the budget, why not put it towards something that we won’t have to turn back in when we’re done? After hours and hours of diligent craigslist surfing one night, we finally found a potential contender tucked away in the lowest southwest corner of Arizona – an odd little town called Yuma.

We contacted the owner, and after receiving more detailed shots of the interior, we were ecstatic. We had yet to come across a camper in this great of condition at such a low price. After reviewing the photos and finding out more information about it, we gave each other this look like, “Alright, I guess we’re going to Arizona this week.” We moved our schedules around and planned to leave early Thursday morning and make a day trip out of it.

Of course, Scotty joined us:

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I always like to see if there will be anything cool along the way when I’m going somewhere new. I scrolled and zoomed around on the map between us and our potential new Little Home On Wheels, and spotted a large body of water. I zoom in to see it’s named “Salton Sea”.

“What a coincidence!” I thought. My co-worker had JUST told me about this place just the day before, stating that it would be a great place for me and Gus to check out. She told me she learned about it through a documentary.  Apparently it’s a man-made lake, the largest one in all of California, and it used to be a resort back in the 50’s. Unfortunately, the environment is inhabitable for the fish, so they wash up on shore. There are many abandoned buildings and rusted, dilapidated cars around the shore. As she told me the history of this place, I was instantly intrigued. I knew we had to put it on our bucket list.

As it turns out, our journey would guide us right along side the lake, so naturally we decided to pull over and check it out.

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As soon as we got out of our car, we smelled something foul. I can’t really even describe it other than really, really, really unpleasant. We had heard about the fish washing up on shore, but we didn’t see any from a distance, so we chalked it up to the lake just being a gross lake. As we got closer to the shore, we noticed an abundance of rocks sitting in the sand. I looked down and found a single fish skeleton and said, “Gus, look! I found one!” but he was already pointing at the hundreds, maybe thousands of fish carcasses circling the entire perimeter of the lake. What we thought were rocks were actually fish. (You can kind of see a few of them in the bottom left corner in the image above.)

We walked along the edge of the lake, carefully placing our steps in any gaps we could find between them all. We ran across a few dead seagulls, and even a crane.

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We couldn’t stay for long since we were racing against the sun, so we got back in the car and planned to come back again in the future to thoroughly explore Bombay Beach, the town that was once a vacation spot.

We probably spent about 5 hours on the road including pit stops. The sky was pretty incredible along the entire way.

And we saw a controlled fire.

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We finally made it to the town and pulled up to the seller’s house and took a peek at the little mobile abode and immediately fell in love with it. At one point we looked at each other and simultaneously nodded in agreement which said, “Yes, yes, absolutely yes.” It was in better condition than we had even thought, and she threw in a window AC unit + generator. We hooked him up to Gus’s car and headed back on the road home.

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The entire way home we talked about how excited we are. We even pulled over in a parking lot in a small town and ate the lunches we had brought for ourselves in it. It was a great test run to get a feel for what it will be like when this thing is in action.

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We’ve been brainstorming some different things we can do to customize it and make it our own. The theme the previous owner had it was brown, yellow, and turquoise, and it has a bit of a Southwestern desert feel to it. It’s very cute, and we don’t actually have a lot of changes to make structure wise, but we definitely want to give it our own touch. We are thinking of painting the interior white and turquoise to open it up more, and giving the exterior a two-toned job with turquoise on the bottom to give it a pop of color.

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Needless to say, we are stoked. Absolutely thrilled. We opted to name him Pierre, after Gus’s french roots.

We can’t wait to see what this little dude has in store for us!