Caravan Rebuild. Happy New Year! February (2017) Update

It’s once again been a while. The foreman has been away on maternity leave and we are happy to announce 8 healthy growing babies, 4 boys and 4 girls. Far too stressful, let us never do that again, complications meant we should have had 9 and Schadow (mum) had to have surgery and can have no more pups (thank the Lord). The budding carpenter wanted to keep one (Tippy – named because of her toes), and paid her off in lawns mowed and birthday money. I have been busily studying and was two assessments away from completion at the end of January, as Feb rolled around I am now all finished and can concentrate on the van. It’s now “Happy New Year”!

Yr 1 Day 105 (1st February 2017)
We got around to buying the timber today, but it is far too hot to think about measuring and cutting at this point in time. And this arvo Tippy is due at puppy school, all foreman in training need to start somewhere.

Yr 1 Day 106 (2nd February 2017)
Bought rust converter for the frame and chassis and set about writing a list of what needs to be done & in order of when it needs to be done. Aside from that it is still way too hot to do much else.

Yr 1 Day 108 (4th February 2017)
Cut the timber rail for the front right corner & lifted up the van skin to adequately wire brush & paint the metal rail which for some reason I forgot to paint however long ago it was installed.

Once dried, Steve and I installed the rail, sikaflexing between the two and around each bolt holding it in place. I want this sucker to last. We also replaced the four uprights that sit on it before lowering the skin back into place, calling in extra hands (Dad and budding carpenter) to watch and control the various ceiling supports we have in place. Unfortunately in the lowering process the largest of the ceiling supports crashed down on Steve’s arm. If you knew the history he has of breaking this arm you would understand moment of panic which ensued. Thankfully it turned out to be nothing worse than minor bruising.

Yr 1 Day 109 (5th February 2017)
WP_20170205_006.jpgWire brushed the exposed (drivers side) of the half of the chassis and frame with the help of the fam, or at least some of it… who dwindled away quickly (mere minutes) to only one, the youngest (9), who I’m certain did more than Steve! We discovered many of the welds had not had their slag removed, which I find to be poor workmanship, but with no harm done I can’t really complain. The whole chassis and frame was then was washed down ready for rust conversion. I aim to have it converted by this afternoon, but covered in rusty dust and sweat… an interesting looking tanner! I figure a break is in order, at least for an hour.

Converted! And I must say, looking good.

Yr 1 Day 110 (6th February 2017)
In hindsight I should have ducked out to replace my mask before I started spraying (Steve used mine for work, and I don’t like sharing). My fingers hurt from depressing the spray can nozzles, I was imagining them to be a relatively easy application method, but this proved not so in tight spots, when you have no choice but to angle in behind wheel hubs (as apposed to removing them completely) to get coverage one ends up spraying all sorts of things, weird rust tanner eat your heart out! Glad we left the bottom surfaces of the chassis and frame till we under sling the axles. Anyhoo, I managed to apply a lovely coat of grey primer this morning, looking even better now… should take a photo.

Went for a trip to Bunnies to check out a few things – thinking of changing the internal wall to simple ceiling supports to allow for the air con to be mounted in the nose of the van rather than the side wall and have the wall split it in two. I also wanted to get the available sizes of the marine ply to replace the floor. Not for any other reason than the tile glue and where old furniture was vigorously (such a manner has taken a layer of ply along with it) removed makes for an uneven surface to place the new floor down on. At the point of discovering that marine ply (without heading to trade places) is only available in small sheets, like pillow flipping size! Whilst I was complaining at how small they were I had a clarity of brain moment (all too rare) and pondered how we would get bigger sheets into the van…! Oh, and while I’m here, how the blasted heck am I going to get the old floor out!!! These things seem so much more simple when you don’t think about them.

Thus sparked a new discussion, should we keep the old floor? What if we paint the underside to improve its longevity, scrape as much of the muck off the top and potentially fill the missing layers where necessary and simply two pac reson a new layer on top of the old!? The new smaller sheets will fit through the door & add rigidity to the existing floor – sounds marvelous, except I forgot I was extending the floor front and back and rolling the floor up the wall to follow the curves of the van and allow for better insulating qualities. Oh I do know how to find problems. Hopefully I can find some answers when I paint the floor tomorrow morning.

Anyhoo, I applied a second coat of grey primer this afternoon… at least I started to! One of the other reasons for heading out this morning was to get more paint, LOL, now the final finish is two different shades of grey and also black, as I decided to empty the Kill rust can instead of head back out (the shop is now shut!) and then found the left over caliper paint from when we did the wheels, rest assured at least this section of trailer is well protected from the elements. PS, my OCD refuses to take a photo of my tri-coloured masterpiece, sorry folks.

Yr 1 Day 111 (7th February 2017)
Yep Yep, answers – I’ll tell you about those in a minute.

The underfloor has been painted (2 coats) with nothing special, just run of the mill standard exterior house paint (the perks of being engaged to a painter). The condition of the underfloor, once I cleaned off the 30 odd years of dirt, was better than I expected, I have no doubt that this paint will aid its lifespan at least another 10 years. I’d like to be adding sound deadener to the under side to cut down on the road noise of other users whilst parked, but alas we can’t afford it. A cheaper option would be to attach carpet underlay beneath the floor, however I have no way to ensure it doesn’t rot away due to the elements… back to square one. Perhaps playing some soft music will drown out the sound of the road noise, air conditioner and it’s compressor, as well as the generator… LOL wishful thinking!?

Anyhoo, my solution, adding joists and bearers to the front and rear sections to extend the floor and inserting new sections of ply, and then apply the 2pac layer and new floor lining over the top… plausible.

1yr 113 days 9th February 2017
Ok, so I checked the level of the frame this morning before… yuck, dog drool. Apparently she now must inspect the blog too! Where was I?… before we rivet the floor back down.

Wow, it was way off, higher at the front and back and leaving to the passenger (left) side. Dad then noted that the van is currently sitting on blocks/car stands and not it’s wheels and so potentially the hanging wheels (a bit of an over statement as the wheels ARE touching the ground, just not resting all their weight, hehehe… one spins) may be pulling the chassis down in the centre. A theory we trialled by moving the rear stands as close to the wheels as possible and putting another stand in front of them on the lower (left) side. This barely changed the levels, however, the door now closes without the need to slam it, suggesting we may have taken some of the twist out of the frame.

We dropped the floor back down and moved all the ceiling supports to thewp_20170210_003-1 revamped side. Drilled out the rivets and lifted the other side. Steve didn’t want to remove the nails from the wheels arch (attaches to the floor) and so pulled them connected together. With all the shaking and the tentative hold the wheel arch still had upon the wall, any semblance of rotted timber that still held the wall up broke to pieces and the whole wall dropped off the rails flapping in the breeze!

Tomorrows job (if the caravan doesn’t blow down overnight) is to wire brush the side rails (they are in rather good nick) rust convert them, and paint, them. Then cut and bolt on new timber rails and build the wall frame up past the rot level.

It’s a big job but must be done quickly (more dog drool!) Keep you posted.

Yr 1 day 114 10th February 2017
wp_20170210_014Good news and bad news, YAY the van still stands, but, um, so much for those rails being in good nick, had to cut the front one out as it was rather thin in places. With the new rail welded in (my job being to put out the spot fires: the pleasure of such lovely dry grass growing beneath) this crisis is averted.  Got the new timber rail in sealed and bolted and discovered the timber frame of the van is not the same on both sides, and so the uprights I had cut to match were all far too short and had to cut new ones. When we finally got around to raising the wall, I got 3 of the 4 into place and had only 3mm to jack before the 4th was in… and up progress suddenly halted and then suddenly the whole wall dropped, knocking over all the uprights on its way down. The ceiling had separated from the wall! Steve, outside manning the jack, jumped up and hefted the wall back up by hand (my hero) as I set the uprights back into place. Turns out the ceiling is only held on with nails! Some percussive maintenance  put the brilliantly engineered design back together, and I find myself in need of working on eradicating sarcasm from my life once again. Anyway, after screwing the ceiling back to the wall we once again lifted the wall and positioned the final upright. Phew another crisis averted.

Need a rest now. The second (rear) rail can wait till this arvo. Discovered that to cut this bad boy off one needs to cut off the step too. We may be finishing up tomorrow instead!

Yr 1 day 115 11th February 2017
We back out last night and started rubbing back the frame. Discovered there is a crack in the front corner of the frame, very similar to the one on the other side that Dad snapped off with the grinding disc. I let Steve know and he’d completely forgotten about that incident let alone the crack … dog drool again!

Anyhoo, he came out this morning and checked it and decided he would wire wheel the remainder of the frame for me, he’s so nice, and then weld up the crack…. and the other 11  initial welds discovered to be either merely tacks or completely non existent!! The workmanship of this van is…. no wonder there was so much movement in the floor, maybe now it won’t be so much of a trampoline any more.

Rust converted all but the rear corner of the van, just waiting for the rear rail to be welded in. Oh, I forgot, we cut that out this morning too.

Yr 1 day 117 13th February 2017
Alright, so yesterday I applied 2 coats of enamel to the frame and chassis, just waiting on that rear rail… but it’s far too hot to weld.

This morning I pulled off the aluminium strips off both sides of the door frame. The rear one required very little persuasion, virtually falling off in my hand, the same no more gaps as used to “seal” the rear curves being the only part to actually put up any kind of fight in it’s removal. Now there is more space to comfortably weld the rail on… and there is a little less weight for the ceiling supports to hold up.

Yr 1 Day 118 14th February 2017
Happy Valentines day. What better way to start the day than with a good dose of cutting. grinding and welding? All welded in now ready to paint one last coat and its not even lunch time!

As with the front corner, I have no idea how the back corner has managed to stay up. The door frame’s tentative hold on life was much the same as the remainder of the lower and upper corner frame. I fear everything is being held together by compressed rotted timber, dirt, and a good deal of prayer. The entire corner is up for a clearance sale, everything must go! However, that is a job for this arvo as I have other places to go.

Finished up the painting and set about removing the wp_20170214_008frame in the rear corner, with the foreman not paying attention until it came time to measure up for some of the frame work.

As the skin had to be removed due to having no frame stopping it from moving about posing a hazard to be wp_20170214_002-1around. While most of the corner was removed I felt it would be pertinent to bring the floor back in. But it needed to be painted. Moral of this story is use the brush. Both coats could have been completed whilst waiting for Steve to get the sprayer ready and in the end old paint clogged the trigger and I waited over an hour to paint it with the brush anyway!

Might be a few days before I manage to get back onto task, as I have an assessment to complete, hope the 3/4’s of my van hold up till then.


Yr 1 Day 119 15th February 2017
So, it turns out I got my assessment away in record time and could get back to the task at hand.

Yep… and afternoon of arguments. Another of the joys of renovating something. Arguing about what, you ask? Where and how the corner frame is going to go together… We fitted the timber rail, two corner pieces and the rear side door frame… best we all retire for the night.

Yr 1 Day 120 16th February 2017
Discovered in the heat of yesterday arvo we’d forgotten to seal the timber rail and corner pieces. So with Dad and the budding carpenter’s help we temporarily removed and sealed the parts and refitted them. Then we discovered I forgot to glue (sikaflex) them in. Nothing a little leverage with a couple of screw drivers and a fine nozzle can’t fix!

Measured and cut the rest of the main frame for the corner, just waiting on the notching of the joints – not my skill set – before I fit them. Mayhap this weekend will see it finished. I want to also get the other half of the floor back down, but before it can be pinned down we need to fix the wheel arches. Figure another trip to Bunnies is in order… plus we have an idea for a more solid, yet lighter, door. Secret ingredient? expansion foam. Also looking at this as an underfloor deadener.

Yr 1 Day 121 17th February 2017
So, I removed the rear timber floor joist (the one that bolts to the floor frame across the back) had to use the hand saw to cut it out as the bolts had rusted and I’m not game to use the cutting wheel. I then found my bane of this caravan once again, now a combined use of sikaflex and no more gaps, making my life difficult. The mild case of tendonitis I had in my index finger from depressing the spray can nozzle (yes I did swap hands and fingers regularly) by afternoon was becoming steadily worse.

Wire wheeling the frame where the rail once covered, rust converting and applying two coats of enamel, before moving on to the wheel arches. These need to be installed before we batten down the floor.

Removing the nails from the good [condition] wheel arch and panel beating it back into shape, from being bent during removal, and wirebrushing it before once again painting… I think in the future all painting shall be left to the painter!

Yr 1 Day 122 18th February 2017
Well, that didn’t happen. After buying more paint and the nails we forgot – still forgot a new set of gloves to replace my rather decrepit pair – Steve cut the rusted part of the bad [condition] wheel arch out and I ended up painting the wheel arches myself, including the extra coat they needed, and having to redo Steve’s panel beating!

Steve cut the new piece of galv sheetingwp_20170218_006 to becomewp_20170218_009 the patch for the bad wheel arch where we cut out the rust, then with a lump of firewood as a dresser panel beat it to fit, and then riveted it into place, AND giving it a coat of paint. Looks just like a bought one!


I painted the timber rail that holds the drivers side wheel arch (the passenger side is yet to be framed) and with Steve’s help – painting makes it a much tighter fit – refitted it and fixed it into place. He then decided he should fix another dodgy weld, or two before finally calling it a day.

I proceeded to remove the other side of the door jam (front) to make way for the replacement ceiling support along the top edge of the wall. Turns out after all our worry, that the support in place for holding this end of the van up… wasn’t, somehow it was supporting itself! – this makes reframing this whole area much easier as now I don’t have to work around support poles.

Yr 1 Day 123 19th February 2017
I cut all the framing pieces for the passenger side wall above the wheel arch and notched (yay me) and fitted the wheel arch support, all by my lonesome. Turns out this is the only part of the van that I have completed (it’s still not fixed in place) all by myself, yay me.

Yr 1 Day 124 20th February 2017
Fixed all the frame pieces in with dads help – complaining the whole time that the screws weren’t long enough – anyhoo, with the screws (the too small ones) all in we sat back and inspected our handiwork just as Steve got home. I was in the middle of explaining the days progress when a thought hit me… sure enough upon further inspection we discovered the aluminium skin was around 25mm above the height of the bottom rail – it’s supposed to be flush – yay me!


You can’t tell from the inside how far the skin comes down!

We set about a plan for correcting the issue in lowering the skin by shortening the height of the wall frame. All the verticals I had cut yesterday needed to be cut shorter… along the whole length of the van! So we set about rectify and refitted it… made no difference!! The ceiling remained at the same height it was prior. Steve swinging on the unsupported ceiling only succeeded in lowering the wall 10mm. We then remembered that we had jacked the wall up at the front to make the front most uprights meet, and that perhaps lowering this back down would bring the back down (pivoting), this got us a further 5mm. Sitting back and viewing from afar – the shade of the other side of the driveway – we discussed 1. what potentially could be causing it to defy gravity with no uprights to support it? and 2. how do we fix it? We eventually settled for clamping it down and screwing it into place, even if it meant we were still 5mm off our target level for the back 1.5-2m. We figure patching between the skin and frame with a strip of aluminium flush with the bottom edge, which hopefully the final cover strip will butt up against and we won’t see the edge of the skin… hopefully.


Yr 1 Day 125 21st February 2017
Time to mark the corner lengths for their notches, since the height of the van has been changed. Tried the corner skin on to make sure all still fitted well. Glad I did as it seems yesterdays adjustments misaligned all the currently fitted corner pieces and now the new lengths may need adjusting also.

Clamped the door frame into position (and square) and Dad came around to see what I was up to and helped me manipulate the whole corner to close the 30mm gap that had been found since said recent adjustment. I decided it would be best to redo the entire corner, but alas I could not remove the pieces because I had installed them too well. Plan B had us pry off some of the rear skin to access the ply curve and cut the excess off in situ. Manipulating the corner back on – lifting the back and pushing forward – we discovered it closed the 30mm gap completely, yay us.

I then set about marking the wall frame at ceiling level where they need to be cut in order to fit the ceiling support rail, which I figure should be installed before we continue with the corner frame in case more movement occurs. Fitting the rail is going to be tricky as the wp_20170226_001bolts that attach the roof frame to the wall frame will need to stay in place (they can’t be cut off, lest the roof fall off). This of course means that the new rail will have to have carefully cut grooves in it to house the bolts within. I cut the tops off the uprights so the new rail would fit, and chocked em till I could fit them. I also removed the old transformer from the wall as it too obstructed the position of the supporting rail… I now have a 25cm hole in the van skin I have to plug.

Yr 1 Day 130 26th February 2017
Awesome day today. Aside from no arguing, I started out on my own using the cutting wheel for the first time to remove the nails from the old rail and removing the chocks between uprights and ceiling so I could temporarily install the rail and mark the bolt positions. It’s harder than you’d think to install a 3.5m length of timber in a 40mm space above your head by yourself! I ended up clamping it through the old transformer hole, which in itself was no easy task.

wp_20170226_005Removing it, I then proceeded to drill out the spaces, excited to find that cleaning them up was also going to be no easy task as we lacked a file… enter some ingenuity, with a pair of vice grips and a piece of threaded rod, ta da… note to self keep fingers clear! I had a bit of difficulty getting it back into place but my previous clamp idea aided me sufficiently, as I walked back and forth wp_20170226_006over the still exposed flooring joists and frame, tapping each end in as I went. Steve arrived at the last minute and helped with the final few millimeters. Once in place he countersunk some holes and fixed it in place for me and added the brackets to the verticals.

Moving onto the door frame he decided to cut a wedge to fit between the now install rail and the door lintel, so it could all be screwed together in one shot. Posing another problem… we don’t have big enough screws. We clamped it for the time being and went to lunch.

Headed out for screws and new gloves for me, finally and returned WP_20170226_013.jpgto fix the lintel, but before that happened we decided to finally notch the corner frame and fit it. Now we are on a roll. Corner frame in, let’s add the extra door frame and use some of our new screws to hold it all together (no need to countersink)… and oh, yes, fix the lintel too.

Now we’ve gotten this far lets see if the corner skin fits back on – don’t panic I have been periodically checking anyway – woo hoo, it fits, and rather well if I may say so. Let’s tack it on while we have daylight left… looking good! Not enough daylight left for a photo sorry.

It may be a while before we can get back to this as I start a new year of study on the 28th. Maybe I could find some time on the weekends, hopefully you’ll hear from me sooner rather than later.



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