…can be a no-brainer-don’t-do-it-you’re crazy kind of project to undertake, unless you are an experienced and stubborn skilled trades teacher with a will to solve problems that arise.
Having had the opportunity to acquire a small beast of a caravan on Shetland, this project will involve a complicated technical construction to convert it to a very inhabitable place to live on a wonderful patch of islands in the world. But, what is this project all about?
Background: There are two types of caravans in the U.K. The increasingly popular touring caravan, hooked onto the back of a car and driven from site to site, and the larger static caravan that needs a more complicated means of moving and, by its name, is considered staying on its site for longer periods or permanently. In Sweden today, these are called a “Villavagn”, or “house wagon” and have become a new solution for owning or renting a summer cottage.
Static caravans in the U.K. have a long history of use as temporary summer or holiday dwellings as regulations in vacation laws for workers developed through the last century allowing time for workers and families to get out of large towns and relax. From what can be understood from Internet, static caravans are traditionally found near climatically stable and warmer areas of the U.K. i.e. like Cornwall, Devon, Wales etc., where the commute from larger cities (London) allows for a reasonable drive. They are now quite commonplace and have become more popular for permanent habitation all over the U.K. as economies are uncertain.
There are many large caravan parks for single unit rentals or one can purchase a static caravan on site and pay annual site fees to park owners. Static caravans are also popular to buy and live in due to on-site construction of private homes and sold off after the house is finished to live in.
The Project Caravan: The make and model is, as yet, unknown but probably originating from the early 1990’s. It has been first sold, then apparently traded in, cosmetically refurbished and re-sold again a number of times. When it was bought, it had been vacated for almost a year in a very tight and closed condition. On first inspection, there was a leafy fungus growing on the carpet and floor. The wet and smell of this environment is impossible to describe but the whole construction cried out for air.
First things first, out with everything that wasn’t rotted, mildewy or dirty beyond patience to cope with. It originally had two bedrooms but the smaller one gave way to the crowbar and a whole truckload of this scrap went to recycling. Once the windows had been opened and the drying sun came into it, the caravan could be heard sighing and thanking us.
After using one and a half weeks with discovering how this caravan was made and making attack plans for its repairs, I discovered that it basically is built with small sticks and thin plywood. The outside walls are 45mm thick and holding rusty and leaky single-glazed windows. The floor larger has no insulation and the roof is basically a skin of aluminum over a few bowed wooden supports.
When built, workers started with the iron chassis and added a plywood floor. On this floor came the outside walls followed by electrical work and furnishings screwed onto the 3mm masonite inside ceiling, some flimsy 20mm rafter things and finally the roof skin to hold everything together.
During my inspection, I found the indoor floor pretty stable but some parts along the bottom of the outside walls had acquired rot and need replaced. Any electrical wires needing replaced or taken away must be done when everything is opened up.
Preliminary Plans: Crawl underneath and insulate the floor. Since the walls are attached to the floor, I’m choosing to take off the aluminum siding (recycle for 40p per kilo) simultaneously screwing water repellant “marine” plywood to strengthen the structure. On the plywood goes vertical water repellant woods studs and, finally, peel back the roof skin as I place a new saddle roof on the new outside wall frame replacing the roof with marine plywood and a layer of…uh…metal roof sheeting. This all will be tricky with consideration for Shetland’s winds and rain. At the end, insulate with Kingspan, add a wooden cladding and install the new double-glazed windows.
I’ll end here for now…