Repairing a Static Caravan 4

If anyone is familiar with the North Atlantic weather conditions and Shetland’s “between weathers” phenomenon, then understand the intensity and stress it required to change the roof of the caravan. Not knowing when nor how the weather could change, it took true grit and courage to rip-off the only thin protection against rain and winds this caravan has had for close to a year.

Having insulated, rebuilt and paneled all the outside walls, the layer of aluminum roof was only being held on with a small strip of treated lumber. This small strip was holding down the 40mm overlay that was available from the old aluminum walling and, together with many tubes of mastic, it was only screwed down tight onto the upper part of the new walls. This upper part prepared the way for new rafters, or roof trusses, and had to be “unsealed” to change the roof.

So it was! The mastic weather-proofed parts were taken apart, skylights removed, and starting at the one gable end the rafters were laid in place. Eyes were often spying the horizon for weather changes, weather reports were eye-balled several times during a day and the work days were….very….very…long work days.

Simply speaking, old roof is removed, new rafters put into place, electrical wiring adjusted and inspected, Kingspan insulation between new rafters, treated plywood screwed on rafters, layer of roofing “gortex” stapled on plywood, slats fastened on covered plywood, some insulation put between slats that would lie just under metal roofing (prevents condensation and keeps the place quiet during hail or heavy rains) and finish it off with metal roofing. (So “simple” this wasn’t…just to save writing many paragraphs)

How long did this take? I don’t remember. Maybe a week or two? I do remember several 18 hour days with hardly any breaks. I do know that it was tough working and sometimes I had to tack down a strong plastic tarp material for rainy periods in between all work. Fortunately, I had a few friends spend some of their time to lend a hand. Great help, indeed!

After the roof was in stable condition, I grit my teeth and attacked the extension area. Same procedure as the rest of the exterior…Kingspan, gortex and paneling. Just this last week, I finally could fit the new front door.

Old aluminum roofing was recycled. It weighed in at 40kg and gave £16.

I’ll let the pictures explain better…. (to be continued)

Repairing a Static Caravan 3

Winter came and went and most of the outside work had to be put on ice…no pun intended in reference to winter. In lieu of this and before heading home to complete another building project during the Christmas holidays, it was possible to start chipping away on necessary indoor tasks with expectations to continue outside work after the holiday season and, supposedly, with a more favourable weather.

Bedroom
Many older caravans have two bedrooms. The smaller second bedroom of this caravan was one of the first things we tore away, creating an open interior planning but leaving only one master bedroom. This larger bedroom was less than 4 sq. mt. and hardly allowed legroom, should ordinary single beds were installed. Also,common beds would take up most floor space with a larger volume of remaining space inefficiently used. It seemed smartest to plan for two wide comfortable bunk beds as we were accustomed to this way of living from experiences in the mountains of northern Sweden.

Having removed all the old, damp, mouldy and smelly interior walling of the master bedroom, there remained the original 20mm insulation which was poorly packed between the original wooden squares of the caravan’s exterior walls. Should these squares be removed?

Using 25 mm Kingspan, I replaced the old insulation to the bedroom and filled up the rectangles of the interior wall. I also reinforced these walls where the bunk beds would be installed later. This gave the bedroom walls better strength and increased the u-value of that corner. I now had walls totaling 75 mm Kingspan insulation. Evaluating this, I decided that I would follow this path; keeping the original framework, insulating to 75mm and consequently increasing the caravan’s total u-value even more than first planned.

The interior bedroom walls were replaced with fresh plywood. Part of the original roof rafters were insulated with 25 mm Kingspan and “gortex” and finished off with 10 mm pine paneling for the ceiling. Later, the floor was covered with 6 mm laminate, which I bought locally second-hand via Internet. Bunk beds were built during wet days in March. See pics in gallery below.

Outside
After returning at the end of February and when the weather Gods were kind(er), I tore away the remaining aluminum on the second gable end, reinforced this in the same manner as the other exterior walls, added the wind/waterproof “gortex” material and finished off with the exterior cladding. I now could feel the caravan gained the stability and solidness that it needed for the harsh winds of Shetland. As a result, hardly no vibrating or tremors can be felt in this caravan’s body.

Recycling
Naturally, thoughts of recycling and the environment have been a part of this project and, as a little game, I had saved all the removed aluminium siding. Recently and with the last of the siding removed, I went to the dump. Surprisingly, the aluminum weighed in at 80 kg. At today’s rate, I drove away from the dump with an extra £32 in my back pocket. I thought this was fun and gave a little back to the costs of repairs. I wonder what the aluminum roof will weigh in at when I remove it?

Soon, hopefully
I want to change the roof. I have all the necessary rafters to a saddle-shaped roof prepared and soon will have the new metal roofing delivered. As soon as weather and wind permits, myself with some friends will rip off the old roof and put on the new. This report will come later…

By the way, the extension part of the caravan has been built in a fashion that will allow it to be removed, should the caravan be moved in the future. An explanation of this engineering feat will come later.

Repairing a Static Caravan 2

If you have ever experienced Shetland weather, you can understand the unpredictability and diversified nature of it. The repairs and modernization of this static caravan has taken time and the work has often been between raindrops and winds, often at the same time.

The first five weeks have past and, reflecting upon what has been accomplished, the original strategy has been followed. The outside conversion from a tin can caravan with rot has miraculously become a “Cinderella” of changes. This is what has happened…

The technical jargon
With start on the smaller gable end, I took away the caravan-like angled floor at the old tow bar area. I built this out, extending the floor and gaining 2 m2 and having a full 90° wall inside. Quite practical for putting a sofa or bed later along that wall. The humongous sitting room single glazed window had to go and, after its removal, I peeled off the aluminum siding and screwed on my treated 12 mm plywood to the wooden framework of the caravan; sealed with “mastic”, or polysulfide sealant, between each jointed section of plywood!

TIP: The wooden framework has no set measurements and, once covered, it’s trial and error finding a hold for screws or remembering where electrical lines are. To best resolve this problem, mark along the wooden base where the center line of the original vertical/horizontal framework is or where to avoid screwing into electrical lines, then use a water level to mark out your line along/up the sides as you work. I allowed myself no more that ±3mm margins with all measurements.

With plywood screwed on, I set up my baseline board with a water level. Made my vertical studs and positioned/screwed these onto the gable wall taking into consideration where I wanted the new windows to sit. Everything had to be horizontally and vertically correct, as these measurements would be identical for the whole outside wall work around the caravan. Distances between vertical studs are flexible depending upon window size and wall strength. It’s up to you!

After studding is completed, I insulated the walls using 50mm Kingspan. This is comparable to 150mm normal rockwool insulation but doesn’t take the same volume. Windows were lead-free polyethylene double-glazed energy saving and filled with argon gas. These costs and efforts I’m putting into the caravan will pay for themselves within 7 years through the “energy pennies” I’ll save.

After the insulation, wind and water resistant foil (I call it gortex) is stapled onto the studding and covers the whole wall. Treated wood paneling is tacked onto the studs with stainless steel wood screws following a bead from the level. Altogether, from the original caravan siding, I added on 97mm.

The floor was insulated with 100mm, 100% earthwool insulation. This made a big difference compared to the earlier 20mm carton material used for fish boxes.

Several weeks later
With all this work, the inside environment is comfy, warm and much more quiet from outside noise. It will probably be cooler on “warmer” days; if Shetland has these? The porch area is under construction just now, but it’s getting to be too late in winter to continue with it.

The major thing is, this caravan will be beautiful when it’s finished and comfortable to live in! A new roof will come later when weather permits. Let the pictures show the work and results up to now… (to be continued)

Repairing a Static Caravan…

…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?

Photo: Initial inspection- looking for rot

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…