Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Camper Renovation - Let the Games Begin

So here's the thing: I knew what I was getting into before buying a vintage camper. I like style, my dad likes efficiency. Charcoal vs. gas?  Been there, done that. My dad wanted me to get a little Casita, a Scamp, a new RV. Something fiberglass with better towing gas mileage, less leaking, yada yada yada. But I would have none of it and bought an old camper much to my dad's dismay.

The goal from the start was to fix what needed fixing and to learn to do most of it myself. I honestly expected to spend a few weeks fixing minor things and decorating. My husband would help, but he's super busy with school and work. So it's pretty much just me and my dad. For me, it's a labor of love.  For dad, it's a labor of hate. How did he get suckered into this?  Oh you know, daddyyyyyyy I loveeeeee youuuuuuuu.

My dad is the best dad ever. Just thought you should know.

From what we could see there were two places to start. 1) the back window and 2) the floor by the door. You could tell there was some dry rot in both places. Only a couple of teeny tiny spots indicated damage by the back windows. There was a soft spot in the floor by the door as well as some obvious rot around the door edge. So we started with the back. Now to find out what's under the paneling you have to take down the back panel. And to remove the back panel you have to remove the bed framing. May the odds be ever in your favor.

So I learned how to use a drill. And we started taking Camperrrr apart! oh. my.

As it turned out there was an extensive amount of dry rot in the rear of the camper.  Specifically the framing under the windows, in the corners and the subfloor. When you're buying a vintage camper, remember... what you see isn't always what you get!

Actually, with an old vintage camper it's never what you get. The only part of this damage that we could actually see was very small. I got into this thinking we would just patch / rebuild the small areas that needed it. However dad pointed out it was just faster to rebuild certain sections and then we'd know it was solid. So the rear bottom framing would be completely rebuilt. And um, we ended up deciding to rebuild pretty much everything else. And this is when my 3 week project turned into a 8 month re-build.

We've used this SoniCrafter a lot during the rebuild. It's been quite helpful with cutting down and removing small / tight rotted areas. Of course we also happen to have a plethora of other tools as well. I picked mine up at Lowes - but you can also order them online at Amazon. 

We think that the original floor was just painted particle board. When we ripped up the old carpet it was there and it just looked like it was meant to be the floor. Very odd! I'm pretty sure it was the original floor but who knows...

The particle board subfloor had a honeycomb / cardboard layer underneath. My dad said it was designed to be strong but lightweight. It also served as a type of insulation for the floor. The honeycomb stuff was glued solid on the bottom floor of the camper. It was horrible to try and remove but then we decided to just go ahead and replace the whole floor so we just cut it out. Then we could see the ground. Yay. This just gets better and better! We have since replaced this with some supports and new insulation.

Here's the extent of dry rot damage in the rear of the camper. The subfloor was on top of the honeycomb stuff - then another layer of particle board was under that to make the base of the camper.  My cousin fixed a couple of spots under the camper, near the wheel wells where it obviously rotted out - but we went ahead and ripped it all out as more was on its way to rotting out. To get to the bottom corners and sides we had to peel back the outer skin. I was kinda freaked out and overwhelmed at this point.

So far we have been working on this camper for almost a month - spending anywhere from 60-80 combined man hours a week.


  1. Where did you get the replacement honeycomb subflooring stuff?

  2. Hi James, we did not buy a replacement for the honeycomb. My dad wanted something solid and went with 3/4 inch plywood. You might be able to find the honeycomb, try doing a search for cardboard honeycomb subfloor. My dad seems to think they still make is but not sure where you would get it. Hope this helps :)