Restoring My Vintage Spartan to Glory

...and crafting a purposeful recovery

Month: August 2016

Fast floorward

Change of plans.  Seeing as how it’s the dry season (and I haven’t been able to round up an assistant for my leak test), I am going to leapfrog that step and spend some time on the floor – literally.  With knee pads affixed to my cranky joints, I spent yesterday inspecting suspect areas.  As I have mentioned, Sparta’s floor is in better-than-average shape compared to some of her contemporaries that I have seen in person and online, but serious work needs to be done.  Honestly,  there is a part of me that just wants to replace the entire floor and rest easy knowing that for the next 60 years I or my heirs will have a uniform layer of solid, 3/4″ plywood underfoot.  But frankly,  that is just too much work.  You see, these trailers were built with a wood floor sandwiched between the steel frame defining the perimeter and the aluminum body.  Sparta’s shell literally sits on top of and is bolted to it.  To get it out requires sawing it into manageable pieces and pulling it away from the walls where it is pinched between the frame and the entire weight of the shell…yikes.  Daunted by the magnitude of that task,  I have chosen a path of less resistance.

Sparta’s floor falls into three general categories – 75% of the floor is rock solid, unaffected by rot or insects, and it responds with a reassuring “Thwack” when hit with a hammer.  That majority will be left alone and covered with new flooring.  15% is completely rotted out, most notably in the bathroom, and will have to be completely torn out requiring considerable effort as described above.  These sections can be pierced with a screwdriver.  The final 10% is salvageable but when hammered responds more meekly with a reedy, slightly hollow sound.  That portion resides mostly along the Sparta’s edge where water was present either from leaks or years of condensation.  These are the areas I addressed on my knees yesterday and they look like this:

sparta floor 3

The white wood is suspect. Corners in particular. Note pilot hole to the middle right. This I drilled to determine the area was salvageable.

sparta floor edge

The edges are marked with small areas of rot

sparta floor edge 2

 

 

To fix these areas I purchased from Amazon a product called “Rot Fix“, a two-part epoxy that purportedly forms a rock-hard bond when infused into a porous but viable floor.  The sales pitch claims that the treated area firms up stronger than the original flooring, much like the doctor told me my healed leg would after I broke it skiing over 40 years ago.  We’ll see.

Sparta rot fix2

So the procedure yesterday was as follows.  As recommended by the product-maker, I drilled small holes throughout the white-stained, compromised areas.  I set the drill bit depth to slightly over 1/2″ by wrapping it with painter’s tape.  This I did to ensure that my punctures did not completely perforate the 3/4″ plywood and allow the epoxy to escape through the floor and onto the belly-pan where it would do no good.  Then, as directed, I mixed the product in smallish batches and applied it to my Swiss cheese floor, basically going “dot-to-dot” with a steady stream of epoxy.  Finally, after giving it a few moments to fully penetrate,  I brushed the treated areas to force the remaining pooled glue into the holes.  Have a look.  I will give it a solid day to cure and will check it out this afternoon.  Results to follow.

sparta floor drillsparta floor holessparta floor dotssparta floor appl.sparta floor 1

Postscript: I visited Sparta last night to see how the treated floor looked after a 24 hour cure.  The hammer test went well, for the most part.  The smaller edge areas were sound and responded to the hammer with a convincing timbre.  The two larger corner areas, while improved,  are going to need another coat of Rot Fix.  I’m encouraged and I think that will do it.

sparta floor after

It’s Hammer time

Just another day

Tomorrow is my birthday – something that I have not found particularly exciting in years.  I know it’s cliche to dread birthdays at my stage of life.  But why get so excited about it?  Our culture over-celebrates birthdays and, yet, it is horrified by aging.  Everybody gets older, “age is nothing but a number” and I should just be happy to still be vertical.  Right, I get all that.  Furthermore, even my numeric age is in dispute.  Am I 61 tomorrow or 61 and 9 months?  I guess that depends upon one’s belief about when life begins.  And, actually, I am entering my 62nd year tomorrow because my first year of life was measured in months.  So am I 62?  See, that’s why I don’t get excited about birthdays.  They are fiction…arbitrary…imprecise.  Like Valentine’s Day, they mean more to Hallmark than to me.

I get more excited about Father’s Day.  All a birthday means is that I successfully navigated the birth canal…so what.  But being a father – that took some doing.  I was an imperfect dad, to be sure.  But the fact that my children still acknowledge the occasion with a card or a call tells me that I must have done something right.  Many fathers are completely out of touch or, worse, estranged from their kids.  I see that a lot among my contemporaries and think that’s really sad.  Maybe that’s because I know too many alcoholics.  Booze is so damaging to families.

So, I am marking the occasion of the first 3 months of Sparta’s rebirth.  I have accomplished much, but have stalled a bit.  Up to now it’s been pretty easy.  I’m good at tearing shit up and laying down strips of sticky neoprene is cake.  The windows are now resealed and it is time to tackle the actual leaks.  You know, the ones that necessitated tearing out all those once beautiful birch panels.  At 42 feet in length, Sparta is really just a crazy quilt of aluminum sheeting held together  with well over 17,000 rivets.  While those seams were once impervious, time has rendered many of them helpless against the persistent encroachment of water.  I must now find where they are failing and seal them up.

After much study and learning via the web from other trailer bloggers,  I have come up with the following plan for finding and, hopefully, fixing the myriad leaks in Sparta.

  1.  I will fill a 3.5 gallon hand-pump sprayer with non-staining food color and water.  Working from the ground up, I will deliver a steady stream of easily visible H2O to the outside perimeter of Sparta,  all the while having an assistant inside marking the suspect areas with a bold Sharpie.  This will target leaking seams and also windows and doors.  Once the exterior walls are tested, the roof will be sprayed and, hopefully, all leaks identified.  Bear in mind that Sparta is bare aluminum inside and the skin is easily viewed from there.sparta sprayer
  2. With my trusty assistant still inside the trailer,  I will have him/her direct me to those areas of leakage (skin seams are clearly visible inside and out and can be counted to determine precise location).  There, I will apply Captain Tolley’s Creeping Crack Cure to those seams in question.  If the stuff works as advertised, it will insinuate itself thoroughly into all the little nooks and crannies where leaks live.Sparta captain
  3. Next, with the goal of never again confronting a leak within my lifetime, I will spray a rubberized coating on the underside of the entire roof and all vulnerable wall and window seams.sparta rubberized
  4. Finally, once everything is dried and cured, I will conduct the leak test again, repeating the subsequent steps as necessary.

This all sounds pretty good on paper.  I will let you know how it actually plays out.  Time to go bake my cake and become a Jehovah’s Witness.