...and crafting a purposeful recovery

Month: July 2018

Dust to dust

One nice side benefit of this project is getting to know about things that I might not otherwise.  Take, for example, wood-boring insects and fungi.  I have been blessed to never have had a serious problems with these pests, despite owning six homes over the years – 3 older than 60 years of age.  It took a trailer to change all that.  Of course there were some issues with the sub-floor and those areas damaged by critters had to be excised.  I wasn’t expected some of the things I found in Sparta’s cabinetry, however.

1.5″ X 1.5″ birch no match for bugs

So what have I learned?  Wood is vulnerable to a variety of creatures that feast upon and live in it.  Depending upon climate, exposure, etc. the culprit could be termites (subterranean and drywood), carpenter ants, powderpost beetles or dry-rot fungi.  Based upon clues left behind in Sparta (tunnelling, tiny pebble-like debris and carcasses),  I think ants were the issue.

Looks fine…right?


Left one, toss. Right one, keep.

Dr. Leakey meets Dr. Frankenstein

Since I have suspended my floor activities for the time being, I have taken the giant and somewhat intimidating leap into cabinet restoration.  You will recall that I set out upon this foolish exercise with the notion that reclaiming Sparta amounted to the ultimate recycling.  At times I have taken that to the extreme by reusing existing components that might better have been retired.  My choice to reuse Sparta’s cabinets is such an example.

There are several reasons to salvage the existing cabinetry:

  1. My slavish committment to authenticity.
  2. I am bereft of cabinet building experience.
  3. The existing components are too viable to toss out.
  4. I am cheap.

So there you have it.  I hope this doesn’t prove as misguided as my decision to salvage as much of the subfloor as I did.

I will tell you this.  Had I known just how many cabinet pieces I would be reusing, I would have done a much better job of labelling and photo-documenting Sparta’s dissembly.  Yesterday I spent a great deal of time sorting through odds and ends.  Just as a Paleontologist might organize fossil fragments to reconstruct the past,  I spent the morning laying out pieces of cabinetry.  Historically, some very learned men have appeared foolish by totally botching fossil reconstruction.

I don’t want to go down in history as the next David Peters.

Could this

…plus this

…equal this?


If you want to know why this project is taking so long (other than procrastination, indecisiveness and fear), there is no better illustration than Sparta’s floor.  I have gone way out of my way to save a few shekels and it has proved a false economy.   In the interest of educating you all, let me share these takeaways:

I should have replaced the entire floor from the start – yes, all 320 square feet of the original plywood subfloor.  While it would have been a royal pain in the ass, it would have resulted in a better outcome.  Listed here are the whys:

  1.  I could have avoided drilling and filling with Rotfix all of those marginal areas of the floor which are now bumpy and uneven.
  2. I had to completely remove 1/3 of Sparta’s rotten subfloor so why not just do it all?  Those areas I did remove were replaced with 3/4″ plywood patches, creating seams and variations in grade.
  3. I was the forced to remove each and every 9″ vinyl tile with a hammer and stout scraper, leaving behind lots of uneven tile glue residue. This took days.
  4. Now faced with a subfloor that is a patchwork of varying surfaces, I will be forced to pour an underlayment over it all – adding expense ($500), weight and the possibility of it cracking in transit.  If it breaks up under the new linoleum it would be a nightmare.  I had to recently abandon the idea of a conventional underlayment pour while I consider better, even more expensive, options.  Perhaps a product with polymers added (for flexibility and twice the price) poured over fiberglass mesh.

My efforts to preserve parts of the original floor were pennywise and pound foolish.  All these compromises have resulted in a floor that must be somehow smoothed before I can lay new linoleum.

The smile belies my irritation.

Had to go with the heavy duty scraper.

One brittle breakable tile after another…painstaking.

If you visualize you will realize

So with my trailers securely settled onto their lofty perch and the catering season in full swing, I’ve grown a bit complacent about working on Sparta.  This weekend I decided to jump start my enthusiasm for trailer work by paying a visit to her possible future destination.  From the start, one of my objectives of trailer ownership was to have a beautiful place to visit from time to time without the expense and commitment of a year-round cabin.  To that end I drove up to Shasta this past Sunday to check out some options.  Have a look:

Either way, it’s one hellava view from my observation lounge.

Imagine waking up to this every morning

Or, I can enjoy my love of trains and peaks from this view