As promised, to follow are a few lessons learned from installing birch panels in Sparta’s interior. This might prove helpful if ever you should undertake such a process. I made several mistakes which could have been avoided had I known better or just planned a bit more. Thinking this through will save you time and money and may result in a more beautiful trailer.
- Birch selection – Picking the right supplier of birch is essential. As I noted in an earlier post, there are three different shades of birch – white, yellow and red – and each receives the stain you choose quite differently. Also, grain quality varies as does its repetition. For example, you can buy 4′ X 8′ birch which repeats the pattern on each panel either three or five times. I suppose this has something to do with how the panels are milled and the costs therein. Obviously if you buy the latter you will see more redundancy, resulting in a “Hall of Mirrors” effect. I prefer the three image panels which are less “busy” to the eye.
- Timing of staining – To avoid the mind-numbing process of continuous staining/finishing and to spread the costs of panel purchases over time, I proceeded incrementally. In other words, I would buy 4-6 panels at a time, finish and then install them. I even bought from different suppliers (3 to be exact). Big mistake. Although it was less monotonous to buy, finish and install in batches, it produced inconsistent results. If I could have a Mulligan I would buy all the panels at once, make sure they were red birch, from the same supplier with the same 3 section pattern. Ideally you could special order with these specifications in mind and insist that all 30 panels (10 ceiling 1/8″ and 20 wall 1/4″) come from the same lot. You should even think about time of day and temperature when applying poly. Some of my early morning efforts – when the poly was brushed in colder temps – did not result in the same smooth sheen, I suppose because the product was tackier and harder to apply.
- Pattern of panel placement. Had I to do this all over (and I may someday), I would pay more attention and take pictures during demolition. There was a method to Spartan’s madness when the wood was originally installed and this had to do with how the ribs to which the panels were affixed were spaced. Some rib spacings were a perfect 48″ and others that varied between 42 and 46″. Clearly, better planning would have resulted in fewer cuts and seams AND also where the seams resulted. For example, seams that matched up with the sides of doorways and windows had shorter runs to the floor and ceiling, resulting in less use of trim strips. While I don’t mind a few strategically placed trim pieces, I think the fewer the better. Also, better planning would have resulted in more economical use of wood. I have lots of odd pieces left over.
So there you have it. I am proud of Sparta thus far and accept her for her imperfections which, I alone, am responsible for. Her interior walls are a bit kaliedescopic, with colors and trim running higgly-piggly. But what the hell. I still love her.