When we decided to move from tent camping to actually buying a camper, we didn’t exactly know where to start. We went the traditional route and started with a pop-up camper. After a few camping trips, we realized camping with six people and two dogs would require a larger space. Also we wanted to be able to have things setup in a way that didn’t have to be put up and taken down every time you packed up the camper. So we set forth to find the next iteration of our camping life. We decided a Hybrid trailer would get us the space we needed with a price we could afford. After shopping around we ended up with a 2001 Dutchman Aerolite Cub. We got it for a steal due to it’s condition. We thought that we would just slowly start fixing it up as we were using it, then this happened!
As someone who spends their time helping others plan their space, I have to say Alecia wasn’t prepared to start thinking about redoing this entire space so quickly. But I knew that we had to get to work and fix the floor. So I did as I always do, I went to work making plans and buying the stuff to get it done. But in order to take on a project of this magnitude, I needed to take a holistic approach and consider what projects would come after the floor replacement. That way I could re-build the areas to be what they needed to be in the end. That is where being married to a space planner comes in handy. I asked Alecia to start thinking about what she wanted the final product to look like, so I could take it into consideration for the structural project of replacing the floors. We knew that the bathroom was in desperate need of renovation, so we decided to keep it original until the rest of the camper was about 90% complete. That way we could focus on it as a specific project. The first thing I had to do was find all of the leaks and make sure that they were completely sealed up!
The first step was to figure out how in the heck to remove the floor in a way that a new one could be put back in it’s place. I am not exaggerating when I say I knew absolutely nothing about the construction of campers when I started this project. So I had to take a careful approach and try to figure out the best way to re-build it once removed. The first step was to find a tool that would allow for me to cut out the floor carefully so I didn’t destroy any wires or lines running under the camper. I chose to use an oscillating tool. That way I wasn’t using a sharp edge to cut, and accidentally cut more than I planned to cut. If you’re not familiar with this tool, it uses a back and forth motion along with a serrated edge to carefully cut through stuff.
So I slowly got to work taking the floor apart in one foot by one foot squares. Making sure to remove, label and protect anything that was bolted to, or next to the floor. This meant that the furnace, hot water heater, fresh water tank, and water pump had to all be disconnected and removed.
Once I got to a clear spot that did not have water damage, and there was a existing mid beam for support, I stopped cutting and starting working on my plan to re-build what I had cut out.
I was honestly not prepared for the major mess that I would be creating with this project. If I had planned to replace the floor, instead of accidentally punching a hole through it and forcing the issue, I would have figured out a dumpster of some sort to have on hand. But I didn’t, so we had to fill our trash can little by little until all of the debris was gone. My poor neighbors had to see my giant mess for about two days, but I made sure to get it all cleaned up and out of sight as soon as I could.
At this point I knew I would need a few layers to this floor.
- A moisture barrier on the bottom
- A structural back bone to hold the floor up and give it strength
- Insulation to make sure that the cold air and hot air stayed on the outside of the camper
- A sub-floor that created a flat strong surface that was even across the entire camper
- And last, a durable flooring that looked good
So layer by layer, I started building the floor back. I used a 1/4″ plywood that was primed with Kilz on both sides as the moisture barrier. I added HVAC tape, calking, and black truck bed liner to create a moisture proof layer on the bottom side. Then I Kilzed four 2″ x 8″ boards and attached them across the width of the camper with large carriage bolts into the metal outer frame of the camper. Then I placed exterior foam board between each 2″ x 8″ for insulation.
Then I was ready for the final structural layer. I planned this layer to be at a height that worked with the remaining original floor. that way it would lay over the new and old and create a consistent height throughout the entire camper. I used 1/2″ plywood Kilzed on both sides for the sub-floor.
I started in the new floor area, and moved to the back of the camper. There was a small soft spot in the very back of the camper, so I created a “L” shaped 90 degree support to attach to the back and sides of the area.
Now it was time for the final layer. This was the peel and stick vinyl flooring that would give our camper the look of the new floor. These are a life saver, they go on easy and look great.
At the same time we were working with the floors, we found some old water damage on the walls and ceiling. we decided to use a super thin plywood with beautiful wood grain to cover the damage and create some eye catching new walls. We used every type of adhesive that you can imagine to make sure that these bad boys stayed put.
At this point in the re-model (yes, I worked on this night and day for over a week) I had lost a lot of steam and Alecia and some friends took over for the wall coverings. Alecia learned how much fun cutting boards to fit around round windows could be. But finally she was satisfied with the her work.
Finally with the floors and walls in place, I started to re-assemble the booth area. While doing so, I had to re-install the furnace, water heater, water pump, and fresh water tank lines. this would come back to haunt me in the future, as I had zero clue how any of these things really worked in a camper. Also we reinforced the booth seats where needed.
Finally after about two weeks, we had new floors, and some new walls. It was time to take our new camper out for a test trip!
It was a bit nerve racking pulling out the camper for the first time after such an intensive project. I still had some gas lines to connect, and had not got the hot water heater back up and running, but we were happy to just have floors.
That just might have been the most satisfying camping trip ever. After all that hard work, we were able to enjoy the fruits of our labor
Little did we know how much more work we would end up putting into Loretta, but we knew that after that first project, we had the worst part behind us. Stay tuned for the next blog post to see Lorettas journey, and all of the amazing adventures she took us on!