Category Archives: General Building

Finishing the trailer door

If you’ve been following along, we installed a new door on our trailer back in September. Although the door was fully functional, there were still several details to take care of before it gets too cold. These were finishing and insulating the new interior step and insulating and covering the framing on the outside, both of which have now been accomplished.

Let us begin with the interior work first, as that was completed first.

I laid down some vapour barrier and then cut some pieces of rigid insulation. This time I used some 1.5″ (38mm) rigid insulation I had lying around as left overs from other projects. The rest of the floor in the trailer is only 1″ (25mm) but this was a small space and I had enough of the thicker insulation. Why not, as they say.

After filling in the floor space with the rigid insulation, I wrapped the vapour barrier around the end and covered the top of it. This means we have two layers of vapour barrier in the step. I tuck taped it all down and made sure all of the gaps were covered.

After that, we needed to put a floor on it. We didn’t have any more of the laminate flooring left from doing the rest of the trailer, so we had decided to just buy another box of whatever laminate and not care too much about it matching in colour. Well, as it turns out, some friends of ours had a left-over box of laminate from a previous project so we bought it from them for $20.

And voila! New floor installed.

But wait! That’s not all. We also put in some fancy trim pieces to make it all snazzy looking. This was stage one.

Stage two involved finding something to go over the top corner edge that you can see is still exposed and quite sizeable in the picture above. They have these nice finishing strips at the hardware store that are about 8mm (5/16″) thick and 51mm (2″) wide. I couldn’t get a corner piece of molding to cover it as the gap it needed to cover was too big but I essentially made one by using two pieces of the aforementioned finishing strips.

We also added a metal bullnose cover to the outer edge against the door.

It turned out pretty nice, if we do say so ourselves. There may be some other fiddling around the old door to clean up the look, but that will be further down the line. At least we have a proper step with insulation and flooring now.

Next, it was the outside portion that needed some work. This is what we started with.

There is the basic framing with a plywood cover over it. You can also see that the plywood doesn’t cover the whole thing. That is what I did first: finish covering the top and both sides with plywood.

With the plywood installed, I pulled out the spray foam and made sure that all gaps between the framing and the trailer were filled.

After that, it was vapour barrier time again. Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of that stage, but I wrapped both sides and top with 6mil before continuing on to the insulation.

Here is a picture of the insulation going on. The right side and top are complete, but the left still needs to insulated.

I had a full sheet of 25mm (1″) rigid insulation that I cut up for the sides and I found enough pieces to do 51mm (2″) on the top. I taped up all of the seams and it started to look pretty snug.

Over top of the insulation we put more plywood sheathing. We did that so we would have something solid to attach the finishing pieces to.

Because the door is made of cedar, we went with cedar tongue-and-groove to finish the outside. It didn’t take much, just too full bundles to cover all of the exposed parts. I also added some trim around the outside.

Some other stuff that we don’t have pictures of is the weather stripping we installed around the door jam to seal it and we added a rubbery-plastic door nose thingy underneath the bottom of the door so there isn’t a big gaping hole to the outside world there any more.

Overall, we’re really happy with out it turned out. Kat plans to add some varnish on the new wood as well, so that should protect it from the elements. As long as we can get that part finished before it gets too cold.

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New trailer door

I’m falling behind on my posts. There are several things to post about, but I’m going to start with the most recent.

We now have a new trailer door, and it is very exciting. Let us start at the beginning, shall we?

Having lived in our trailer now for three years, we have a pretty good idea of what its strengths and weaknesses are. Having ripped out everything from the interior and had it spray foamed has made a HUGE difference in getting through winter. However, there was always that really cold draft coming in from around the door. It never sealed perfectly. So we decided to replace it.

As you can imagine, a trailer door isn’t like your standard house door, it’s quite a bit narrower. So if you’re going to replace the door with something more house-like, it’s going to be an interesting task.

Here is a picture of the original door.

For this project, we decided to call a friend for some help. His name happens to be David as well and he is a professional framer. He has also done the Earthship Academy and is working on creating an Earthship community. I grabbed this picture of him just after we removed the old door.

Here you can see the old door leaning up against the picnic table.

And what kind of door did we replace it with? Well, you be the judge.

That is a solid western cedar wood door with a stained glass window. The stained glass part is sandwiched between two plates of tempered safety glass to protect the delicate parts. I found it on kijiji and it was a steal at $200. I’m sure the window alone is worth more than that.

Anyway, while David was working on the framing, I had the interesting task of trying to figure out how to install the hinges. These are no ordinary hinges. They are made by a company called Soss and they pocket inside the door frame. Yeah, that’s right. When all is said and done, you won’t see the hinges at all, from either side of the door, when the door is closed. Here is a picture of them after I managed to get them in the door.

I bought mine from Lee Valley Tools and I have to warn you, these things are not cheep. The new door we have is pretty heavy, so we bought four of the biggest ones they had. That cost us almost as much as the door did.

Here is a close-up of the hinge.

They were expensive, but they are really sexy, and with our door swinging outwards instead of inwards like a standard house door, this will give us some extra security as no one will be able to tamper with the hinges to get inside the trailer.

Meanwhile, David built this awesome frame for it around the hole for the original door.

The key to the framing working on the side of the trailer is how we attached it. If you look closely on the left side of that picture, you can see two bolts coming out that darker piece of wood against the door hole. Those go through a similar piece of wood on the inside and the bolts go through an aluminum tubing stud. So the wood is sandwiching the trailer walls on both sides. It’s about as secure as we can make it.

In addition to the new door frame, we also built new steps to go with it. Here is David working on that.

After futzing with the hinges for some time and getting everything prepped, we were finally ready to put the door on its new home.

It worked out rather well, don’t you think.

That picture was taken just after 19:00, so it was getting late by that point, but we had to finish it otherwise we would have to sleep with a big hole in the wall. Not good if you have indoor cats who don’t go outside. Also, we hadn’t had any dinner by that point either so hunger was weighing on us.

We packed up our things and decided that the door knob would have to wait until the next day.

So, this morning after breakfast, that is what we did. Installing door knob hardware is really finicky and I can truly say that I am no expert at it. However, we do have something functional.

Here is picture from the inside.

It ended up turning out even better than we had imagined so we’re pretty happy. David was an amazing help and the reason why we were able to finish the main part in just one day. A big thanks goes to him. If we had been working on that ourselves, it would have been a week or more, I’m sure.

There are still some fiddly bits we need to take care of, like adding weather stripping around the door, filling in all of the cracks and insulating around the outside. We’ll get to that sooner rather than later as the nights here have been pretty chilly. We’ve already had hard frost three times.

This isn’t the only project we have going on so I should have more posts coming up soon to cover those.

Finishing the kitchen countertop

Previously, here on Sailing the Earth, I was telling you about our adventures with epoxy. It is fascinating stuff, if a bit temperamental.

Well, things have progressed and I can now share with you how it all turned out.

After completing the third and final coat of epoxy, the counter was ready to be installed. It wasn’t super perfect, but it was quite a bit improved from the first coat. There are still two bugs embedded in it that I couldn’t dig out, so they will have to stay in there… forever. Maybe someone will clone bugs from their DNA in a 1000 years.

I let the third coat cure for several days and then while Kat was at work on Sunday (yesterday, July 23rd) I proceeded to install it. First I had to prep the surface. This meant clearing off all of the clutter that was on the base, cleaning it and then applying a generous amount of glue.

Looks a lot like a breakfast pastry, doesn’t it? With the base all prepped, all there was to do was put the newly finished counter into place. I clamped it and screwed it down from underneath. That counter is not going anywhere.

Sorry for that blurry picture, but you can probably see just how shiny the counter is. Here is a close up.

Unfortunately, I discovered the hard way that it scratches pretty easily, or at least the brand that we used for this project. You can see the scratches I put in it in the bottom-left corner of the above picture. I didn’t have a way to clamp the counter down at the back so I used a 20L (5 gallon) jug of water to weigh it down. In positioning it on the counter, I twisted it a bit and the bottom of the jug is knurled plastic, so it left those marks you see above.

Fortunately, this is the trailer and not the house, so learning these things ahead of time is a useful experience.

With the counter locked down, it was time to install the sink.

Unfortunately, I miscalculated just how many pieces I would need to finish the plumbing of the sink drain and I wasn’t able to get it completed in one day. Kat was in town this morning so she stopped at the hardware store and picked up the missing pieces.

Here is a picture of the plumbing for the drain, immediately connected to the bottom of the sink.

I bought a P-trap that included the clean-out, just to make our lives easier if anything needed some maintenance later on. Frankly, I don’t know why they call it a P-trap. A U-bend or an S-trap would be better. I like S-trap actually because you could make it stand for stink-trap, as the whole point of that is to keep some water in the pipe to prevent smells from the sewer or septic from entering your home.

Anyway, that pipe that you see traveling downwards at a 45 degree angle joins up with all of this stuff at the bottom.

I added a clean-out plug, for future maintenance, though it was a bit overkill. There is another one on just the other side of the wall on the right.

The part with the T and the pipe heading out the wall through the blue insulation is the new plumbing vent I put in. The old one had been in the wall inside the small room where the toilet had been, but we removed all of that, so I needed to put the vent back in somewhere. This was a pretty convenient spot, right next to the wall. I just put a 45 degree connector on the T-junction and ran the pipe out the wall, upwards at an angle. There is another 45 just outside the wall and the pipe then runs straight up the wall of the trailer.

After it was all glued together and all of the threaded bits had their sealing tape applied, it was time to try it out.

Yay! No leaks. Now we don’t need to go outside to dump our dish water. In fact, we might even be able to do the dishes in the sink. Woah! Not sure we’re ready for that kind of excitement. It’s been a good two years since we could do our own dishes in a sink.

On a side note, we discovered something interesting about ABS glue and rigid insulation: the former will melt and dissolve the latter. Here you can see the hole underneath the pipe where the glue squished out and dropped onto the insulation.

Something to be aware of if you’re ever gluing ABS pipe near rigid foam insulation.

Despite the small flaws (and scratches… grrr) in the counter-top, this project turned out pretty well. Now if only we can complete the next project in a more timely fashion.

Kitchen Countertop Adventures

So I had left off previously talking about the new counter-top we were working on for the trailer. I can’t say that it is all complete, but we have made some progress.

We decided to put an epoxy finish over the wood to give it a nice shiny, protective coating. This has turned out to be a little tricky. I am, however, getting ahead of myself.

We started off with the prep work. I took the counter out to our truck shelter which is acting as our work shop. Out there, Kat applied the stain and varnish to it.

Once that was done, I propped it up to it was all as level as I could get it. I taped all of the edges to prevent spill-over and I also prepared a sheet to cover it after we finished the pour.

If you’re wondering what the big log in the middle is for, that’s to hold up the cover sheet so it doesn’t touch the counter.

So, let the pouring begin!

We learned quite a few things doing this. First, epoxy likes it to be warm. The warmer, the quicker it will cure. Secondly, humidity is bad. This will encourage bubbles in your epoxy and that’s not a good thing.

Kat and I did this together because the epoxy starts to setup pretty quickly after you mix it. We managed to complete the pouring in short order. Fortunately, the counter-top isn’t that big.

Once the pour was completed, I spent some time trying to get rid of some of the bubbles, but that didn’t go so well. According to the instructions, gently exhaling on them should make them burst as it supposedly reacts with the CO2 from your breath. Well, I did a lot of blowing and the bubbles didn’t pop at all.

I also couldn’t spend forever working on this because it was starting to set, and also bugs kept falling in it. We did fish some big ones out and eventually I just covered it.

I used an old shower curtain for the cover, which worked really well. After that we let it sit for a long time, over a week.

When we finally went in to look at it, it was all nice and shiny, but there were a few bugs sticking out of it and lots of bubbles. Also, the tape didn’t work quite as well as we had hoped and there were a lot of drips down the sides that we had to shave off.

Here you can see Kat in her bug hat removing the tape.

I took some time and dug out the bugs I could find, as well as many of the bubbles. Then I did a filler coat on top of that. It has since dried, but I plan to do one more final thin coat as that last one came out a bit rough.

I did some searching online and found one website that said the most ideal setup for doing epoxy is in a vacuum. Not having a vacuum chamber readily available, we went with what we had. Hopefully, after this third coat, it will look nice. I’ll let you know how it goes after we get that done.