Things really feel like they are moving along now. We are about half way through painting, All the valances are recovered and awaiting install, and our inaugural bus camp event is only 15 days away.
Going back a few weeks, one of the first decisions we made, if you remember, was to replace the ugly and worn carpet. Upon removal we found leaks and mold. I repaired the leaks and treated the floor with Wesley’s bleach white to kill the surface mold. This really helped the musty smell.
If you ever do get a chance to pull some RV carpet you will have a Staple o rama event of your own. They must pay these people based on the number of staples used.
We had already decided on which carpet we wanted so when we made the call that we were ready it was a little disappointing to hear we were going to have to wait three more weeks. We asked to be penciled in if there was a cancellation and bam they called a couple of days later.
I was very nervous about using Carpet Barn even though a builder I know highly recommended them. Rv’s are so much different than residential work. The man they sent has a lot of experience in boats and rv’s so that help ease some of the anxiety. After talking to him it seemed like he had a clue so I left him to do his work.
I am so pleased with the job Rick did. He paid so much attention to detail it is amazing. I am now a Carpet Barn customer for life.
Next will be installing the new loveseat, mounting the pilot and co pilot seats, installing the new fireplace, installing the new valances and shades, and bringing the eurocliner back in. The list never seems to get shorter lol. Jeez, I forgot about finishing the painting…..
If you recall in the process of renovation the refrigerator quit working. I had the infamous No Cold, Never Cold, Norcold. Rv absorption refrigerators are designed to be used with very little electric needs. In turn they are at best a compromise of technology. Making heat to make cold does not make sense in terms of efficiency and any little thing that is off will create warm temps. There is also the very real risk of a fire when things go really wrong. Since my unit was 15 years old I wasn’t going to repair it. New models of the same thing cost $4000.00. The only advantage to a new marginally performing style fridge is the fact it would fit the same space with no modifications.
After the successful replacement of the seals and toppers I was feeling pretty good so I started looking into residential style replacements. The Samsung RF18 french door model is the unit of choice but it gets terrible reviews. I looked more and found that GE makes a french door model GWE19J that has the same dimensions and includes an icemaker and an internal water dispenser. It is considerably more expensive but gets much better reviews. Dana happened upon one at a local open box/overstock store for the same price as the Samsung so I ordered it.
Removal of the old Norcold was pretty straight forward. Taking the shelves out and door off allowed for easy removal. Once out I took the cooling unit off the back so it would fit out of the door. The remaining cold box was very light and getting it out was pretty easy with Dana’s help.
The new fridge is the same width and depth as the old but is taller. I had to remove the drawers that were under it.
Relocating various wiring harnesses, moving furnace blower over a little, relocating the electrical outlet, and plugging the vents and access holes were fairly straight forward. I also removed the old gas line. There was evidence it had a tiny leak for a long time that had gone unnoticed so I am convinced the old fridge failed so I would find this. Thanks Karma 🙂 I needed to build a platform for the new one to sit on and it needed to be supported.
I was not going to have access to the top to keep it from tipping so I made some braces to prevent it. They weren’t going to be attached to the fridge so the measurements were crucial.
I also had to work through a small 3″ wide space that was 7″ to the floor to secure the rear. I attached a piece of angle iron to the fridge frame. I install a mounting block on the platform. It had to slide right over the top of the block so again measurements were critical.
There was no way to bolt down the front so I made some blocks to keep it from sliding out of the hole. The left to right movement was a moot issue because of the tight side to side clearance.
The new fridge fit through the door easily (with my two strong children doing the lifting) after taking the doors and hinges off with just some minor damage to the coach dash pad (could have easily been prevented but I was tired at this point). We stuck it in the hole for the first time and the side clearance was so perfect a piece of paper wouldn’t fit in there. Sliding it back under the anti tipping blocks we stopped and put the doors back on. One good push to it to the back. I needed a couple of spacers back there to level it but was lucky to have some shim stock so no problem there. My front blocks required some minor modifications but worked as planned. Replacing the freeze door, replacing shelves, and hooking up the water line was all that was left. Everything lined up almost perfect and worked as planned.
The new refrigerator looks amazing and looks like a factory install. It is huge inside compared to what we are used to. 18 CuFt compared to the 12 CuFt that was in there and the 9 CuFt that we use in the fifth wheel. Before we take it on the road I will have to make some door blocks and get some shelf bars to keep stuff from moving around. Heck we can store all our regular items in just the doors lol. If you are ever thinking of doing this it is a difficulty level 4 out of 5 but the end result is amazing. Next up is the carpet install. It is the only thing I am paying to have done. Stay tuned …….
We knew going in that we would have to replace the ugly carpet and paint the drab wallpaper. I’m sure back in the day it was nice but not so much anymore. What I didn’t realize is they put carpet EVERYWHERE. It is under everything which requires removal or cutting the carpet back on all the cabinets and tables. It is under the dash and the seats, on the walls from 18″ down, inside every cabinet, All around every crevice and cover. If they didn’t use a million staples they didn’t use any. They also came up with this glue that NASA would be proud of. I was pulling up chunks of OSB with the carpet. I did find a tool that made it a lot easier. It took a week but we got all the carpet out. It was at this point we found the dreaded mold and signs of water intrusion.
After searching out where the water leaks were coming from I determined all the slide seals needed to be replaced and the roof resealed. Resealing the roof was pretty routine. I used brush on clear Proflex and in a couple of hours it was done. 2 leaks were fixed 4 to go. I also determined the the seal under the kitchen slide was totally destroyed. With that seal wide open all the rain from the right front tire would go directly on the floor when driving down the road. replacing that seal and engineering a makeshift wheel well liner took care of leak number 3. In addition it required patching in a new piece of subfloor but it was small and fairly easy.
Whoever had the bus before us left it outside and pulled in buckets full of debris when they closed the slides, tearing up the wiper seals. This was a direct result of the damaged slide toppers and with any routine inspection and maintenance could have been easily prevented. Changing the slide toppers is easy and relatively inexpensive compared to the damage water intrusion can cause and the labor required to replace the slideout seals. If the inner seals had been damaged it would have required removal of the slides. Imagine what that would cost. Fortunately that was not the case. After being quoted $6000 ($1000 per slide for the seals and $500 for the toppers) I decided to tackle it myself. After tons of research and ordering a few sample pieces I located the materials I needed to do the repairs including the toppers for $1100.00.
While I was waiting on parts we decided to begin the painting process and prep for the fireplace install. I decided to go with a primer/paint all in one and to just paint over the wallpaper because of the way it was adhered to the wallboard. I also had to remove a cabinet to install the fireplace. Upon removal I discovered I would also have to relocate a lightswitch and a 120v outlet. My handy oscillating cutter made quick work of this. so far in prepping for the paint I have gone through 3 rolls of painters tape, lol so many windows. The color we chose is a great improvement and currently have the front half of the bus done.
I had to build an extension for the platform on the slide so our new loveseat would fit. To make it more complicated it had to be removable so carpet could be put in under it. Not easy but turned out well.
I got into a routine. Get up early Saturday morning and start the genny and a/c units, scrape and replace slideout seals until I think I’m gonna die from the heat, then work inside taping and painting. It took 5 weekends but I finally got it done. Putting the toppers on by myself was quite a challenge but I got it done. Best part is all leaks are sealed and our new carpet can be scheduled to get installed Not so fast …. now the refrigerator is giving the dreaded noco error and is toast. 2 steps forward and on step back. This won’t delay the carpet install but is another unexpected financial hit. I will be swapping it out with a residential in a future edition.
I am terrible about posting things as I go along so the next several will be playing catch-up. To be honest until recently I have not felt motivated because of all the issues I have run into. I think I have turned a corner on progress though so lets catch up ….
We have been working on the bus since March. I work on the weekends in the morning before it gets hot. The first thing that must be done is to change the 16 year old rear tires and get the drive train serviced. I asked about the anti freeze the previous owner put in and all he could say was “I got it at O’reilly’s”, wrong answer. I knew immediately that I had to get the oil changed and radiator flushed so it would have the proper type of fluids in everything and driving on 16 year old tires was nerve wracking at best.
I work at a recycling center and buy tires for our OTR trucks regularly. Those tires are chinese imports that run around $220 dollars each. They work fine for that industry but I wouldn’t put them on the bus. Checking on Michelin, which has always been my preferred personal brand, thye were going to cost $700 each. Wow! I settled on Toyo M144’s they got great reviews and came in at $400.00 each. When they arrived I checked the date codes and my new tires were 3 years old. Nope, called the warehouse and told them that ain’t happening. They ordered 4 more straight from the factory and I got 4 tires that were only three months old. My company tire repair service mounted them and we were ready to head to the truck shop.
Off to the shop I went. I had them resolve a check engine light, change the oil, flush and fill the radiator, and rebuild one leaking hydraulic jack. These are all things that would just be too difficult to do at home. $1500 and a few days later it was good to go. I may attempt my own oil change next time but getting under the bus is quite the challenge. After the service we went for a three hour drive and all was well with the drivetrain. Everything performed great and we averaged 8.5 MPG over mixed terrain and primarily back roads. It will do better on the interstate I’m sure. While getting the service I had my new parking pad installed.
After arriving at the house I back onto my new parking pad for the first time and everything worked out perfect. So far We are feeling great about our purchase….
Well I haven’t posted anything in a while so this will be a long one. We are still using the fifth wheel, more about that later, and have been camping. We got booted from our first attempt at a 30 day stay because of massive flooding of the Arkansas river and had to go back home. To make matters worse all our local reservations have been cancelled until October because the two local Corps campgrounds we stay at were basically destroyed. This has opened my eyes a little to the thought of living full time in the rv in a fixed location. Had we not had a house to return to it would have been difficult to find a place to stay that is within an hour drive of my work.
We did have a good vacation in Nashville though. We stayed at Safe Harbor RV Resort and it was one of the nicest places we have ever stayed. Great park with nice amenities, short drive to downtown, and lots of nearby restaurants. Some of the sites are small so look at the low numbered A section. The park is located on J Percy Priest Reservoir just SE of downtown. Our week long stay was very relaxing, so much so I forgot how to read a calendar and thought we had one more day before we were supposed to leave. We were an hour out of town visiting an old friend when we got the “why are you still here” phone call. The park host was very forgiving. When we got back it only took me 30 minutes to pack out and hook up. I offered to pay for the new peoples first night stay for having to wait on us but she wouldn’t let me ( She didn’t charge them either).
Now you probably want to know why the fifth wheel. Our DP purchase has turned out to be a lot more work than I anticipated. I knew of several issues that needed to be addressed like tires, roof reseal, engine service, replace house batteries, and the need to build a parking pad at the house. I had budgeted $10,000 to make the needed repairs. What I didn’t know was that there were a multitude of unknown problems that only appeared when you tried to fix something simple. This would be the start of an emotional roller coaster ride where one minute I am ready to tackle the issues and look forward to getting to use the bus to the next where I feel like I was hit in the head with a brick with no hope of survival.
To begin I replaced the aged out rear tires ( dated 2003) with 4 new Toyo’s. The cost was $400.00 each plus $150.00 to mount. In the process of doing that I found one of the leveling jacks leaking badly and on the way home the check engine light came on. I have a friend that runs a truck shop so I went directly there. I had him repair the sensor, remove and rebuild the jack, service the engine, and flush the radiator. Cost $1500 but at least he didn’t charge me for the fence I backed over in his parking lot. I also noticed the dash gauges for oil pressure and water temp aren’t working but since they work on the Aladdin electronic monitoring system I decide to wait on repairing that till later.
When we got home and started looking things over we noticed most of the windows are fogged up between the panes. I hadn’t seen it before somehow. I got an estimate on those from a local place and it will run between 3000 and 5000 dollars to get them replaced with either single pane laminated glass or repair the double pane glass. This won’t keep us from using it but will eventually have to be taken care of.
The next thing we decided was to replace the carpet. First step is to pull the old carpet out. They put this crap everywhere ! It was inside cabinets, on the walls, and under the cabinets. This required removing about 3 times as many things as I had planned on. To make it worse they not only used 1.5 million staples but some type of NASA designed industrial glue. I did a little research and ended up buying an oscillating cutter. Using that with a scraper blade on it was a lifesaver. I don’t know how I would have gotten the carpet out without it. The new carpet installed is quoted at $2200.00 but should be cheaper since we did the removal ourselves.
The discovery that was made upon removal of the carpet was moldy wet floor and many old leaks. You could not tell it had been leaking with the carpet in place and new carpet can not be installed until the leaks have been stopped, another unexpected surprise. I had to replace a couple of small pieces of sub floor and begin searching for where the water was coming from. As it turns out all the wiper seals on the slides need to be replaced. I knew the roof needed to be resealed so I started there. While resealing the roof I found the slide toppers were all trash and were funneling the rain water into the damaged wiper seals. They looked fine from the ground but the back center of every one was shredded. To make it worse whoever had it 2 owners ago left it outside and put the slides in while they were covered with leaves and debris. This caused gaps in the inner seals that let water come in freely. At this point pretty much all I could see was a giant vacuum in my bank account sucking me dry. I called a couple of RV places and estimates were roughly a grand per slide to replace the seals and another 500 dollars for each slide topper. One even said that to replace the inner seals the slides may have to come out (they would) which would make the cost higher. I was completely ready to cut my losses and move on. After a little liquid relaxation and a small hangover I again got out the research tools and scoured the internet. I was able to learn how to do the toppers and order the fabric, replace the seals and order the correct similar replacement, and learned a couple of tricks for removing the old ones. Currently I have two of the slides resealed and two of the toppers repaired and all the seals and fabric to do the other two. It takes me about 8 hours labor to completely do each slide but the cost was only $1100 for all the materials. I did not have to do anything to the inner seals. After cleaning out all the debris they were fine. I am just waiting for the next rainstorm to see how effective the repairs are on that side.
Because it is now summertime, I am limited to working outside the rv in the morning hours. My routine is start the generator and the a/c’s, work outside till I can’t stand it, then go inside. On the interior I have replaced all the halogen lights with LED’s and am in the process of painting. We also decided we wanted new furniture. The questions to be answered are matching or complementary colors, will it fit in the space, and will it fit through the door. After carefully measuring, shopping, measuring again and finally finding what we wanted that met the above criteria we ordered a power reclining love seat ($1200). I began the removal process of the jackknife sofa and got it out after completely taking it apart. Once removed I was greeted with the surprise of a 24″ deep platform that the sofa was built on. The love seat would require 39″ to support it. Not only was I going to have to build a platform that would support our weight but it had to move in and out with the slide and it needed to be removable to aid in the carpet installation. I was able to bolt in a couple of pieces of angle iron and used 2×6’s between them to create the platform. To help support the weight I put furniture movers on the bottom side to protect the carpet. On the other side we wanted an electric fireplace ($200.00) to go with the eurocliner and ottoman we already had. To accomplish this I had to remove a table and cabinet. After taking it out I also had to relocate an outlet and light switch. All in all not to bad right, wrong. In the midst of this the generator is now on the fritz and randomly shuts down and the refrigerator has stopped working.
There are many little things I had to patch and repair along the way and many more left to discover. I hope there is nothing else major. It is very hard to keep my eye on the ball when it keeps getting further away instead of closer but I am learning to stay focused on the project at hand then just move to the next one. At this point everything I am doing has to be done no matter whether we keep it or sell it because it is unmarketable the way it is. I think from a financial standpoint I will still be at least even( value vs investment) and when we are done everything will be working properly. I have saved thousands of dollars in labor costs by doing everything myself. So far the budget is looking a little unrealistic. To date I have spent about $9000 of my $10,000 budget. $2000 of that was for the gravel parking pad and electrical pedestal and another $2000 for the towbar and brake setup for the car which I installed myself. I still have to buy carpet, fix or replace the fridge, service the Aqua hot unit, service the generator and or repair it, and replace the television. I know I will be over budget the question is by how much. The good thing is by spreading it out over time I can keep everything paid for as I go instead of dipping into savings like I had planned to. The downside is I will not have the rv paid off as quickly as I had planned. I am about 40% done with the renovation and will just keep on keeping on. Hopefully it will be complete in time for our next vacation at the end of October. Its ironic that when I posted on the IRV2 forum about our purchase someone responded that I should plan on 20-30 thousand dollars to get it up to speed. At the time I thought they were being facetious, turns out they were probably spot on.
Well after the disappointing RV show we Started casually looking around and found a friend of a friend that knew a guy ….. Our full time plans are now possibly delayed while we pay down some additional debt that we hadn’t planned on. We got a really good price and although it needs a few things I believe we will end up with a low mileage Diesel pusher in great condition for under 50k. This is a 2004 Beaver Monterrey Laguna and it is a dream to drive. So much easier than dragging a 38′ fifth wheel around and setup is so easy. We haven’t moved in yet and probably won’t camp in it till June. I will be replacing the carpet and a couple of window shades. Adding a safety device to the Norcold fridge, Installing new TV’s, and another round of new furniture. The biggest expense will be replacing the dual pane windows with single pane laminated glass because they are beginning to fog up. All the cabinets are solid cherry wood and are in excellent shape. New slide topper fabric is in order but all the major components work perfectly. The factory DVD was still in the DVD player lol.
I am beginning to think I am addicted to renovation projects. Really though this is where we were going in the long term but fate decided it was time to do it now.
Don’t really have much to post as the weather has not been good for camping. Last night it was 20 degrees. I didn’t want to winterize so I turned on the propane heater and left it set to 55. I checked this Am and the basement was a toasty 45 degrees so I am not worried about anything freezing. The down side is we used a 1/2 of a 30lb tank of propane in one night. I don’t have enough power on that circuit at home to use the electric heaters out there.
We did go to the RV Show again this year and it was a little dissappointing. At each of the vendors, they seem to carry one top of the line model then everything else caters to the newbies. I will say every year we go we seem to make some changes. Well this year we are making a big one. I will say Our final stay in our 5’er will probably be the last two weeks in March. Stay tuned…….
In anticipation of living in our RV full time there were some obvious updates that needed to be made. We had the wonderfully comfortable and beautiful when new Thomas Payne furniture. When we bought the unit the couch had a couple of suspicious spots on it so we bought a cover. One day after a bike ride I came in and sat on the recliner and fell asleep. When I got up there was a circle of missing leather behind my head. It went quickly down hill after that. We decided it was time to either save $2000.00 and trade in or replace the furniture. After looking at many different layouts, including Class A’s, we couldn’t find anything that met our needs like the current unit does. The fact it is paid for was also a factor but not the deciding one. After much research we went with the Rec Pro replacements. Fabric samples confirmed it is not bonded leather but is similar to “pleather”. I ordered it and it showed up in three days.
Unboxing and installing was easy and it was perfect. Removing the old furniture was a challenge with fractions of inches to spare. We had to dissassemble the couch into 4 pieces to get it out. The replacements were designed to take the backs off and was simple to install.
Time will tell but I am very happy with this furniture. It feels sturdy and the company was very easy to deal with. We also decided that since we hated the dining chair and table we would replace those also. More storage is always better so we went with ottomans instead of chairs.
That table is a moisture magnet. I wanted something we could put our paper plates on with hot food and no worry about fogging. I thought about stone but its too heavy. I considered butcher block counter top material but its too narrow. I found a place that makes restaurant tables from reclaimed wood. They had the perfect table top , the exact right size, and already finished with polyurethane. Best part is it was only $125.00 ! I entered the order and bam…. $350.00 for shipping, Um no. Rather than give up in disgust I called them and their website has a flaw in that it only calculates LTL shipping rates. They agreed it would go Fedx ground and the total bill was $200.00. I mounted it to the existing pedestal and it was perfect as expected.
We are all updated and ready to begin the next few months of half time living. From March through August we will be in the rv 50% of the time with a full 30 day stay in May. In june we are going straight from a week of vacation camping in Nashville to 2 weeks back locally without visiting the S&B. So far we are on track to be full time by next spring. I will still be working but saving tons of money till retirement time. Stay tuned !
I am finally coming down to our most recent updates. When we had our TT the brakes worked perfectly. You had to keep the controller turned down to keep from sliding the tires. On the fifth wheel this was not the case. I had the brakes inspected, adjusted, and voltage tested on three separate occasions. Nothing I did would make the brakes do anything but pretend to work. Don’t get me wrong the truck braked fine under normal circumstances so it wasn’t unsafe just unacceptable. The deciding factor was when we were travelling down a 4 lane bypass at 65 mph came around a bend and there was a stoplight turning yellow. I really wanted to stop but there just wasn’t room. Fortunately, everyone was paying attention and we rolled through without incident.
I immediately began my search for something better. Research sent me to Kodiak Disc Brakes. I assembled all the items necessary from etrailer.com ( who is awesome btw) and had a friend of ours that owns a truck shop install them. The brake setup with the pump cost around 1800.00 and the installation was 1200.00. What I didn’t expect was for it not to work. Having knowledgeable friends do things is awesome as long as they are as smart as you give them credit for. I had studied and knew that the setup should work with my factory brake controller , not always the case. The mechanical portion of the installation was flawless but electrical was completely wrong. I yanked out everything they did and rewired it all myself. From that point forward they are amazing. It was expensive but this was by far the best upgrade I have ever done. Far cheaper than having even a small accident, it was well worth the money. From a safety standpoint I believe all large RV’s should come with disc brakes. I don’t have any pictures of the installation since I didn’t do it so I can’t share those but would be happy to answer any questions anyone may have about upgrading theirs.
I promise we are getting close to being caught up and these pesky daily posts will slow down quite a bit. Today’s post covers another must have modification, Max Air vent covers and remote controlled ventilation fan.
There are equivalent fans in other brands like Fantastic Fan but after researching many reviews and pricing options I chose the Max Air fan. It only takes one time of leaving the roof vent open during a rain event to consider the vent covers so If i was crawling up there with tools anyway I figured I might as well do both. The vent cover was so easy. It basically bolts right over your existing vent. It did require drilling 4 holes to mount the brackets but not in the roof. the hole are in a place where even if you mess it up they are not really exposed to water. The installation took only a few minutes and I believe pretty much anyone that can climb the ladder could do it.
While I was there I covered the seams with Eternabond tape. I plan on doing every seam on the roof eventually.
The fan installation was the scary part. If opening up a giant hole in the roof of your RV isn’t intimidating I don’t know what would be. Removal of the old fan was pretty straight forward. A billion screws and disconnect a couple of wires and done.
The most time consuming part was cleaning off all the old sealant. I used mineral spirits sparingly. Mineral spirits will damage your roof if left on too long. I kept the container inside that bucket to prevent spills. pour a little on the rag and rub it into the sealant. Using a putty knife ( plastic is safer) gently scrape and peel the old sealant off. Do not get in a hurry because you can cause the roof membrane to pull away from the underlayment. gently rolling stubborn areas with your fingers seems to work on those tough spots but be wary of blisters. It took about an hour to get all the old sealant off. Installing the flange, wiring it to the existing wires, and self leveling sealant to close it all up was a snap.
I did go back after the sealant had cured and put the Eternabond down over it. The fan lives up to it’s reviews. It pulls plenty of air in to keep us cool in the shade up to 80 degrees. It is relatively quiet but at high speed you can hear it running from anywhere in the RV. Down side don’t run it while flushing the toilet because you will pull fumes from the black tank. I also don’t run it for too long with the bathroom door closed for the same reason. The remote is the only way to go on these. It also has a thermostat to automatically turn it on and off but I have never needed the option. Only a couple more to catch us up and I will start posting about actually camping 🙂