So Much Mulch!

A lot has happened (it’s been what, a month?). I started by pulling out the front window. Oh my goodness! The guy who had repaired it had completely covered it and sealed it in with some kind of weatherproofing goo, the removal of which (with a chisel) took far too long, but was my only option as the PVC cladding he’d used to blank the inside of the window was far too well attached for me to be able to access the window from that side. The window cracked as I pulled it off. I’m not sure if it was broken originally or whether my efforts caused it, but the window pane is now pretty much useless.

Front view of the caravan. The window was broken into and the previous owner sealed it up. With what, I'm not quite sure, but there may even be a usable window under there.
Front view of the caravan. The window was broken into and the previous owner sealed it up. With what, I’m not quite sure, but there may even be a usable window under there.

Under the window pane, there was a lot of what looked like loft insulation. It was soggy, the rot had got into it and the best thing for it was to haul it all out and shove it in bin liners. Then came the worse bit. There was no window frame, just a rotten plank crudely screwed into place, and a big gap down into the gas cupboard. Above the window, another plank, and some beams between the two holding the PVC in. A few kicks and a brief attack with a saw solved that problem.

Window Perspex painted grey leaning against front of caravan. Window hole has wood and plastic cladding visible inside.
Window Perspex painted grey leaning against front of caravan. Window hole has wood and plastic cladding visible inside.
Front window of caravan from inside. The frame is missing and there is a pile of broken and rotten wood under the window. A sheet of plastic is taped over the hole.
Front window of caravan from inside. The frame is missing and there is a pile of broken and rotten wood under the window. A sheet of plastic is taped over the hole.

Yuk, right? Here’s the kicker – there’s pretty much no chance of me getting a replacement window in there that’s the same as the one I took out. Turns out I bought a nearly-extinct model of caravan. I have a plan, though. I’m going to rebuild the frame (since there isn’t one in place right now) to accommodate a few smaller windows from more common models of caravan. This should make the window parts easier to get as they’ll be smaller and therefore easier to post, and I’ll have my choice of sizes as long as they’ll fit in the hole. I plan to make the frame out of wood on the inside, and glass fibre (which Kitty taught me to work with) on the outside. It may not look pretty, but it’ll be functional and there won’t be a huge hole in the front of my house.

I’m holding off on dealing with the windows until I can get the rest of the frame fixed. It’s pretty much made of mulch at the moment, and there’s no good buying expensive caravan windows if the frame isn’t reparable. So off I went on an excavation through the front left panel. First I took out the storage bench, then started pulling off the plywood wall, polystyrene insulation and what was left of the supporting frame. Digging down, I found the bottom of the wall.

I had another “Oh my goodness why did they do it like that!?” moment. Rather than standing the walls on the floor (which seems to be made out of treated wood, as it’s one of the few bits of the caravan that hasn’t started to rot), they’ve screwed the walls to the sides of the floor, leaving the bottom part of the frame exposed to the elements. Yup, water coming in both top and bottom has left the walls in such a state that most of the frame could be removed with a spoon.

Vinyl floor covered in mulch, a narrow hole is visible between the floor and the polystyrene wall
Vinyl floor covered in mulch, a narrow hole is visible between the floor and the polystyrene wall

After some scraping, I realised that there were screws coming in from outside. I traced them to the rail that holds the caravan’s skirt. It turned out that the screws had rusted, and the only thing holding the rail on was double-sided sticky foam. Off came the rail.

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Front left, bottom edge of the caravan with the rail removed. Rusty screw holes can be seen along the length.

The piece of wood that formed the bottom of the wall frame continued past the door and up to the wheel arch. At first, I thought I might be able to remove the door to access the space underneath, but I found screws holding it in. They were pushed through the door frame, underneath a bead of sealant. After reading up on a bit of caravan renovation information, I discovered that this sealant was supposed to be removed and replaced every ten years. Ten years overdue then. I stripped it out for better access to the screws, which, true to the theme in the rest of the caravan, were rusted to the point of uselessness and hard to remove. In the end, I cleared the rotten wood using a chisel and a lot of crawling around under the caravan, where I discovered that the frame was screwed and glued to a piece of aluminium angle which was stuck to the bottom of the outer skin with what appeared to be double-sided sticky tape. I bent the angle so badly getting the wood out that I decided to discard it, and purchased a new piece.

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Front of a B&Q DIY superstore with B&Q’s slogan “You can do it”

I needed to hear this, really. After all the setbacks the caravan had dealt me so far, I really needed a vote of confidence, even if it came stuck to the front window of a DIY store. I picked up my angle bar, and some expanded polystyrene insulation to replace what I had to carve away to get to the frame. The trip wasn’t entirely uneventful, but that’s a story for another day. I finished up clearing the space for the new frame piece with a combination of a Dremel tool and a hacksaw to remove the stubborn screws that couldn’t be twisted out with pliers, then started preparing the new frame.

First, I cut the wood to length and checked that it would fit in the gap. I would’ve been nervous flexing the skin and the door frame out that far hand I not already had my whole arm in the gap whilst removing the rotten frame. Then I glued the aluminium angle to the wood using Gorilla Glue (and as many clamps as I could find to stop the metal from pinging away while the glue was drying. A few bits of scrap paper stop the glue from oozing through the holes in the angle and sticking the clamps to the wood.

Wood for the lower edge of the frame, cut to length and held in a vise. Aluminium angle is visible in the background.
Wood for the lower edge of the frame, cut to length and held in a vise. Aluminium angle is visible in the background.

 

Wood for the lower edge of the frame, with a line of Gorilla Glue along the edge.
Wood for the lower edge of the frame, with a line of Gorilla Glue along the edge.

 

Angle bar secured to the wood with clamps to hold it still while the glue dries.
Angle bar secured to the wood with clamps to hold it still while the glue dries.

The piece went into the space with no trouble, but I found I had no replacement screws to secure it to the floor and to the outer skin. A trip to the shops is in order to get more screws, and some adhesive foam to stick the skirt rail back on.

This session’s expenditure: £1.90 for the angle. Gorilla glue was a gift from Kitty.

Shout outs: Kitty for lending me his workshop, tools, and for the glue. Caffeinated Otter for his help with stubborn screws and mulch removal. Peggy for her help getting a bolt undone.

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