Last spring we bought a 15 foot 1977 Vanguard travel trailer from a friend at a good price. I knew that it had some water damage when I bought it … that’s the reason it was so cheap. I figured, HEY, how hard could it be to repair water damage in a small travel trailer? It can’t be that much work … right? …
Wrong! … The first lesson I learned was that some visual water damage inside a trailer, means there’s a lot of hidden water damage.
We started by removing the windows and the exterior aluminum siding, so that we could get to the water damaged areas, cut them out and replace them. Well, the more siding we removed, the more damage we found. In case you’re wondering, the aluminum siding is installed using staples … a lot of narrow crown staples, all at least an inch long. This makes removing the siding a bit of a chore to say the least. You basically have to start at one end of the siding and carefully working under it with a pry bar, lift the siding with the staples attached away from the frame boards.
We kept removing the siding until we didn’t see any more water damage. At the end, we had removed the aluminum siding from the back and front of the travel trailer completely and even some from the sides. Unfortunately, we also saw some water damage on the roof … so off came the sheet metal roof. The roof comes off all in one piece and is attached to the trailer along its four sides with staples and the air vent in the center.
Once the siding is off, you can see that the trailers frame is made up of 1 ½” x 1 ½” boards and 1 ½” X ¾” boards. All of this is coved by old fashion fiberglass insulation. Even though fiberglass insulation doesn’t rot, it can get very nasty with age and exposure to water. We decided it best to remove and trash all of it we could reach.
After the insulation was removed, I finally came to realization that I won’t be able to just to cut-out the rotten areas and replace them. The water damage was so extensive that the front, back and roof frame panels would have to be completely removed and rebuilt.
The electrical wires all had to be removed before we could get to the panels. We made sure to take pictures of wires and wire connections before removing them.
We carefully detached each of the frame panel in sections. Removing them without destroying them gave us a template to work from when building the new frame panels. The panels are held together with screws and you guess it … more staples. A jigsaw with a long multipurpose blade came in handy here. We simply cut through all the staples and screws instead of trying to remove them.
At this point we also noticed some water damage on the back quarter of the floor and had to cut out some sections.
Finally, time to start rebuilding the travel trailer. We start with the back floor. Having cut-out all the water damaged areas, we replaced them with ¾ inch plywood. We not only secured the new plywood pieces with screws but also bolted them to the frame, so there was no chance of them lifting when driving on bumpy gravel roads.
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