Thursday, December 27, 2012

Only 3 Years from Receipt to Installation

Listening to my CD jukebox or news radio is important to me when I’m working with my hands.  To make sure nothing is missed, there are speakers in the kitchen, in the soffits near the patio, and in my shop which can all be set to provide a continuous trail of sound while I move around from one activity to another.

Three Christmases ago, I noticed a dead zone between the patio and my shop.  So Santa was asked for a set of 6X9 coaxial automobile speakers to install in the shop soffit closest to the area.  In what was poor planning on my part, I had the shop’s attic blown full of insulation before the speakers were installed.  Having no desire to tromp around in the insulation running wires, the speakers languished on the wood vise bench until a way of running the wiring without getting in the attic dawned on me the other day.

Cutting the holes in the soffit was supposed to be the easy part.  Thinking the soffit’s plywood seams all ended on rafter tails, after referencing off of a seam, I got halfway through the left-hand speaker’s hole before finding a rafter tail in my way.  Oops.  But after scabbing the wood back in & slathering the boo-boo with wood filler, the outcome of round two was matching oval holes.

Part of the plan had always been to cut a hole in the inside wall above the existing receiver connection to access the new wires.

If this was a home improvement show, the host would tell you to simply fish the wires from the oval holes to the square hole with an electrician’s wire snake.  Through the magic of TV wires would then appear where needed in mere seconds.

But this is real life, and it is not that easy when a soffit is involved.  Fortunately, in my case, there was a soffit vent located halfway between the speakers almost in front of the hole in the inside wall.  Removing it allowed for really easy wire access.

The next hurdle was how to fasten down the installed speakers & grilles.  Since the plan had always been for the speaker to rest on top of the soffit’s plywood, nuts & washers were hot-glued on before the speakers were set in place.

Since the garish grills that came with the speakers obviously provided no protection against mud daubers, Santa also brought me a more suitable set.

But in dry-fitting everything together, the hole patterns were found to not line up.  Fortunately, my toy box had a set of used, bland grills whose hole patterns were more accommodating.

Painting was the next step.  Normally I spray paint outside of the shop.  But a new water heater installed a day or two earlier came wrapped in a phenomenal amount of cardboard which made a great spray booth for the four items needing paint.

The speaker project itself turned out looking & sounding good.

The downside was the new paint covering up the boo-boo reminded me the shop’s original paint is now over 13 years old.  I think I know what one of next spring’s blog posts is going to be about.


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

When Life Gives You Lemons, Make a 40,000 Btu Burner

After purchasing a huge pressure fryer many years ago, I looked long & hard for a reasonably priced, natural gas standalone burner to hook up to the patio grill’s gas connection since none of the kitchen cooktop outlets were sized big enough to heat the pot effectively.  Surprisingly, there really wasn’t a selection available, and the fryer ended up being heated by an LPG-fueled turkey cooker burner from the home improvement store.

The Internet did have a few tales of people using the burner out of an old water heater for outdoor cooking but no one had posted any pictures.  Since the whole idea sounded like a great way to re-purpose parts I hoped to one day try it out.

I got my wish the week before Christmas when Kim called mid-morning to tell me our gas water heater was leaking water from the top.

With 17 years use on an eight-year warrantee I couldn’t complain.  But I did start complaining about how slow the 40 gallons of water was draining until compressed air was hooked up to the opened relief valve to speed the operation.

After that, though, it was smooth sailing.  I even had time to replace the leaky shut-off gate valve with a new quarter-turn ball valve before the Boyz got home from school.

The old water heater’s next stop was my shop where the burner assembly came out with very little effort.

The burner itself was in great shape as was the tank bottom which contacts flame.  Although it makes sense, it surprised me to find the metal was better than 3/16” thick.

A box of spare parts provided a gas hose from an old grill for the effort.  After borrowing the charcoal rack from the Weber grill, my latest cooking accessory was one step closer to being realized.

Sadly, though, it is not to be.  Or, at least, it was not to be for this particular pot.  The burner’s flame pattern is too diametrically dispersed – most of the heat swirled out along the sides of the post instead of heating the bottom and looked like it was going to toast the handles.

If the flame’s pattern been more suitable, a needle valve would have been procured for heat control.

The burner would probably be perfect for heating a cast iron wash tub from the days of old.  Hmm, I should probably hold onto the burner for a while; ya never know.

On the bright side, now the Internet has pictures of an old water heater burner being used to heat a pot.


Monday, November 12, 2012

TEN-X to the Rescue!

It has been especially rainy here today in North Alabama on this Veteran’s Day, and while we spent time appreciating our Service-People, I was happy my son’s Scout Troup was not scheduled to participate in today’s downtown parade because I usually walk with them.  We both were happy to stay warm & dry @home since the rain was accompanying 50 degree temperatures.

After getting an email earlier today from a fellow Airstreamer in which he confirmed that today’s rain had not leaked past his latest sealing attempt, I remembered a loose rivet found on the roof of my Airstream while repairing the air conditioner.

Hoping that this new leak path might be a contributor to a small puddle found in the bathroom after a good rain, the rivet was sealed with TEN-X, a sealer left in the Overlander by the original owner.

After Perry’s email exchange, I went out and found the Airstream’s bathroom countertop blissfully dry – something which I have been wishing for (after a good rain) for the last couple of years.  TEN-X kicked butt!

While it may be a miracle sealant, don’t go looking for the product; it does not appear to be made anymore.  Never fear, though - its good, squeeze-into-a-paper-bag type of smell reminds me a lot of Parbond.


Thursday, November 8, 2012


Smoking beef brisket and pork butt “low & slow” is a pastime I get a big kick out of.  Although you will never see me at a BBQ competition with my Brinkmann water smoker, the challenge of getting good at smoking a meal over wood that my family looks forward to for a weekend meal really appeals to me.  But while selecting & trimming this past weekend’s brisket, I wondered if I needed to shift my thinking about bringing untrimmed brisket home from the store.

Normally, either Wal-Mart or Sam’s Club will sell me a Cryovaced side of untrimmed brisket for two to three dollars a pound.  Why I should ever pay even that much is beyond me because everyone used to all but GIVE away brisket.  But, be that as it may, on Thursday’s expedition, Star Market was the only player in the area offering a whole side of brisket on the day it had to be acquired & rubbed with spices, and they were asking $2.99/lb.  Sam’s meat counter had trimmed flats of reasonable size beef for around four & a quarter a pound.  Target wanted $5.99/lb for a wimpy 2-1/2 lb trimmed chunk of flat beef.

As I was not in the mood while standing at the counter to do the math to offset my mindset that paying for pre-trimmed food is a luxury reserved for rich people, Star Market got my business for this round of brisket.

After getting home, the side of brisket was trimmed, cut in two, and rubbed with seasonings – one half to cook the upcoming Saturday, and the other half to freeze for another weekend.

Store-bought, pre-trimmed brisket is new to me, and out of curiosity, the amount of fat trimmed off of Star Market’s good-looking, 12-lb 11-oz brisket and was collected & found to weigh in at 2-3/4 lb – That’s $8.22 worth of fat at the price paid for this particular hunk of beef.

After pointing out the sheer volume of fat destined for the garbage can to Kim, I was hoping she would feel similarly aghast & agree to render the commodity into candles or soap for the family.  After interpreting her slight grin & cackle to mean “no”, I decided to run numbers on the economics of continuing to purchase untrimmed brisket.

Adjusted for waste, Star Market’s brisket’s true cost was $4.60/lb.  This is more per pound than what Sam’s was going to sell me that day.  But, the only trimmed brisket sold by anyone around here appears to be flats, and I find the non-flat part of the brisket makes better Slider-sized sandwiches.  Extrapolating, I guess the stores must know what the best part is, and keep it for other purposes because the trimmed, selling price would be too high for most people.

Or maybe most people just like the flats.  Who knows?  My plan for now is to keep purchasing the whole brisket so I can both have the part I want, and dictate how much fat gets left on the halves.

I’m thinking strongly though of collecting the next few rounds of fat in the freezer for a future purpose.  The smell of those froofy candles Kim keeps bringing home is starting to get old, and the Internet is full of directions on how to cut the Yankee Candle Company out of the picture.

Waste not, want not!


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Yet Another A/C Repair

2012 will go down in our family’s history book as “the year of one refrigeration repair after another”.  The cooling season opened up with the Suburban being out of refrigerant due to a leaky compressor seal.  As the temperature went up, the house’s air conditioner went down four times, and the Airstream blew a refrigerant line on our way to the Florida Keys.  A small window A/C from Home Depot set in the doorway saved that vacation.

Fortunately, by the end of June the breakdowns subsided, and after several out-of-state camping trips confidence had been restored in the Airstream’s 45 year-old air conditioner.

Earlier this month, I was finishing loading the Silverado in preparation of a family trip to Disneyworld/Fort Wilderness when I noticed a spot in the bed just big enough to accommodate the window A/C.  Mentally going back & forth with myself, although no problems were expected with the camper’s A/C, the unit was loaded simply because I knew how mad I would be if something were to go wrong and we did not have the unit even though there had been space for it.

On every trip we have made to Florida, the Airstream’s air conditioner always sweated on one side, and the condensate would drip on Daniel’s comforter.  Just before this trip, I had finally looked at the issue (after a mere eight years), and determined that moving one of the unit’s two condensate drain holes would probably resolve the issue.

It did.  All was well until mid-way through the trip, when we returned from one of the Disney parks to hear the fan motor making a terrible racket.  After verifying there was no easy fix to the noise, the window unit once again came to our rescue.

The annoying thing was that the fan motor was only eight years old, and its bearings should have lasted a lot longer.  Luckily EPCOT’s seasonal Wine & Food Festival helped take the edge off the situation.

Other than the trouble of stepping around the air conditioner in the doorway, the rest of the vacation was, as expected, a lot of fun.

In a “first” for a Disney trip, we made the trip back home in one 13 hour drive instead of splitting it into two days.  While everyone rode amazingly well for our longest family drive ever, we were all happy to be home.

The only real bad thing about towing with the Silverado is having to take precaution against gear loaded in the bed getting rained on.  When the vacation-saver was initially loaded before the trip, it did not appear to me that a little rain would hurt anything.  So it got to sit in the bed uncovered.

The first time it was plugged in at Fort Wilderness, the unit would not come on.  No idiot light, no nothing.  Nowadays, window units have GFCI’s built into the plug to protect the consumer from electrical shock due to water.  It had a “test” and a “reset” button of which neither would do anything.  After consideration, the plug was shaken, and it sloshed.  Oops.  And, I did not have the right tool to dis-assemble the device to dry it out.

Daniel was close by and I asked him to unplug the six-foot extension cord while I got wire-working tools & duct-tape out.  After cutting the GFCI plug off of the unit’s cord, and the outlet off of the extension cord I proceeded to strip wires to join the two cords together.

Daniel’s eyes got wide and he asked, “Is that safe?” to which I replied, “You did unplug the cord, didn’t you?”

He slowly nodded, and moved away.  I guess that was the first time he had ever seen bare wires.

While the duct-tape worked fine, a more permanent repair will be made before the unit’s next use.

While spraying rusty unions with WD-40 before disassembly is always a good idea, the A.O. Smith-brand motor I installed right before the Overlander was returned to operation did not put up much of a fight.

After inspection, I can’t decide exactly why the motor bearings went out.  Maybe they needed oiling more often.  Maybe it was running gear imbalance.

A Fasco-brand motor was chosen as a replacement.  If nothing else, its bearings looked better sealed against the elements than the old motor’s.

The new motor installed without any problems, and cool was once again returned to the Airstream.

Just in time for the cool to leave the house’s refrigerator after it iced up.

The problem was traced to a defective defrost heating element.

I wonder what the theme of 2013 will be.  Locusts?


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Pickled Eggs

On a whim, I decided to pickle some eggs a few weeks ago.  The Internet suggested using leftover pickle juice as a time saver.

Surprisingly, after commenting on the effort on a food forum I visit, many people were not familiar with pickled eggs.

After a a couple weeks of standing time in the fridge, the eggs were enjoyed immensely.  This was an effort worth repeating.

In anticipation of the next batch of pickled eggs, leftover hot peppers & such from other cooking efforts were added to the brine before hard-boiling the next batch of eggs today.

I hope I can wait for the couple of weeks the eggs need to absorb the flavor.



Friday, August 24, 2012

FM 106.7 – TOMW Radio

A couple of years ago, I decided it would be nice to be able to listen to what’s playing on the house’s stereo out in my shop.  Since there was already a receiver & speakers out there, it made more sense to use a radio transmitter to broadcast the current musical selection via radio waves than to run underground wires.  Luckily, the timing was right for Santa to leave one under the tree for me the Christmas before last.

Unfortunately, after hooking everything up in a variety of configurations, the broadcasted music had a 60-cycle hum that I could not completely get rid of.  Although frustrated, I was not too surprised because the aquarium, with its filter pump, air pump, and florescent light ballast, is both near the stereo and plugged into the same electrical circuit.  As those three items are notorious hum producers, the situation looked grim for hum-free tunes.  As a consequence, the transmitter was not called upon very often.

While that idea panned out poorly, the addition of Sony cordless headphones to the system last year has been enjoyed by all for different reasons.  Good thing, too, because the installation took more effort than planned.  These headphones work by receiving infrared waves from its base station.  But since infrared requires a clear line of sight, wires had to be run under the house so that the base station could be located out in the den away from the stereo in a location with a clear view of both the La-Z-Boy & adjacent kitchen.

The other afternoon, while queuing up some CDs, the whole-house transmitter’s poor performance came to mind coupled with a desire to readdress the problem.  After recalling everything that had been tried during the initial installation, I decided the best option was to relocate the transmitter.  Before I could ask myself, “but where?” the headphone base station’s location came to mind.

The setup was perfect because the power outlet was on a different circuit, and there were no noisy AC appliances close by to inject hum.  In another bonus, the fireplace’s trim moulding provided an excellent cover for the transmitter’s five-foot long wire antenna.  A couple of RCA jacks added to the wall-mounted headphone jack plate was all that was needed for operation.  After setting broadcast levels with Billy’s “Vital Idol” CD, Radio Station TOMW was on the air with dead silence between songs.

If you’re ever within 150 feet of my house, feel free to slow down for a listen on 106.7 MHz – You’ll probably never hear a more eclectic mix of music.


Thursday, August 9, 2012

A Fun Find in Branson MO

Acting on a suggestion from Number 1 son, we hitched up the Airstream and motored over to Branson Missouri the other weekend for two days of unscripted vacation.  In spite of not taking in any of the shows the area is famous for (or maybe because we did not) fun was had by all.  Blissfully, although the outside temperature hit 106 degrees, the camper’s newly-repaired air conditioner kept us quite comfortable at the campground.

In a “first” for our family, we all went to an outlet mall together and no one got grumpy.  Swimming at Table Rock Lake helped us beat the heat as did the slide at the campground’s pool.

The first night there got exciting when 60 mph winds hit in the middle of the night and threatened to rip the Airstream’s brand new awning off.  I had to stand on the picnic table and turn the awning barrel by hand to get the awning rolled up because the wind kept catching it when we tried to roll it up the regular way.  That was excitement I’d rather not repeat.

In addition to shows & motels, Branson’s main drag also has a variety of shops.  While most of the businesses are tourist oriented, a trio of thrift shops caught Kim’s eye and we decided to stop and check for bargains.

While I enjoy looking, I can’t remember the last time I bought anything at a thrift shop, and did not expect this visit to be any different.  That was until I spotted something I had been looking for for the last eight years - an electric skillet in working condition without a Teflon cook surface.  The price was right at six bucks.  Number 2 son made a haul too – He found several Blue’s Clues video tapes he did not have for 50 cents apiece.

We had a great time during our short stay in Branson, and could visit again.  Maybe next time we’ll stay a little longer, and take in a few shows; we’ll see.

I was tickled to find the Teflon-less skillet because, while Teflon surfaces are good for cooking some things, I find it gives griddled foods like pancakes & hoecakes a leathery skin.  Even fried eggs have a different consistency when cooked on Teflon.

I prefer an electric skillet when griddling food because it is tough to control my stove-top griddle’s temperature across two burners.  To this end, I use a Sunbeam, non-Teflon skillet which dates back to the early seventies.

The skillet used to be loaded into the Airstream for every trip because we always have pancakes at least one morning during the outing.  In an effort to make the camper self sufficient, I have had an eye out for another non-Teflon skillet since Airstream trip #1 with no joy – no one now makes one, and none were showing up in yard sales.

Earlier this year, between laziness and concern about damaging the skillet, a new Rival Teflon-coated electric skillet was purchased for the Airstream.  Although the Teflon was expected, a glass lid was not - What’s the deal with glass lids on all new cookware nowadays?  That is a trend I hope blows over soon.

A day or two after getting home from Branson, my electric skillet collection was lined up on the kitchen table for comparison.

My “new” Presto KC81-A skillet, judging by its size, construction, and weight, appears to be quite old.  Although Mr. Google could tell me nothing about the model number, I believe the skillet dates from the sixties.  By far the heaviest of the three skillets, its mass should make it a good griddling skillet.  But my early seventies Sunbeam skillet does a great job with pancakes.  A cook-off between old and older may be in order.

Plugging the Presto skillet in reminded me of something new appliances don’t have nowadays – a long power cord.

Cooking without a Teflon coated surface takes more prep because the pan must first be seasoned, and the Presto skillet was dry as a bone.  While everyone has their own idea on the right way to season cookware, in this case just enough peanut oil was poured in to cover the probe on a digital thermometer so the thermostat’s calibration could be checked.

After deciding the thermostat was close enough, the oil was allowed to cook at 400 degrees for around 20 minutes.  After that the oil was poured out before pan-frying chicken fingers followed by hoecakes.

The skillet did a great job with both the chicken and hoecakes.  Both were enjoyed with a mess of home-grown string beans and acorn squash one of my friends had brought me that day.  The skillet is obviously ready for a return to prime time.

Hopefully, Number 1 son’s next destination suggestion will have a place that sells something he wants – Other than fond memories, all he came home with from Missouri was a new pair of Nikes.


Monday, July 23, 2012

One A/C Repair After Another

This year has just not been a good one for working air conditioning at our address.  Near the start of the cooling season, the Suburban’s lack of cool was traced to a leaky compressor shaft seal.  Within a week or so of that, the house A/C decided to blow out a relatively new start capacitor.  The house’s unit was fixed; the Mighty Burb was not.

Later in the season, a wire burned off the house’s air conditioner, and it took me two tries to get the repair right.  Last month, the Airstream’s original Armstrong TAC-110 air conditioner went out on our way to Key West.  Its repair had to be delayed until some totally unexpected (and REALLY unappreciated) floor rot in the camper was repaired.

When I finally had a chance to evaluate the Airstream’s A/C, it was found to be out of refrigerant.  After pressurizing the unit with dry gas, the condenser coils were doused with soapy water until a stress crack was found in one of the ¼-inch copper supply lines.  Now, the proper repair would have been to replace the short length of 45 year-old copper.  But unsoldering it from the equally old, un-replaceable condenser coil and silver-soldering a new piece in had a high pucker factor attached to.  I did not want to do it myself, and there was a distinct chance that even a skilled professional would have a problem.  So the area around the crack was sanded shiny, and gooped with JBWeld.

After allowing the repair to cure overnight, the system was then vacuumed down to a respectable 29 inches vacuum and allowed to sit, valved off, for a couple of days until I could arrange with my buddy Kenny to share some of his R22 refrigerant with the unit.

When I had the current compressor installed around six years ago, I remember the man who did the work whining about there being nowhere to run his gauge hoses and have the fan-air-directing cover on simultaneously.  Being able to do so was, he told me, important for good gauge readings.  His complaint bounced off of me at the time because I did not know as much about A/C as I do now, and I had offered him the unit’s original installation instructions for insight which he declined to read.  But he persevered through his adversity, and left the vintage unit cooling admirably.

While waiting for Kenny, the opportunity was taken to read the instructions.  Apparently, the end-user was supposed to drill two 7/8” holes in the side of the unit in which the hoses were to be routed for operation with the cover on.  A quick zing zing with a bi-metal hole saw, and the job was done.

Another cool thing about the instructions was that it listed the correct load, by weight, of refrigerant the system needed (2 lb, 2-1/2 oz).  Talking with Kenny about everything, he allowed that he didn’t like the JBWeld idea, and he did not own a refrigerant scale.  But he understood my concern about brazing onto an un-replaceable part.

Fortunately, someone else was able to loan me a scale.  After hearing that, Kenny just loaned me his bottle of R22 in return for two cases of beer.  We both thought it was a fair swap.

Right before going out to charge the system, I noticed the house was not as cool as the thermostat was asking for.  The house unit’s start capacitor had conked out again.  While there is another story attached to getting the unit running, for now I will just say a new capacitor got the house back in the cool.

After confirming the Airstream’s air conditioner was still at vacuum, the scale was toted top-side, and the correct amount of liquid refrigerant loaded.

The Airstream’s A/C recharge was different than the Suburban’s in that the Airstream sucked in the entire charge as liquid with the power turned off.  The Burb, during last year’s repair, had to take most of its almost five pounds of refrigerant with the system running.

After applying power, the antique unit immediately came to life & got down to business cooling the place down.  After allowing the system to stabilize, temperatures & gauge pressures were found to be surpassing the performance guidelines listed in the installation manual.  Although my work here appeared to be done, I decided to let the unit run overnight before buttoning everything up.

The next morning, there was neither cool in the Airstream, nor pressure in the middle-aged refrigerant lines.  Re-pressurizing again, the previously JBWelded area was found to be okay.  But a “spot” upstream of the treated area was blowing soap bubbles like no one’s business.

While I have no idea why it waited to go bad, the copper line obviously had to be replaced now.

Having more regard for Kenny than the fella who did the compressor R&R, I got Kenny to lug his oxy-acetylene rig over.  Of course he had to rib me the JBWeld repair, and act like he thought I was not telling the truth about the new leak path.  But he did understand why I was hesitant about anyone working on antique parts.

Other than tight working quarters, Kenny had little trouble with replacing the defective length of plumbing.  After letting the repair cool, the system was charged with 200 psig of nitrogen, and valved off.

The next afternoon, after the A/C was found to still be holding 200 psig pressure, it was tripled-purged/vacuumed before being recharged with R22.  Once again the unit fired right up and got busy cooling.  But unlike last time, the unit is still running several days later.

The Suburban’s A/C has not been repaired simply because the high cost of gas has knocked the truck out of the towing lineup – It has been relegated to pushing the boat into the boat’s parking spot via its front-mounted receiver hitch.  Also, the repair itself will be expensive - $300-$700 depending on whether new or rebuilt parts are used.  I’m not in a rush to spend that much money right now.

In a new worry, the two house air conditioners and the Airstream’s A/C all use R22 as a refrigerant.  R22, while still legal to sell, is no longer manufactured, and the price keeps going up.  A 30-lb bottle of R22 used to be around $125.  It’s now going for $390.

For now, I’ll just keep playing the cooling game by ear.  But I sure do hope I do not have to pull out my gauge set anymore this summer.


Saturday, July 7, 2012

Only Eight Years Between Failures?

At the end of last year’s camping season, I noticed what appeared to be a small soft spot in my Airstream’s floor next to the aft wall near the bathroom sink.  After a very casual inspection revealed no smoking gun, I decided to do nothing about it just then.

Well the spot grew over the winter, and after our last camping trip, it was obvious something had to be done, and I was far from happy about addressing the area again.  This exact same area was rotted out when I got the camper eight years ago, and the entire bathroom was re-decked to fix it.

The wood/aluminum/bumper interface at the aft end of a 1967 Airstream looks like a rot problem waiting to happen.  As a consequence, many extra steps of sealing & caulking were done during the initial refurbishment to stave off potential water intrusion.  Obviously, more should have been done.

Now, the floor was re-decked back then with Oriented Strand Board (OSB) which I know is not many people’s favorite.  But any wood product will eventually rot if left to soak in water and that is exactly what happened here.  To keep the sheet-vinyl floor covering from splitting at deck seams due to vibration, the covering had only been glued down at its perimeter.  Once water leaked a path through the four-inch or so glue bond, it became trapped between the linoleum & decking.  The clock had apparently started ticking long ago.

The only way I knew to re-deck the floor back then was to take everything out of the bathroom, and the only way to do that was to take everything out of the camper because the bathroom had been built first.  Although I wanted to do a good job on the repair, disassembling the whole works this time around had no appeal.

The tub, due to its size, was the major stumbling block.  Now that I’ve “been around the block” with bathroom repair, a close look was taken.  Sure enough, the tub, after un-riveting, could be propped high enough to allow unfettered access to the floor.  The sink was similar in that the countertop could be raised high enough to remove the base cabinet.

The black tank, since it is mounted directly beneath the bathroom floor, had to be removed.  Although the removal was painless, I was surprised at the condition of the metal box in which the tank sits.

While everything was dry, it was obvious that water had been trapped between the tank’s insulating Styrofoam and the box bottom for quite some time.  New eight years ago, the galvanized box had heavy rust pitting.  Many years ago the freshwater hose connection leaked into the box during a night of camping.  While that may have been what caused the damage, I have never been comfortable with the camper’s belly skin covering the bottom of the box – too many opportunities for trapped water leaking past the rivets which hold the box together.

With everything out of the way above & below deck, the floor was cut out back to good wood with a jigsaw.

Normally, I enjoy working with wood, and have enjoyed countless projects which required building or rebuilding something out of wood.  New wood was NOT going to be part of this repair.  Eight years between failures is WAY too short.  So new decking was not cut for this project; it was cast… with non-rottable Fiberglas & resin.

To provide a solid interface with the existing decking, dowels were drilled on 1-inch centers.

Caulk and hot glue were used to make the Airstream resin-tight.  A plastic-covered, ¾-inch piece of plywood held in place underneath with a service jack formed the mold’s bottom.

The going-in plan had been to use many layers of custom-cut fiberglass mat.

But the work area proved to be too big, and smaller, random size strips were used.

Although the plan had been to make an all-fiberglass repair, a volume calculation indicated that slightly over three gallons of resin would be required.  Deciding I didn’t want to have slightly less than a gallon of resin left sitting on the shelf, a 3/8-inch thick piece of plywood was cast into the project as filler (trust me – I made triple-sure water could not get to it).

I went to the paint store originally to buy a SEM-brand rust neutralizer.  But I came home with a quart or POR15 black.

I had never used POR15 before.  But I like it, and will use it again.  Hopefully, I will remember to wear gloves, though.

Reinstalling the black tank was a high-water mark for the project.

Fortunately, some of my original construction marks for locating the tank were still present, and cutting floor holes for the toilet & vent did not have the same pucker factor it had eight years ago.

Although the resin appeared to be self-leveling during buildup, its thickness across the repaired area ranged from 5/8” (the goal) up to ¾”.  The extra thickness around the toilet’s closet flange was not a good thing as the flange did not screw in far enough to give me a warm fuzzy.

After making sure the toilet gasket could accommodate the next step, a router guide of 1/8” hard-board was weighted down, and the smallest router I had was pressed into service with a ¾” straight bit to recess the deck an eighth of an inch.

To any woodworkers reading, I got that Craftsman router new when I was in high school in the seventies.  Unlike newer routers with soft-start, this one jerks when switched on.  I’ll never part with it.

The decking was belt sanded before and after wiping with a small amount of leveling compound.

When the floor covering was originally installed, I remember the edge of the roll advising “do not reverse”.  This seemed odd because the pattern was square-shaped.  But since there was more than enough material, reversing was not an issue… then.

Although the scrap of the original material I had saved had enough square feet, it was irregular in the wrong direction – I had to reverse the pattern.  To my surprise there is a difference.  But due to the bathroom’s small size I do not think it is eye-catching.

Every square inch was glued down this time and J-rolled.  Bricks weighted down the seam and ends until the glue could set up.  A seam sealing kit was used afterwards.

While all this was going on I went around with an ice pick to make sure there were no other rotten floor issues – might as well fix everything now.  Thankfully, no other problems were found.

Since I’m still running the original stove, refrigerator, oven, furnace, and water heater, it’s anyone’s guess as to what will need repair next.  At least it will not be the bathroom floor for the foreseeable future.