Sprucing Up

You might recall I froze my ass off Winter-before-last. I figured skirting would solve the problem but time got away from me and it did not go up last year, although I did install the sticky-snaps around the sides – more on that project later.

Awana complained that she didn’t like how “ugly” the back of her rig looked with nothing up to hide the spare tire and slinky bin. She thought a piece of lattice would be much better looking. Then she went to Mississippi for a visit with family and things went…a bit sideways…

You see, being Scotch, I hate to pay a small fortune for anything if I can DIY. Plastic lattice (don’t want to have to paint it every year and it has to stand up to rather moist conditions) costs $40 for a 4′ x 8′ piece and I’d have to pay to have it cut to size (luckily, the trailer is exactly 8′ wide so it would have been only one cut, but still.) Nope. Not gonna do that if I can find a cheaper way.

A visit to my semi-local Re-Store yielded four 2′ x 8′ pieces of corrugated metal siding that had been used in a paint booth or something. At only $3 each I brought four of them home – two for Awana and two for me.

I spent some time on YouTube researching spray painting and several hours on Pinterest looking for floral inspiration and this is what I ended up with for myself:

20150907_163651Simple abstract poppies! Of course, I’d spent about $50 on spray paint, so it wasn’t actually a savings, but I’m very pleased with the results and the neighbors think I’m strange, which is just an added bonus 🙂 It doesn’t fit quite right, being a bit too tall, but it’s installed with some very long zip ties and I quite like the effect. It makes a nice windbreak at the back of the trailer and will work nicely with the new black skirts that aren’t up yet.

What about Awana’s spare tire hider? Yeah. I ran out of good weather and just spray painted hers white. I’ll add her logo next Spring.

My projects all get done…eventually 🙂

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Stove Back Splash

Before

Before

If you’ve been visiting here for awhile, you’ve heard me express my (extreme) dislike for the wallpaper border that runs around the interior walls. It’s not horrible, really, it’s just not at all ME and I’ve been meaning to get rid of it. The previous owner took it down in the aft section (bedroom) but it remains in the living/kitchen and bath areas. The wall behind the stove was grungy and greasy and really, really boring, leading to several Pinterest searches until I found an idea that would spruce it up yet still be practical.

My first idea was to put up some textured, paintable wallpaper and use spray paint to make it look like punched tin. The only problem was the size of the wallpaper rolls and the cost – I didn’t want to end up with a bunch of wallpaper left over and the width of the roll would not have been tall enough anyway. Also, it seemed like a lot of work. I’ve since changed my mind about the usefulness of textured wallpaper, but that’s another post 🙂

What I settled on was a “traditional” looking backsplash made of PVC. The size was right, application would be easy, and the total cost was about $50, including a tube of glue – one can never have too much glue!

But first, the wallpaper stripe had to be removed.

During

During

After a good bit of internet research, I decided to go with conventional wisdom and apply heat to loosen the paper and glue. Many said they used a regular hair dryer set on high, but I chose to go with a heat gun on the lowest setting, being careful not to melt the plastic coating on the walls. In the end, heat was not necessary and it did nothing to speed the process. It did, however, result in scorched fingers. Your mileage may vary.

The wallpaper is, well, paper, held onto the wall by a layer of very flexible double sided tape. Trust me when I say there is no way to peel this stuff that won’t leave a layer of sticky on the wall. Believe me, I tried.

Wallpaper off

Wallpaper off

The only solution was to use Goof-Off to get the sticky off the wall. It works okay but it does stink up the place.

Applying the back splash pieces was easy. They were the right size so cutting was not needed. Be warned that the glue sets up fast, but not quite fast enough – the first piece I put up slid down into a crack between the wall and counter, ensuring that “perfection” would, once again, elude my grasp. A scant ten seconds later, noticing the problem, I tried to move the piece back into position and had zero success. It’s not bad, probably not even noticeable with all the cooking paraphernalia that lives here in place, but we like to provide full disclosure on this here blog 🙂

Back splash installed

Back splash installed

Overall I really like it. Real ceramic tiles are out of the question, of course, because they would crack and fall with travel, so this is an economical and easy DIY project to make Towanda a little more homey.

I have a long list of interior changes to make. Stay tuned. Oh! The awning is up. Post coming soon-ish…

Replacing the Awning – Part One

You can find a DIY video about everything on YouTube, thank goodness!

Here’s the next project for Towanda –

At this point the awning is off the coach and stowed underneath. I carefully measured and ordered replacement fabric. A couple weekends ago I made a pair of knock-down sawhorses in the hope that the roller assembly has only been stressed but not creased – no way of knowing until the old fabric comes off next week.

Here we are now, the fabric has arrived, the sawhorses are ready to go to work and it’s pouring down rain and the forecast shows rain every day from now until forever 😦

In the meantime we’ve got another project going but it’s not ready for blogging yet.

Stay tuned.

Lessons Learned in 2014

2014 was a fairly eventful year for Towanda and crew. While nothing was a Ruinous Disaster, there were a few lessons we learned the hard way:

  • Don’t expect all neighbors to be like Royce Byron: I put the awning out last Summer the day before a light rain. I left for work as usual and everything looked fine. Came back a few hours later to find that the light sprinkle that passed through had caught in the awning, creating a huge belly in the fabric. Obviously it wasn’t arranged to drain. Nobody comes outside here if there’s the slightest hint of rain so no one saw the problem. If I’d still been in Newport, Royce Byron would have seen the trouble and let the awning down a little on the down side, probably without saying a word. Now the roll arm assembly is bent and will need to be replaced to the tune of $800+. The fabric needed to be replaced anyway, so add another $200+ to that and we will be getting rained on all Winter as we save up the $$$ by Summer.
  • Heat tape on the incoming water hose is a wonderful thing. Install it under the pipe insulation and check it from time to time. The port where it comes into the coach is the weak spot, so do check it often to be sure you’re not getting iced up.
  • Leaving the kitchen faucet on at a trickle all night is a Very Bad Idea. The drain pipe for my galley gray tank runs outside the coroplast underbelly, leaving it open to the freezing air. Yeah. That wasn’t pretty. Thankfully it didn’t burst before it thawed. Whew!
  • If outside temps are going to be below your coach’s freeze point, drink a pot of tea right before bedtime. Every time you get up to pee, run the water at the faucet farthest away from the water port for half a minute or so. Viola! No frozen water in the morning. This tip courtesy of Awana and it is Brilliant! Granted, you won’t get a good night’s sleep, but you’ll get a hot shower in the morning and won’t have to worry about fittings freezing up and bursting, costing a pretty penny when you find the problem.
  • Silver bubble-wrap insulation on the inside of the windows cuts heat loss appreciably. Every little bit helps!
  • If you run your propane tanks completely empty and the furnace doesn’t come on when you put full tanks back on, cook something on the kitchen stove – likely some air got into the lines and the kitchen stove is much less sensitive to the variation in gas pressure – it might pop and hiss a bit, but dinner will be cooked. Try the furnace as you’re sitting down to eat and it will likely fire right up.

We’re gearing up for the first cold snap of the season here in the Willamette Valley, Oregon, so a little review is quite timely.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Hot Water Heater Cleaning

If you’re living in your RV or Travel Trailer (TT) full time, water heater maintenance is a twice-yearly necessity. Luckily, the job is easy and requires only two tools, a socket wrench and a fancy hose end.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAAwana’s hot water heater has no exterior ON/OFF switch, but does have a switch inside the trailer. Turn all switches OFF before doing anything else! Turn off the breaker, too, just to be safe. Wait a couple of hours for the water to cool off inside the water heater.

Turn off the water supply (or the water pump if you’re boondocking) and get to work.

If you only buy one socket, make it the one that fits your hot water heater drain valve. On this particular model, the drain plug is made of plastic and is a size 15/16″. If your water heater has a plastic plug be very careful when taking it out or you will deform it beyond all hope of repair. New plugs can be found online or at your (never local enough) RV parts store.

You will need the socket in the proper size, an extension, and the handle, like so –

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERATo open the drain valve, work the socket wrench counter-clockwise (righty-tighty, lefty-loosey) until a stream of water starts to come out. Pause at this point to see if the water is hot. If it is, tighten the drain plug and wait awhile longer. Double-check to be sure all power to the water heater is OFF!

If the water is cool, continue working the plug until it comes out. Some models have an anode rod inside with a metal plug on the outside. Replace the anode rod when it’s worn half-way through.

Let the water drain out (stand back if you want to keep your shoes dry!) and then insert the cleaning wand to flush out the mineral deposits and gunk. Don’t be shocked at what you see!

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAWork the wand in and out and be sure to rotate it so it sprays UP into the tank, too.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAWhen nothing but clean water comes out, you’re done!

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAReplace the teflon tape around the threads of the plug and re-insert it into the drain hole. Don’t skip this step!

Turn the water supply and power back on to the water heater. You should be able to hear the tank filling up. Stand by to be sure the drain plug isn’t leaking before walking away.

Pat yourself on the back for another job well done!

The Carpet Saga Part II

I have been so happy with the lino in Towanda’s forward section that every time I walked into the bedroom area I found myself gritting my teeth, eager for the next available hour or so to liberate the floor of the nasty carpet. Tuesday was the day!

After clearing everything out that could be moved, I started at the edge closest to the bathroom and worked my way clockwise around. Of course the carpet was installed under the starboard side cabinets and the wardrobe. Of course. Removing it will not be easy, but for now I just cut as close as I could with a razor knife.

Alas! Halfway back, the beautiful, clean lino ended and what remains is ugly particle board –

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAAt first glance, this might look like a huge problem, but I choose to see it as the opportunity to install a paper bag floor on a totally reasonable scale 🙂

Here’s the final pic before I laid down a bunch of rugs to keep the resident feline from clawing at the floor –

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAFunny thing: no one looked twice as I tossed out the mound of carpet, rolled it up tight and carried it to the garbage cans, but as soon as I came outside with a bookshelf and drill, the men were gathering to see what I was up to. They still don’t think I’m capable of using power tools unsupervised, but it was a simple modification and they soon wandered away, content to gossip over at Ward’s trailer, watching from a distance. It’s like being on a stage some days. Funny how they are nowhere to be found when I get the lawnmower out…

 

The Tin Castle gets a new Vanity Sink

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAPlease excuse the weird lighting – RVs are not known for reliable light sources. They’re also not known for easy plumbing replacements, alas. Above is Awana’s old plastic vanity sink. As you can see, the drain plug was no longer functional and the edge is cracked. Some months ago I found a used-but-never-installed enamel over steel sink that is the perfect size. Sadly, it was separated from its hudee ring somewhere along the way, which will become relevant shortly.

Full of optimism, I arrived at the Tin Castle early Friday morning, determined to spend the Holiday doing something more productive than standing outside with a bucket of sand, eying the neighborhood kids and their illegal fireworks. Yes, I’ve become that Crazy Old Lady yelling for the little fuckers to be quiet and get off my lawn. The cat stays inside or I might have my name upgraded to Crazy Old Cat Lady.

The old sink came out easily – there were six or eight little plastic clips screwed into the underside of the counter-top and into holes in the bottom of the sink. The clip holes were a part of the sink. Huh. The “new” sink has no holes or clips, but I was counting on gravity anyway…

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAAbove is the counter-top minus the old sink. The hole is bigger than I remember, but the “new” sink fits just fine. Here’s the hole from the underside –

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAThe hot and cold waterlines are PEX with pvc elbows and it are surprisingly rigid. I was hopeful the “new” sink was close enough in size to match without too much trouble.

The Experts recommend “dressing” the sink first – installing the faucet and drain mechanisms before dropping it into the hole to check the fit. At this point we realized that the drain assembly was not going to work and Awana wanted a drain with a lever anyway, so we headed for Home Depot in the next town over – no one local had the parts we needed on a Holiday morning.

Luckily for us, we encountered MarcGyver in the plumbing section and he set us on the right path, finding the correct drain assembly, plumber’s caulk and even a prettier faucet that better matches the sink. He was funny, to boot. I left him a glowing review on the HD website – I hope it leads to a bonus for him.

Back at the Tin Castle, we set to work putting plumber’s putty on the underside of the drain assembly where it goes in the bottom of the sink –

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAWe always read directions! After screwing down the drain, the extra plumber’s caulk is easily removed –

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAThe faucet installed with no fanfare, a preliminary fitting showed the sink would fit nicely into the hole, but the drain assembly pipe was too long. The elbows under the sink were glued and nothing short of an explosion was going to move them in any way, so out came the saw –

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERATwo cuts later (never cut too drastically or you will be sorry) and we’re ready for caulk –

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAIf a little is good, more is better, right?

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERASince we were relying on gravity and glue to hold the sink down, more is better. Except. The hole was bigger than expected and quite a bit some of the caulk did not contact the counter-top surface, running down onto my hands as I tried to line up the waterlines.

Despite what the directions say, always put teflon tape on the male threads of any new faucet. If you don’t (forget the line in the instructions where it says a watertight seal is achieved through “friction” or “compression” because it’s total bullshit) You will be putting on and taking off the connectors over and over again until you get smart enough to add teflon tape, whereupon the connection will magically seal and you’ll be done. This ain’t my first rodeo 🙂 Sadly, I did not pick up a fixture wrench to make attaching the waterlines easy, but you can bet I’ll be getting one the next time I’m at HD!

And here’s where it got ugly. You see, there is approximately the width of my hips minus 1″ of space between the wall and the toilet, as sorta shown in the picture above. In order to screw the water connections to the underside of the faucet, one must contort oneself into a pretzel while retaining feeling in one’s fingers. Luckily for me, Awana is smart and has mounted a mirror on a stick to enable me to see what I was doing.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERALook at all that sparkle in my hair!* It was about a million degrees in there, I was folded like a slinky and the damned fittings refused to line up. This part of the job really, really, sucks.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAFinally everything was connected, the water turned on and no leaks! Unfortunately, we ran out of time and enthusiasm for the project. Leaving some heavy bottles on top of the rim to make the most of the glue, I left to work on some other projects while everything cured and settled into place.

On Sunday, it was time to finish caulking. Since the gap was so large between sink and counter-top, we needed a backer rod –

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAThe backer rod is nothing more than a closed-cell foam cylinder. It was easy to cut it in half length-wise and fill the gap. Then the caulk was applied (I erred on the side of too much, knowing I could scrape off the excess. The finished result is not Perfect but it is Pretty Good for a first attempt –

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERASo there you have it! This is a pretty easy DIY to upgrade your RV, requiring few tools, lots of patience and the willingness to make mistakes.

Awana is making noises about replacing the kitchen sink next. Stay tuned.

 

* It’s not gray, it’s sparkles! That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

One thing led to another…

Awana and I have been very busy the last month and more with alpaca shearing, work and chores. We have set aside July as RV Renovation Month but got started a bit early.

We finished shearing on Thursday and vowed to have an easy weekend. Friday for me was work, dentist and teaching a knitting class. Saturday was laundry, errands and deliveries. Sunday was supposed to be a day to putter and visit out at the alpaca ranch. After taking Sabu to the dog park, we meandered up to Awana’s where we found her relaxing and working on some knitting projects.

We sat down to visit and the conversation turned to the projects we want to get started on. I had brought tools to take Awana’s non-functioning microwave out of the cabinet to measure for a new one and somehow we got to talking about the carpet and how much she wants it gone.

“We should just do it!” she said. “Just get that mess out of here! I can’t stand it!”

Okie-dokie! I grabbed a hammer and started pulling it up. 20 minutes later the carpet and pad were outside and we were vacuuming up the dust. Luckily, there is beautiful lino under the carpet. A quick scrub and it will look great!

I took the microwave out of the wall, set it on her only comfy chair and basically left. I often do that – come in, create chaos and then leave. If I come to your house and do this, it’s for your own good – you’ll be forced to deal with a situation you’ve been putting off. I can’t help myself 🙂

Anyway. The carpet project was supposed to happen in a couple of weeks, but since Awana was now enjoying a carpet-free existence, I had to start in on mine as well. Luckily for you, I’ve got pictures!

Since this was my second rodeo, I gathered appropriate tools* first –

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERASmall pry bar (not needed in the end) needle-nosed pliers, utility knife and a hammer. I found that the back end of the hammer is the perfect tool to get under the first edge of the carpet to get it started coming up.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAWearing gloves is a good idea as the staples are sharp, dirty and likely rusty – you don’t want to have to rush to the emergency room to update your tetanus shot in the middle of this project 🙂

The carpet was secured around the edges with small staples and had a thin layer of foam padding underneath. The picture above shows the kitchen in front of the pantry – a good corner to start with as the carpet did not extend under the cabinet.

Moving aft on the port side, I encountered this at the slide –

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAAwana’s slide is constructed a bit differently, with the slide having a lip, the carpet stapled to the floor side of the lip – a much easier removal. My carpet extends under the slide, which will mean (I think) pulling the slide in just a bit so it lifts up enough to pull the carpet and staples out. For the moment, I used a utility knife to cut the carpet about an inch from the slide so it stays hidden under the slide carpet flap. Removing the carpet from the slide is a job for another day…

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAI continued around in this manner, working counter-clockwise until I reached the area in front of the door –

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAYuck! There was a lot of dirt under there! The lighter strips on the floor are remnants of carpet tape where I had a couple of small rugs attached to the floor at the door – anything I put there just slid off the small square of lino and onto the carpet, doing no one any good. The tape peeled up easily and the dirt was quickly vacuumed up. As you can see, the carpet extends under the “entertainment center” in this area. I cut it off as short as I could without damaging the lino and will pull it out bit by bit with pliers and scissors over the next few days.

After a good wash and dry, this is the final result –

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAThe linoleum is in great shape, with most of the staples pulling out with the carpet. A few had to be removed with the pliers, but for the most part they weren’t rusty or hard to remove. I’m thankful Keystone used the minimum number of staples to install this carpet – I’ve been reading horror stories of carpets randomly stapled every 4″ in some RVs and I really didn’t want to have to deal with that.

I can confirm both in Awana’s trailer and mine, the lino extends across the whole floor – I’ve also read stores of bare particle board with small pieces of lino only at the places where it’s exposed.

No telling how cold this floor will be this Winter, so I better get busy making more rugs!

* Awana has no real tools. I can’t tell you how crazy that makes me! Everyone should have a box or bucket full of GOOD tools – the best you can afford. You need to be able to use them safely and, most importantly of all, actually USE them. Take things apart to see how they work. Disassemble something and put it back together, or make it into something else, recycle, re-purpose, use your brain and have some fun!

The Tin Castle is here!

Awana and her Tin Castle arrived in the Valley sunday. She is parked at the alpaca farm for the Summer, learning a new trade and working on her tan.

There were a few snafus, like the waterline not being in yet, but the power is on, the sewer hookup is working, the sun is shining and she’s ready to de-tox from her awful former work environment and be turned into Farm Girl this Summer.

New Neighbor

We’ve had some changes here in the trailerhood – a couple of rigs moved out and a couple of new ones moved in.

Last Thursday a rig came in after 10 PM and it didn’t sound good. Sabu and I went out for our last walk and saw a man trying to back his TT into a pull-through spot (it was quite dark, after all) and as we stood there the truck died. I shook my head and we walked on.

The next morning the rig was still out of place, the TT half in the spot, the truck parked in the middle of the street with the hood up. To his credit, New Guy was out there, head up under the hood banging things around at 0630 so at least he wasn’t going to just leave it there. I noticed a bunch of random stuff in the truck bed and a broken window next to the door covered in plastic sheeting.

I made some comment to Awana when I went inside about the situation. I admit I was thinking some pretty unkind things about the new neighbor and his broken down rig sitting all up in the way.

“Well…you don’t know where he’s come from,” Awana said.

She was right and I felt ashamed. He could be escaping a really bad situation, as I did not much more than a year ago, and here I was judging him before I’d even set eyes on his face. “Never judge a book by its cover” is a very good philosophy.

I haven’t met New Guy yet, but scuttlebutt around the park is that he’s a mechanic who lost his job, which totally explains the truck breaking down – mechanics I’ve known often drive “works in progress” while they repair them to sell on. The trailer could also be a project, for all I know.

The greasy tweakers who park on the street next to the dog walk area, however, are a very different kettle of fish altogether – there’s no doubt in my mind they are up to no good and are at least using meth, if not selling it. I’m told there are four broken down RVs in town that the police force to move every few days. Nothing can be proved about their activities, but one look at their faces (they all have Meth Face – if you’re seen it you know exactly what I mean) tells the story.

Yes, I am sometimes a hypocrite 🙂