Monthly Archives: January 2014

Battens

I was a bit disheartened the other day, but went on and decided that if I can sort out the inside and seal up the outside as best I can, when it gets sunny I can work at properly sealing the outside. To do this, the rails need to be taken off, cleaned and refixed, but the screws holding them in place have long since rusted to nothing.

Rusted screws along all of the rails which seal together the bodywork

Small holes like these across the body, where damp inside the caravan has caused the aluminium shell to degrade away. You can see why I got a bit down, these holes are all over the place which suggests there’s damp across the interior.

So I sealed the toilet hatch with sealant and clamped it back on. It also screws in place, but the screws don’t actually go into anything solid, just the polystyrene insulation, which is a bit crap:

That was the other day – yesterday was spent in B&Q where a nice young man cut up some plywood for me. Today I stripped out and glued in some new battens:

You can also see I have the new, darker, insulation ready to go in. Hopefully tomorrow the glue will have dried and I can fix the insulation and plywood to complete the inside corner!

The outside of the van – my caulking gun broke (I say mine, I found it in the garage) so I am waiting on a replacement and in the meantime I’ve sealed everything up with industrial strength duct tape.

In other news, we were second last in the pub quiz last night.

disaster

Having stripped back the inside, I resealed the toilet hatch door and stuck it back on. Easy enough, I went to take off one of the outside rails so I could clean and reseal it . The rail is held in place by screws, which in turn are covered with a rubber strip to seal them. This rubber strip has perished, and simply snapped off in small lengths. Not good. Underneath, all of the screws across the full length of the van are rusted beyond recognition – this suggests that water ingress is an issue across the van.

Meanwhile, I checked again and found that pretty much every rail and seal on the van is f*cked. Small holes have been appearing in the shell of the caravan, which I swear weren’t there before, and a quick internet search reveals that these are again caused by damp. I had already spotted last month a few other patches of damp, but now I strongly suspect the entire bloody thing is leaky and rotting away.

I wonder if the previous owner has had it under cover most of the time, therefore not noticed much water ingress/damp, and now with it having been outside since September the water has gotten right inside and rotted everything. Not really sure how to proceed other than giving up…

De.. more stuff

HEALTH AND SAFETY

I started to try and scrape off the last bits of rotten wood which were glued to the polystyrene insulation, using a handy attachment on the multitool. I had been stuck for a few days trying to work out how to do this, until I remembered there was a load of attachments I hadn’t looked at, and sure enough, one was perfect for the job.

Very satisfying. With that done, I can now replace the battens where they are rotten, and glue some plywood over the top.

So I cut out the centre batten you can see there, and…

It’s letting in light! It looks like the aluminium shell has started to degrade away, and the force of something I’ve done while removing the wood has left holes in the skin. Bah! I duct-taped them up on the outside while I look up how to solve it. I’m glad I put a tarp over this whole half of the caravan, but I’m worried the entire thing needs resealing.

So for the first attempt at sealing, I decided to start resealing the toilet hatch. It’s a small job and if I mess it up, easy to fix, and a practice for when I start the big resealing jobs.

Old sealant

Unscrew hatch, remove old mastic sealant with white spirit, let it all dry, clean with turps, let it dry, reseal and reapply. I’m toying with turning this into a cat flap at some point, but that’s not a priority. Except maybe for the cat.

Cleaned of sealant

Debathroomed

Decided to take out the bathroom today..

going

going

gone

Now not sure what to do. Do I literally just saw out the damp bits and replace them with ply? I need to replace the batten where it’s rotten, do I have to take out the whole thing, or just the rotten bit?

I really want to start resealing the outside too but the sealant I ordered has failed to arrive. I feel that if I had an experienced person saying “yes, do that” I could finish this in a day or two.

Drying out

Yesterday I picked up a dehumidifier, I was looking at 500ml ones for £30 – £40, then realised Argos do an own brand budget 10l dehumidifier for £100. I figured if I keep the box and instructions, I could sell it on when this is all finished and get most of that back.

So! Because it never stops raining in Scotland, This morning (to the amusement of the cat) I did this:

And started tearing out more panelling, trying to work out how best to do it. If I saw out all the sodden panelling, I can just replace it then seal up the outside, the theory goes. There was a wonderful moment when I uncovered the solitary source of dampness in one corner: A screw, corroded away to nothing. That bastard.

There it is! I’d removed the bottom rotten panel on the right hand side (the rear of the van).

Next, I will try sawing cleanly away the rest of the rotten panelling, hopefully without losing any digits/limbs.

Day 3: Bathroom

So with some of the damp looking like it was coming in from a leak through the seal on the toilet waste hatch, I decided to spend today dismantling the bathroom. This is something I meant to do right at the start, but never did, and I wish I had as I would then have spotted the damp months ago. Oh well!

Simply, the toilet is a single unit. The seat sits above a waste tank, which can be removed through a hatch in the side of the caravan. When you take the waste tank out, there’s four screws that can be undone, and the whole unit lifted out of the inside of the bathroom.

But there were only two screws. I assume that if factory fitted, they’d have put in four screws? There was also a random screw in the side of the unit. Has someone taken this apart before? Anyway, to lift the toilet unit out I’d have to take apart the rest of the bathroom, which is a horrible one-piece unit with tiny sink plugs.

It was fairly simple unscrewing various screws, easier once I’d found a torch. The top unit out:

the bottom unit, however, had water pipes that were really difficult to remove, so I ended up just cutting through them with a junior hacksaw.

oh hey look! there’s still water in the system, as it sprayed out under pressure. Once that had drained, I sawed through it with fury, unscrewed a ventilation pipe, and then looked at the waste pipe once before deciding to saw through that too. The whole lot lifted out –

Hooray!

That out of the way, I could easily lift the stinky chemical toilet unit out and dump it in the garden. Very, very satisfying.

ha! ha! ha! Victory is mine!Not convinced I can sell the toilet unit on ebay for £150; it is about 20 years old and I don’t even know if it works or not. Plus, the last owner has kindly left me a half-full waste tank. This might just go straight in the tip (or convert it to a composting toilet?).

So let’s look at what’s left behind –

Yep, obvious nasty damp ingress from the toilet waste hatch. I really, really, really wish I’d taken out the bathroom when I first moved in. I wouldn’t have had the nasty chemical toilet smell, I’d have had more space, I would have realised there was a damp problem. OH WELL.

I’m borrowing a dehumidifier on Wednesday, and by then the sealant should have arrived. I plan to seal up everything, leave the dehumidifier for a few days, and use that time working out exactly how to replace the rotten floor, wall panels and battens.

 

Damp Day 2

I hadn’t heard back from the forums, so I still wasn’t sure what my best plan of action was. Floor first? Walls? I decided to concentrate on peeling back as much wallpaper as I could to find out the full extent of the damp patch.

Firstly, though, I went around the exterior and taped up every single possible water ingress I could find. Then back inside, I worked away at the big damp patch.

There was an odd square bit cut out, as if someone had cut away a square to remove it and have a look, then put it back. What did it mean? Had the previous owner done some damp fixing already?

I excavated away and found a batten, which was OK in the middle but rotten at either end. The damp on the floor seemed to extend to into the bathroom.

I’ve been wanting to take out the bathroom since I got the van; I don’t use it (No water or chem toilet disposal, also, I hate chemical toilets) and I hate the smell of chemical toilets. I once spent a hot summer working on a tiny island, with about 30 visitors a day, where one main job was emptying the chemical toilet buckets twice a day.

(One awful morning, as I carried a bucket up a hill to the six foot deep latrine pit we’d spent two weeks digging, I felt a tickling in my ear, and having a scratch with my finger, I dislodged a large spider. At that moment I got over my arachnophobia.)

I had a load of my stuff stored in the caravan bathroom. I moved all that into the house (temporarily – a week max, I think, then I need to find somewhere for it) and as I wasn’t sure where to start with the damp room, I thought I could start taking out the bathroom.

Thetford’s finest C402 casette toilet. Easy to remove, according to the internets, as it’s only held in by four screws, but I still spent ages staring into the exterior door underneath it trying to find a couple of screws that were in a really obvious place.

I removed the waste tank (you can just see it where I stowed it under the van to the right of the plastic thing). Sadly my screwdriver was too big for the gap, and I couldn’t get the screws out. I want an early start tomorrow, with the aim of finding a smaller screwdriver and removing the bathroom.

It was getting dark, then it started raining. Tomorrow I will utterly remove the bathroom, and hopefully by then someone on the forums will point me at where I should be starting with the rest!

A lot more dampness

It occurs that the dampness in the van isn’t just condensation, but actual damp. I set about dismantling the benchseat bed to have a look.

http://sarahdal.com/piwigo/picture.php?/1216/category/30
Bedframe, the centre slats slide in and there’s a folding table that goes on top, so you have two benches facing each other.

This is the bedframe I’ve been sleeping on. I started on the bit to the left of the picture. It took about an hour, as – curiously – it’s clearly home-made. Very well done home made, I only realised it wasn’t factory fitted when I noticed all the pencil marks on the various bits of wood. It had been nailed, stapled, glued and the (thankfully) screwed into place, so when I eventually got the screws out, it all lifted out in one piece.

The warping of the wallpaper does not look good. Let’s peel it back for a look..

 

Definitely not good.http://sarahdal.com/piwigo/picture.php?/1217/category/30 I removed the rest of the furniture to strip it all back and get a grip on the scale of the problem

Underneath the seats I found: 6 felt-tips, the instructions for travel Monopoly, four jigsaw pieces, a leaflet for Deep Sea World and a large plastic spider that scared the shit out of me when I first noticed it.

I peeled everything back that I could..

At this point, I want to say that I couldn’t have had the guts to even get this far without having read a lot of people’s experiences with similar problems – it looks like it is a big job or even a caravan write-off, but a quick look through the Fixed It Club shows how many people have fixed the same problem, if not worse. The forums at UKCampsite have also been great with a few other small niggles I’ve had over the past few months and, I am guessing, they’ll be just as helpful here.

By now it was getting dark and cold and I’m hungry so I called it a night. The ‘van is parked next to my friend’s house, which is where I use the bathroom/kitchen/laundry anyway so there’s plenty of warm, dry space for me and the cat to sleep in until this is sorted!

 

A little dampness

The sleep pod in happier times

A caravan update – I am currently sleeping in a caravan until I start a new job in the Spring. I’ve been here since I left my last job in September. While checking the bed the other day, I realised the mattress topper was soaked and mouldy where it pushed up against the outer wall. Urgh.

The bed is a caravan bed, so a selection of seat cushions laid on some boards across two facing seats. On top of this I put a mattress topper, but it’s a bit bigger than the odd size of the bed, so it pushes up against the wall. I knew the base of the cushions got soaked, as did the wooden bed base, so tried to get air to them as much as possible.

Luckily the mattress topper has a washable cover, so that got a hot wash. I stripped down the bed, stood all four cushions up to dry them out, washed down the walls with a biocide where they had gone mouldy, and left everything to dry out (the wooden base and slats were drenched too)

So that was all left to dry with windows open for two days, then I rearranged the cushions so there’s a decent gap between them and wall, and carefully laid the mattress topper on top so it doesn’t touch the wall. Hopefully that will be enough.

Now – the other exciting thing I bought was a DIY solar extractor fan kit. I need to work out how to install this so it sucks out damp air, I figured placing the fan under the bed? The quarry the van sits in is south-facing and a nice suntrap, so it should work on days when it’s not too overcast. I liked the idea of something runs even when I’m not there. Sadly this is still Scotland, so remains to be seen if it actually works.