Sunday, August 3, 2014

Material Progress

Behind the scenes, progress is being made, slow as it may be. Material is being gathered for the cargo trailer conversion project, even if nothing has been done with it yet.

Trying to get a breeze going...

The two Fantastic fans and Maxx-Aire covers were ordered on the 22nd and arrived on the 25th, which I considered very good service. They were purchased from, which also had given me a good price and good service on the new door latch a couple of months ago.

The Fantastic fans are now awaiting the location and purchase of the correct adhesive sealant caulking before any attempt is made at installing them. Also, the wires have yet to be connected and routed to their position. When everything else is ready I will cut out the openings in the roof and install the fans. Then I will need a 12-volt power source to run them, so a deep cycle battery and a charger will be on my shopping list in the near future.

I have also picked up the two sheets of luan plywood paneling that will be installed on the ceiling, and it will really need to go up before the fans are installed.

Getting screwed...

The delay on the ceiling is because of the proper screws. What was furnished on the trailer sidewalls from the factory, were #8-18x1, type 3 drill point, plated flat wafer head screws. I have searched every source that I can find on the web (after searching locally without success) and the only two places I have found that carry that size and type only has them in cartons of 4000 at a cost of over $800! Yikes!

So as a second best option, I ordered some regular flat head screws in that same size and type (except without the wafer head) from Amazon. The order actually came from some small hardware store that I had never heard of, and when they got here, they were the wrong type of point!

The ones they sent me were standard sheet metal points...not even the extremely sharp "needle point" screws. Trying to force these into 16-gauge stamped steel roof bows would be futile. These are designed for pre-drilled holes!

Not only that, but I have been shipping things online for over 15 years, and we have our own highly accurate postage scale here. I weighed the package of 100 screws at 8.4 ounces. Then I went to the USPS site and calculated First Class postage (which is how they arrived to me) and including $1.05 for tracking, this package shouldn't have cost more than $4.45...but they charged me $7 for shipping!

I could have bought these same screws locally, and saved shipping charges, but no one around here had the exact size of "wafer head" drill point screws I wanted, so I chose these as an alternate choice.

Don't get me wrong, I don't blame Amazon. These screws were provided by one of their vendors. I have never had a problem with Amazon before, and believe me, I have bought a lot of stuff from them over the years. But obviously, this hardware store is not a vendor I would use again. I made a point of sending an email to them to let them know that they didn't send me the screws that were shown on the picture on the Amazon page, plus they ripped me off on shipping. Today is Sunday and they probably won't get it until tomorrow, so we'll see if they respond.

I also went into Amazon and left a "not so favorable" review of the product and vendor. Maybe someone at Amazon will read it and get after them to make it right. Meanwhile, I will keep the screws, as I can find a use for them on some other project where I don't have to try to force them through steel!

So now that I know that the "exact" screws I would like to have cannot be found, I will figure out a reasonable substitution and hope that I can find something that will work locally. I have to have the screws before I can hang the ceiling in the trailer, so that is what has been holding me up. I waited for a week to get the wrong ones, so now I have to waste more time to locate the right ones!

Update - 8/4/14: The hardware store emailed me back first thing this morning and apologized for the wrong item being sent. To make amends, they have already refunded the full amount paid, including shipping, and are sending me a box of the correct screws at their expense, so I am satisfied with the outcome. As far as the shipping, their system charges by the dollar volume, rather than weight, and I can understand how hard it is to program a system based upon that method. We had the same problem when trying to ship lightweight tool organizers combined with large and heavy steel tool boards from our own warehouse. Most payment processors cannot determine correct shipping charges when a store sells a combination of different items. Since they refunded the entire amount, that has also been resolved.

Keeping my cool...

Yesterday, we also ordered the window air conditioner that will go under the front of the couch. It will be delivered to our local Walmart. I could have had it delivered here at home for free, but the way I've seen some delivery drivers handle things, I thought it might be safer at the store. Since my wife works there, she can bring it home when it comes in, which may be as early as the 8th.

This little GE 5050 BTU window air conditioner had very high ratings in the reviews, so that was one good selling point, besides the employee discount we get. The other thing that makes it nearly ideal for our use is that it has a rotating angled diffuser inside the output grid at the top. This is the closest thing that we can find on a small unit like this that will allow the air to be directed upward as well as sideways.

The air conditioner will be mounted closer to the entry door, away from the center of the trailer, as well as at floor level, so it is extremely important that the air be blown toward the center aisle of the trailer as well as upward, for best efficiency. Some small air conditioners cannot do that, so we were very careful in our choice.

Cost also played a small role, but we would have paid whatever it took to get the right unit, and fortunately, this unit was less than $110 final cost, and with no delivery charges. We can buy several of these for what a roof top unit would have cost, plus these are a whole lot easier to get.

Even a portable unit with two hoses would have been upwards of $400, and those are not readily available either. Many of the builder stores carry portable air conditioners, but every one I have seen so far is only a single hose type, and those are very inefficient, because they have to pull warm air into the room from outside, and then constantly cool it down, only to exhaust it out the back. That IS NOT the way a proper air conditioning system works. The cooled down air should stay in the room and the outside air should stay outside!


So that's where we stand right now...waiting to get the proper screws and when we get those I will probably get the proper sealant for the fans at the same time. Then I can make some physical progress again soon.

Once the ceiling is up and the fans installed, I have to make a trip to Batesville again to get the commercial floor tile from Home Depot, and a few more sheets of luan to use as underlayment for the tile. Then I can start building the front couch framework around the new air conditioner and cut the rear vents for it down through the floor.

Hopefully, the garage sale proceeds can keep up with the expenditures for the trailer, because we're trying not to spend normal income on it. Our goal is to get Sharon out of Walmart ASAP, and we already know that isn't going to happen until "at least" next July, and then we may need a couple more paychecks after the last bill is paid off to buy some of the last minute stuff before we leave here for good.

As long as the money comes in fast enough to buy stuff as we need it, that will be good enough. Thankfully, we have had some nice cool mornings this year, and we have been trying to only stay open until 2 PM. By then, the heat in the garage is starting to become uncomfortable, and traffic slows down anyway. On some days, Sharon has to go in at 3 or 4 PM, so closing at 2 gives her time to grab some lunch and change clothes before she leaves for work.

As always, if anyone has any comments, please don't be afraid to speak up. I realize our floor plan or even our method of traveling may not be for everyone, but if you are doing anything with building up a trailer or van to travel with...even part time...I hope that what we are doing can give you some ideas on what to do or not to do on your own rig.

As soon as I can locate the exact figures for the electric brakes, tongue replacement and tires for the trailer from years past, I hope to be able to put a spreadsheet together to show what this project is costing us. I can assure you that just getting it to that point was less than $3000, including the trailer. Once I add in the newer expenses of insulation, plywood, fans and covers, and any hardware items and soft goods, it will go up from there, but not that much. Rest assured that the finished product will be far less than any factory built RV with similar features, and will be exactly what serves our purpose...rather than having to settle for what some engineer or designer "thinks" we want, without even knowing us.

And the best part is that everything that goes into it is paid for, including the conversion van to pull it with. When we leave here, we will be debt free, and will hope to stay that way...although I must say that the new Leisure Travel Vans Unity Island Bed or the Serenity is looking mighty fine! We could full-time in either of those, although we would still pull a trailer for extra storage.

Two things are certain...(1) there won't be any new debts incurred on anything until this house is sold and we are out from under the house payments, and (2) what we choose after we leave here and get the house sold will depend on how we like what we have set up. We could afford to buy a nice Type "B+" unit like those mentioned above, although we wouldn't buy a new one. If we went with a smaller unit like that, we could keep the trailer indefinitely for our "overflow". On the other hand, if we would decide we wanted more space and opt for something like the Damon Daybreak model 3272, which would accommodate the piano very nicely, we would have to trade the trailer for a more fuel efficient daily runner. A 32-foot motorhome would simply be too costly and too inconvenient to operate for daily running around.

One thing is for sure, none of what we might want is going to be found here in rural Arkansas. We have to get away from here first in order to get somewhere that might have a more suitable traveling combination for our needs, and that is the whole purpose of starting out with a cargo trailer and semi-economical towing vehicle. How temporary or permanent it may become several months down the road is anyone's guess. Only time, and the actual usage of it, will tell us whether it meets our needs or not.



Anonymous said...

John did you look at Mcfeelys on the web for the screws you need ? Old Guy

John Abert said...

Yes, that was the first place I checked, as I have an account with of about 18,000 sources at my disposal. There were about ten to twelve different places that I looked, and only two had that exact screw, but in quantities so large that only a trailer manufacturer could afford to buy from them! I only needed a box of 100, just for the ceiling and a few extras that were missing from the sidewalls, but I can get by with a normal flat head without the wafer flange, so that is what I will have to go to. The hardware store that supplied the wrong screws through Amazon did contact me first thing this morning and they have already reversed the charges including shipping on the wrong order, and are sending me a box of the right screws at their expense, so that has been resolved to my satisfaction. I should have them by the end of the week. Thank you for commenting.

Chamaigne Montana said...

What type of insulation are you going to use in the trailer? Have you figured out the most light weight yet effective insulation?

John Abert said...

That has already been answered on the "Blocking and Insulation" post, which is being updated as the work is done. I had to use what was available, as there just isn't a lot of selection here in rural Arkansas. Also, we plan to travel with moderate weather, and don't plan on staying where it's too hot or too cold. The insulation is more for sound than anything else. I haven't decided yet whether to add any under the floor, although I may spray the bottom of the trailer with under-coating, just to help protect the plywood sub-floor from road spray. At this point, our concern is getting out of here by next August, and I'm sure there will be things that we will continue to improve after we leave here.

Also, as I have always maintained, this trailer is mainly to get us away from here, to where we might find something more suitable. How well it works out will determine how long we will use it. I know we won't make any financial commitments at least until after the house has sold, but after that, anything could happen. We will likely continue to make improvements to the trailer while we set aside more reserves out of the $1100 per month that we will have left from our SS over our fixed expenses. By that time, we should know whether we like this form of traveling, or whether another motorhome is in our future.

Chamaigne Montana said...

Thanks for the reply. I bet you'll have no problem selling the trailer later if you decide to upgrade and it doesn't fit into your new setup.

John Abert said...

Thanks for the comment, Chamaigne. There are so many "ifs" involved, that it could go any number of directions. First, all of the components will be "modular ' so each one can be removed and reinstalled in another trailer "if" we would go that route. Even if the trailer would be upgraded one size, to a 7 x 14, everything would still work, other than what is permanently attached to the trailer (vents, windows, jacks, etc.). "If" we decide to go back to a larger motorhome at some point, it would necessitate going to a smaller daily runner to tow behind it. "If" we decide to go to a smaller motorhome, which could also serve as a daily runner, then we would probably keep the trailer, but more as extra storage and visitor's quarters. "If we decide on a large motorhome, I doubt that any of the dealers nor a private party would take either the trailer or the van in trade, so that would necessitate buying outright and then selling the van and trailer later. And then, maybe they would want the trailer as a cargo hauler, in which case, the interior components could still be removed, but then what to do with them? "If" we get lucky, maybe someone following the blog might buy and use it as is, just like we did. The van is no problem, as someone can always use a van like that "if" it has been cared for properly.

Everything depends on how well it serves us on the road. Our biggest concerns are how it will be perceived in our membership resorts. Most of them already have rules about "no converted buses". Will that also apply to converted trailers? I see many of the larger motorhomes pulling cargo trailers and yet they don't have a problem with those. Will we be OK telling them we have a "Class B" van and cargo trailer, even though our van is only a conversion van? And will it only be the city parks that are so "uppity" or will we run into problems in rural parks as well?

We have never traveled with a rig like this before. We have always had factory made rigs, except for one high top van that I converted myself, but that was before we got involved with membership resorts, and only used campgrounds up to that point. So although we have been RVing for over 30 years, and even managed a membership resort, it's the "method" of traveling that will be a learning experience for us, and only some further experience will tell us what we want to go to after this.

Chamaigne Montana said...

The fact that membership resorts don't like converted buses (or any odd-ball rig?) is very good for me to know!!

John Abert said...

What we have found is that the resorts within big cities are the most particular. The ones out in rural areas are more laid back. This is part of the reason we like a conversion van to pull our trailer with. It really doesn't look any different than many of the Class B van campers, other than having windows all the way around. And even large motorhomes often pull cargo trailers. We really shouldn't have any problem. I have also seen many work vans pulling travel trailers, which is also allowed. Most of the rules I have read don't even address things like Sprinter vans that have been converted...they only mention buses. And I have seen plenty of white Sprinters that are also factory built motorhomes. The line begins to look mighty gray at this point, and it can all boil down to what kind of mood the manager is in. From past experience, I can assure you that there are far more places that a van would be accepted than those where they aren't. If they are that "uppity" than I probably wouldn't want to stay there anyway

Chamaigne Montana said...

Me too. Unless I had a gig. But we've talked about that. Thanks for the thoughts!