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Building your own recreational vehicle or trailer

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I was inspired to start building my own travel trailer (since I already own a full size truck by this message:

"Hi Erin and Everybody,

1) Before you consider adding flooring, I suggest you check the insulation. You'll probably need more. A lot more.

Why? A lot of folks -- me included -- describe the various amusing products of the Recreational Vehicle industry as 'cheap and disposable'.

Here is my experience: On-and-off over thirty years, I delivered RVs of all sorts and perceived values from builders-to-dealers and dealers-to-shows. In my short sweet life, I discovered RV manufacturers tend to construct to the lowest bidder, designing with the cheapest materials and cheapest labor. And quite often, they fail to achieve even these hilariously-miserable standards.

Early on, I realized there is no way I could feel safe full-timing in a store-bought RV, so I build my rigs from commercial-duty trucks and trailers. These platforms are professionally-engineered from the get-go to travel millions of trouble-free miles.

In Oregon, we have a name for these converted commercial-duty conversions: house-trucks.

For more information on this ever-growing phenomena of house-trucks, check out the hundreds of photos on the website of my Oregon guitar playing buddy Mr. Sharky:

2) Erin asks about re-covering the sub-floor. Before you decide on one type of flooring (Bamboo?), check over at a big hardware/lumber store such as Home Depot. Each box is designed to cover only about 22 square feet, and yet, each box of Bamboo flooring is about as much as I can lift with two hands and a thigh.

How do I know? I installed gorgeous toasted Bamboo tongue-and-groove in my house-truck Rhino 8. With a GVWR of 26,000+ pounds, Rhino 8 has boo-koo carrying capacity to spare, and the extra few hundred pounds is non-noticeable.

But, transferring the individual boxes from the shopping cart to inside The Rig was a major bear.

But, it sure looks sharp. Impresses the ladies to beat the band.

And, following through with my Japanese theme, I laid slate tile at the entry, with a short bench so I can remove my shoes and store them under it.

3) In a 3/4-ton Chevy van conversion, carrying capacity can approach maximum with just a few gallons of water and some can goods.

How do I know? Back in the early 80s, I had a 4x4 Chevy 1-ton conversion. I loaded it with SCUBA gear and a couple kayaks and camping gear for trips to Baja, then took it across the scale at a moving-and-storage company.

The darn thing weighed right at max for a 1-ton, and acceleration was glacial. How slow? One Sunday morning, trudging at full-throttle on the way up the hill to church, we were passed -- on the right! the scoundrels! -- by a herd of hung-over ants on their way to terrorize us in our place of worship. Fortunately, as the hooligans hooted and brodied around us, they created a massive dust cloud to hide our shame-filled faces, so until now, nobody knew the truth of the matter (I trust you will be decent and reverential to us in this most sensitive 'sharing').

And with all that weight, our 1-ton's fuel mileage plummeted. How does 6 (six) MPG sound? With a smallish fuel tank, range dropped to less than a couple hundred miles. Just driving around town, I filled the tank one day... then needed to re-fill a couple days later!

Sadly, in a wildly-optimistic attempt to extend the van's dismal range, the RV manufacturer added a 9-gallon second fuel tank. Unfortunately, the filler for the second tank was in the rear wheel-well, so it accumulated grunge at an appalling rate. Filling the aux tank required chiseling away petrified slime and who-knows-what yuck from the cap area.

The seller swore up-and-down his fuel mileage was "...about 15MPG or so...", but my experience significantly differed from his testimony.

I owned the rodent a total of 4 (four) days, then dumped it off at the seller's bank to let them fight it out. And that was the last I heard of it.

Here's another example: My buddy full-timed in a 1-ton dually wide-body van conversion. She wore out tires and she wore out brakes, and the darn thing handled like a dyspeptic vulture with an UTI.

She was Mormon (could still be, as far as I know), and carried her recommended years' inventory of necessities. The poor dear was mortified about starvation, and defending her hoard against roving hordes of the shambling undead or somesuch.

So, we took her rig across the scales, using an elaborate -- and totally dorky-looking -- series of maneuvers... we weighed each axle, then weighed each side, then weighed each axle end.

And this initiated the investigation into the reasons for her many problems -- we discovered her coach batteries were forward on the driver side, the propane and water tanks were forward on the driver side. And her starting batteries were up front on the driver side.

Just for the fun of it, we weighed the rig with her in her decomposed-and-collapsed driver seat -- and the left front tire carried DOUBLE its rating.

Wendy (that was her name, 'Wendy'), well, she was a large woman, so this might've contributed to the poor dear's issues.


So, I suggest you weigh it and be safe.

Besides, could an insurance investigator deny a claim based on 'unsafe operation of an unsafe vehicle'?

3) Carpet anyplace any time is a disease factory. Stains and dust and fungus and molds and decomposition and the perfect place for bugs to hang out. I suggest you go with an easily-washable mat.

viktor -- Cottage Grove, Oregon


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Page last modified on November 17, 2009, at 04:34 PM EST