We need walls to protect us from the elements. And to keep us contained. Mostly Loki. So we got some marine grade plywood, to help protect against moisture, and set out to build our walls. The plywood sheets were 5’x10’ okoume, so very large and heavy. But we managed. The trailer had to be moved out into the driveway as the sheets were too large to attach them to the trailer in the garage. We had to remove a couple storage compartments that we had previously installed in order to access the bolt holes on the frame. Once we located the position of the bolt holes we bolted the plywood to the side of the trailer in its whole 5x10 form.
Next came the scariest part - deciding where to make the cuts. The top of the trailer and the back of the trailer were easy, they are just straight lines and we already had reference points for those. The curve on the front of the trailer we decided to cut last, after the roof is on, to ensure that the curves match. Next we had to decide where the transition point would be for when the roof changes from horizontal to sloped. Mostly we just had to make sure that it would be at least 44” long so that we had enough room to attach solar panels. And then it just came down to aesthetics. We located a point on the roof and a point at the back of the trailer. We wanted to ensure we would have enough foot room inside after the trailer was all together. Eventually it was time to commit and the cut was made. At this point there was no going back.
Next we placed the door and the window in place and traced them. These holes were cut and the door and window fit! The wall was mostly complete at this point, but we also want to be warm inside the trailer. So the edges were framed with 1”x3” strapping, as were the cutouts for the window and door. In between the strapping we glued in ½” foam insulation. After this, we cut a sheet of quarter inch thick plywood to skin the interior. And ta-da! We have a wall.
The same process was repeated for the driver’s side wall. This side seemed to go slightly quicker because, dare I say, we knew what we were doing. Basically, everything was already set up for us. The slant of the roof had already been determined, so we just made several measurements to make sure that everything was where it needed to be and made the cuts. This side was a little different in that it doesn’t have a door. It has two windows though, one large and one small. We lined the bottom of the windows up on the same side and tried to line the small window up to the window on the passenger side wall. Easy-peasy. The hard part on this side was the compartment doors. If you remember, we have a storage section on the driver’s side front-end of the trailer. This contains the sink and storage shelves above it. We needed to make a cutout for this which will eventually be hinged on as an access door. This took some creativity and a lot of care. But we got it done. We still needed to apply strapping to the wall just under the curve so that it can help support the roof and give us something to attach the roof to. But the cabinet is the entire section, all the way to the roof. So we needed to cut the opening such that it would give us optimal access but still allow room to attach strapping and give us enough space to screw into the adjacent walls for stability. We finally determined where the cuts needed to be and very carefully made them permanent. The same thing ensued for the drawer with the grill attached. We did end up having to adjust the position of the grill (from where it was bolted to the drawer) by about 1/8”, as it was rubbing slightly on the cutout.
At this point we were on a roll, and we'd found a really good working rhythm. So we kept at it almost every night after work until we had to sleep for a couple weeks. Over the winter, we cut a bunch of slits in one of the sheets of plywood and clamped it to a curved jig as we applied a bunch of boiling hot wet rags to the curve area to facilitate the bend. It's been clamped to the fixture we made ever since. We finally brought that panel out and laid it in place. It didn't quite retain the full curve, but it was easy enough to manipulate into place by hand.
This was a super motivating sight. We became even more determined. We laid out and cut the hole for the ceiling fan. We wired it into the electrical system and ran the wires through the wall to the ceiling.
We secured the curved section of roof into place across the front edge, and to both side walls. We also applied sealer around all the winows, door, and in all the panel gaps.
The rest of the roof was pretty straightforward to install. When we purchased the plywood so long ago, we paid a few extra bucks to have the smaller sheets cut down to the appropriate width. Luckily, there were no sinificant design changes between then and now! They had a much bigger table saw than we do, so it was much easier for them to cut the full sheets down to size, and assured they'd all be exactly the same width. It was money well spent. It meant all we had to do was cut the panel to the right length once we knew what that needed to be. Once the roof was complete, we were able to permanently install the solar panels, and get those finally wired in. This was really helpful, as we'd been periodically laying one panel out in the driveway while we were working on it, to catch some afternoon sun and charge the battery. Once the panels were installed, the charging became passive; it just happens automatically with no input from us.
Once the roof was complete, we were able to insulate the ceiling, and install the interior skin. You can sort of see it in the picture below.
Once the interior roof skin was done, we could install the rear wall. We had to wait until the ceiling was complete, otherwise we would not have been able to get the interior skin through the door! The rear wall followed the same general process as the walls and the roof; exterior, then "studs" and insulation, then the interior skin. We passed wires through the rear wall for a center high-mounted stop light. It's not required for trailers, but we like to be sure that it is clear when we are stopping, so we don't get rear-ended!
There were a few really big days (read: late nights) trying to get across the finish line. We had to call in backup. We owe a big thanks to our friends Ryan and Chris for coming and helping out, taking on some of the stuff on our to-do list, so we could multi-task. Their help was outstanding, and we are very grateful. Chris and Mandy built the rear wall. If you recall, we built the taillight harness in the middle of this past winter, so it was done in the house, with just some rough dimensions pulled off the trailer. Some of the lights came up a few inches short of the rear wall, so Ryan took care of that for us, extending the wiring as required.
While Mandy and Chris were working the rear wall, I took care of something we'd been putting off for quite a while, just because it was never a priority; finishing off the tow-vehicle connection part of the wiring harness. It was always there, but it was coiled up inside the front end of the trailer, generally getting in the way of various other things. We finally poked a hole in the front wall and passed the harness through. Then we secured the junction box to the tongue. The coily cord connects to a 7-pin connector on the tow vehicle. We wired it to activate reverse lights, as well as charge the trailer battery. There's a brake wire as well, if we opt to add brakes in the future. We ordered the axle with flanges for brakes, but there are currently no brakes installed. So most of the leg work is already complete, and it will be a fairly straightforward upgrade in the future if we feel the need.
We called it a night at about 11pm on a Friday with the rear wall completed. We made temporary taillight panels which will be replaced in the future with something more sturdy. We didn't really have anything concrete that we had to be done for, but we were motivated to just be done with it. It felt like that last night before a group final project is due, and we all worked until we were totally exhausted. The last step was cleaning the whole interior space out and throwing a vacuum-packed memory foam queen size mattress through the door and cutting the bag off. We left it to fill the interior overnight.
We got up early Saturday and installed the rear storage compartment door, and installed the taillight panels into it. While I was working on the taillights, Mandy laid out all the holes for mounting the fenders. These bolted right up after drilling the holes.
We tightened up the lug nuts, threw on the license plate and hit the road. Not a moment too soon.
7/25/2018 10:10:18 am
Amazing work, guys!!! The trailer looks fabulous!!!!! And now that we live in a pre-fab one, I can appreciate all the care and details you put into each tiny piece and each section. And I’m so in love with your solar panels and that you guys can now traverse rough terrains (unlike the RV on the market.) Great job and wow, you did it!!!!
7/26/2018 08:52:14 am
thank you Lilly! We hope you're all enjoying the RV life!
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"It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to."
- Bilbo Baggins
We're just an adventure-loving couple with a puppy looking to share our stories with the world.