Bubbles version 2.0: DONE!!!

...ask your questions in the appropriate forums BUT document your build here...preferably in a single thread...dates for updates, are appreciated....

Bubbles version 2.0: DONE!!!

Postby Martinjmpr » Tue Mar 19, 2013 9:38 am

(Crosspost from http://www.expeditionportal.com)

This is a build thread I'm starting on our little homebuilt teardrop trailer, nicknamed "bubbles" (thanks to some of the good folks at Expedition Portal for the name!)

Some of you have probably seen my other posts, but for the benefit of those who might not, I'll start at the beginning:

Part 1: The beginning:

Back in January of 2012, my wife and I were talking about what we wanted to accomplish in the upcoming year, what we wanted to do differently, etc. I mentioned that I'd like us to go camping together. We had last "camped out" together at a KOA, staying in a cabin, in 2009. And the last time we went camping at a primitive campsite was in 2007 using the truck I owned then, a 2004 Tacoma.

I had continued to camp after 2009 but Liz didn't come with me because she didn't really feel comfortable sleeping in the small confines of the bed of my truck. And when I sold the truck and got a 4runner in the Summer of 2009, that made camping for two even more restricted (although it works fine for one person.)

The real issue is that at our age (50) we don't really like sleeping on the ground in a tent, and we don't need/want a big camper.

So we started exploring ways that we might be able to camp out. We thought about getting a tent trailer, but the ones that were within our sub-$2000 budget were in pretty bad shape. Also we wondered about how unpleasant it might be to set up/take down in the middle of a rainstorm or heavy wind, and finally there was the issue of wind causing the sides of the tent to flap and generally make noise.

So then Liz suggested a Teardrop Trailer. I had seen pictures of teardrops but didn't know much about them. Liz, however, knew someone at a previous job who was very much into teardrops.

I started scanning Craigslist and we immediately found a couple of factory built trailers that were tow-able, but needed a little interior TLC from the pics, and both were in our budget. Unfortunately, they were also located several hundred miles away in New Mexico.

But then, by chance, I just happened to see a listing for a home built teardrop in Glenwood Springs, CO, just 3 hours away. Although I was somewhat skeptical of getting someone else's home built, the builder sent us links to YouTube videos he'd posted of the build. So we thought it looked decent. His price was a tad high, at $1800, but we also noticed he had been listing it since November, so we figured we could dicker him down a bit.

On a weekend in mid-January, we loaded up the 4runner and headed up the mountains to Glenwood. We met with the builder, a very nice young guy who is an amazing woodcraftsman. He builds electric guitars, gorgeous ones, and had several half-finished guitars on the wall of his shop. We checked out the Trailer and Liz was immediately smitten - the trailer was an absolutely gorgeous work of art.

I was mainly interested in making sure it was structurally sound, and it certainly appeared to be. So we negotiated a bit and finally settled on a price of $1450, which we thought was fair. Got her hooked up to my 4runner and headed down the mountain.

Here she is at a rest area off of I-70.

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We got her home and started figuring out how we were going to use her.

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We were impressed by a lot of things: The workmanship that was put into the wood work, the fact that it had nice amenities like an air conditioner and a music system we could attach an iPod to, an exterior (shore) power connection, and so on.

After we named her "Bubbles", Liz and I immediately set out to decorating it, and since Liz is an avid fly fisher, she went with a "fish" theme. We also wanted lots of colors and textures in it, to make it fun inside and out.

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We took 6 trips with Bubbles in 2012, and I won't re-iterate them since I already posted other threads on those subjects.

However, as much fun as Bubbles was, we came to the realization that she was badly in need of some modification and repair.

The specific problems were:

1. Watertightness. She leaked from her hatch into the sleeping compartment, due to the placement of a hole for the power cord to the stereo, that allowed water to drip from inside the galley (kitchen area on the back of the trailer) directly onto Liz's sleeping bag! The leaking was caused by inadequate weatherstripping on the galley hatch, as well as the cheap Home-Depot type piano hinges used for the galley hatch itself. This was temporarily fixed with additional weatherstripping but the problem of the drain hole into the sleeping compartment still exists.

2. Ventilation: Bubbles has two round portholes with screens that open up, but no other ventilation. Of course, she has an air conditioner, but to our surprise, the air conditioner didn't work. It would power up just fine, but the fan never blew. We didn't know if this was due to inadequate power at the campsite or a defective AC but without the AC it simply got too stuffy in there with two people sleeping. Not only that, the portholes are about halfway down the height of the body meaning that moist air that gets trapped at the top of the sleeping compartment has nowhere to go and this leads to condensation forming on the ceiling.

3. Height: The builder used a thick Dayton (mobile home) axle and put it in a spring-over-axle design. As a result, the "galley" platform is nearly unusable as it sits nearly 4' off the ground. Basically it's chest-height to me and almost neck-height to my wife, making it rather useless as a cooking platform (look at the picture above, the deck of the galley is at her shoulder height!) The height also requires me to run a raised trailer hitch and even so, the trailer leans downward.

4. Wheels: While the Dayton axle is rugged and robust, it requires oddball wheels that have no hub. The wheel mounts directly to the axle hub with wedges. According to some on the TNTTT.com website, these wedges are prone to loosening, and so require a lot of attention keeping them tight. Not only that, with no hub, there's no practical way to mount the spare tire, so I ended up carrying that on the roof rack of my tow vehicle.

5. Weight: Most factory built Teardrops weigh in at between 600 and 800lbs dry. Bubbles weighs 1115 lbs dry with a tongue weight of 205 lbs (18%.) For this reason alone, I decided to sell my 1999 4runner and get a 2007 instead for its more powerful engine and better towing ability. Much of the weight, IMO, is due to the very heavy Dayton axle.

6. Electric power: The shore power connection causes water to leak into the body of the trailer (and subsequently into the passenger compartment as described above) and is difficult to access. Also, all it does is allow 120v power when we are at a developed campsite - there is no provision for battery power.

With all that in mind, we have finally begun the work on the New! Improved! version of our trailer, which I am calling Bubbles v. 2.0! 8)
To be continued...
Last edited by Martinjmpr on Mon Jun 24, 2013 1:25 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Martin and Liz and our new T@B Clamshell "Livia"

Our old Teardrop "bubbles"
Bubbles version 2.0 build thread!

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Part 2: Teardown!

Postby Martinjmpr » Tue Mar 19, 2013 9:41 am

Before we can build up, of course, we have to tear down the existing structure.

With a nice, warm weekend and a few days off, Liz and I started in.

My first order of business was that heavy Dayton axle. I took some rough measurements and found I could get a smaller, lighter axle for around $120. But first I had to get the old axle off.

Taking off the wheels was easy enough (glad I never had to change a flat, though - putting those wedgest back on by the side of the road would be a PITA!) Had to use the hydraulic jack from my 4runner to lift it up high enough to get the jackstands under the frame.

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Since we were moving the axle upwards, in addition to taking out the axle, I had to remove the fenders, as they will need to be relocated upwards on the body.

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Once the wheels were off I put two of the leveling scissor jacks that came with the trailer underneath the axle so it wouldn't drop suddenly, and began the laborious process of unbolting the axle. There was a lot of surface rust but since I knew the trailer was only about 2 years old, I wasn't worried. I did spray a generous amount of "liquid wrench" on it first, though!

....and off she came! Without any drama, but OMG, is that a heavy axle!

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You probably can't tell from the picture but the center of the axle is about 5" in diameter! I didn't even try to carry it anywhere, just rolled it over to the side of the driveway and snapped a photo so I could list it on CL.

Meanwhile, Liz was busy in the galley. First order of business was to remove the non-functioning AC:

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Carefully working with a chisel and screwdriver, she was able to get all of the various attaching screws disconnected. Unfortunately the builder also used some kind of hard plastic sealant which had to be chiseled through.

But, a little patience and elbow grease and finally it came free! Now we have a nice "picture window" from the galley into the sleeping cabin.

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We then took a look at the AC unit and noticed this gaping hole in the bottom:

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:shock: No, we did not do that removing it - it was like that when it came out! Might explain why the fan didn't seem to work. Glad we never seriously tried to use that AC, could have started a fire!

The last thing Liz did was to chisel up all the tile that was placed in the galley, as well as all the colored "bubbles" (which were painted wood discs) that she put there last year. She wants to go to a different decorating scheme for Version 2.0, though we're not sure exactly what that will be just yet.

So, as of the end of the day Saturday, here's how she stands:

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I'll get the axle this week and the wheels and tires if I can find some I like (I want to go with a "conventional" wheel that will accept a hub cap because I think baby moon hubcaps look great on teardrop trailers!)

As a side note, back in July, Liz and I refinished bubbles with some deck sealer and polyurethane spar varnish and I have to say I'm impressed by how well she's holding up for being stored outdoors. We do keep her covered with a heavy but breathable cover, and a pop-up canopy over the top of that, though.

TO BE CONTINUED...
Martin and Liz and our new T@B Clamshell "Livia"

Our old Teardrop "bubbles"
Bubbles version 2.0 build thread!

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Colorado Teardroppers and Tiny Trailers Camping Group (FB)

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Re: Bubbles version 2.0: The Buildup Begins!

Postby S. Heisley » Tue Mar 19, 2013 5:50 pm

Bubbles really does look nice with that shiny varnish coating on her. That's holding up nicely.
Glad to see that you are making her better. You'll love her even more after you've done all that.

Good luck on your refurbishing escapade. We'll be watching! :thumbsup: :applause:
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Re: Bubbles version 2.0: The Buildup Begins!

Postby Martinjmpr » Mon Apr 01, 2013 10:30 am

Part 3: Some interior/exterior work

Well, I would have worked on Bubbles last weekend but we got a nasty Spring snowstorm that dumped almost a foot of snow on us!

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However, I've lived in CO for the last 40 years (minus 12 years spent in various locations with the military) so I'm pretty familiar with the weather pattern: No matter how much snow we get in March, it always melts quickly and this year was no exception. By Friday it was 60 degrees and virtually every trace of our previous weekend's snow was gone.

So my plan was to pick up my new axle on Saturday morning and then install it (Saturday was the only work day available because Sunday the kids were coming over to the house with the new grandbaby to celebrate her first Easter!)

Well, that was the plan. Have you ever heard the saying "If you want to hear God laugh, make a plan?" :oops:

So I took my 4runner down to the trailer shop, told them exactly what I wanted and they found it in the warehouse. A 2000lb straight axle, 72" hub face to hub face with the hubs already on it (5 on 4.5 - standard wheel size.) I was assured that they had one with the axle seats at 60" (our trailer measures 59 3/4" between axle seats but I figured that 1/4" wasn't a big deal since it only meant a difference of 1/8" on each side.) So we go to measure the axle seats and they are - 58". Way too short to work on our trailer. Guy at the axle shop was very nice, said he could move the axle seats -

"But not today." :cry:

So I paid for the axle and went home. I'll pick it up before work tomorrow.

But I was determined to do as much work as I could. First order of business was to get rid of these awful rain gutters the builder put on there:

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So what's so awful about them? Well, besides the fact that they look butt-ugly on our nice wood trailer, they are cheap and their sharp edges have cut the crap out of two different covers. This even AFTER I took a dremel tool and rounded off the corners. They're just too sharp. And ugly. Really ugly.

Unscrewing them was easy, but of course they were also glued/sealed on. So out came the chisel and hammer, as carefully as I could.

Getting the first gutter off the side (which is made of 3/4" Marine grade plywood) was easy. I barely even chipped the wood.

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Alas, the two gutters (one above the hatch, and one at the bottom of the hatch) was much more troublesome. Adding to this is the fact that his is only about 1/4" or 5/16" plywood, meaning that the 'divots' pulled up by glued-on gutters were quite deep:

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But at least it was DONE. Once we have wheels on, we will move Bubbles into the garage for a complete refinishing and that will include sanding and filling these divots and putting in some nice wooden rain gutters (we got some great ideas for wooden gutters on some of the trailers we saw at Walk the Winds in Wyoming!)

To Be Continued....
Martin and Liz and our new T@B Clamshell "Livia"

Our old Teardrop "bubbles"
Bubbles version 2.0 build thread!

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Re: Bubbles version 2.0: The Buildup Begins!

Postby Martinjmpr » Mon Apr 01, 2013 10:48 am

Part 4:

While I was up top removing the gutters, I noticed this:

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See how the wood is starting to split apart? Not sure what, if anything, I can do about that at this point. As I said above, a complete sanding and re-finishing is in the works, but I'm not sure if that will fix this deterioration. I think what we will do is try to refinish as best we can for this year and if the problem continues (which I presume it will), I think I may have to look into something radical for a solution, like skinning the top (but not the sides) in aluminum. Any thoughts or recommendations on that?

Next I turned to the galley area. As you can see, the builder put a 110v electrical outlet to the galley. this "shore power" connector was not made for a vehicle, it was made for a home - like everything else he did, he bought his supplies at Home Depot.

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That power connection went to a household-type power strip that sat in a box he constructed in the galley:

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From there, power went to the AC unit in the galley (which we removed 2 weeks ago) and also through a hole in the bottom of the electrical box to a stereo system in the sleeping area.

Can you see the problem here? Again, I give mad props to the builder for being an expert wood craftsman - and then I have to take away points because he didn't seem to understand that he was building something that might, occasionally, have to be placed out in the rain. Here's what it looked like once I had the wooden box in the corner removed:

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So you can probably guess what happened: When it rained, we either got leakage through the hatch (which was inadequately weather stripped) or through the shore power connector and then via that little 1" hole, water dripped straight into the sleeping compartment! Not good!

As you can see from the picture above, I removed the shore power connector, and then using my table saw for the first time (Christmas gift from my wife!)I made a filler piece using some of the extra wood from the box that used to enclose the power strip:

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I'll use wood filler to seal any gaps around that so water can't get in. As for that devious little hole, I found a PVC pipe cap that will fit perfectly, and will, again, be sealed into place.

We will have some kind of electrical system, but it will be attached to the sleeping compartment via a tongue box (which we already have) and then will connect through the floor, so there won't be any way for rain water to come in and ruin our night!

That was pretty much it for this weekend, once we get the new axle and wheels we'll have a lot more flexibility in what we can do.
Martin and Liz and our new T@B Clamshell "Livia"

Our old Teardrop "bubbles"
Bubbles version 2.0 build thread!

Our Facebook group:
Colorado Teardroppers and Tiny Trailers Camping Group (FB)

States we've visited with Bubbles and Livia: Image
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Re: Bubbles version 2.0: The Buildup Begins!

Postby Martinjmpr » Mon Apr 01, 2013 10:56 am

An Interlude:

I didn't do a lot of work this weekend but I did take some pictures of the interior. At this time we're not planning on making any radical changes to the inside, though of course, that's always a possibility in the future.

Most of the interior decoration was done by Liz. She's quite creative and likes using Bubbles as her "canvas." She wanted to have a "fish" theme to Bubbles because of the "porthole" type windows (also where she got her name "Bubbles."):

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I cut the little mini railings out and Liz painted them yellow. Since this is the head of our "bed", it's a nice place to put water bottles, glasses, phone, books, flashlight, etc. I have no idea where Liz go the stuffed fish:

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When we got Bubbles last year, the builder had the plans tacked up on his wall. Liz asked if she could have a copy of the plans, which we then framed and put inside:

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Most people put their "where I've been" RV map on the outside, but we didn't want anything on our gorgeous wood exterior, so Liz came up
with the idea of putting this inside:

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We have plans to go to Montana in June. Hmmm....We haven't been to Arizona or Texas or Washington yet.... :thinking:

Liz and I were in our 40's when we met so we both like this sign:

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Anyway, that's about it for the interior. Hopefully next week I'll have the new axle on, some temporary wheels, a roof vent, and maybe some new fenders will be on the way! Stay tuned! 8)
Martin and Liz and our new T@B Clamshell "Livia"

Our old Teardrop "bubbles"
Bubbles version 2.0 build thread!

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Colorado Teardroppers and Tiny Trailers Camping Group (FB)

States we've visited with Bubbles and Livia: Image
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Re: Bubbles version 2.0: The Buildup Begins!

Postby PKCSPT » Mon Apr 01, 2013 5:43 pm

lookin good
121172 116946 159644
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Re: Bubbles version 2.0: The Buildup Begins!

Postby Wolfgang92025 » Mon Apr 01, 2013 8:00 pm

Martinjmpr wrote:I think what we will do is try to refinish as best we can for this year and if the problem continues (which I presume it will), I think I may have to look into something radical for a solution, like skinning the top (but not the sides) in aluminum. Any thoughts or recommendations on that?


Martin,

If it was me, I would put down aluminum now. It's just a matter of time before the roof will show more signs of wear and maybe rot, and them you will have to do it anyway. So why put in all that effort to sand, clean and refinish....

Just me 2 cents worth.
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Re: Bubbles version 2.0: The Buildup Begins!

Postby Martinjmpr » Mon Apr 01, 2013 8:49 pm

Wolfgang92025 wrote:
Martin,

If it was me, I would put down aluminum now. It's just a matter of time before the roof will show more signs of wear and maybe rot, and them you will have to do it anyway. So why put in all that effort to sand, clean and refinish....

Just me 2 cents worth.


I hear you. It's getting the Mrs. to agree that's going to be tough. She loves the all-wood look.

For that matter, So do I, but not at the expense of being secure and water tight. :thinking:

But if we're going to replace the hinge on the hatch and the latch, as well as install a roof vent, I agree it makes sense to bite the bullet and reskin the roof now.
Martin and Liz and our new T@B Clamshell "Livia"

Our old Teardrop "bubbles"
Bubbles version 2.0 build thread!

Our Facebook group:
Colorado Teardroppers and Tiny Trailers Camping Group (FB)

States we've visited with Bubbles and Livia: Image
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Re: Bubbles version 2.0: The Buildup Begins!

Postby Woodbutcher » Mon Apr 01, 2013 9:44 pm

You might consider a Marine Vinyl for the roof. It does come in colors and it could look good with the wood sides. I did black on mine because I needed 62" wide and my choices were limited.
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Re: Bubbles version 2.0: The Buildup Begins!

Postby Martinjmpr » Tue Apr 02, 2013 10:52 am

Woodbutcher wrote:You might consider a Marine Vinyl for the roof. It does come in colors and it could look good with the wood sides. I did black on mine because I needed 62" wide and my choices were limited.


Vinyl might work. Where would I find this stuff? Denver's a pretty big city so I'm sure I could find it somewhere.

Next question - I presume that any aluminum or vinyl would be glued on, Yes? So what kind of glue would be used?

And is expansion/contraction in hot/cold weather an issue? I saw another post that mentioned "oil canning" - I presume this is flexing or wrinking due to temperature changes? How much of an issue would this be assuming the vinyl or aluminum would only be on the top, not the sides?
Martin and Liz and our new T@B Clamshell "Livia"

Our old Teardrop "bubbles"
Bubbles version 2.0 build thread!

Our Facebook group:
Colorado Teardroppers and Tiny Trailers Camping Group (FB)

States we've visited with Bubbles and Livia: Image
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Re: Bubbles version 2.0: The Buildup Begins!

Postby KCStudly » Tue Apr 02, 2013 2:59 pm

Any thought of glassing it?

I'm thinking that that is just a clear coat that is checking where the wood grain is stressed from bending.

I wonder if you could sand it down, lay 6oz cloth with epoxy, fill the weave with epoxy, thus reinforcing the wood grain, stopping the checking and keeping that woody look. Just a thought, not sure if it is as easy as it sounds. ;)
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Re: Bubbles version 2.0: The Buildup Begins!

Postby Martinjmpr » Tue Apr 02, 2013 3:56 pm

KCStudly wrote:Any thought of glassing it?


I'm open to any ideas. See my thread here:

Re-skinning a wooden TD
The thing is, I'm not a master craftsman, so something that requires a lot of skill or expensive tools is not viable for me. Ditto for something very expensive.


I'm thinking that that is just a clear coat that is checking where the wood grain is stressed from bending.

I wonder if you could sand it down, lay 6oz cloth with epoxy, fill the weave with epoxy, thus reinforcing the wood grain, stopping the checking and keeping that woody look. Just a thought, not sure if it is as easy as it sounds. ;)


I'm not understanding. :NC

Do you mean lay the glass fiber on top of the wood and then epoxy it? What would that look like? Do you have any pictures of what that might look like on wood?

I'm pretty much open to suggestions, I just have never done any of this so I need to know what my options are, hence the post I linked to above.
Martin and Liz and our new T@B Clamshell "Livia"

Our old Teardrop "bubbles"
Bubbles version 2.0 build thread!

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Re: Bubbles version 2.0: The Buildup Begins!

Postby KCStudly » Tue Apr 02, 2013 6:32 pm

I haven't ever done it, but there are plenty of examples of stripper kayaks and woody TD's that have used this technique and it ends up looking like a deep clear coat; the fine glass weave all but disappears when done right.

Someone with more experience is likely to jump in, but IIRC the process goes like this:
smooth sanded surface
wet coat of epoxy
lay glass fabric on
squeegee fabric down into wet coat (maybe adding more epoxy or squeegeeing excess into drier areas, but being careful not to move or stretch the weave too much)
after it starts to gel a bit add more epoxy with roller or squeegee in coats to fill the weave (if it fully cures you have to let it set and wash the amine coating off)
apply UV resistant clear top coat

Not inexpensive, but then neither is alum sheet and trim.

Although she planned to painted over it from the beginning, check out Becky's "Lance and Becky's Sagwagon". She starts laying the glass on here.
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Re: Bubbles version 2.0: The Buildup Begins!

Postby Woodbutcher » Tue Apr 02, 2013 7:20 pm

Martinjmpr wrote:
Woodbutcher wrote:You might consider a Marine Vinyl for the roof. It does come in colors and it could look good with the wood sides. I did black on mine because I needed 62" wide and my choices were limited.


Vinyl might work. Where would I find this stuff? Denver's a pretty big city so I'm sure I could find it somewhere.

Next question - I presume that any aluminum or vinyl would be glued on, Yes? So what kind of glue would be used?

And is expansion/contraction in hot/cold weather an issue? I saw another post that mentioned "oil canning" - I presume this is flexing or wrinking due to temperature changes? How much of an issue would this be assuming the vinyl or aluminum would only be on the top, not the sides?




Martin, this is the fabric I used. http://www.duboisfabrics.com/category_s/28.htm There are many others in their line. The TOPGUN has UV protection. Many others may also. I needed 62" wide fabric so that limited my choices. I used their glue. If you are interested I would call and talk to them to verify your choice will work. I used the aluminum corner molding with a sealer tapse over the corner under the trim.
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