How to Restore your Over-Cab Camper

Here's a video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5cqfuDK9xPQ     


 I wasn't intimidated, OK, maybe a little bit.  My Toyota motor home (since the day I bought it), has had extensive water damage to the interior structure.  The water damage was so bad, that the wall of the motorhome (the wall over the cab area) had literally separated from the floor... aka: if I hit one more big bump, the wall was going to FALL OFF of my motor home.

This was BAD.  I knew I had to do something.  Motor home restoration shops wanted upwards of $3,000 for this work to be done.  Even though I only have average handy-man skills and perhaps slightly better than average auto mechanic skills, I was able to do this restoration/repair by myself for less than $200!  I could have made the repair a little more aesthetically pleasing, but the main thing I wanted was for the repair to be STRONG and withstand whatever abuse the road dishes out.  Here's how I did it:

Here's a list of tools/supplies you will need:

Tools:

* sawzall
* skill saw
* drill & bits
* screwdrivers (phillips + flathead)

* hammer or small crowbar
* needle-nose plyers
* staple gun (for wiring and carpet)
* tape measure & pencil/marker
* wet/dry shop vacuum
* caulk gun
* paint scraper
* hack saw


Materials:

* 2x2x4 ft. angle iron (for corner bracing)
* 4x4 sheet of thick, quality plywood (for overhead cab floor reinforcement)

* small 2"x2" corner joists (for attaching 2x4's to overhead cab floor area)
* 1" wood screws (lots of them, a pack of 100 should be enough, use for securing framing/paneling)

fiberglass matte, resin, and hardner (usually sold as a kit in auto stores) 
* small sponge brushes to "paint" on fiberglass (get several, the fiberglass resin will eat the sponge up)
* white spray paint (to paint over fiberglass when finished)

* 1 tube of Dicor 501 self-leveling white sealant
* 1 tube of high grade silicone
* 1 tube of white latex caulk (for "trimming" your paint job in the end)
* 1 tube of high grade construction adhesive (meant for gluing wood to fiberglass/plastic)
* 6 feel of insulated pipe foam 
* sand paper (heavy, 80 grit) 
* 1 quart of paint (I used Bear primer + paint "all-in-one", autumn leaf color)
* blue painters tape
* small (3 inch) sponge paint roller + small 1" sponge flat paint brush

* paper towels
* sheets that can be painted on/dripped on

* large piece of cardboard (to stencil out window frame for cutting new plywood)
* large sheet (3x5 of very thin Luan board/plywood for recovering damaged area)
* 1 high grade 2x4 stud

STEP 1: Assess the damage.  Examine the exterior of your vehicle.  Where is the water damage? Find where the damage seemingly begins and where it ends.  Take note of this and mark this "damaged" area with a permanent marker on the interior of your vehicle.


STEP 2: Rip it apart!!!  Of course, anyone can do this part and enjoy it! Tear out the water damaged area in the interior, ripping away all the wall paper, plywood, and framing.  Make sure it is ripped out ALL THE WAY DOWN to the exterior fiberglass shell.  Make sure not to damage the fiberglass shell though, you'll need it soon!  Make sure to scrape the inside of the fiberglass shell and clean it thoroughly.  You will probably be using the hammer/crowbar and the needle-nose pliers for this task.

STEP 3: Seal the damage.  Use the wet/dry shop vacuum to clean the damaged area thoroughly.  Once the area is clean, use the caulk gun to caulk Dicor 501 self-leveling white sealant into the damaged area and gaps.  Make sure to seal EVERYTHING that looks like a potential water leak area.  Once you finish sealing with the Dicor 501, put a tube of high grade silicone in the caulk gun and put a layer of silicon over the Dicor 501.  This should keep you high & dry for a long time.










STEP 4: Make new framing.  Use the measuring tape to measure the area of the overcab bed against the fiberglass wall.  Cut the 2x4 to the appropriate length.  Use the high grade construction adhesive
to attach the 2x4 to the inner fiberglass wall/shell.  Let this dry overnight.  This step is VERY important, because it will "pull" the wall of your camper shell inward and hold it tight.









STEP 5: Fiberglass the exterior crack. Now it is time to fiberglass the exterior damaged area.  This is not that difficult to do, just VERY messy.  Pre-cut the fiberglass matte cloth to fit over the damaged/cracked area in your external camper shell.  Make sure the fiberglass extends over the damaged area by at least 1 inch.  Go ahead and mix the fiberglass resin and hardener compound as instructed on the container.  Paint a thin layer of the fiberglass resin on the damaged area (making sure to paint at least 1 inch past the damaged area).  Put a matte of fiberglass cloth over the area and press it with the sponge flat brush.  Once the matte cloth is pressed firmly and appears to be damp with resin, go ahead and coat on a 2nd coat of resin over the fiberglass cloth.  Once finished, apply more cloth and more resin to make as strong as you wish.  This stuff is pretty strong even with 1 layer though.  Let dry overnight!


STEP 6: Fill in the gaps.  Cut the insulated pipe foam to fit any gaps around the 2x4 stud.  I just stuffed the pipe foam into the gaps and it stayed just fine.

 STEP 7: Cut & Attach Floor.  Measure out the area of the overhead cab floor that is water damaged.  Make sure to cut out a sheet of plywood that extends well over to the existing, non-water damaged plywood floor.  Secure the new sheet of plywood to the existing sheet of plywood floor.  This will be your main base that helps "pull" and "secure" the outer camper wall to the cab area.

STEP 8: Attach the wall 2x4 & plywood floor together.  Now it's time to secure the new plywood floor and the new 2x4 wall stud together.  Cut the 2x2 angle iron to the length of your 2x4 wall stud.  Using your drill and the 1" wood screws, attach the 2x4 to the 2x2 angle iron while the angle iron is resting on the plywood floor up against the 2x4.  Once the 2x4 has been attached to the angle iron, go ahead and use the wood screws to attach the angle iron to the plywood.   When you do this, I suggest trying to "push in" on the exterior of your fiberglass camper wall.  This will "pull the wall in" and decrease any gaps you have.  Now you have a solid wall!!!!








STEP 9: Paint the old wood.  Go ahead and apply the blue painters tape to everything you DON'T want painted.  Using the sand paper, try to sand down the old wood the best you can.  Paint over the old wood to prevent further rotting/water damage.









STEP 10: Cut & install the Luan sheet.  Now you need to use a large piece of cardboard and outline the interior area that you want your new Luan/plywood to cover.  This is not very easy, so take your time and make sure you do it right.  Carefully trace around windows and any other critical areas.  Once you have your cardboard stencil, trace this stencil pattern on the Luan/plywood.  Use the sawzall to cut out the Luan/plywood to the exact shape of your cardboard stencil. When finished, used the 1" wood screws to attach the Luan to your interior wall.



STEP 11: Cover & paint! Use the blue painters tape to cover everything you don't want painted.  Throw a good bed sheet on the ground to prevent unwanted paint drips onto upholstery.  Use the roller sponge to paint your walls and the small 1" sponge flat brush to paint around tricky areas (like windows or corners).  MAKE SURE to put 2 coats of paint on.  It is fine to paint over existing wall paper. Use the caulk gun and a white latex caulk to "trim" the corners in white if you desire.




5 comments:

  1. So this is what you were working on when I ran into you at Home Depot. Nicely done!

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  2. I was talking to the previous owner of this vehicle about buying it and she made no mention of this damage. Good for you for tackling this job!

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  3. Thank you so much for positing this excellent step by step. I'm a woman who doesn't want to pay $3500 to have this repaired. So, I sorta kinda think I can do this after watching your video numerous times. Did you seal the window for leaks?

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  4. I just drove up a little Nissan Sunrader Shorty from CA this spring. Similar damage, but with the added nasty of mouse tunnels and nests.I am in the middle of a tota interior tear-down and rebuild..Your bog has been VERY helpful. Any and all info concerning cold weather mods has been greatly appreciated :)

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