The retro caravan restoration project continues
Words and photos: Lee Davey
The story of the caravan restoration project:
We met Lee’s Bailey Maru caravan, which was purchased for the princely sum of… £5.99…
Read it here
Lee assessed the damage in his caravan, and shared his plan for renovating it
Read it here
In the third part of the series, Lee showed how to repair the rotten framework of the caravan
Read it here
Padding around the caravan in a pair of socks is a popular way to diagnose floor-related problems as it allows you to feel any irregularities lurking underneath the carpet or lino.
This is important, as, irrespective of age, the floor will have been mounted to the chassis before the rest of the caravan was built around this (once) solid footing.
Prospective purchasers often remove shoes when looking at older caravans as the labour-intensive process of replacing, or repairing, a floor can be expensive.
The most common types of flooring issues are delaminated layers within the plywood, or soft sections caused by water ingress. Our problems had crept beyond delamination and damp, with shoe removal proving unnecessary thanks to a hole beneath the doormat that lurked, hidden, waiting to trap the unwary. Think cartoon cliché of a welcome mat placed over a hole.
While restoring our 1967 Bailey Maestro a few years ago, a completely rotten rear section of floor swallowed a 6ft 6in by 4ft sheet with ease, meaning that the frame had to be separated from the edges, spread, and the sheet carefully fitted underneath.
Thankfully, the floor in our 1977 Maru had only suffered in a relatively small area, something that damage to the door and rear corner had exacerbated over time, rotting the 9mm ply in ankle-breaking fashion.
If you’ve worked on rusty classic cars, the ‘rule of three’ also applies to caravans, meaning that a rotten area will triple in size by the time you’ve stripped it back.
With the original, eyewatering, 1970s carpet carefully peeled away, the foot-sized hole had spread soggy rings outward like the ripples of a pond. The first step was to see how far we’d have to cut before finding solid wood, an area that increased from a size 10 shoe to a 3ft length of waterlogged woodwork.
With the area carefully measured from inside, I sent Charlie underneath (as he’s smaller) to see where this area would ‘fall’ in relation to the chassis and associated bracing.
Uttering the ‘measure twice, cut once’ mantra, we drew a cut line along the middle of a chassis leg which ran from wheelarch to rear panel. With our measurements checked once more for luck, we removed this troublesome section of floor with a multi-cutter.
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Unlike our 1967 caravan, the ’77 Maru has an insulating layer underneath, so, with the plywood lifted, we carefully removed it in order to repair cracking caused by footfall over the weakened floor.
With plywood floor and insulating layer removed, the wooden frame that runs around the outer edge of the chassis also looked battle weary, and with access likely to be limited with the flooring back in place, Charlie and I decided to replace this as well.
The 25mm by 50mm roofing battens used for the frame repairs (you can recap part three here) were a reasonably good fit, required minimal trimming, and, being pressure-treated, would be suited to conditions on the underside of a caravan.
With a solid base, we cut a suitably sized piece from a 9mm section of ply we found in the shed and checked levels, as well as possible fixing points, before laying it in place. With everything looking good, countersunk holes were placed on our pencil lines before we screwed it into place. Levels were checked again against the original floor, tweaking the screws where necessary until an acceptable gap was achieved.
For such a small area of repair, the difference is instantly noticeable with a newfound stability transmitted to the surrounding structure. Labour costs at your local dealer would be understandably prohibitive, but armed with power tools, tea bags and an eager 12-year-old, a structurally sound repair can be yours for very little.
With the frame and floor repaired, we’ve reached a turning point. At times, such projects can seem never ending, but we’re buoyed by the thought of refitting parts to a (now) firm base.
The cost of the project so far:
Roofing batten: £10
Evo-Stik Polyurethane Wood adhesive: £7.99
9mm ply (found in shed): £0
In Part Five, Lee looks at whether it's possible to retrofit equipment from a newer caravan; something that will require reinforcing beams to be fitted before the wallboard hides it from view.