Just cut it out

Tearing up the Airstream is more fun than we expected.  Today Mike and I started on the Safari in the early afternoon after a trip to the hardware store and tool rental shop.  The original plan was to find a way to smooth the transition from where the old vinyl ended in the bedroom, to the bare plywood floor.  We started on one idea, but then (coincidentally) Colin called.  When he heard what we were up to, he said, “Just cut up the old vinyl. It’s not attached, except at the edges.  Get a sharp carpet knife and just cut it all out.”

So we tried it, and of course he was right.  (He is, after all, a professional at this.)  In about 90 minutes we had the old vinyl floor removed (except some bits under cabinetry).  The staples at the edges were easy to pull out with needle-nose pliers, and the vinyl cut like soft cheese as long as the blade was sharp.  We used two blades in the process, and the Airstream now has bare plywood floors throughout.

What a relief to get rid of that nasty old floor.  It was permanently dirty, meaning that whatever finish it originally had seemed to have worn off, and the debossed “grain” in the pattern just trapped dirt and wouldn’t come clean no matter what we did.  I was glad to slice it up into small pieces and toss it into the trash bin.

Also, removing the floor revealed a few surprises.  In the bathroom we found evidence of a prior water leak.  There are no current plumbing leaks in that area, but there have been in the past, and you can see in the photo how that water discolored the floor.  It seems solid throughout, so I’m not worried about it.  We will need to do a good leak check on the exterior later this season, to be sure rain isn’t seeping in somewhere.

Under the kitchen counter, in an area that was inaccessible until we removed the dinette, we discovered evidence that a leak or spill occurred and black mold grew in a patch measuring about 10″ x 4″.  This is a more serious situation, because some molds can be toxic.  However, I think we’ve been living with this one for a while.  As with the bathroom, it seems to be a very old past leak, perhaps dating back to when we had a bad kitchen faucet in 2005.  [UPDATE:  It appears that this was the result of condensation dripping from the cold water line to the kitchen faucet.]  Disturbingly, the mold was growing just inches from where we store the pots and pans.  The good news is that the floor is fine and the affected area is small, so the job here is just to clean up carefully with bleach.

I’m also going to re-plumb this area slightly so that we have more space for storage, and better access to this spot so we can inspect it again in the future.  It may take a flashlight and a mirror, but we will be able to see in there, just to be sure nothing is happening.  I don’t like inaccessible spots in a travel trailer; that’s where problems get a chance to advance unnoticed.

Along the way I saw a few opportunities for improvement.  I’m going to replace some fairly lame chrome trim around the floor edge with aluminum L-channel.  I also want to make a new wood threshold at the entry door; I’ve never liked the one we have.  The bedroom door has some issues that I hope to fix, and I discovered several furniture screws that have stripped so those will get replaced with larger ones.

The big fix will be re-attaching the kitchen cabinetry and the bath vanity to the walls.  Over time, the screws and brackets work loose. The aluminum stretches and the screws just won’t hold, and then the cabinet is free to go for a walk.  The solution is to make new brackets with aluminum L-channel, which can be made long enough to attach to the trailer’s structural ribs, not just the interior walls.  This isn’t strictly necessary but we’ve long wanted to be ready for rough roads in Alaska or Chaco Culture National Historical Park, and this is what the trailer needs to avoid being shaken apart.

Interior gutted pano

With the floor stripped out and the trailer vacuumed again, we are ready to start the next phase: laying the new floor.  Both Mike and are pumped to get started, so on Wednesday we’ll give it a go.