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Old 10-11-2013, 03:02 AM   #141
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If you are not a believer in spray foam you should be. Particularly closed cell foam which has superior mechanical bonding, R6/inch insulation values, and outstanding sealing capabilities--it is waterproof.

I am restoring a 1967 vintage aluminum framed and skinned truck camper--it is a Barth.

It was stored for many years on two saw horses. At some point a branch fell on the roof creating a leak.

I marveled at the many of the Airstream restorations which, IMHO, turned out far better than the original designs. One can be creative with an old camper as it is easy to gut something worn out and no one would gut a brand new Airstream--that would be foolish. So I bought my camper with the idea of gutting it and starting over. Plus it is smaller and a bit easier than a big trailer

In my aluminum truck camper the floor was badly damaged in the back under the leak. I have some experience restoring yachts and while I might have been able to make it functional with repairs, gutting it and starting over is something I learned is often way easier than half measures.

Stripped to bare walls I found numerous mouse nests--more than a dozen--and I was glad I made the choice to gut it. I also found one live yellow jacket nest.

I was stunned to find the walls and ceilings were insulated with a thin coating of closed cell foam with no signs of leaks at the seams and windows. I give the credit to the foam.

Let me tell you it works. It sealed every place including the windows perfectly. All of the wiring worked perfect--this after 45 years. All the bulbs worked but one and most needed the contacts scraped with a knife blade. Most of the wire was bonded rigidly to the skin by the foam. In a few places the foam coated the wire and stiffened it up some. The wire didn't move or flex do it didn't suffer any mechanical stress. None of it failed. I credit the foam for that.

Aside from the hole in the roof, I found water damage immediately next to the cab over windows, so this damage was from windows being left open, or perhaps a small amount of water seeped in. There was water damage under the sink--probably the sink drain, and in one place on the floor where I found part of a panel popped loose.

Foam damage? It was pulled away in the middle of a panel in a few places like a bubble, but was still intact (no holes). In a few spots the loose "bubble" had torn and that might have been me while I was ripping out the interior. And there was a badly decomposed area under the sink where water probably pooled and the bees nested. The bee broke down the foam badly--I think they chewed it up. That was the only spot with real foam damage. In some most places the foam was extremely secure. I removed it on the wings and it was difficult--except for the bee eaten area.

The floor was filled with 1.5" of fiberglass batt type material--I assume to let any leaks escape through the bottom. I plan to insert rigid foam panels and leave gaps for water to escape if spilled.

I have a few pieces of sheet metal to replace, conduit to run, wiring to do, and then I will be filling the entire wall cavities with closed cell foam for approximately R9 insulation. It will require some trimming but I will gladly do that to maximize the insulation value of my walls.

I don't have dual pane windows, but I do have storm windows, and plan to build fitted rigid foam insulation panels over many of the windows. I want it to be easy to heat down to single digit weather. The small plume will help.

Another thing I discovered is the camper did have thermal conductivity issues at the screws. I found many of the screw heads rusted badly. I suspect they sweat and rusted from interior moisture in cold weather. To mitigate that I will be fastening many panels with double stick tape and avoid putting screws into metal-- instead where screws are needed for cabinets I will secure wood backing to the aluminum framing and then attaching cabinets to the wood, to provide a thermal break wherever feasible.

I removed the furnace and as much as I could inside to keep my camper light. I intend to use it for long distance travel. And I want everything new. I want it nicer than original.

Another thing I like about aluminum framing and wall skins is it will allow me to install a Sardine Wood Stove. I'll use fiberglass insulation behind it instead of foam. I will have a vented diesel or propane heater also. I really don't think I will need much heat if I build it right. Heat it with a candle? Maybe in warmer weather.

In any event, I wanted everyone to know that closed cell foam was being used 45 years ago and if you don't believe how well it holds up, I can show you. Mine is on so well I am debating whether to scrape it off and and may shooting the new over the old. Spray foam is one of mankind's greatest inventions.

My aluminum skin is thick. On the roof I plan to spray a layer of U-Pol spray in truck liner on the outside after sealing all the seams. With a 1-1/2" thick layer of closed cell foam followed by a 1/8" layer of marine plywood on top should make it one solid panel strong enough to hold up to large hail and falling branches or me waking around on top.

U-Pol (spray in bediner) is a similar product to closed cell foam, but stronger and denser. I honestly think that by masking around all vent and other openings on top, and spraying with U-Pol bed liner, I won't have to worry about leaks for decades. It can be tinted any color--white or silver to reject heat.

In my opinion, if closed cell foam filled all the wall and ceiling cavities, the camper plumbing was maintained, and the windows were well secured, this camper could last in prolonged harsh exposure for a very long time with minimal upkeep. I intend to find out.
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Old 10-11-2013, 05:47 AM   #142
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I just do not have it in me to read this entire thread to catch up, so I am just going to jump right in(forgive me)...

My current project is full of spray foam. It is the most evil stuff! It has accelerated the floor to rot by acting as a sponge under the floor. The mice absolutely love it too. They have made all kinds of nests and tunnels all through it. Just to top it all off, carpenter ants have made a nest in it also.
It has not crumbled and disintegrated as some have implied it would.
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Old 10-11-2013, 07:32 AM   #143
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Frank, how old is that trailer? Is it the foam Airstream used many years ago that has that reputation. Modern closed cell foam should not have that problem.

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Old 10-11-2013, 07:39 AM   #144
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Yeah foam as an insulation material makes sense...but only in a system that was originally designed to NOT BREATH. Trailers have to have air movement or they will rot. Sealing a trailer from the elements and then not constantly ventilating it WILL destroy the materials trapped in the stagnate environment. Closed cell spray foam is a great insulation product for buildings...particularly in a flat roof where ventilation is very difficult to achieve.

The last several decades of "energy efficiency" improvements in construction don't directly translate to travel trailers and most certainly not to vintage trailers that quite simply need to breath...just like an old house.

Also mice LOVE spray foam for nests and bathrooms!!!
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Old 10-11-2013, 07:52 AM   #145
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I was surprised to find my 73 Streamline has factory sprayed foam insulation
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Old 10-11-2013, 09:18 AM   #146
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I think foam in the walls, and fiberglass in the floor would be the best of all worlds.

Floor rot for the most part comes about as water seeps in through an outside seam, travels down the inside the wall, then hits the c channel and soaks in. I would think that a foam wall would prevent the water from ever getting to the c channel. If it did, use fiberglass in the floor. The walls conduct heat and cold much more than the 3/4" plywood floor would, so the need is greater in the walls than in the floor.

I personally have thought about adding a bit more insulation underneath, and using screen to hold it up. However, by the time I add all my new gray tanks, the center of the trailer isn't exactly warm. I'm not insulating between the tank and the floor as I want some of that floor heat to go down to the tank, but I am insulating the outside of the tank with prodex.
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Old 10-11-2013, 09:39 AM   #147
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I am trying to referbish a 1947 Spartan that the PO had applyed gererous amounts of spray foam to. It is a mess! Trying to emove the floor and the shell turned into a tremendous amount of work. It had been sprayed on the frame and floor from underneath and the rotten wood was bonded to the frame. It might be OK to spray once the work is completed but it is a PIA to remove if you need to do any work. Had I known how labor intensive it was going to be to contend with the foam I would have passed on the Spartan. It will be a cool trailer but picking away at the foam in the Texas summer with a chisel and hammer was the pits.
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Old 10-11-2013, 10:21 AM   #148
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Quote:
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Frank, how old is that trailer? Is it the foam Airstream used many years ago that has that reputation. Modern closed cell foam should not have that problem.

Gene
A 1968 Caravel. The foam was put in by some who thought they were doing the right thing.
The issue is water lays between the floor and the foam. Foam is an incredibly bad idea in a trailer in my opinion. The worst issue is the mice absolutely love it. They made extensive nests in it.
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Old 10-11-2013, 11:26 AM   #149
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Smile Spray foam insulation

I have a 1988 Fleetwood Avion trailer with the original spray foam that was sprayed in it upon manufacture. We opened up part of the walls to work on various parts of it and all the spray foam was intact and in fantastic shape. Do not beleive these posts about it turning to powder. NOT TRUE. This trailer was manufactured 25 years ago and hauled 1,000's of miles. The last Avion I had was a 1986 and all of that original foam was also intact.

The insulation will make your trailer much quieter and more comfortable. We have two-9,000 BTU units on our 34' and it's plenty to keep it cold in outdoor temps over 100 degrees and they don't run constantly. We tinted our windows dark and white rubber coated the roof which made a huge difference, 10 degree drop in inside temperature without AC.

Make sure that all of your outside seams are clean and sealed well and then go for it!
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Old 10-11-2013, 02:03 PM   #150
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The wall foam on my 73 Streamline does not show any significant deterioration. But water leaks still ran into the C channel and caused floor rot.

If or when I insulate the floor I will use rigid foam. Fiberglass becomes a soggy mouse condo.
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Old 10-12-2013, 12:28 AM   #151
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I applied Closed Cell spray foam to my TT and it works great. And, I will apply it to my future TT as well. If I love it, then no worries...
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Old 10-12-2013, 12:45 AM   #152
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Well my two bits worth. My 1969 Ambassador has the spray foam on the frame and bottom of the floor. It must NOT be a closed cell foam. It did a great job holding moisture next to the frame, and the floors. The areas that stayed dry look great!! I'm wondering if the newer spray foams are better. The old stuff sucks, pain in the butt to remove, turns to powder and burns your eyes, and yes the creepy crawly love it! I might try foam board in the future. Not to sure about the spray foam..
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Old 10-12-2013, 02:28 AM   #153
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The wall foam on my 73 Streamline does not show any significant deterioration. But water leaks still ran into the C channel and caused floor rot.

If or when I insulate the floor I will use rigid foam. Fiberglass becomes a soggy mouse condo.
Water runs down hill. My Barth pickup slide in camper had that thin layer of foam on the walls and ceilings and fiberglass batts on the floors. The builders knew what they were doing. I'm sure they realized that water needs to get out--hence the fiberglass batts. Most of mine was in good shape. By that I mean it looked new. A few sections were dirty at the edges where the aluminum exterior sheeting lost a few rivets. My plan is to drop in blue board and stuff fiberglass in the gaps leaving the exterior sheeting unsealed in places to allow water collecting in the floor to dissipate.

I found many mice nesting areas and no right the closed cell foam was chewed up. My aluminum framing had pre-cut gaps for wiring. Clearly this was a pathway for the mice. Also, even a 1/4" thick layer of foam provided them adequate insulation for them. I can help but feel a solid mass of foam would keep them out. I would examine every opening with the idea that nothing larger than a flea could get in and use ant traps if needed. I don't think vermin would be a problem.

Water can come from the inside with condensation. A big issue with foam is cold spots. It is important to fill every void with foam. Foam does have a strong mechanical bond. You can avoid that, if you want to with Pledge spray wax on surfaces you might want access to. It you have wood framing and create a cold spot, you will have condensation and it will rot. If you have aluminum framing that will not be a worry. Leave a means for air circulation to dry it out.

Mice get it at exterior hatches like hot water tank doors and refrigerator doors, vents and breaks in the skin. Fix those.

I'll tell you how I protect wood on the boats I work on. I use marine plywood. It is fairly light, and has no voids. I paint with two part epoxy primer and sand smooth, and the paint with two part epoxy paint, unless I am varnishing. I cover all sides and edges, even the sides I don't see. It has to be used once mixed so I tend to paint anything to use it up. I've painted all sorts of outside wood and found it makes these thing impervious to water. Prime and paint a board with export primer and paint and you can leave it outside without any deterioration. It is toxic paint so follow recommended precautions. I use it for everything on the boat I am restoring. I can make a wood panel as smooth as laminate and it is then easy to repair if needed.
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Old 10-12-2013, 10:02 AM   #154
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Closed cell foam is a good insulator, but water infiltration has to be stopped in other ways too. On houses, house wrap is used to keep the inside of the walls dry and to keep air infiltration low. Then the water has to be directed to ground—on top of the house wrap, a rain screen is used and then the siding is applied. A rain screen can be a mesh or wood strips—either permit water to flow downward. If the house is so well sealed that condensation occurs inside the house or there is not enough clean air, the house is ventilated with a heat exchanger to preserve inside temps. Houses have not been built this way for very long and many contractors still resist change.

Adapting these principles to RV construction is a challenge. Retrofiting a house or an RV is labor intensive. Removing old foam is hard. The point is to seal the exterior so it doesn't leak and if it does, direct water to ground with weep holes. Use gaskets wherever panels join just like motor vehicles do. Rivets are an invitation to water and air, so a new version of an Airstream should have fake rivets; bolts or weld things together. Vacuum pressed panels would be an efficient way to build walls and some RV manufacturers are trying this. The idea is to keep conditioned air (hot or cold) inside and the outside, outside.

It would not be easy to retrofit to current standards, and a big, big stretch for a company like Airstream to do things so differently. There are problems to be solved—as stated above, an RV moves and flexes, so that would take some ingenuity to solve, but the box can be made rigid while the suspension does the moving. Present Airstreams do flex—try jacking up one side too much and your door will bind if you don't believe me. Cars and trucks don't do that.

Fiberglass is not a very good insulator. When it gets wet it bunches up and becomes almost useless and leaves voids. Stuffing pieces in small voids is nearly worthless—compress fiberglass and you crush the air spaces and remove any insulation value. And the standard 2" of fiberglass Airstream has used for years makes very little difference if air and water get through, it slides down over years of use, bunches up, or was not sealed properly at the edges. As a result, Airstream insulation probably degrades over time to R-0 to R-3 . The ribs conduct heat or cold because the inside and outside are not isolated by a nonconductive material.

This is not going to make me tear up our trailer so long as it is otherwise working, but if I had an old trailer and wanted to renovate, I would try to do what works for houses as much as is practical. I am glad not to have put myself in that place.

Gene
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