Saturday, 19 July 2008

Finding it at the right price is half the battle

I'm beginning to like the results. As I said, with any 2nd hand vehicle you have to do a few things to get it to your liking - heck, even in a new car you buy it seat covers or floor mats - and a motorhome is so much more than just a vehicle. For me, this is going to be home for one to infinity years, so I'm determined to make it as much like a home I'd want to be in as possible.

Well - there ya go - when you move into a home the first thing you do is put up your curtains and furniture, maybe buy a new rug for the hallway. So it's excuseable that I've found a number of things I want to suit to myself, and that's what I've been doing.

One thing I wanted to do was get rid of the sea of glass which is leaking all my heat out and adding untold weight to the overall load. Things that were stopping me: Complexity of reskinning a bus, and cost. Seemingly, both solved. I'm gonna name some names, so block your ears if you're sensitive.

Initially I read about efforts in the USA to convert buses, they generally revolved around sheets of aluminium, styrene foam, and plywood. On this steel-framed bus, that didn't make sense. Also, aluminium is expensive, and there is a lot of work involved. Scratch that idea.

Then I had a bright idea - I remember Scott Cam on some gardening show using a lightweight material which had styrofoam in the middle sandwiched between two sheets of.. of... - something... (Wish I'd paid more attention to Scott's bullshit instead of his gardener girl... Oh well...)

I eventually tracked down that Dow Corning does something like this, and emailed them. They actually phoned me. Bad sign, when they can afford to chat to you based solely on a single email contact... "Motorhome? Yes, we make insulating foam for that. It's closed cell blah blah blah and it costs $40-something per square metre. No - that's just the closed cell foam sir. The outer skin has to be blah blah blah material. What? Oh, about $73 a metre. And for the inside, - no, plywood just wouldn't do, it disintegrates. Umm we have blah blah blah. It's $40 a metre."

So for the bargain basement price of $153 a square metre (plus the special adhesive, a few hundred buck a tin, before I forget) I could replace the 7sqm of windows and it might (he wouldn't guarantee that it would work, mind - some manufacturers did use that sandwich to make caravans but that wasn't to say it would be suitable to your purposes Sir) even work. Needless to say there's no way I'm parting with almost $1300 just to put a few sheets of material over the windows.

I then located Bondor (http://www.bondor.com.au/) who make freezer wall panels. Colourbond tin sheets sandwiching a styrofoam core, they use this stuff to insulate coolrooms and ice houses, and it sounded like just the deal. Contact them (and LO! - they haveth a branch in Perth!) and they will cut panels to size for me and charge $32/sqm which includes the price of cutting. Much better! And yes, they do sell some of the material to motorhome enthusiasts.

Which is why I was prepared to drop the $240 or so to have the panels cut for me. Until.

I saw Welshpool Coolrooms and Ice Supply, on Welshpool road near Leach Highway, not far past Camec (http://www.camec.com.au/) who BTW are pretty comprehensive caravan and motorhome suppliers and I have no hesitation in recommending them. I saw - and my eyes damn near popped, lemme tell you - MOUNTAINS of Bondor panel offcuts laying on pallets all over the yard. Nearly burned rubber turning off Welshpool Rd into their driveway, and grabbed the builder in his workshop, asked about offcuts. This conversation went a bit like this:

"... so lemme get this straight you want something wider than 730mm and longer than 1430mm? We have offcuts that are 800 x 2000, they should do ya. We generally charge $12 per sheet."

"wow! Only $12 per sheet? Cool!"

"Oh, okay then, ten bucks per sheet." (Obviously mishearing what I said as haggling, and who was I to correect him? hehehehe)

I loaded seven sheets on top of the Duckling roof (sorry, forgot the camera so no pictures of this - might pose them later on) and headed home. In one of the worst storms Perth has had in ages, so it wasn't long before I found myself almost blown onto two wheels.

But the price has gone from $1300 to $240 to $70. (Plus $17 to buy some metal cutting blades for the jigsaw. Don't try using an angle grinder and cutoff wheel, apparently that will just melt the styrofoam.)

Oh - for those people who have quite correctly picked up that I will have no windows after this - it's easy enough to cut portholes through the Bondor and put in panel van ports or oval windows. And they are better insulated than acres of single glass, and I can put them exactly where needed.

I'll post pics as I do things, it looks to be a pretty easy job though. Stay tuned!

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