Home Building- Week 2

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March 16th– 23rd 2016

Week two was a different beast. Having reclaimed all the materials from the previous version, this was more about CONstruction instead of DEstruction. The first project was the bed space, which consisted of several parts and which also had a few prerequisite jobs to do. You can watch a video summary of it on YouTube HERE

Getting the base level was first up. That meant getting everything done on the ground before permanently fastening the cabinet (which was to take the majority of the weight) to the floor. After measuring everything up and sketching up a few different alternatives, I decided to build a box to raise the area where the previous bed was. This was done entirely out of materials from the previous design and the trellis I was kindly donated by my hosts.

Because of the different thicknesses, this meant a box with two different levels and it all had to line up with the support on the other side of the caravan. So everything was dictated by the eight of the greywater pipeline and the housing around it. The table was specifically designed to flip over to rest on the housing and become the bed base on that side. This double purpose design is what allowed space to be freed up and more efficient use of the space.

Once that was built, I had to do the flooring I had planned before completing the bed. Again, this is because it was going to alter the height the bed would sit at. I chose a thin foam insulation and pre-glued vinyl tiles… which I will never choose again. Using these two things in combination was a nightmare. As soon as the tile touched the insulation later, it had to go down. It gripped instantly and couldn’t really be removed or repositioned without ripping the insulation. Alas, I did my best and came away with a passable result. I did however, opt to use a silicone sealant to fill the gaps between a few of the tiles as it wouldn’t be so flash to have water seeping down between the flooring layers and just sitting there to cause rot.

The other thing I was aware of (along similar lines) was the potential for moisture to build up under the storage spaces if things were stored on the floor. The solution: to raise the storage spaces off the floor slightly. Using the trellis once again, racks were created to fit the spaces and allow airflow between stored things and the floor.

Once all that was done, It was time to actually set down the bed. Another trellis layer was cut to size. Again, to prevent moisture build-up and to allow airflow under the mattress. It’s just a cheapy foam mattress without any of the fancy breathable technology of modern mattresses. Since it is essentially a large sponge, it obviously has the potential to soak up sweat and become mouldy. Best to help it aerate. The trellis/slat base needed to be cut in two lengthwise to effectively stow away under the mattress in ‘sofa mode’. It then gets hauled out and laid down side by side to become the slat base in ‘bed mode’.

The table performs well in its folded state and as a bed base. Once the book case is there to support the floating section in ‘bed mode’ it’ll be a lot stronger. Having said that, the overlapping nature of the bed design means it is already pretty strong and the forces are distributed along the whole base. Another small job to finish the base was to add an extension to the existing bed base. This is purely because the previous bed space was a little shorter and it just created a flat surface for the slats. That was whipped up just using off-cuts from other projects.

The second foam mattress was mercilessly brutalised to become the extra bed width. Off-cuts were strengthened with some small wooden flooring off-cuts to become arm rests that doubled as a headboard. Nothing fancy. It was just a big job of hacking things to pieces with a knife.

Sewing the outers for them was a little more delicate and was again made possible by the kind donation of my hosts. This time it was some old curtains. They were repurposed under an ad hock design pulled out of my nether regions. Luckily, it all worked out OK. Turns out I still remember how to use a sewing machine. Who knew?! This fact came in handy when creating curtains out of another set of donated, pre-loved curtains. All these projects were starting to come together and the caravan was really taking on a more comfortable feel.

With that all done (and with the arrival of news that the people I was housesitting for were returning early), it was time to turn attention to the front end of the caravan. This was always going to be more a case of furnishing than of renovation. Because of the way the caravan folds down, any extension above the folding point MUST be collapsible or removable. The main purpose of the design down this end was to use as much of the wall space as possible for storage. So everything had to be able to be stored in the new floor space created. I wanted everything to be light, but strong enough to handle movement during freight. This presented a few design challenges.

I opted for using the remainder of the (very light) trellis wood. It was solid, but I wasn’t entirely happy with the strength it had. This was an issue I took on the following week. But the main structures were built and ready to go. Again, they were made up entirely of recycled materials.

The other small project that I did, but failed to mention in the video was a bench extension. I opted for a design based on dowels running into the wall at one end and the bench just sitting on the existing bench support at the other. There’s a picture of it in the video, but no verbal explanation. With a curtain to be added later, it not only added bench space, but also created a storage space for things that wouldn’t be accessed too frequently.

That was pretty much what happened in week two. It was a busy week and was when I saw the caravan taking on new life. It was becoming a homely space instead of a travel space. It was pretty exciting to see actually. I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but Casa de Stephen was really beginning to feel like home.

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