Tiny Cargo Trailer Conversion – The Roof

In “The Problems,” I mentioned my need to reseal the roof after finding leaks inside the walls. In order to reseal the roof, I first had to strip away the existing sealant. I thought that would be easy enough with a scraper, a putty knife, and some heat. I was wrong! Sure, the bulk of the sealant did come up with scraping and heat. What I didn’t know is that there is at least a dozen screws which fasten the roof to the structure hidden under the sealant. There was also 50+ raised edges where Homesteader had kerfed the front end of the trim ring without trimming away the excess material. See the photo above for details. That kerf job made smooth operation of a scraper just about impossible.

Look closely at the background in this photo and you may be able to see that I was regrading my yard after a driveway project. Imagine my frustration each time I thought I was making progress with a shovel, only to hit a solid object such as a tree root, large rock, or even bricks that had been discarded in the soil when my house was built over 60 years ago. Well, that’s what running a putty knife or scraper into dozens of hidden protrusions is like. There quickly came a point where the putty knife was useless and I had to resort to a power drill with wire brush attachment. Removing the sealant and cleaning all the crevices was still tedious and time-consuming. But it went much faster with a power tool.

Once the roof was clean, the easy task would have been to simply apply Dicor Lap Sealant all around the perimeter and over any exposed screws. However, I think the new sealant would have failed as quickly as the original, given the presence of the bad kerfing and “oops holes” in a variety of spots. See this photo and the top photo for just two examples of several “oops holes” on this roof. I thought I should go a bit further with my resealing effort. First, I would remove the front end of the trim ring and fix the kerfs. Then I would apply Eternabond Tape to add another layer of water-tight integrity.

Removing the excess material from the kerf cuts would allow the top of the trim ring to lay flat against the roof instead of its current “sawtooth” pattern (pictured). Removing the trim ring was a disaster! There were 80+ screws holding it in place. At least a dozen stripped. I had to grind them out. The trim ring was practically destroyed in the process. I felt that starting from scratch was my best option. I would have loved to replace it with an identical trim piece. But I couldn’t find it anywhere. I found a suitable replacement and ordered four 8-ft pieces.

I took a few photos to document the terrible build quality between the roof and the side walls. Can you believe all that’s covering this opening, a union that flexes and moves while rolling down the road, is a piece of metal trim with some sealant on top? While I waited for the new trim ring to arrive, I ordered a roll of 4-inch Eternabond Tape and used it to seal the perimeter of the roof. I’ve shared some photos in the album below. Eternabond Tape is a very aggressive tape that’s used to seal RV roof seams and other applications that require a leak-proof seal. I had recently painted the structure inside the trailer. So, I wanted the roof seams sealed as soon as possible to keep rainwater from flowing along the inside of the walls.

The trim ring was still in production and was going to take a while to ship. My conversion plan for this trailer evolved each time the project stalled. While I was working on a plan for the electrical project, I decided that I wanted a rooftop fan. First, I decided to remove the floor so that I’d be more comfortable while working inside the trailer. The original floor had a jagged and splintered cut in the nose; plus, it may have been starting to rot from the leak that was in the front roof area. I removed the floor and leaned it against a wall so that I could use it as a template to cut its replacement. With no floor, I could practically stand upright inside a trailer that usually has only 46 inches of interior clearance. “Ah, much better!” In this photo, you can see that I also took the time to sand the rust from my unfinished structure and then repaint. Of course, I couldn’t repaint the area between that’s against the outer skin. This will have to suffice.

I chose a MaxxAir fan for the roof. It can be operated in the rain and also has a remote control, as if I’d need one in a 4×6-foot trailer. HAHA! I was a little nervous about cutting a hole in the roof. It already leaked anyway. So, what did I have to lose?  😉  I found a good location and built a 14-inch square wooden frame for the fan. Then I cut a 14-inch hole in the roof. I used a layer of Dicor butyl tape between the fan/roof mating surfaces, then sealed the top surface of the fan frame with Eternabond Tape. I finished the edges of all Eternabond Tape runs with Dicor Lap Sealant.

The new trim ring arrive via freight truck in a long box. The perimeter of the roof is approximately 22 feet. So, I would need three of the 8-ft trim pieces. I bought four, just in case I goofed-up one. I started with the front piece since it would need dozens of kerf cuts. Unlike Homesteader, I removed the excess material between the kerfs so that the trim ring would lay flat against the roof. In this photo, you can see that I left the side pieces a bit long so that I could form the rear piece without bending any metal. Since this trim is wider than stock, I had to cut a notch in the rear piece to clear the drip rail above the door. Once the rear piece was in place, I cut the sides to proper length and filled the end holes with JB Weld SteelStik before priming and painting the trim in gloss black.

Next, came a topcoat of Dicor Elastomeric Coating. I had high hopes for this stuff. But I neglected to completely prepare my roof for application. The coating looked really good, especially after being used to bare metal for so long. It began to bubble-up and peel after a month and several exposures to rain. I eventually had to peel off as much as I could, then use a wire brush to remove whatever coating was still stuck. It made a HUGE mess. Months later, I’m still finding tiny bits of coating stuck to my shed, its windows, and the bricks on my house. Even the car, which was 20 feet away when I stripped the trailer’s roof, got tiny specks of coating on it. I managed to clear the car by finding each speck, scraping it with a fingernail, then lifting it with masking tape. With that lesson learned, I recoated the roof with primer and white exterior latex paint. I’m not messing with the elastomeric stuff again! HAHA!

Next, I will share my plan and outcome for the electrical stuff.

Staying Dry,

Scott

Refinishing

Electrical

About Scott

I grew up near Houston, TX and served in the U. S. Coast Guard for over 30 years. I have an electronics background and continue to work in the electronics engineering field. I taught myself the basics about automotive systems as well as how to perform some of my own maintenance (cars and bicycles). I became involved with Amateur Radio and computers in 1995. The explosion of technology has made my job and several of my hobbies quite interesting. My hobbies include Volkswagens, bicycling, photography, electronics, amateur radio, web management, and reptiles. Visit my websites to learn more.
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2 Responses to Tiny Cargo Trailer Conversion – The Roof

  1. Your story is a lesson to others. I recommend you use ‘’RV Roof Magic’’ as it gives me the best outcomes with its incomparable features and mesmerizing characteristics that no other RV roof sealant has. For its application, you do not remove the old sealant, just apply one coat without any use of primer and wait until completely dry. After that, you will get a hard, finished, seamless membrane, which gives a waterproof, airtight and highly insulated covering to your RV roof that is extremely resistant to shrill weather conditions, and can withstand ponding water 365 days a year with a 10 year manufacturer’s warranty.

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