Introduction: Turning a Trashed Mobile Home Into a Shop
"No, really, It's free. The new land owner wants it removed, gone, and they don't care whether it gets scrapped or used for anything else. You just have to get it off the property. And they will even help with some of the cleanup, but it has to be moved". "You interested?"
"Umm, maybe I should look at it first".
I just know I am getting myself into trouble with this one. BUT it is FREE. I just need to find out how much free is going to cost me.
By the way, I put a lot of comments and details in the photos so you might want to take the time to read those captions.
A personnel note:
I am not a carpenter, not a contractor either, in fact I have never worked any kind of construction other than putting in network cabling. I made my living for many years working on computers. Cleaning up viruses, fixing things that didn't work. pretty much anything in the IT area. I started exploring into woodworking and I have enjoyed it. It is something my dad did. But things have become difficult. Wood takes up a lot of space. That is one of the problems I hope this shop will fix, the fact that the wood is taking over my house. Stacking up cut wood from trees in my living room to dry was at first a novelty. Now it has become a bit of a problem. Time to separate the computers from the wood.
Step 1: It's in Pretty Bad Shape --- Well That Just Makes It More of a Challenge.
Well, I wandered through it and there were a lot of problems.
Some of the problems were from the way it was built to begin with. Poor construction yields poor results. Then there was the general neglect and damage from the elements. That really took its toll. Finally though the worst was from the various renters. They really trashed the place. And it was more than just the awful paint. All the doors were broken, the floor had holes all over. It was a mess. I found out that the water pipes had frozen and they hired a guy to put in new ones. I wonder if the person who did the repair was a renter just working off the rent. They hammered holes in the floor (it is particle board) to run new plastic pipes and then never fixed the holes. They threw a board over the holes and covered it up with the rug. Then there were a lot of leaks from the pipes apparently from the poor installation. There was one section of floor that had a rug but nothing underneath it. The only floor was the rug, it was like walking on a hammock. Later when I took the rug out I found that the pipes had a hole that had sprayed water all over that section of floor until the particle board disintegrated.
"Do I really want to get myself into this"? I kept asking myself.
Step 2: The Good
OK, why would I even consider doing this?
Well, I checked into what it would require to move this thing. In my state a mobile home is considered a trailer and it needs to be licensed in order to be moved over public roads. Before it can get a license the county assessor needs to verify that it has no outstanding loans or leans against it and that the taxes are paid. Once that is done he gives the paper work to the clerk who issues a tag (a paper) so you can move it. So the assessor came and looked at the trailer to verify it was the correct one and then said that it was all clear and it had a declared value of $0.00. Yep, nothing, no value. In conversation he asked me if I was sure I wanted it. He said I could just take it down for salvage. Then the thought occurred to me, "This is at rock bottom, no value. Nothing I do to it can make it any worse. However anything I do to it will be an improvement and increase it's value, so how can I go wrong?" True DIY thinking!
The future shop had some good things going for it.
It was made with regular 2 x 4 studs. A lot of trailers built back when this one was used 2 x 3 or even 2 x 2 studs. Having 2 x 4 walls meant I could put in regular insulation. In fact everything from regular house construction like doors and windows could be used because it had standard size walls.
It had a full 100 amp power service box. It was designed for a hook up to regular utility power. A lot of the wiring was for 20 amp service with 12 gauge wire. Ideal for a shop.
Since I was not going to be using this for living in I didn't care about the walls and the doors and such. My plan was to gut it out. I didn't care about living space.
It was big, 14 feet wide and about 75 feet long. Lots of space.
The overall structure was sound. Yes there were some problems with water damage but the basic box was in good shape.
And did I mention, it's FREE.
Yet another adventure begins, I talked myself into it.
But considering my increasing need for a shop/studio/ maker space talking myself into this was pretty easy to do.
Oh, one more good thing--- If I do this right it should go from being zero value to something someone might be interested in. It will actually have resale value and because it's mobile it can easily be moved if sold.
Step 3: The Move
Once I had committed myself to taking this thing I thought it best to take advantage of the dump trailer while it was on site. Before future shop was moved I ripped out all the carpeting and as much other floor as I could get up. I also took off all the interior .doors and dumped them. Basically anything that could be easily removed that was junk I put in the dump trailer. This included the front bay window which was total trash.
Getting ready for the move.
Before you can move a trailer like this you have to do a lot of prep work.
The addition was dismantled and any salvageable wood was stored in the trailer. All the skirting material had to be removed and discarded. All the junk and years worth of garbage under the trailer had to be cleaned up. Any spikes in the ground had to be removed so they didn't impale a tire.
We had to start the process of jacking future shop up and fixing the wheels and tires. The tires had sunk down into the ground over time and we had to jack those up and fill in the holes and then lower it back down.
All the blocks had to be saved and moved along with the air conditioner.
All the utility's had to be disconnected and all hanging wires secured so that nothing would drag on the road.
We moved the trailer with a big John Deer tractor. A tractor has all the power it needs for something like this. It can support the weight with no trouble. And since we were only going 7 miles speed was not an issue.
Step 4: Getting It Level
Getting a trailer level is a lot of work. Well, it is if you don't have all the fun toys that the pro moving companies have. There was no slab or footings set up for this trailer. I did remove the few trees and mowed the grass but that was the extent of the site prep. Because of that and the fact that it would be sitting on dirt I decided to use railroad ties underneath to spread out the weight. I was concerned that just cement blocks would sink into the dirt. The ties would expand the footprint and help keep things stable.
So I laid out the railroad ties at the points that were load bearing, dragged them under the trailer and got them lined up. The hardest part was in deciding how high off the ground I wanted the shop to be. The ground had a slope to it which made things more difficult. I decided I wanted the hubs to be off the ground. That would help to keep them from being ruined by rust. So with the tires removed I lowered the axles to the height I wanted them and from that point leveled the rest of the trailer.
You should have at least 2 hydraulic jacks for this process. One on each side of the center beams. You should have multiple blocks in place at all times so if something goes wrong the trailer does not fall. It sounds complicated but its more just tedious. Jacking up one support and adding a shim and then using levels to see how the progress is going takes a lot of time. I started with the wheels, got them set where they needed to be and leveled them across from each other so the axle's were level, straight across. Then I went to the tongue and lowered it to make the front of the trailer level with the axles. Because the trailer bends it is not level until you go to each support and level it with the rest. Finally you jack up the back end to take the sag out of it, which when you do that will cause the middle to push down so you will probably have to go back to those and fine tune them. It's a lot of tedious work. But if you do it right your floor inside will be level.
In the future you can always readjust things if something settles or if you decide you want the storage space under the trailer and want to raise it six inches.
Step 5: Before and After
Because of the size of this Instructable and the number of pictures it has I thought I should add a before and after page to make it easier to see the progress. I hope this doesn't end up as a "spoiler" page but rather an enticement to look deeper. I will keep adding to these as "Future Shop" progresses.
I should mention that we actually did start out with a plan for this future shop. In fact, that was done before I even said "I'll take it". While that plan is evolving with the project, the basic part is still the same. Somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2 of the trailer will be made into a large shop area. The remainder of the trailer is going to used for storage, including storage of various wood and other project materials. We planned to do the shop part first. We have mostly stuck to that except for the need to set up some shelving.
Some of our ideas have changed with the reconstruction needed and with what materials we have come across. Super sale items and closeout counter tops can alter what we were going to do. But in the main we are still going for the original ideas.
It is also our intention to reuse as much as possible. When putting in new outlets sometimes the spacing of them is determined by how long the salvaged wire is that we have to work with. So far I have not had to buy any cable. But the previous outlets were totally trash so I bought several boxes of those as the plan is to replace all outlets.
The common answer to "what are you saving this for?" is "I don't know yet. It's still looking for a home."
Step 6: Index Page, Sort Of.
Because this is such a huge project it really won't fit into one instructable. Work on the future shop is still progressing. We have a lot of ideas for it. Some of those include the LED lighting that I am designing. The "Free Air conditioning, Shop edition" that is in the works, the 12 foot long wall of custom made cabinets, The special made spiral staircase for the cats to come in and out, (they are after all my special rodent control system)
Anyway, we, me and my son who has joined in the frenzy since this January, are letting our imaginations run wild with this new grown up play room. It is more than just a shop, more than a studio. It is an experimental, "lets try this and see if it works" place. We are even talking about some way out wind power stuff for when we finally get things more complete.
So, as we get these projects done and in Instructable format I will post those links here so you can follow this to those. And along with those I will post more before and after and after pictures.
Making shelf dividers.:
Step 7: Getting Power Hooked Up.
One of the first and most important things I had to do was get the power hooked up. I really did not want to run extension cords all over the place if I didn't have to.
If you do this yourself you need to be either experienced at it or working under the direction of someone who is. Montana allows for people to do their own wiring but only if it is supervised by a knowledgeable person like an electrician. It might need to be inspected by the state electrical inspector to assure it meets all codes.
I had a good length of cable already that I salvaged from another installation that I could use. This is the standard cable that is used everywhere to hook houses into the main power grid. This cable can either be used overhead like from pole to pole or underground. I wanted to go underground with it. It would take more work at first but there would be no problems with it and the trees later if I went underground.
The regulations or codes I found on this give you three options. You can run the cable just under the surface but only if it is in a metal conduit. You can run it a foot below the surface if you put it in a regular plastic conduit. And if you put it 2 feet or more deeper you don't need any conduit. I went with the 2 foot deep option.
It was a lot of digging. But I didn't want any of my trees damaged by machinery so the only safe way for the trees was to dig with shovels.
Going this deep underground worked out good for another reason. I included a 1 1/4 inch pipe in the trench to act as a conduit for for other lines. ---- That is the next step.
By the way, with the power hooked up this way I can now power up a saw or power tool and the lights don't dim. So I have plenty of juice to work with. I am replacing all the old outlets in the trailer with new ones.
The power junction I connected to is from a line coming from my main transformer/meter that runs underground to the box that was there. If not for that I would have had to go all the way to the meter and put in a breaker there for this line. A lot farther run.
Step 8: Communications
Because I want to have things like internet and phone in my future shop, and also security cameras, I added a plastic underground conduit to run all the lines through. So this way I can go from one building to the other without having any wires exposed. It was an easy thing to add since I already had the trench dug. I used a 1 1/4 inch black plastic pipe. It's normally used for things like underground sprinklers.
Step 9: Auctions
I love auctions, and I hate auctions.
I could probably do an entire instructable on auctions. But not now, this step linked to the future shop.
An estate auction usually means someone is selling out for any number of reasons and hoping to get some cash back for everything they bought over the years. It can be pretty sad. We had a man here who had established his own John Deer tractor museum. It was a huge collection. It was his passion. Then he died. The remaining family didn't care about it being a museum, they just wanted the money out of it. It was a very big auction. They had 3 different auctions going all at the same time. It was hard if you were interested in different things in different places. Running from one to the other. A lot of the people who were there were interested in the machinery, the classic cars and the tractors. They came from many places around the country. That was bad if that is what you wanted cause all of that went high when they ran the prices up. What I was interested in was not that. No, I was looking for the bargains.
One of the strange things they do at auctions is take all the stuff that is the same and put it together. For example, somebody had 12 different hammers, well, they put all of those in a box and sell the box. But what if you only want one or 2 hammers. Too bad, you have to buy them all. So sometimes you get real bargains. Then behind the scenes you find people swapping, hey I will trade you 3 screwdrivers for a hammer. It's pretty funny sometimes. I was looking at a pallet of bug zappers, yea, a pallet of them. I only wanted a few that would work. The auctioneers were trying to move fast and get through all this stuff. They were selling the entire pallets in this row of stuff. So I ended up buying a pallet load of bug zappers for $30. Not bad. For me that is how that day was going. Then in one of the buildings they were going through a line of building materials. Most of it went to high to interest me. Then they came to this stack windows. Four of them, 4 foot by 6 foot. Thermal pane, plastic frame, carefully removed from somewhere and stored. They were in really good shape. Starting bid? Nobody, silence. The auctioneer did his thing trying to get interest and going down in price. I finally spoke up, $20. He took the bid, nobody else said anything, he wanted to move on. Sold, all 4 windows. Somebody asked me what I was going to do with them, "I don't know, I will find someplace for them".
So when I was looking at Future Shop with a critical eye and seeing how bad those windows were, it wasn't a problem because I knew I already had really good, really big windows that were sitting, looking for a home. And not just those 4, I had a collection of them.
So auctions can be a great source of stuff for a project like this.
Shortly after I moved the trailer in place there was an auction just down the road from me. A neighbor who decided to retire and move into town was selling most of his surplus stuff. He used to do woodworking for a hobby. This was an auction that was to much for me to resist.
I have yet to figure out if it is a good thing or a bad thing when the auctioneer learns your number and yells it out from memory. At least he is always looking to you to get things going. This was an interesting auction. Not a lot of people and bids staying low. I was picking stuff up for opening bids. At one time out of apparent frustration at the lack of interest the auctioneer decided to just sell everything that was left on the flat bed he had been selling from. "Make me an offer for everything else on here". He looked around, looked at me and I said $10.00 and he said sold, take it all. My friend next to me who brought the truck said "You realize we will have to make more than one trip, maybe 3 or 4 at this rate." But then later he and I both went in on a band saw which is now sitting in future shop. A lot of what I have used for the repairs of the trailer has come from that auction. Things like several boxes of nails, just the size I had been buying.
The crazy thing was that had I not moved the trailer in I would have never had the room for any of it. We were filling the thing up already and hadn't even started on the repairs yet.
But, don't hesitate to go to auctions if you are looking for project supplies. You can get some real bargains. But be aware also that you have to take everything that you win. If you win 5 boxes of stuff you can't just take 2 of them, you have to take it all. When the sale is done everything is gone. The junk and the good stuff. It's up to you to sort it out at home.
Step 10: South End
After I parked the trailer and pulled off the boards covering the front hole where the bay window had been it was obvious that this end was a good place to start on repairs. I mean, it was a pretty good size hole. So I removed the aluminum skin and the disaster that was behind it became apparent. On the right side the water had been leaking and running down the stud apparently for a very long time. The wood was completely rotted. The damage extended down through the floor. It was pretty bad. It was all hidden behind the aluminum skin.
I framed out where the new window was going to go.
At this point there really was not much to this wall. In fact that was true of all the walls. These walls are made of a sheet of paneling, stapled and glued to the studs, filled with fiberglass and then covered with aluminum siding that is very thin. There is no vapor barrier, wind barrier, nothing, not even plastic film. The dirt infiltrates into the fiberglass over time and fills it full like a dirty furnace filter. I could probably take an ordinary pencil and push it clear through one of these walls. No wonder why people thought so little of trailers.
I had decided that I was going to skin the outer wall and beef it up. I had a bunch of 1/2 plywood pieces that had been stored forever that I decided to use for the front of the shop. So I pieced it together, all except for the corner (right) that had the bad damage. and made a wall. Then I covered it with house wrap and installed the first window. PROGRESS.
Step 11: West Wall
The west is where all our worst weather comes from. The storms and the wind hit from the west, so it made sense to do this wall while the weather was still good.
After doing the south end I had a better idea as to how to approach this. It was simple. Tear it all down to the studs and rebuild it.
All the cabinets were removed. I also removed all the pipes, I have no plans to run water in the shop. That might change, but for now it was all removed. Besides all that stuff was bad, not even salvageable.
I striped it down to the studs.
Step 12: Floor Repair
It was here that I ran into the big problem of the holes in the floor. This was due in large part to the stupid particle board they used for the floor. This stuff is made from sawdust and when it gets wet it returns to sawdust. When these windows leaked the water ran down the wall and got the particle board wet. Then it turned into sawdust again. And that made holes in the floor
The construction method used for the trailer becomes apparent here also. The deck is made first on the trailer frame. It includes the rug and the flooring. It goes edge to edge. The walls are made prefab and then put into place, right on top of the rug and secured in place. Because of this the rug is going to absorb water and then stay wet for a long time. This causes the wood to eventually rot.
Now there is some good to this also. The support for the trailer comes from the steel beams that run underneath. The walls rest on the joists that are supported by the beams. Because of this the wood around the perimeter can be easily gotten to. It is not resting on a foundation. So it is possible to replace any of this wood without having to jack anything up. It's already in the air.
The procedure I developed for fixing these floors is to first hammer away at anything that looks soft. Just punch it out. This way you get rid of the ruined wood and find out what is sound. Once you determine the damaged area use a square and draw a line so you can cut a nice patch-able area. Don't remove the studs, leave them hanging from above but cut out the sill and then the hole to be patched. Make a patch out of 3/4 inch plywood with external glue, glue and screw it down and then cut and readjust the studs and fasten them back down.
A way I found to put the studs back in that works pretty good is to cut the studs about 1/4 long. (these are the ones you left hanging) And remember to use a pry bar to push them all the way up first. Sometimes they start working their way down on the staples and need to get pushed back into place. Anyway, with the studs free the roof sags a little so if you try and cut the ends off exact they are actually to short. So make them a little long. Then pull them out at the bottom so they are past the floor and nail the new sill on. Mark where everything goes and then just nail through them from the bottom up into the ends of the studs. Now your wall will be hanging outside the floor and it won't just swing back into place. PERFECT. Use your pry bar and lift the whole thing up and slip it onto the floor. This raises your roof by that little bit that it was sagging, puts pressure on the joints and eliminates toe nailing the studs. Use a hammer to knock it into place so it lines up with the floor and then nail it in place.
Step 13: Rebuilding the West Wall
Once the floor and wall framing were fixed I could frame out the second big window. Then I skinned the bare studs with 1/4 inch wafer board. Why? Well, I wasn't really certain what I was going to do for these walls. The material I took off was super thin aluminum. At the very minimum I was going to have some kind of draft/wind barrier. But any kind of board I put on would have to fit UNDER the aluminum that runs across the top. The roof is sealed to this and I don't want to break that seal. What I do want is for water to come off the roof run down the aluminum and then drip off. If I put a board under it I can do that easily. This will eliminate any leaking. In addition using house wrap as well will stop air movement. So a 1/4 inch thick board would be ideal. It would offer support to the house wrap, reinforce the stud structure, lots of good things. But when I priced it out at our local lumber place they wanted almost 15 dollars a sheet for it. That was a little high I thought. So I wasn't sure what to do.
Then a minor miracle happened. A Menards store opened up in Williston, ND. That is just 90 miles away. Wafer board there was $6 a sheet. Almost a third the price. Yeah, and doors for $100 and all kinds of stuff, grand opening special deals. WOW, Made my day and my project.
So, it's 1/4 inch wafer board around the entire outside.
By the way it was on this side that I ran into something I still have trouble believing. There were holes in the floor around the door, no surprise, but they didn't show up until I started hammering at them. Someone had taken a bunch of newspaper and wadded it up into a plug and stuck it into the hole, then covered it in spray foam and finally put floor tiles over it. Wow.
Step 14: East Wall
With the west wall done I was ready to tackle the east wall, The water damage here from this leak was pretty bad. It took a lot of puzzling to figure out how to fix it. By now I was following the same work plan I had developed. Once you learn a good way to do something, keep doing it.
By the way, the leaves are starting to turn. I am starting to run out of time. It was my goal to have this front part weather proofed and sealed up for the winter. Winter is coming.
Step 15: Rebuilding the East Wall
This reconstruction followed pretty much the same as the west side except for needing to replace the front corner.
My big concern is that the weather is getting bad. We have already had several big storms. It's getting pretty cold to do much more outside.
Read the captions on the pictures they pretty much tell the story.
Step 16: Fiberglass and Mice
At first I wasn't planing on replacing the fiberglass. But I hadn't seen how bad it was either. This place was at one time totally infested with mice. They were everywhere in the walls and they have left behind their tunnels as evidence. So replacing the fiberglass became mandatory to me. Besides the smell and the other problems with the mice droppings the insulation's R value was greatly compromised. Fortunately it is relatively inexpensive and since I have totally opened up the walls is easy to do.
These pictures might make you wonder just what is going on inside your walls. Mouse
Step 17: Siding
For outside siding I am going to do as much as I can cover with some used Masonite siding. I have some from the addition that was disassembled and some from another project. The pattern is the same even though the color is different. Once it's painted it won't matter. I do want to put the siding mostly on the west side, the side that gets the worst weather. The east side is partly protected by the trees and other building.
Step 18: Interior Work.
My hope had been to do a lot of the interior work while it was winter and bad outside. I did get a lot done but not as much as I had hoped for. Things just took a lot longer than I thought they would.
Before I could do anything else I had to put in the new outlets and wiring in the walls while they were still open. I reused as much wire as I could. New wire is pretty expensive so anytime I can get away without buying it I am happy. Wire doesn't wear out but it does get shorter every time its connected again.
I started each run of outlets with a new GFI outlet. This way the entire line of outlets was protected through that GFI. This also meant that the outside outlets would be protected since they also would be connected through that GFI. I put in a lot of outlets. One thing I don't want to have to do is to run extension cords all over. Having plenty of outlets in a shop is a good thing. I also made some of the outlets double ones with one side having a switched outlet. I thought this was pretty clever. I meant that whatever tool you plug in to it will be dead unless the switch is turned on. So rather than unplugging the table saw to adjust it all you need to do is flip the switch and the power is Off.
When I did the siding sometimes I would miss the studs and have the screw go in with no backing. This left a lot of the screw sticking out in the inside wall. By itself this is not a problem. But the screws that didn't bite into something tended to pull out easily since the 1/4 inch wafer board didn't have enough depth to hold them. Sometimes I would have to line up sections of siding with no backing because the sheet of Masonite didn't get cut at the studs because it was used and not full sheets. A way I found to help with this problem is to cut some small pieces of plywood and make little pieces that can work to hold the screws. Without this sometimes the screws would not hold in the siding. It's pretty simple to do. You can follow it in the pictures. In order to screw the blocks easily pre drill them with a screw, remove that screw and then just screw them into the ones on the wall. Doing this holds the siding and everything else together. Like I said, it's one of the disadvantages to using used materials. But it saves a lot of money.
Finally getting some insulation up meant I could get some heat. The existing furnace still works but the furnace heat duct is pretty much destroyed. Yet another casualty of whoever did the pipes. Also I only want to heat the part of the trailer we are using to work in. The storage does not need heat. So the furnace is not usable at this time. That might change later on but for now, for the shop room, I bought a Mr Heater propane heater. Wow, does it put out the heat. We haven't decided on what a permanent solution for the heating will be. But for now the Mr Heater is working.
I installed a door to separate the heated room from the rest. The thermometer shows one of the warmer days, and yes I am trying to be funny.
And lastly I got some wafer board up on the walls. I am not using Sheetrock. I wanted something more sturdy. Thanks to Menard's I could get wafer board almost cheaper that sheet rock.If the trailer is ever moved again the wafer board on the walls should not crack, which is something sheet rock will do if it's flexed.
Step 19: Shelf and Such.
For this corner I have planed to put shelves and a counter top as a work table. I got this really nice hutch from an office desk setup and decided it would go perfect on the wall. I am going to continue the shelves to the south wall and wrap them over to the window. The counter top will do the same thing so it will form an L. I found the counter top in Menard's clearance for only $85.
Meanwhile we discovered the hutch is perfect size for putting those little storage containers which we fill up with screws.
I am planing on putting LED's in the little storage bins, mostly for looks and as a night lite kind of thing. First have to get the counter in though.
I included a couple of before pictures so you can compare.
This full project will be written up as a separate instructable with a lot of details.
Step 20: Storage
We planned on using the second half of this trailer for storage. Some of it for wood for projects. That plan is still in effect. But we had to change a few things with it. Originally I was going to make shelves along the walls as I had time. But after I learned that the best way to repair the water damage to the outside walls was to strip the walls down to the studs and rebuild them then putting anything against an outside wall would have to wait for that to get fixed. So the next best option was to use the middle space right away and later use the walls as they became available. For that reason we bought 2 large metal shelf units and set them up in the middle of the back room once it had been cleared of all interior walls and such. So what used to be the bathroom became storage.
In the process of dismantling the back room I found a real mess caused by the water heater that used to be in a closet. It had leaked pretty badly and did widespread damage to the floor which was hidden by the carpet. But the worst thing I found was that the inside of the cabinet was all scorched, apparently from the flue for the heater being disconnected. It is amazing this thing didn't catch fire or just outright kill everybody with Carbon monoxide poisoning. The only thing separating it from the bedroom was a couple of pieces of paneling.
Well anyway, I needed to make some shelf dividers for these large shelves. I made an instructable about it which you can see here.
As we get other projects done like this I will post them in this Instructable.
By the way, thanks for sharing in the adventure. I hope you can pick up some useful tips.
Third Prize in the
Beyond the Comfort Zone Contest
Runner Up in the
Trash to Treasure Challenge
Runner Up in the
Outdoor Structures Contest
MatH2 made it!