Wednesday, June 8, 2011


For some time we have been planning to do a major facelift to our home, and make some upgrades to certain equipment as well. Part of that has already been done. We added new and better brakes while in New Hampshire last year, and we replaced the wheels and tires with heavier duty ones when we lost the wheel in Globe, AZ earlier this year.

We then went to an RV repair facility near San Antonio for repairs and adjustments to our slideouts. They replaced some parts and installed a bracket to keep the slide from coming in too far. Then we continued on to Denton where we planned to make the majority of the modifications.

Dianna has posted about our family activities since we arrived, so I will post about the plans and progress of the upgrades. The first item was not planned. Our refrigerator failed. RV refrigerators use ammonia as a cooling agent, and are powered by electric or propane. Our cooling unit, the thing on the back of the refrigerator, sprung a leak. They are not repairable. We then discovered that our 10 year old refrigerator is no longer made, and repair parts are not available from the manufacturer. Even worse, no one makes a refrigerator of the same dimensions as ours. To replace it with a new refrigerator would require cabinetry modifications.

We found a company that makes replacement cooling units and ordered one. It was shipped to a trucking terminal in Grand Prairie, about 45 miles south between Dallas and Fort Worth. We picked it up and enlisted Chris's help installing it. It was described as a DIY project, but I dare say most would find it more than they would want to tackle. Our refrigerator was the largest RV refrigerator made, so it was heavy, and it had an ice maker, heat tapes, and cooling fans installed to make it more difficult. We got it done but immediately had concerns. It did not cool as well as the original unit. After a lot of work, including adding fans and rebuilding baffles to route air through the fins, we finally gave up and decided to send the cooling unit back. The company offered a replacement but we decided we have had enough of RV refrigerators. They gave us a full refund, including shipping charges.

Many people now order their full time RV's with residential style refrigerators. We decided that was the route for us too. Our trailer has an inverter that lets us make 120V AC current from our batteries when we are not plugged in. So, after removing the refrigerator and the cooling unit again, and taking it back to the trucking terminal in Grand Prairie, I set about modifying our cabinetry to hold the new refrigerator we picked out. It is a 21.7 cubic foot Whirlpool with ice and water in the door. It should be real nice.

I removed the drawer below the original refrigerator opening, removed the gas line, rerouted electrical lines and moved the plug, closed off and insulated the outside access doors in the wall since rear access will no longer be needed, fabricated and installed mounting brackets to hold the TV cables and 12V wiring on the back wall, and strengthened the floor. I also enlarged the cupboard above the refrigerator opening by extending it an additional 9 inches to the rear. This space was used for air movement above the rear of the original refrigerator, but it would now just be wasted space. It certainly didn't get back as much space as the drawer we lost, but it helped.

We are now waiting for the new refrigerator to be delivered. That will be another interesting experience. It will have to come through the escape window because it is too large to fit through the door. We'll let you know how that works out.

In the meantime, I have also rebuilt the end wall in the living room slide out. It had a water leak some time ago that rotted the wood structure. I had to completely disassemble it, rebuild parts of it with an epoxy putty compound (that smelled worse than Dianna's nail chemicals), replace the wood framing, and resurface it in preparation for new wall paper. That's the next item. We have decided to re-wallpaper the entire living room area. After several trips to home improvement stores and other stores, we finally found the one we liked. We just received it today and will begin on that project in a few days.

But, that's not all. We've always disliked the day/night shades that came with our trailer. They are difficult to get to behind sofa and chairs, cumbersome to operate, and most of them have now been repaired at least once when the cords wore through grommets in the mechanism. So we decided to replace them with new shades from MCD, a company located in McKinney, just a few miles from here. They will have both a night time shade and a separate sun blocking daytime shade. Best of all, they will be electrically operated with a remote control. At the push of one button we will be able to lower or raise all or any of the shades.

The shades have been ordered but we do the installation ourselves. I will be running 12V power to the valences where the shades will be located. This will require opening slots in the walls, another reason for new wall paper. And, as long as we are redoing the wall paper and shades, we also decided to replace the valences and the legs that surround the shades on several of the windows. We have purchased the plywood from which they will be constructed, and we have purchased the new material they will be covered with. They will go in as soon as the wall paper is up.

We have also decided to replace the mirrors that serve as the back splash in the kitchen with tile. In fact, we will be adding the tile in the entire kitchen backsplash area. We chose a small glass tile that should look very nice.

Of course, when all this is done, we will replace the carpet. We're still contemplating about whether or not to replace the current hide-a-bed sofa with a built in seating area with underneath storage. That one will probably be decided by how much energy we have left after all the other upgrades.

There are still a couple more things in the works. I plan to replace our current inverter, the thing that makes 120V AC power from the batteries, with a different kind. Ours makes a form of power known as "modified sine wave". This means it is not exactly the same as utility power we have when plugged in or using the generator. Most things work OK with it, but some do not. We will replace it with a true sine wave inverter that makes power exactly like utility power. It will be better for all our electronics, and for the new refrigerator.

And, when all this is done, we plan to have the trailer painted. That's still a ways off, but we're working at it as much as we can. The temperatures have been brutal the past few weeks. This week it has been up to 105 with high humidity. It makes going outside no fun, and we're both feeling the effects of the heat.

So, there you have it. Now you know what we've been up to, and what we will be up to for the next several weeks. I'd sure rather be doing it somewhere more comfortable that here, but we have everything convenient to this location. There are two Lowe's and two Home Depot's within ten miles, (I visited one Lowe's every day for 14 straight days), and many of the larger tools, like the table saw and chop saw are in Jennings garage, just 5 miles down the road.

I'll try to post a little more often as the projects move along. I may even include photos!


  1. I bet you're loving this. It's a chance to play with as many power tools as you can. Arr arr arr...

  2. Now I understand why we haven't heard much from you in the past month.

  3. Wow! The projects you are doing now make the weather-stripping replacement we did seem so easy. Can't wait to see the new remodel.

  4. Wow is right. That's a lot of remodel, especially to DIY. Too bad you didn't decide to start it when the weather was cooler. But I know it's so nice to have upgrades done and enjoy your "new" home. I love driving up to my house now and seeing the new roof and fresh paint job. And coming inside to the (still fairly) new carpet. I'm thinking of painting the inside again this summer or early fall.

    You will enjoy that big refrigerator and remote control window shades.

  5. It seems like there is more maintenance in your trailer than in a house! It probably just seems that way because everything is built in. If I get a new refrigerator I don't think of it as a remodel.

    It's keeping you busy, anyway, filling your lazy retirement days.

  6. Daryl, the maintenance is not all that bad compared to a house. I think it is actually less, or at most a wash. The cleaning required is certainly less, and there's no lawn maintenance or gardening at all. I wouldn't call replacing a refrigerator a remodel either. It just happened at the same time as all the remodeling, and everyone wanted to know what we have been up to.

    I'll sure be glad when it is all done. I would like to get back to those lazy retirement days and filling them with going places and seeing things.

  7. How about an update to the update. Did you get the new fridge in? Carpet? Paint? I need ideas for my tiny remodel.

  8. We needed an update at the end of June. We need one worse now in the last half of August.