Wednesday, July 31, 2019

How Cute is My House Though? My Mobile Home Exterior Makeover from Start to Finish


Or shall I say, all 3.5 of my dedicated readers! How are you?

The remodeled bathroom has been functional since March. I still have a long list of minor details and it's still not ready for pictures, BUT I've been showering at home and not at the gym since March! Life is good.

Although the gym shower was not terrible, and actually pretty similar to the showers at many Pilot, Flying J, and Love's truck stops:

Don't be fooled--those gym shower tiles aren't real stone. They frontin'!

So once the shower was up and running, I knew I had to drop everything on the bathroom remodel and get the exterior fully repaired and painted during the dry season (April, May, and June), before monsoon season (July, August, and September) here in southern Arizona.

Average Weather in Phoenix, from Weather Spark

Last summer was my first experience as a homeowner during monsoon season, and it was not pretty. Not only was that season more brutal than normal, but I didn't know my trailer leaked out of every orifice, I didn't know desert storms were so persistent and severe, and I was terrified of my ladder.

O, how the fires have tempered me.

O, how the floods have tempered me.

O, how watching hundreds of construction tutorials on YouTube has tempered me.

As a quick refresher, the exterior of my starter home/mobile home/trailer/fixer upper looked like this on the day of purchase:

As you can see, the exterior of this lovely 1957 Henslee featured...
  • Trash, cat turds, and dead cactus scattered around the yard
  • Rotten stairs covered with melted carpet
  • Faded, peeling, ugly paint colors
  • Two broken entry lanterns
  • Broken/damaged skirting stained with grease and cat piss
  • Two rusty old propane tanks that looked like atomic bombs
  • Loose internet and DirecTV wires that had been cut and left to flop around
  • Random stickers on dirty, screenless windows that leaked and didn't close securely
  • Windows that had been completely painted over
  • Doors that were padlocked from the outside like a fucking footlocker
  • A sasquatch hole in the dirt under the trailer
  • Through-wall AC units whose rough openings let rain into the house
  • A total of FIVE defunct/dysfunctional vent holes that let rain into the house
  • Holes in the warped metal siding from where various signage had been hung over the years, since this place was formerly the park office. These holes were taken over by cluster flies which greatly enjoyed flying in circles around people's heads.  

Essentially, this house had never been loved in its life. How sad is that? All the leaks were actually the house crying out for love. Just like me!

I bought the place shortly before dry season last year and at first had no idea the roof was in such bad shape. So at the time I started with basic cleanup and repairing the most visually obvious flaws, like replacing the landing on those godforsaken stairs, then scraping off the melted green carpet and re-covering them with a recyclable outdoor carpet made from plastic bottles...

...and closing up the former rent drop box hole that someone had covered with a classy piece of raw plywood...

...and repairing an abandoned, massively leaking kitchen wall vent hole that someone had conveniently covered with drywall. I scraped and cleaned all the rotten crap out of there and, like with the rent drop hole, I sealed it up with sheet metal, Bondo, Stretch Caulk, and Rustoleum Leak Seal spray, then finished with 123 Primer and paint.

Interior view, before and after.

Exterior view, before, during, and after.

I swapped the rickety, leaky bathroom window with a through-wall fan, since someone had ripped out the original fan long ago. More on that in a second...

My homemade vent hood may be crooked, but that shit is sealed TIGHT, son.

In addressing my bathroom's numerous moisture problems (and by that I mean ripping out wet, rotten subfloor and fighting the fungus gnats that were feeding on it and of course the lizards that were feeding on the fungus gnats), I discovered that only one of the four vent covers on the roof actually hooked up to anything, and that singular item was the plumbing vent stack. Turns out the intermittent horse shit smell in my house was actually due to the vent stack itself not being attached to its output cover.

I should absolutely NOT be seeing daylight here.

So I ripped out the crumbly old cover, connected the vent stack to a new white one, and sealed it with roofing membrane and lap sealant on the exterior and expanding foam and butyl tape on the interior. Horse shit smell has left the chat.

The pipe on the right was originally to vent a gas water heater, but since I had my entire trailer converted to electric, that vent wasn't necessary anymore. It'd also had a mysterious giant hole cut into it and was directing rainwater straight into my bathroom, so I just ripped the whole thing out and patched it with sheet metal, Bondo, and roofing membrane.

Before and after.

The other two leaking vent covers were for the missing bathroom fan and the stovetop. Remember the stovetop vent that came with the house? You know, the piece of particle board that was attached to a pivot, with no mechanism for drawing cooking smells up and out of the house, and that would feed rain puddles directly onto the stovetop? I.e., yet another fucking useless hole in my roof? Yeah, that one:

Directly above the stove burners was this marvel of human innovation.

I thought about keeping the cooking range roof hole for future use, but decided I'll go with a ventless range hood. Thankfully those are becoming more standard these days, because I was plumb out of patience for holes in my roof.

Also, do you guys remember the big metal mushroom on my roof that was letting a river of rain into my house? The one that I thought (back in my newbie homeowner days) could be fixed with butyl tape? Haha. Hahaha. Hahahahaha.

When I pulled on it out of curiosity, it lifted out of its collar with one hand and no tools. Some genius had sawed it off from the actual fan and propped it up loosely, not sealed or fastened to anything, with a piece of fucking drywall. Looking down the collar hole you can see the paper backing of the bathroom ceiling drywall, which was on the receiving end of pouring rain. Which explained the puddles on my bathroom floor after every thunderstorm. But how the mushroom resisted 60mph monsoon winds all those years is one of the great mysteries of our time.

Drywall keeps you dry, right?

Defunct bathroom vent (left) and cooking range (right) holes patched and sealed.

Peel and Seal Roofing Membrane. God, I love that stuff.

If you were worried the roofing fun was over, there were also ponding areas that were leaking more rain into my house! Do wonders never cease?

I sanded, cleaned, and sealed these ponding areas with Henry roof patching compound, covered the cured patches with roofing membrane, then scrubbed the whole roof and top-coated the entire thing with Henry Elastomeric Roof Coating. I didn't get a final pic of the beautiful top coat because I finished it just after sunset and so had the pleasure of climbing down a ladder in the dark wearing flip flops while covered in sticky acrylic goop and carrying a wobbly 5-gallon bucket and a bag of tools.

Also no pic of my bare footprints that are now permanently on my roof because I accidentally stepped into the wet top coat. But that only happened because I painted myself into a corner.

Ponding patches prior to being covered with roofing membrane and also footprints.
Why is my roof (and my neighbors' roofs) white and where are the shingles, you ask? Well, mobile home roofs were, and sometimes still are, made like RV roofs, with various rubber and asphalt membranes pulled over the trusses and then sealed with reflective coatings. This is because mobile homes and RVs need to be lightweight and don't typically have big attics to mitigate heat absorption. There is often no gap between the ceiling and roof in a trailer.

Alright! So roof repairs were completed for about $300 total. Obviously I fantasized about an entirely brand-new roof, but remember, I deliver pizza for a living, so a $5000 new roof wasn't feasible. Like my buddy Benjamin Franklin, I live within my means.

After I recovered from all that roofing excitement by lying around in air conditioning eating Pringles for a few days, I sealed my AC unit openings with butyl tape, exterior caulking, and more Henry sealant, then primed and painted the seals. Which looks a little strange up close, but totally keeps the rain out. And is a slightly more appropriate use of butyl tape.

I gave those atomic propane tanks away to some dude on Craigslist, then repaired the skirting and siding damage on that side of the house.

The hitch cover in the front of the house needed help too, since whoever originally installed it cut it too short and cats were pissing and shitting and yowling and fornicating under my trailer. I'd tried to temporarily block the gaps with rocks, but the cats just laughed at me.

As did the Big Foot that found its way under there. You guys, this critter hole under my trailer was the size of a bowling ball return, and I'm pretty sure cats don't live underground. I was so nervous shoveling the dirt back into that hole because I was certain a hodag was going to jump out and bite me and I'd die of an incurable flesh-eating bacteria. Scariest five minutes of my life, man. That's a tale for the grandkids.

I replaced the water supply hose with a fresh one for $10 and sprayed it with a UV-resistant coating for plastics. Yes, my house is hooked up to the city water supply with a hose, just like an RV. That was not my design, but it works so I'm leaving it alone.

Did I mention hardly any of the windows opened when I bought this trailer, and several wouldn't close properly either? They, along with the doors, are original to the house, so I had a hell of a time finding replacement cranks. You know what a 62-year-old mobile home is NOT? Plumb, square, level, and filled with standard-sized components. The window cranks were a perfect example:

Left: Standard casement window crank. Right: Original and broken window crank.

After many rounds of purchasing, returning, re-purchasing, and re-returning wrong-sized parts, I finally found the correct cranks and replaced those. Lo! Thirteen original windows, six were functional when I bought this trailer, and now ten are functional. Only three more to go... 

At some point (these projects are really all a blur now), I removed the broken screen from the back door and replaced the exterior padlock (!) with a normal deadbolt. I changed the lock on the front door to match, so now the front and back door have the same key. And of course repaired the siding holes from the padlock.

Who the hell drills a padlock latch onto the exterior of a house door? The fuck is wrong with you people.

Next I got me a pretty motion-detecting lantern. The one that came with the house was ugly as sin and also broken, so my uncle gave me an extra lantern from his house, and during this exterior makeover I finally got one that fits the size and theme of my house. I even hooked up the wires myself, and hey, it actually works!

I used this diagram from the Internet, along with tips I got from helping Uncle convert my trailer to electric over the winter:

Original source unknown.

FINALLY the structural repairs were done and it was time to make the house pretty with paint! I took down that broken DirecTV dish, patched dozens and dozens of little signage holes in the siding with Bondo and Leak Seal spray, and scraped and sanded all the peeling spots around the entire house. I used 123 Primer and applied the final satin color with this $40 sprayer, and it came out beautifully. The tan was a custom match to the existing but is extremely close to Sherwin Williams "Palomino Pony."

Last year I made this freehand sketch for the exterior paint and trim plan. I'm not typically a "tan house" person (and Phoenix is frequently ridiculed for being too beige), but at the time I thought I could save money by working with the existing tan and just replacing that random ugly green with red, brown, black iron, and wood accents. The theme I had in mind was "vintage Southwest."

I found Olympic paints on clearance for 50% off, and when I applied them I realized why they weren't selling at full price. I believe my exact words were, "OOOHHHHHH NOOOOOOO..."

Although my alcoholic neighbor assured me this color/texture nightmare looked wonderful. Thanks Ernie, but that's because you have no taste in home fashions.

Much to my relief, the second attempt at accent paints came out absolutely perfect:

The windows actually close tightly with their new cranks AND I don't have to prop them open with pieces of scrap wood anymore. Why is HGTV not calling me??

The red doors are Sherwin Williams "Fireweed," the black drip caps and stair spindles are Deco Art Outdoor Living paint in "Iron Gate," and the stair railings and risers are actually Minwax Gel Stain in "Coffee." Did you know gel stain can be used like paint on metals and plastics and is marketed as such on the label? Fascinating! I used that gel stain on the side awnings, too.

I removed the "circus tent" scalloped trim from the front awning and tried that gel stain on the window box and front fins, but the end result was way too sharp and dark. Didn't sit right with me at all, but of course Ernie thought it looked amazing.

After a flurry of sample cards, I picked up a little tin of Valspar's "Pine Bark" color, which matched my stair carpet perfectly. 

Now the fins match the carpet, the stair trim matches the side awnings, the doors match the front awning, and the black "iron" accents include the awning arms, window and door drip caps, and the entry lantern. You guys, even my security cameras match my house. There are six colors going on here, but because they're all cool-toned, they're playing nicely together and the overall "vintage Southwest" effect is pretty much what I pictured in my head with that freehand sketch.

Don't hate me because I'm beautiful.

Clean, neat, tidy, color-coordinated, and waterproof. That's how I roll. And fake plants tied down and sprayed with UV spray, because I have a black thumb. Real plants die when they see me coming, just to save time.

More before-and-afters, because everyone loves before-and-afters:

Even my lot number pedestal saw a little action:

As did my plastic package-hiding bench, which I primed with Rustoleum Universal Bonding Primer then painted with leftover tan and then Minwax Gel Stain in "Hickory," so now it looks like wood. Well, from a distance it looks like wood.

I found this Blazing Needles cushion in "Montserrat Sangria" on clearance for $17 and had it tailored to fit the bench, then found a $30 sweepable outdoor rug. Still contemplating vases and wall art for this seating area...

And that's it! That's the whole exterior makeover, kids. I started on March 10, finished on July 18, and the first rain arrived on July 22. Everything in my house stayed dry.

You want a piece of me, monsoon season? Come at me, bitch. I'm prepared this time. I want it to rain like it's never rained before so I can look at my dry interior and cross my arms in smug satisfaction.

Of course, now monsoon season is nearly half over and it's only rained twice, so it looks like we're having a mild one this year, or maybe even a drought.

Go figure.