When most people think of ‘horse trailer,’ they think of a crude, metal-and-wood structure much like a horse stall on wheels. But the one that my friend asked me to help her convert to a living space already had a living space. It’s just that this early 80s structure had tacky, deteriorating decor, and a roof that leaked like a sieve. It was totally falling apart. It was immediately clear that I was not just “helping her redecorate this horse trailer.” We agreed it might be better to convert while living in it, then sell it. That would pay for my time and materials, and help her out in getting her next one (more likely a sprinter van.)
Here is what it looked like after a little cleaning out and after another friend had cut out the horse stall divider:
Because I would be staying in it, the first projects involved getting it to stop leaking. One major leak was in the skylight over the bed, which had been boarded up. It leaked terribly, and anyway, we were dead-set on a beautiful glass skylight that hatched open to allow people to get on the roof. I cut open the roof, removing the skylight and framing the opening out. I tore off the old patches spent endless hours grinding off rusted metal and bolts. I replaced everything with new sheet metal, re-welded the structure to reinforce the larger opening, and caulked and patched everything. The window I created from salvaged tempered glass and used lumber. It cost me the price of a tube of caulk, two hinges, and several screws–not bad.
Ripping open the roof for the window was a little nerve-wracking, but that quickly led to frustrating and tiresome with the rest of the roof. The reason? The roof has 12 seams and bolt-lines, where the sheet metal was originally attached to the structure. I could’ve simply put yet another layer of roof cement with reinforcement tape, making it maybe the 5th “repair,” but that’s not me. I’m thorough. I scraped and ground off the layers of old, decrepit roof cement and patches and got down to the metal. It was heavily corroded, and in places it actually needed new strips of sheet metal to cover the gaps left by corrosion. After grinding, re-bolting, spraying rustoleum, and caulking, each line needed the roof cement and reinforcement tape anyway, to ensure a water-tight seal. I’m happy to say now that the roof is 95% leak free, and the only drips come from the two seams that remain to be fixed.
We wanted to keep the back half of the trailer “horsey,” despite having removed the stall dividers, the bars on the windows, and the wall separating the horse area. This are would become the office/hang-out/spare bed area. I took a break from the roof to begin the installation of two benches, which box in the wheel hubs, and provide reach-in storage. I installed a table, and have laid out plans for a hinge-out bed on the opposite bench.
All of this mostly construction-type work left me chomping at the artistic bit. I wanted to begin to tackle a new sub-project which was more creative and…monumental. Enter the rear glass door. (Get it? Enter the door…) Although we wanted to keep the all-metal horse doors for the appeal, we wanted an inner door so that on cold/hot/rainy days, you can look out, but climate-control the inside. I salvaged glass that had previously lived the life of a sliding glass door for a shower. Perfect size. I framed it in wood to protect the glass when I framed that into metal. I welded hinges that could handle the 250 lbs of metal and glass, and installed it. The best part? It’s hinged and sliding, to provide a variety of opened-to-closed positions. The smaller half of it slides into place behind the vertical beam that holds the metal outer doors shut. That makes the smaller opening a sort of door and the larger glass covering the opening as a “window.” Not quite finished, but totally exciting!
Now I’m tasked with making the trailer “liveable” because although I don’t need showers or running water, I know other people do. I have completed the bed area, with sliding closet doors that I milled down from salvaged wood. The nasty faux wood paneling was replaced with painted paneling that doesn’t seek to imitate real wood, and I have installed real wood trim and shelves, with ornamental elements from pieces of felled apricot trees. I have tiled the bathroom with a wild assortment of salvaged (but perfectly good) tiles, and installed metal shelves and towel rack holsters (metal salvaged from an old bed frame, and sealed with spray lacquer to retain antique look and prevent rusting.) Next will be replacing the horrid pink carpet with something modern (and dare I say tasteful, for years to come?)