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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Fire Safety! - Do On-Board Fire Extinguishers Expire?

    While I was in my RV a few days ago checking my smoke detector's battery, I figured I should make sure that the fire extinguisher was still "in the green" on the gauge. It was. Then I got to thinking, "I've had this fire extinguisher for at least 7 years." It's a common ABC dry chemical style available at most big box stores. It got me wondering, "Is it still good?" I mean, they aren't all that expensive to replace. So if you believe in the "better safe than sorry" school of thought, why not replace it? Is there anything on the market that's better? After a bunch of research I found some things out. Read on!

See The Fire Extinguisher, Bottom Left
Most manufacturers recommend inspecting each extinguisher at least once a year for damage and constant pressure. It's easy to do. Look at the extinguisher: Is it dented, the handle broken or perhaps the nozzle cracked? If so, replace it. That's obvious. Look at the gauge: Is it still indicating the same as when you purchased it? Is it at least in the green? If not...replace it.  Also recommended is to flip the extinguisher over and give it a good shake and "thump" to loosen the powder inside and prevent caking. All that being said, most manufacturers recommend replacing it when it is between 5 years and 15 years old. I am not so sure I would trust my or my RV's safety to a 15-year-old (or even a 10-year-old!) fire extinguisher. For around $20.00 or so, you can easily purchase a new one.

Which one to buy? Well, the least expensive is the dry chemical (powder) style. They will put a fire out (HINT-Aim at the base of the flames,) but do make a pretty big mess. The powder itself is very fine and gets into everything. But it sure beats the alternative! There are quite a few other types. As a pilot I've used various mixes of HALON fire extinguishers for decades. Unfortunately, they are hard to get now since Halon hurts the ozone layer. Halotron is similar but even more expensive. The other issue is they only work on Class B and C fires. What does that mean?

In the world of fire safety, Class A is trash, wood, and paper, Class B is liquids and gases, and Class C is electrical fires. In our RVs you really need all three. Look at it this way: If you have a fire and must discharge your extinguisher inside, it WILL make a mess. But letting it burn would cause MANY more issues, not to mention being life threatening!! After my almost battery fire, I became a firm believer in fire extinguishers as a precautionary measure.  Be safe. Replace!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

No Cover This Winter - I Bought A Big Fabric Building! - Was It Worth It? Part - 2

 Well, let's start off by saying this installation session did not go as well as I would have liked. Instead of a fully functional, completely covered fabric building, I have a frame. Anchored to the ground with one end attached, but not well. That end panel took 3+ hours to get on! Why? Why was this so difficult? I followed the instruction manual carefully and measured at least twice for each step. That's when I discovered some issues with the manual/instructions and the contents of the kit. I'm not saying NOT to purchase, but be aware of the problems BEFORE you get in too deep.

The manual I had downloaded from their website was one version, the one in the box was another. The pictures don't always match the instructions. That's really not all that terrible. The instructions really need to be rewritten to include the changes in the kit contents. The worst part of it? The manual is often NOT in the order it should be. So, for example, it says to do one thing and in the line AFTER it says to do something else BEFORE you do the first thing! Sometimes multiple sentences down. That's an issue, if you are trying to put it together step by step. I must have read through the manual 25 times and I still had problems remembering the steps.

Sometimes the instruction manual would explain how to do something that wasn't there. For example, there is a wind brace mounted on a diagonal across the end two arches. Good idea! When you put the end/door assemble on it says to remove the wind bracket bolts and slide the end of the brace through the slit in the end fabric. No problem, sounds simple. Except there aren't any slits! It never mentions you have to cut them yourself. It's an easy thing to do, but scary when you have to take a leap of faith and decide to do it yourself! There ARE three slits in the fabric to accommodate the top center rail and the two side rails. Of course, after putting the center one together, the other two will not line up. They were several inches off. Why???

Then there was the turnbuckle debacle. On either side of the end fabric installation there is a place to hook a turnbuckle that you tie the rope that goes through the door/end. It's already installed in the end panel, but you have to be able to pull it tight enough so when you tighten the turnbuckle it snugs the door down and prevents it from rolling over and off the frame. Good luck with that. The rope is almost impossible to get tight enough and the fabric slides off the frame as you pull on it. In any case, the slits in the fabric that WERE precut would not line up at all. After much angst and stress, we managed to get it close enough to put the bolts back in and snug it down.There HAS to be a better way. And if there is, it should be in the manual or at least online in a FAQ or TIPS section on their website.
In order to close the zippers on the two roll up doors at this end, the frame had to be pushed in from both sides and manipulated until it wouldn't break the zipper. This was all AFTER we measured, as the manual tells you to, 22 feet across from vertical to vertical. We were EXACTLY at 22 feet on each set and the diagonal measurements matched. So, what was the problem? I still haven't figured it out. Maybe when I start putting the other double door end panel on I will find it's a bit different and fits better. Who knows, maybe it was a manufacturing goof.

Well, this is now going to go into a THIRD week. Stay tuned...should be fun to watch us try and finish this in the rapidly dropping temperatures and significantly colder weather!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

No Cover This Winter - I Bought A Big Fabric Building! - Was It Worth It? Part - 1

    The main bummer of living in the North East is having to put the RV away for the Winter season. I do have a cover, which is a bit of a P.I.T.A. to put on, but does the job of weather protection decently. I had looked into building a pole type building and even priced out a 30 x 60 foot one. Not bad all in (including the concrete pad) at around $15,000. Still a bit too rich for my blood. Not to mention that my taxes would go up pretty significantly! That route was out. While I was researching steel buildings, I came across a couple of companies that made fabric ones. Basically, they are a galvanized steel frame with 10 oz (or higher) vinyl layered fabric covers. They have zippered roll up doors and are designed for storage. Seemed like a good idea....they came in all sizes. I was mainly interested in the 24' x 22' x 12' or as they call it, "2 car garage."

Right away, I knew there was a risk involved. It is NOT rated for snow loading. In fact the manufacturer recommends you push snow off by lifting sections of the roof from the inside with a broom or something similar to reduce problems. They DO sell them all over the North East including Maine and Massachusetts, so if there was a bad review to be found regarding snow, I couldn't find one that pointed at manufacturing rather than improper installation. The one I was interested in (24'x22'x12') was under $2000.00 delivered! I am about 100 miles from the factory, so shipping, while high...was manageable. If I had picked it up it would have been less expensive, but you then have to pay sales tax so it was about $100.00 extra to have it delivered. Gas would have cost that much! So I ordered one.

Pre Site Prep
You have to prepare the installation site. Since I was installing it on pavement, it was mostly cleaning up and making sure I had the correct anchors for the frame. I did have to cut back some tree limbs, but I was going to do that anyway since that particular tree had broken my skylight a few years back. Bad tree!Once clean and ready, the frame is laid out in separate "arches." Each of those is comprised of 7 pieces. Once each arch is ground assembled and loosely bolted together with the supplied carriage bolts, nuts and curved washers, each is lifted into place and the horizontal rails attached. The first two are the most difficult as they won't stand up by themselves until the cross-members are bolted in place. Once that's done on the first two, it has four legs and can stand on its own for each of the subsequent arches to be attached. When all of them are assembled you have to attach the pipe sections at the peak of the roof between each arch. Have a big ladder handy! They are over 12 feet in the air.

Leveled And Squared!
Now that the frame is all put together it has to be leveled and squared so that all the sides are equal. If you skip this step, the cover will not fit properly. Begin by aligning one side with a string pulled taught at the base. That will get you one side straight. Make sure the whole thing is in the position you want it when you are done!! Once that was complete, I held them down with sandbags so I could go on to the next step. Each side has to be 22 ft. from the bottom of the verticals on one long side to the verticals on the other. Once that measurement is done I placed more sandbags to hold it in place so I could measure diagonally from one corner to the other to make sure it was square. It's finicky and takes a while to get it right. Once it's all level and square it has to be anchored to the ground.

Re-Used Dirt Anchor Cable
The kit comes with dirt anchors, so I had to source some that would work on pavement, blacktop specifically, without cutting really big holes in the surface. I could re-use the cable tie downs as the loops would fit over the anchors, even with the "duck-bills" attached. I found some at Tractor Supply that would work, sort of. The anchors I found require a 1/2" hole to be hammer drilled into the blacktop and then they are set in the hole, up to the threads with a hammer. Once set, the washer and nut are screwed on pulling the bottom of the anchor up and expanding to hold fast in the hole. Sounded easy enough. In practice, drilling the holes was easy. Getting the anchors to expand without turning was not. My pavement is a bit brittle in spots and it isn't all that deep. The requirement for holding down the building meant I needed relatively large 1/2" anchors so they were also pretty long. Eventually, I got them all to expand enough to stay in the ground. I will be filling in the holes and adding threaded female ends into the pavement for threaded eyelets in the spring!

Once the anchors are in, you have to pull everything tight so it stays firmly on the ground. Believe me, doing this alone is a real challenge. Better to have two (or more!) folks to assist. It would have gone MUCH faster! Eventually (in the dark) the frame was up and ready for the end and main covers.

Next week, we'll get the covers on and everything tightened up. I had to split this operation up because it was snowing when I stopped building the frame! Stay tuned for the completion of this project and my honest opinion on the building itself.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"