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Bigfoot 2500 Front Fiberglass Delam Repair Questions

adamis
Nomad
Nomad
So as follow up to my previous two projects (holding tank supports and truck platform to raise camper) I'm now looking at the next big project. For years the front of my camper on the bottom portion (just below the cab pass through window) the fiberglass has de-laminated from the plywood. It hasn't really bothered me because it's invisible since it is between the cab of the truck. However... it is time to put this project on the to-do list and get it fixed.

The issue I believe at the root of this is that the support wall is insufficient which causes the camper to sag and expand whenever it is jacked up or placed on the truck. I believe this to be the case because the bubble (covering ~20% of the front wall of the camper below the overhead bed) changes in shape depending on if the camper is resting on the jacks or sitting on the bed of the truck. Also of note, when the camper is on jacks, the door of the camper will not open or close. This tells me the entire shell is moving.

I have a contact has a shop for fiberglass boat repair and he has offered to take a look to see what he might be able to do. The current idea barring any better ideas is to remove from bed of camper and support on platform so we know the shape it needs to be in the truck. Then we cut open the front fiberglass area to reveal what we have to work with. Unless they did something different than other areas of the camper, I suspect there is likely a 1/4" sheet of plywood across the front followed by 1" of foam. To add extra support for the camper, my current thinking is to remove the foam and replace with either marine grade 3/4" plywood or weld up an aluminum support truss to tie in.

Ideally we will get this new bracing to tie in with the front jack supports so we can keep the sagging / movement of the camper to a minimum when it is lifted and lowered. Once we are happy with the new support, we will re-glass everything so it is all solid and as if nothing had ever happened.

So my question is, has anyone performed this same repair or encountered these same issues? Are there any pics available to show how the front wall of the camper is constructed and how the front jacks tie into the support structure? Any suggestions will be much appreciated.

1999 F350 Dually with 7.3 Diesel
2000 Bigfoot 10.6 Camper
18 REPLIES 18

HMS_Beagle
Explorer
Explorer
Most of the walls of a Bigfoot are fiberglass, glued to foam insulation/core, followed by 1/8" luan on the inside. This makes the "sandwich". Around the basement it is thicker plywood rather than foam. I've never been inside the front bulkhead, but if Bigfoot says it is plywood then it probably is.

The difference between this and boat construction is the use of contact cement. On a boat, the fiberglass would be directly laid up on the plywood (or foam), bonding to it with the resin. In some methods, the core is added after lamination using a wet bonding agent (like thickened resin). You will never see contact adhesive used for this purpose in a boat (well, perhaps a very, very cheaply built one).

The difficulty this creates when trying to fix delamination is that both surfaces (inside of fiberglass and surface of core) are covered with (failed) contact adhesive to which nothing will stick, except perhaps more contact adhesive. More contact adhesive will have solvents in it that may melt and reactivate the failed adhesive, or it may just make a mess. In a boat, the first attempt at repair is usually to inject epoxy into the void through small holes and clamp it together again. Epoxy will not stick to the adhesive in this case. The second attempt in a boat is to cut the delaminated skin off so the surfaces can be prepared, then either relaminate new glass, or bond the cut out piece back, then scarf the joint. That is a lot more work because of the finish work required. If the core is rotted due to water intrusion, then the core has to be removed to the edge of the rot and replaced with new.

if you have time, repairs of this sort aren't rocket science, the only hard part is the finish work to make it look new again. The bulkhead isn't that visible, so maybe a less than perfect job would be acceptable there.

I am surprised that you cannot get the door open on the jacks. For sure one thing that can happen is you can cross load the jacks, twisting the shell which will distort the door frame and bind the door. You can keep that from happening by watching the lower corner of the door carefully as you raise the jacks to keep the margin between door and frame the same on the side and bottom. The movement is fairly obvious.
Bigfoot 10.4E, 2015 F350 6.7L DRW 2WD, Autoflex Ultra Air Ride rear suspension, Hellwig Bigwig sway bars front and rear

adamis
Nomad
Nomad
3 tons wrote:
Assuming you know where the wood substrate is, what I might consider is drilling a small hole (or several) thru the FG and re-gluing…Small holes might then be fiberglassed over using a small area FG repair kit available at West Marine… Either way, that’s quite an ambitious repair you’re taking on!!

3 tons


Yeah, I've thought about this method as well. Going to the shop today to see what the guy says about it and will report back with what he says.

1999 F350 Dually with 7.3 Diesel
2000 Bigfoot 10.6 Camper

3_tons
Explorer
Explorer
Assuming you know where the wood substrate is, what I might consider is drilling a small hole (or several) thru the FG and re-gluing…Small holes might then be fiberglassed over using a small area FG repair kit available at West Marine… Either way, that’s quite an ambitious repair you’re taking on!!

3 tons

mbloof
Explorer
Explorer
adamis wrote:


Thanks for the great insight. Do you have any links you can point me to that would show some of these other repairs? Would be great to get some ideas on what others have done.



Sorry but no.

You might check the different groups on Facebook. I've seen a number of posts in both the NL groups there and on a search see there is a 1/2 dozen or more BF groups there that may (or not have) posts about it.

Since I don't have a BF I've never joined one of these groups.


- Mark0.

mbloof
Explorer
Explorer
please delete.

adamis
Nomad
Nomad
mbloof wrote:
Ahh... this sort of thing happens to both Bigfoot and Northern Lite campers - the area you have circled is part of what folks call the "T-Wall".

Forgetting for the moment that fiberglass with the proper thickness and properly saturated with resin all the way through (it is my understanding that both companies "blow" fiberglass and spray resin into/on the insides of their molds - not an exacting method) is "HARD like a boat hull" and would rather BREAK or CRACK rather than "bubble" or "bulge", both Bigfoot and Northern Lite at times (~1/2 dozen NL's have reported the issue over the years) seem to have difficulty getting enough fiberglass+resin in this critical vertical section of their molds resulting in just that - ether what owners describe as a "bulge" or "bubble" in the front vertical wall of the lower section of their campers!

There have been a number of different DIY "fixes" or "work-a-rounds" for this issue posted in the various forums over the years generally involving removal of the 'pass through window' and most/all that is directly behind the wall and ether injecting resin or glue and/or adding plywood/metal sheet and/or using clamps through the window to squeeze both sides until the resin/glue cures and reassembling the inside of the camper and reinstalling the window.

One owner was able to snake a tube to dispense resin/glue into the wall section (between the fiberglass and insulation) and was able to clamp the bulge so that it was flat and then upon removal of the clamp was able to reassemble without to much of a tear down disassembly of that area of the inside of the camper.

I think one owner was still within their structural warranty period and took their camper to the factory for repair.

Thankfully both companies are generally good at fiberglass+resin coating their molds and out of the all the units ether company has shipped over the years there have not been a large number of campers having this failure.


- Mark0
(owner of a 2014 NL 9.6)


Thanks for the great insight. Do you have any links you can point me to that would show some of these other repairs? Would be great to get some ideas on what others have done.

1999 F350 Dually with 7.3 Diesel
2000 Bigfoot 10.6 Camper

mbloof
Explorer
Explorer
Ahh... this sort of thing happens to both Bigfoot and Northern Lite campers - the area you have circled is part of what folks call the "T-Wall".

Forgetting for the moment that fiberglass with the proper thickness and properly saturated with resin all the way through (it is my understanding that both companies "blow" fiberglass and spray resin into/on the insides of their molds - not an exacting method) is "HARD like a boat hull" and would rather BREAK or CRACK rather than "bubble" or "bulge", both Bigfoot and Northern Lite at times (~1/2 dozen NL's have reported the issue over the years) seem to have difficulty getting enough fiberglass+resin in this critical vertical section of their molds resulting in just that - ether what owners describe as a "bulge" or "bubble" in the front vertical wall of the lower section of their campers!

There have been a number of different DIY "fixes" or "work-a-rounds" for this issue posted in the various forums over the years generally involving removal of the 'pass through window' and most/all that is directly behind the wall and ether injecting resin or glue and/or adding plywood/metal sheet and/or using clamps through the window to squeeze both sides until the resin/glue cures and reassembling the inside of the camper and reinstalling the window.

One owner was able to snake a tube to dispense resin/glue into the wall section (between the fiberglass and insulation) and was able to clamp the bulge so that it was flat and then upon removal of the clamp was able to reassemble without to much of a tear down disassembly of that area of the inside of the camper.

I think one owner was still within their structural warranty period and took their camper to the factory for repair.

Thankfully both companies are generally good at fiberglass+resin coating their molds and out of the all the units ether company has shipped over the years there have not been a large number of campers having this failure.


- Mark0
(owner of a 2014 NL 9.6)

Grit_dog
Nomad III
Nomad III
I’m no camper expert and idk what I’m looking at in the second to last pic, but if that’s where the issue is from the back side then idk why one would attack it from the front side.
Also as a structural engineer and part time gear head, it still seems highly unlikely that a bit of sag (can you even see a belly across the front edge of the tub when sitting on jacks?) up front would rack the back enough unless you’re compensating with one front jack for an entire camper that is twisting.
Try the first. Put camper on jacks then put a solid support under it just across the front edge, like a saw horse. Put the front camper weight largely on the support and not the jacks. If that fixes it, then I’m quite likely wrong and it may fix the door issue.
But please stop using the “it’s cheaper than $50k for a new camper” thing. That is wholly an excuse used by those who are unable to compare apples to apples. Guys do it with trucks all the time…. “$10-15k for new everything is cheaper than a new $80k diesel…” well no shart Sherlock. Now compare it apples to apples….lol. Lots of good trucks and campers that don’t have issues/have low miles that aren’t $50 or $80k…. It’s just a flawed means to justify significant expense.
2016 Ram 2500, MotorOps.ca EFIlive tuned, 5” turbo back, 6" lift on 37s
2017 Heartland Torque T29 - Sold.
Couple of Arctic Fox TCs - Sold

notsobigjoe
Nomad III
Nomad III
adamis wrote:
No, the fiberglass itself is in good condition. It is just bulging out. Below is a photo that shows what is happening. The bulge is larger than it appears in the photo, the lighting was less than ideal to show it properly but essentially it continues to just below the pass through window.

I did get a response from Grant at Bigfoot and this is what he said.

This is the basement. The bottom horizontal under the main floor is glass in support walls.

The upper walls are glued in with 2 vertical plywood strips up each side of the 4 ft wide center section.

Seems like the bond above floor level gave way from the plywood.

Grant




So there is wood in it. That explains everything.

notsobigjoe
Nomad III
Nomad III
StirCrazy wrote:
notsobigjoe wrote:
StirCrazy wrote:
I am not sure what you are talking about as the fiberglass is done in a mold and not a wood bonded product. I got to watch them build the shell of one camper when I was at the factory, and it is all fiberglass. do you have a picture of what you're talking about?


Not being Snarky Stircrazy just adding to your point. I looked up fiberglass camper delamination repair and found only crack and fraying of worn fiberglass repair but nothing else. I did remember that Gordon did a factory tour and here is your point.

https://www.truckcampermagazine.com/factory-tour/glass-secret-under-the-bigfoot-shell/


not sure what you're getting at. Like I said it is not construction like Luan in a normal rv. the foam insulation is glued to the interior panes then they are just glued as one to the fiberglass shell. it's not a lamination process. maybe I'm not understanding what the issue is as when a normal fiberglass laminated trailer delaminates you see bubbles in the exterior. in the bigfoot this won't happen as it is a solid fiberglass and gel coat shell with the interior glued to it.


I was agreeing with you that there is no such thing as "fiberglass" delamination on a camper mold. Before I post on any forum I look stuff up so I don't make a fool of myself. The only delamination there is on any camper is the Luan/pine getting wet under the fiberglass panel. like you said. Fiberglass molds do not delaminate because there is nothing to delaminate. I do not have any experience in camper fiberglass molds but I have extensive knowledge of fiberglass boats. The wood in any boat can rot for 30 years but the fiberglass will remain as it was poured all those years ago.

Here is a pic of a rebuild of my 88 Bayliner. The wood completely rotted but the fiberglass has not moved since 88. I would think the fiberglass campers would be exactly the same but according to TCM there is almost no wood in them. Sorry so long winded...


adamis
Nomad
Nomad
No, the fiberglass itself is in good condition. It is just bulging out. Below is a photo that shows what is happening. The bulge is larger than it appears in the photo, the lighting was less than ideal to show it properly but essentially it continues to just below the pass through window.

I did get a response from Grant at Bigfoot and this is what he said.

This is the basement. The bottom horizontal under the main floor is glass in support walls.

The upper walls are glued in with 2 vertical plywood strips up each side of the 4 ft wide center section.

Seems like the bond above floor level gave way from the plywood.

Grant



1999 F350 Dually with 7.3 Diesel
2000 Bigfoot 10.6 Camper

StirCrazy
Navigator
Navigator
adamis wrote:
As far as lamination, I don't know what is behind this area of the camper, I assumed it was plywood but I've never walked the factory to see how they are actually assembled. I only can go off of what I observed while working on my holding tanks and there was plenty of plywood from what I saw so assumed it continued up the back wall. I don't believe it is the fiberglass providing all of the structural support in this area, it is too thin but I could be wrong.

As far as the repair and why do it, well, I'm just not the type to let something I own not be in top notch shape. I have the means and motivation to do it and I wouldn't feel good about trying to sell the camper to someone else knowing these issues. Another factor is, the camper is used for my business so it's the business that pays for the repairs, not out of my pocket directly so money isn't as large of an issue. Even if I spend $3k to $4k to get the job done, I'm way farther ahead then spending $40k to $60k on a replacement camper. The math works out for me personally though I understand others might perform different calculations and come up with different results

As far as the door, it opens and closes fine when on the truck. It's only when lifted that it becomes a problem. I'm not looking at performing any repairs on the door itself. My suspicion is that if I get the front structurally braced and rigid, the door in the rear will take care of itself.

I emailed Grant at Bigfoot asking for some pictures and suggestions. He said the repair is not uncommon and to anticipate between 30 and 40 hours to do the job. He provided a picture of the area in the mold and I have circled the area in question. I asked a follow up to him if he could tell me what provides structural support in this area. As far as using a boat guy versus a camper guy, well, if I knew of a camper guy that worked exclusively on fiberglass truck campers for a living, that would be my first pick but I don't think those people exist. A boat is structurally much more complex and demanding so assuming my friend will even take the job (he may still say know, we will find out on Thursday) I feel he has the right skills and knowledge to get it done right.



ok it is getting clear now. you're saying the actual fiberglass is coming apart if I am seeing it right.
2014 F350 6.7 Platinum
2016 Cougar 330RBK
1991 Slumberqueen WS100

StirCrazy
Navigator
Navigator
notsobigjoe wrote:
StirCrazy wrote:
I am not sure what you are talking about as the fiberglass is done in a mold and not a wood bonded product. I got to watch them build the shell of one camper when I was at the factory, and it is all fiberglass. do you have a picture of what you're talking about?


Not being Snarky Stircrazy just adding to your point. I looked up fiberglass camper delamination repair and found only crack and fraying of worn fiberglass repair but nothing else. I did remember that Gordon did a factory tour and here is your point.

https://www.truckcampermagazine.com/factory-tour/glass-secret-under-the-bigfoot-shell/


not sure what you're getting at. Like I said it is not construction like Luan in a normal rv. the foam insulation is glued to the interior panes then they are just glued as one to the fiberglass shell. it's not a lamination process. maybe I'm not understanding what the issue is as when a normal fiberglass laminated trailer delaminates you see bubbles in the exterior. in the bigfoot this won't happen as it is a solid fiberglass and gel coat shell with the interior glued to it.
2014 F350 6.7 Platinum
2016 Cougar 330RBK
1991 Slumberqueen WS100

notsobigjoe
Nomad III
Nomad III
Adamis, what exactly did the guy from bigfoot say the repair was structurally. Is it wood under the fiber? is it that the Fiber has lost it's strength? Build quality? I'm curious as to what the repair is actually going to repair. As far as the door, On my coachman many years ago, My door sagged a little but only off the truck. It was actually the roofing up over the door that grew week and worn. It was wood though so totally different I think...