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Help! Best suggestion for cutting fiberglass shower surround?

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  • Glenn
    Discovered there is a major leak in the plastic cold water piping somewhere around my shower. Currently in process of removing the shower surround and tub, so
    Message 1 of 8 , Jan 13, 2007
    • 0 Attachment
      Discovered there is a major leak in the plastic cold water piping
      somewhere around my shower. Currently in process of removing the
      shower surround and tub, so I can replace all of the piping, just in
      case the leak I found isn't the only one.

      The problem is the surround is a one piece unit that is too big to
      remove from the area, due to the other built in's (sink, bed) and must
      have originally been installed when the rig was built. Thinking that I
      can cut at the curves and make it 3 panels instead of one. I figure if
      I can cut clean enough I can reseal the cuts when I reassemble it, but
      can't figure out which method will give me the cleanest cuts. Looking
      at carbide blades in a circular saw, or a rotozip, or a sawzall, or
      regular hacksaw. Anyone really good with fiberglass and have any
      suggestions? I'm looking to not crack the finish as much as possible.
      I've got enough room to take it out of the area so that I have
      complete access to one curve (formerly the one the faucet was on) and
      once I've removed that short side, I should be able to wrestle the
      rest out.

      The back panel curves, so I'm trying really hard to salvage the
      original, rather than just getting new fiberglass. Any experienced
      folks out there that can send some advice my way, appreciated.

      Glenn in Tucson
      84 EMC Bermuda, "Bermuda Rectangle"
    • Charles S Osborne
      Glenn, A lot of the strength in these showers/tubs come from the one piece nature. They re a lot softer than home units to begin with. If you cut it into
      Message 2 of 8 , Jan 13, 2007
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        Glenn,

        A lot of the strength in these showers/tubs come from the one piece
        nature. They're a lot softer than home units to begin with. If you cut it
        into thirds vertically I don't think you'd ever get enough strength back to
        not break the joints where the stresses would concentrate after cuts are
        made.
        You might get away with cutting in horizontal plane, but I didn't get
        the impression that was what you were contemplating. In either case a real
        fiberglass repair would normally be done behind, ie out of sight by
        overlapping multiple layups of fiberglass much wider and thicker than the
        joint. Doing it on the shower side would be inevitably ugly without a lot of
        work.
        I know the wall insides are where you can't get at right now, so the
        fiber repair in that fashion is probably out. I'd do anything myself to go
        thru a paneling wall before I'd contemplate going thru the fiberglass.
        Create a new framed service panel near the water faucets etc.

        Charles
        '85 Itasca Windcruiser
        ----- Original Message -----
        From: "Glenn" <tucson_sailors@...>
        To: <classicrv@yahoogroups.com>
        Sent: Saturday, January 13, 2007 3:44 PM
        Subject: [classicrv] Help! Best suggestion for cutting fiberglass shower
        surround?


        > Discovered there is a major leak in the plastic cold water piping
        > somewhere around my shower. Currently in process of removing the
        > shower surround and tub, so I can replace all of the piping, just in
        > case the leak I found isn't the only one.
        >
        > The problem is the surround is a one piece unit that is too big to
        > remove from the area, due to the other built in's (sink, bed) and must
        > have originally been installed when the rig was built. Thinking that I
        > can cut at the curves and make it 3 panels instead of one. I figure if
        > I can cut clean enough I can reseal the cuts when I reassemble it, but
        > can't figure out which method will give me the cleanest cuts. Looking
        > at carbide blades in a circular saw, or a rotozip, or a sawzall, or
        > regular hacksaw. Anyone really good with fiberglass and have any
        > suggestions? I'm looking to not crack the finish as much as possible.
        > I've got enough room to take it out of the area so that I have
        > complete access to one curve (formerly the one the faucet was on) and
        > once I've removed that short side, I should be able to wrestle the
        > rest out.
        >
        > The back panel curves, so I'm trying really hard to salvage the
        > original, rather than just getting new fiberglass. Any experienced
        > folks out there that can send some advice my way, appreciated.
        >
        > Glenn in Tucson
        > 84 EMC Bermuda, "Bermuda Rectangle"
        >
        >
        >
        >
        > Yahoo! Groups Links
        >
        >
        >
      • Jerry Noone
        Glenn Certainly, the best advice is that already offered: do whatever you can to get to that plumbing from the back side. Once you cut those fiberglass walls,
        Message 3 of 8 , Jan 13, 2007
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          Glenn
          Certainly, the best advice is that already offered: do whatever you can to get to that plumbing from the back side. Once you cut those fiberglass walls, you are going to be in for a serious amount of work and may not be very successful with it. Unless you can locate a similar unit of the same size to put in there, I'd not cut the fiberglass out. You likely have one wall that is against the outside of your rig. I'd crawl underneath to see if the plumbing comes down through where you can see it. If so, I'd disconnect everything inside the shower (faucet and such), cut the lines as needed and feed new lines up or down. That way, you will have replaced any problem areas. There are a lot of flexible solutions in piping - though I prefer PEX as it is simple to work with though you need a tool to use with it. The tool is pricey at around a hundred bucks but most big plumbing supply places will rent you one pretty cheaply. And they will also usually offer a bit of "no-cost advice"
          as a bonus.
          Just my thoughts. Take pics along the way as it progresses, no matter whch way you choose to go. You will, at some later date, wish you had pics whether just for reference or for sharing.
          Jerry
          ----- Original Message -----
          From: Charles S Osborne
          To: classicrv@yahoogroups.com
          Sent: Saturday, January 13, 2007 1:49 PM
          Subject: Re: [classicrv] Help! Best suggestion for cutting fiberglass shower surround?



          Glenn,

          A lot of the strength in these showers/tubs come from the one piece
          nature. They're a lot softer than home units to begin with. If you cut it
          into thirds vertically I don't think you'd ever get enough strength back to
          not break the joints where the stresses would concentrate after cuts are
          made.
          You might get away with cutting in horizontal plane, but I didn't get
          the impression that was what you were contemplating. In either case a real
          fiberglass repair would normally be done behind, ie out of sight by
          overlapping multiple layups of fiberglass much wider and thicker than the
          joint. Doing it on the shower side would be inevitably ugly without a lot of
          work.
          I know the wall insides are where you can't get at right now, so the
          fiber repair in that fashion is probably out. I'd do anything myself to go
          thru a paneling wall before I'd contemplate going thru the fiberglass.
          Create a new framed service panel near the water faucets etc.

          Charles
          '85 Itasca Windcruiser
          ----- Original Message -----
          From: "Glenn" <tucson_sailors@...>
          To: <classicrv@yahoogroups.com>
          Sent: Saturday, January 13, 2007 3:44 PM
          Subject: [classicrv] Help! Best suggestion for cutting fiberglass shower
          surround?

          > Discovered there is a major leak in the plastic cold water piping
          > somewhere around my shower. Currently in process of removing the
          > shower surround and tub, so I can replace all of the piping, just in
          > case the leak I found isn't the only one.
          >
          > The problem is the surround is a one piece unit that is too big to
          > remove from the area, due to the other built in's (sink, bed) and must
          > have originally been installed when the rig was built. Thinking that I
          > can cut at the curves and make it 3 panels instead of one. I figure if
          > I can cut clean enough I can reseal the cuts when I reassemble it, but
          > can't figure out which method will give me the cleanest cuts. Looking
          > at carbide blades in a circular saw, or a rotozip, or a sawzall, or
          > regular hacksaw. Anyone really good with fiberglass and have any
          > suggestions? I'm looking to not crack the finish as much as possible.
          > I've got enough room to take it out of the area so that I have
          > complete access to one curve (formerly the one the faucet was on) and
          > once I've removed that short side, I should be able to wrestle the
          > rest out.
          >
          > The back panel curves, so I'm trying really hard to salvage the
          > original, rather than just getting new fiberglass. Any experienced
          > folks out there that can send some advice my way, appreciated.
          >
          > Glenn in Tucson
          > 84 EMC Bermuda, "Bermuda Rectangle"
          >
          >
          >
          >
          > Yahoo! Groups Links
          >
          >
          >



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          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • Glenn
          The tub and surround are two different parts, so I m not too terribly worried about the strength of the tub being affected - I m actually planning on beefing
          Message 4 of 8 , Jan 13, 2007
          • 0 Attachment
            The tub and surround are two different parts, so I'm not too terribly
            worried about the strength of the tub being affected - I'm actually
            planning on beefing up the wooden framework underneath once I've
            gotten it out. The tub is about 30 x 24 by about 16 to 18 deep and its
            once piece. The surround screws in all around the lip, with the lip
            behind the surround, up against the wood work, and metal trim that was
            sealed with monkey putty by some previous owner as the bright and
            shiny visible stuff.

            While I appreciate the POV on the work to be done, the actual advice I
            need is on the least damaging way to cut the fiberglass. The lines are
            all run inside the house, with nothing accessible from underneath. I
            would have to peel about 1/8 of the RV to get at the waterlines (they
            curl around the tub along the driver side wall, and then along the
            back to the faucet and then back inside to a non-load bearing wall,
            and I figure that has far more work involved. I've seen enough
            multiple piece surrounds in the non-RV world, and with better
            (non-rusting) screws I think I'll be fine.

            As a secondary note, its using the gray plastic, so I suspect I'll be
            doing some form of PEX to replace the T and cold water run to the
            shower faucet. I'm intending to replace the run from a few inchws
            before the original T, and just running new connects to the shower and
            toilet.

            And you bet I'm taking reference pictures. :)

            Glenn

            --- In classicrv@yahoogroups.com, Jerry Noone <rjerryc01@...> wrote:
            >
            > Glenn
            > Certainly, the best advice is that already offered: do whatever you
            can to get to that plumbing from the back side. Once you cut those
            fiberglass walls, you are going to be in for a serious amount of work
            and may not be very successful with it. Unless you can locate a
            similar unit of the same size to put in there, I'd not cut the
            fiberglass out. You likely have one wall that is against the outside
            of your rig. I'd crawl underneath to see if the plumbing comes down
            through where you can see it. If so, I'd disconnect everything inside
            the shower (faucet and such), cut the lines as needed and feed new
            lines up or down. That way, you will have replaced any problem areas.
            There are a lot of flexible solutions in piping - though I prefer PEX
            as it is simple to work with though you need a tool to use with it.
            The tool is pricey at around a hundred bucks but most big plumbing
            supply places will rent you one pretty cheaply. And they will also
            usually offer a bit of "no-cost advice"
            > as a bonus.
            > Just my thoughts. Take pics along the way as it progresses, no
            matter whch way you choose to go. You will, at some later date, wish
            you had pics whether just for reference or for sharing.
            > Jerry
            > ----- Original Message -----
            > From: Charles S Osborne
            > To: classicrv@yahoogroups.com
            > Sent: Saturday, January 13, 2007 1:49 PM
            > Subject: Re: [classicrv] Help! Best suggestion for cutting
            fiberglass shower surround?
            >
            >
            >
            > Glenn,
            >
            > A lot of the strength in these showers/tubs come from the one piece
            > nature. They're a lot softer than home units to begin with. If you
            cut it
            > into thirds vertically I don't think you'd ever get enough strength
            back to
            > not break the joints where the stresses would concentrate after
            cuts are
            > made.
            > You might get away with cutting in horizontal plane, but I didn't get
            > the impression that was what you were contemplating. In either
            case a real
            > fiberglass repair would normally be done behind, ie out of sight by
            > overlapping multiple layups of fiberglass much wider and thicker
            than the
            > joint. Doing it on the shower side would be inevitably ugly
            without a lot of
            > work.
            > I know the wall insides are where you can't get at right now, so the
            > fiber repair in that fashion is probably out. I'd do anything
            myself to go
            > thru a paneling wall before I'd contemplate going thru the fiberglass.
            > Create a new framed service panel near the water faucets etc.
            >
            > Charles
            > '85 Itasca Windcruiser
            > ----- Original Message -----
            > From: "Glenn" <tucson_sailors@...>
            > To: <classicrv@yahoogroups.com>
            > Sent: Saturday, January 13, 2007 3:44 PM
            > Subject: [classicrv] Help! Best suggestion for cutting fiberglass
            shower
            > surround?
            >
            > > Discovered there is a major leak in the plastic cold water piping
            > > somewhere around my shower. Currently in process of removing the
            > > shower surround and tub, so I can replace all of the piping, just in
            > > case the leak I found isn't the only one.
            > >
            > > The problem is the surround is a one piece unit that is too big to
            > > remove from the area, due to the other built in's (sink, bed)
            and must
            > > have originally been installed when the rig was built. Thinking
            that I
            > > can cut at the curves and make it 3 panels instead of one. I
            figure if
            > > I can cut clean enough I can reseal the cuts when I reassemble
            it, but
            > > can't figure out which method will give me the cleanest cuts.
            Looking
            > > at carbide blades in a circular saw, or a rotozip, or a sawzall, or
            > > regular hacksaw. Anyone really good with fiberglass and have any
            > > suggestions? I'm looking to not crack the finish as much as
            possible.
            > > I've got enough room to take it out of the area so that I have
            > > complete access to one curve (formerly the one the faucet was
            on) and
            > > once I've removed that short side, I should be able to wrestle the
            > > rest out.
            > >
            > > The back panel curves, so I'm trying really hard to salvage the
            > > original, rather than just getting new fiberglass. Any experienced
            > > folks out there that can send some advice my way, appreciated.
            > >
            > > Glenn in Tucson
            > > 84 EMC Bermuda, "Bermuda Rectangle"
            > >
            > >
            > >
            > >
            > > Yahoo! Groups Links
            > >
            > >
            > >
            >
            >
            >
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          • Charles S Osborne
            Glenn, Ok, sounds like you ve thought about the structural issue and reinforcing. You re right, the fact that the tub is seperate, should carry the weight
            Message 5 of 8 , Jan 13, 2007
            • 0 Attachment
              Glenn,

              Ok, sounds like you've thought about the structural issue and
              reinforcing. You're right, the fact that the tub is seperate, should carry
              the weight unless you lean against the wall taking a shower. Mine's a one
              piece in the Itasca, top, three sides, and bottom tub all together. It's
              flexibility in that situation is what prompted my comments.

              I'd use a high speed angle grinder with a 1/16~1/8" thick abrasive
              wheel. They look a little like fiberglass sheet with embedded red grit in
              the glue. They do slowly wear down. But they give good straight line control
              if you mark it with a Sharpie and go slow.

              One of the small Skill saws that use a 5" blade might also work with one
              of these abrasive blades. But usually those saws aren't made to run as long
              as this will take before the motor overheats. And they won't cut as close to
              the end of the line due to the blade guard.

              Might be able to finish the last few inches with a Sawzall with fine
              hacksaw blade. But have to watch for stuff behind the wall like wiring or
              plumbing you didn't plan to replace if the stroke is too long.

              I've seen some aluminum extrusion that might work good for rejoining the
              pieces. May be similar to what you describe between the tub and sides. It is
              used with sheets of masonite fake tile work in bathrooms. The 1.8" thick
              masonite slides into both sides of the metal piece to join sheets. Might be
              a strong way to repair / cover the fiberglass cuts.

              Walmart sells Bondo Fiberglass Gel with hardner. Its a lot like epoxy
              glue. Sets very quick though, like five minutes. So practice with small
              amounts till you see what the work time is and how far you can go in that
              time.

              Goes without saying.. air filter mask and full wrap around eye
              protection are vital for the grinding/cutting. Rough on contacts or corneas.
              Wish I had a sand blaster's suit with a filtered air supply for this kind of
              stuff. But I'm usually doing it outside. In a confined space its even more
              challenging.

              Charles
              '85 Itasca Windcruiser

              ----- Original Message -----
              From: "Glenn" <tucson_sailors@...>
              To: <classicrv@yahoogroups.com>
              Sent: Saturday, January 13, 2007 8:09 PM
              Subject: [classicrv] Re: Help! Best suggestion for cutting fiberglass shower
              surround?


              > The tub and surround are two different parts, so I'm not too terribly
              > worried about the strength of the tub being affected - I'm actually
              > planning on beefing up the wooden framework underneath once I've
              > gotten it out. The tub is about 30 x 24 by about 16 to 18 deep and its
              > once piece. The surround screws in all around the lip, with the lip
              > behind the surround, up against the wood work, and metal trim that was
              > sealed with monkey putty by some previous owner as the bright and
              > shiny visible stuff.
            • Penny
              ... terribly ... Why go to all the trouble of trying to goop the old surround with something, and make a possible leak spot. Can t you just go to Lowes, Home
              Message 6 of 8 , Jan 14, 2007
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                > > The tub and surround are two different parts, so I'm not too
                terribly
                > > worried about the strength of the tub being affected >>>

                Why go to all the trouble of trying to goop the old surround with
                something, and make a possible leak spot. Can't you just go to Lowes,
                Home Depot, McCoys, and get a new plastic three piece tub or shower
                surround ? Use the right Liguid Nail mastic for plastic tub surrounds.
                If you want to, you could line the enclosure with luann, or 1/4"
                plywood for strength, first. The three piece surrounds overlap in the
                middle of the wall, not the corners, and can be cut to fit.
                Just my tuppence (2 cents in Brit). Penny
              • Scott Williams
                My thought would be a sawzall with a very fine blade (and very short- who knows what s behind there?) I d put masking tape over the line to be cut, to keep
                Message 7 of 8 , Jan 14, 2007
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                  My thought would be a sawzall with a very fine blade (and very short-
                  who knows what's behind there?) I'd put masking tape over the line to
                  be cut, to keep chipping to a minimum. Avoid "pushing" the blade
                  through the material, let the saw do the work. You do want to hold the
                  foot of the saw snugly against the material as you cut, to keep the
                  material from vibrating and flapping in and out as you cut. I doubt the
                  blade would get dull, but make sure to have extras if it does dull, you
                  want to cut with a sharp blade. Another post mentioned dust problems
                  from fiberglass. Maybe a shop vac aimed at the saw blade (or taped to
                  the saw) would keep the dust well under control, though the sawzall
                  would make significantly less dust than any cutting wheel. Put some
                  tape on the "foot" of the saw, too, to keep from scratching the tub (or
                  use enough masking tape to protect the surround from any scratches near
                  the cut line.)

                  Not the voice of experience cutting fiberglass, here, this is just what
                  I would do faced with the same task.

                  Good luck, and I hope I never have to do that myself!

                  Scott in Penfield NY

                  Glenn wrote:
                  > While I appreciate the POV on the work to be done, the actual advice I
                  > need is on the least damaging way to cut the fiberglass.
                  > ...
                  > Glenn
                • Ron Mitchell
                  I d use a Rotozip or Dremel with the router attachment and a spiral saw bit. Fasten a piece of wood or something parallel to the cut to act as a guide. The
                  Message 8 of 8 , Jan 15, 2007
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                    I'd use a Rotozip or Dremel with the router attachment and a spiral
                    saw bit. Fasten a piece of wood or something parallel to the cut to
                    act as a guide. The Dremel (or Rotozip) allows you to set the depth
                    of cut, so you don't have to worry as much about things behind the
                    wall. Make your cut no deeper than needed and cut any extra with a
                    utility knife. Get a good respirator with a NIOSH N95 filter rating.
                    Harborfreight.com has a couple of inexpensive models, you can also
                    pick up boxes of disposables at Lowe's or Home Depot. Fiberglas dust
                    can be real nasty and can trigger allergic reactions in some folks. Be safe.

                    Ron
                    76 Coachmen
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