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Enclosed cargo trailer questions
I'm pricing out the purchase of a cargo trailer which I will order in January in time for spring pick up so I can start finishing it.  But even after watching myriad how-to videos, there are some things I still don't "get."  If someone can answer these questions or provide a link that demonstrates what I'm talking about I would be ever so grateful.  There will be a meal and a beer in it for you if you can find me on the road next year. I'm a pretty awesome chef.  Smile

So here goes with the questions:

One of the things I'm comparing cost-wise is the finishing.  Of the quotes I have received so far, the cost to insulate the ceiling and walls runs from $250-300, which I consider reasonable, depending on what they are using to insulate (I have yet to get that information).


I have many questions regarding electrical which is a total mystery to me: 

(1) If I have them insulate the trailer, how does this affect adding electrical? 

Since I know zero about electrical, I also thought about having them add electrical for me but I'm not really sure what I need.  A couple of places will allow you to tell them where to place the lights and outlets, one has been mute about that.  One place I'm investigating includes a breaker box (I need one, right) but the others are mute about that. 

(2)  If I want to be add electrical, what do I need to consider; and

(3)  What do I need to have included to be able to connect solar and batteries later?

(4)  Would it be wiser/easier to place the batteries inside the trailer or get a box for the tongue to place them in and then run the wiring into the trailer?


I want two windows on the trailer for cross-ventilation.  One place quoted an exorbitant $640 EACH to put in windows.  Other quotes are more along the line of $150-175 each. 

(1) How difficult is it to put in windows for someone with limited mechanical ability and a bum arm (which will hopefully be less bum by spring but who the hell knows)?

(2)  If I'm able to put them in myself or with assistance with my less mechanically inclined but stronger young son, can I put them in if the trailer has already been insulated?  

Video or blog links with how-to's welcome.  Private message welcome.  Don't forget dinner and a beer (or beverage of your choice).  TIA!
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The following 1 user says Thank You to mothercoder for this post:
GypsySpirit (08-06-2017)

I'd bet most of them will want to insulate with pink fiberglass instead of polyiso.

Insulation needs to be done AFTER the wiring is done or you'll be removing it and adjusting it to deal with the wiring.


Yes, you'll probably want a circuit breaker box, probably a sub-panel box will be sufficient. Mine allows up to 4 circuits, I only have two in place.

If you you're not allowed to tell them where to place the outlets, you probably don't want to deal with that firm. Having outlets where you need them is paramount to being able to install your interior the way you need it. Nothing more useless than having an electrical outlet buried under the bed or inside a kitchen cabinet.

The alternative is to have them only put in your circuit breaker box and wire it to the exterior and then do your own internal wiring.

You will probably need more 12 volt outlets than 120V which needs a fuse panel and then wiring to your various sources of 12V power. I used up all the whole of a 12 circuit 12V fuse panel.

The cost of having it all done will be likely astronomical as compared to material costs and learning to do it yourself or running it to one of the people here who can either supervise you while you do it or do it for you.

To add electrical wisely and effectively you need to know where all the rest of the interior components are going to go - kitchen outlets, outlets handing for charging, wiring for lighting all needs to be planned out in advance of putting the walls up and building components.

How much solar you need depends on how much of a battery bank you need which depends on what use you're going to have. It all starts with usage planning.

What you need to add solar and batteries later will depend on whether you want portable or roof mounted solar which depends on where you figure you're going to be living. I live 6 months of the year in highly forested areas so I chose portable panels with permanently mounted controller. My portable system isn't a suitcase set up but it's totally plug and play.

Placing the batteries on the tongue is possible but it takes away the space needed for spare tire mounting and propane tank mounting so if that's where you decide to place them then you  need to figure out where you're going to put the other stuff. Also whether or not you can place them on the tongue will depend on how big a battery bank you need. My battery bank would  never fit on the tongue of a trailer but that's because I'm running 4 T105REs to accommodate my fridge and freezer power needs. That and tongue weight  needs to be taken into consideration which depends on the trailer.

Windows: One of the things I dislike about manufactured trailers today is the lack of windows and I'd love to have those big windows but you might be better off with doubling the number of windows and reducing their size so that they fit between the ribs rather than having to restructure the support system. I suspect the difference in price is that one company is doing it the right way and the other is taking shortcuts.

A window installation takes 2 people, one at least needs to be okay physically. The hardest part is the mental attitude of cutting in to the wall of a brand new trailer. It's exactly the same as putting in the roof vents technically except there you're dealing with a horizontal plane so one person can do it.

You'd have to remove the insulation in the area where the windows are going and reinstall it later minus the part that is now window.

The other difference in the window pricing might be the difference between cheap RV windows and the good ones -  not all RV windows are created equal.

I don't drink beer... Big Grin Big Grin
Worry is a misuse of imagination!
Build link:
Full-timer again as of November 24, 2015 - 14 glorious years on the road before that!

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GypsySpirit (08-06-2017)
Ok, I'm over here now ....well we got this spread on two threads so be sure to read my other posts too.

(07-31-2017, 12:00 PM)Almost There Wrote: Insulation needs to be done AFTER the wiring is done or you'll be removing it and adjusting it to deal with the wiring.

Just for a second opinion, MC, you  can also go with external surface mount wiring conduit (raceways) after all the insulation is in. It can be metal or plastic, round or rectangular, and in almost any color, and you can paint it too. You can use orange or pink or blue, or ivory, white, black, whatever.

It just depends on your tolerance for visible runs of conduit. It can be routed along the floor at the wall, under cabinets or beds, or along the ceiling against the walls, and no one will know or care, except you, when you need to add something or fix something.

I PREFER it, since it makes it easy to install, you can easily make changes later, you're not locked in to one unchangeable configuration, and if something goes wrong, you don't have to dig into the wall or ceiling insulation.

If the 12v cables or romex for 120v wiring is run inside the walls, you can run the risk of shorts on the frame ribs or other interior problems like loose wirenuts and maybe crossed wires that need to be traced and fixed. All of this is easy with external conduit.

Again, one man's opinion.
About to be 'vanless' after FOUR years...
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The following 2 users say Thank You to tx2sturgis for this post:
Grizzly708 (01-11-2018), GypsySpirit (08-06-2017)
Okay, let me see if I can answer some things.

Sounds very much to me like it makes more sense to forget about getting the trailer customized with windows and either do it myself (with help) or find someone local who can install. Then I can do things in the proper sequence especially if I don't have them insulate.

Once I settle on the trailer and the dealer, I will get exact interior dimensions and figure out my layout so I can guide them on where to put electrical...if I have them do it. I don't trust myself to do the electrical. Not something you want to screw up so I'll likely get help for this if I don't have them do it. Again, sounds like something I shouldn't have them install so I can do things in the proper sequence, whether using conduit or putting it in the walls/ceiling. I've done my solar assessment and I'll need 200w but I may go a little higher so I don't have to worry too much. The big draw will be a 12v compressor fridge (not sure which one I'll be buying yet). So for safety I'm thinking I prefer the batteries to be in a box on the tongue.

As far as solar goes, I'm like you MC in that I will be spending a good deal of time in wooded areas so I plan on getting portable. I don't plan on putting propane tanks on the tongue. I'm going to get a smaller propane tank (probably 4.5 lb) and put it in a cabinet to use with my camp stove and heater. Oh and I think they will be putting the spare mount on the side of the trailer, not the tongue.

So really it looks like what all this comes down to is that it would be far better to not have them install any of this stuff. I WILL, however, have them install two roof fans, an RV door and stabilizer jacks.

What am I forgetting?

MC & Brian - With all great feedback you have given me lo these many months, just let me know how you quench your thirst and I'll make sure I have a case of it for you. Smile
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I'm more inclined to place batt's inside for temperature moderation. They will be relatively cozy as you. Windows are varied on quality and labor costs. Keep searching. Installation labor of windows can be over stated. Is there an RV recycling facility close to you? Here is a list: Consider taking bids for installation (voice that up front so they know); many mechanic/shop skills cross-over just due to the nature of 'it is on wheels.'

I don't need a reward, it's just because. Smile I only gave you a bite of cake worth anyway. lol (RTR visit with all your goods stash would be perfect eh? -installation help there)
Exclamation And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years. — Abraham Lincoln
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The following 2 users say Thank You to CautionToTheWind for this post:
GypsySpirit (08-06-2017), slow2day (07-31-2017)
Sounds like you've already covered everything above. I would caution against having them insulate, unless they tell you directly that they will use polyiso to fill the wall cavities. Most don't even use pink fiberglass batts anymore. They just run a layer of Reflectex over the studs before they put the plywood on the inside. While it's better than nothing, you'd be better off pulling the plywood and insulating yourself before putting the plywood or whatever panelling you want back up. That part is really not difficult.
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(07-31-2017, 06:27 PM)masterplumber Wrote: you'd be better off pulling the plywood and insulating yourself before putting the plywood or whatever panelling you want back up. That part is really not difficult.

Not all cargo trailers use screws to attach the interior plywood anymore.  There seems to be a trend to use a power nailer to put the stuff up in order to save time and labor expense.  See:

Life is not about discovering yourself.  Life is about creating yourself!

Talk is cheap because of simple economics: The supply FAR exceeds the demand!
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Mine had a mix of phillips and square drive 'trailer screws' holding the paneling and trim..

BTW I didnt use poly-iso...I used just the regular silver faced foam boards...its a lot more flexible for the 'barrel' roof on mine.

I love that barrel ceiling but it was a pain to insulate!
About to be 'vanless' after FOUR years...
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(07-31-2017, 03:59 PM)CautionToTheWind Wrote: Is there an RV recycling facility close to you? Here is a list: 

Looks like the closest is 5 hours away. This is a no-man's land when it comes to anything RV. :-(

Yeah would be great to go to the RTR or the build party at Lake Havasu but I won't be leaving out until next June and those are too far for just a visit.
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I'm not sure of your local populous. I'm confident something will come up. Any car salvage yards close by? To save money, I always think out of the box; resources similar. My doggedness gets result$.
Exclamation And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years. — Abraham Lincoln
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