The Jude Memorial Library :)

I recently purchased a 48 foot reefer trailer (an insulated trailer pulled behind an eighteen wheeler.) it is 48 feet long and 8 feet wide outside dimensions and 7 feet 4 inches by 47 feet 6 inches or so on the inside with about 336 sq feet of floor space.

Now you might ask, “why would you want a huge trailer like that?” Ahh.. therin lies the story.. I have lots and lots and lots of books. My best estimate as to how many is around 10,000. I have only cataloged just over 4500 of them so far. That many books weigh a lot. We are talking tons of weight. My house after years of supporting that weight is complaining. It is starting to sink on its foundation piers. Not a lot yet but enough that some of the doors are starting to go out of alignment. It’s time to get the books out of the house. Well, I don’t just want to box them up and store them. I like reading my books. So what I need is a library of my own. I could build a small building and put them in it, but  there is a problem. I plan on selling my house in the next few years. I would prefer not having to spend all that money on a building I leave behind and also on having to pack all those books up and move them and then unpack them… Trust me I have done this before.. it is a lot!!! of work.

So what do you do. My first thought was to get one of those corrugated 40′ shipping containers. A couple weeks ago I called a guy to price those out. 1870 dollars for one in average to poor condition plus delivery cost of around 150. Then I would have to insulate it top, bottom and sides.. about 800 dollars to do that with 1 inch foam panels. So realistically I would end up spending about 3150 dollars just for the basic shell. When I started talking with the guy selling these things and said I wanted to insulate it he said that he had several trailers that were insulated. I asked him how big and how much and he replied that they were 48 feet long and he would sell them for 2500 dollars plus delivery fees.  I wasn’t sure that I would like a trailer like that as they sit very high off the ground. One of the storage boxes could sit down on the ground which makes access easier, but at that price I was at least willing to look.

So a couple weeks later I get some free time and call him to go take a look. When I get there he actually only has one insulated trailer available. The other ones are all rented out at the moment. He points it out and tells me to take a look, he will talk it over with me in a few minutes after he finishes with another customer.

My first impression wasn’t great. Looking at the trailer from the front it is pretty ratty. It’s taken some nicks and scratchs and the front corners that are steel have some large areas of rust on them. I go over and it has a front door on the right side that I open and look in. It’s filthy inside, lots of dirt and some scrap lumber laying around in it. I go back to my car and grab a flashlight and then climb up inside to take a better look. The front inside is pretty beat up where fork lifts have hit it. The wood panels over the foam insulation are torn up pretty bad there. As I look down the length of it, I see the signs of long hard use. There are scrapes down the side wood panels and rub rails, wiring and copper tubing hanging out of holes in the walls where the refrigeration used to run. The rear insulated roll up door was stiff and hard to move up and down. One of the tires had a hole all the way through the tread to the belts on it. Oh and there was a small amount of dampness I just about walked away.



Instead I sat down and thought about it. The outside of the trailer actually didn’t look bad on the sides and back. All the scuffs on the inside would be covered up by bookshelves. It was insulated much better than I would be able to insulate a container on my own. The leak on the roof was easily fixed. Over all a few minor repairs and some sweat equity labor cleaning it up and it would work quite well. So evaluation made it was time to dicker. I was able to get them to drop the price to 2000 delivered and they replaced the worn tire, fixed the roof, put a strap on the rear door and fixed the stiffness in rolling the rear door up and down. I wish I could say that I had to work hard to get them to drop the price but how dirty the trailor was with the few minor issues seemed to put them in the mood to dicker. I have the feeling that they also really wanted to make a sale. I could probably have pushed it farther but I was happy with 2000 dollars. For an insulated box 8 ft longer than what I had though I would get at about 2/3 the price everyone was quoting me it felt like a decent deal to me.

Two mornings later they delivered it to the house. I have a yard that is almost an acre in size. With about 2/3rd’s of that in the front yard. You don’t really realize how big one of those tractor trailer rigs are till you see one trying to maneuver in your yard. Luckily I had put 8 inches of GABC road base gravel down on the driveways years earlier or they wouldn’t have even come down the 400 ft driveway. The driveway didn’t budge and the driver was able to maneuver the trailer into the side of the yard on the other side of the driveway from the house. The trailer is only 2 ft shorter than my house. It is large!! I was impressed by the drivers ability to get it into the yard and where I wanted it. He was even able to maneuver the trailer over the top of my blueberry bushes without letting a wheel run over one of them.


So now I have a huge trailer. On inspection I saw that all the items that we had talked about were fixed. They had even cleaned out and swept the inside of the trailer. This still left it not clean enough to start putting in the floor but it helped. The original floor of the trailer was a solid aluminum floor that was ridged.



It needed to be cleaned off so that some sort of wood or composite flooring could be installed. That evening we drug out the blower and the pressure washer and went to town on cleaning it. First I blew out as much dirt with the blower as I could then pressure washed it . Then went back and mostly dried it with the blower again. The goal was to get it clean enough to give the glue we would use to put the flooring down a good surface to adhere to.




Now it is time to decide what kind of floor to put in. The options we looked at were

1. laminate/composite flooring. This was actually an attractive option give how hard wearing some of these can be but we were worried over the weight of the shelves on castors putting point pressure on the laminate where it passed over the grooves in the floor. I wasn’t sure that the laminate wouldn’t crack where it wasn’t supported underneath.

2. Plywood or osb flooring that we then polyurethaned over. This would have looked rustic but nice which I didn’t have a problem with and would have cost under 300 dollars total which was very attractive. I almost went this way but the work to finish the surface with a minumum of 3 coats of polyurithane needed with sanding between each coat put me off. The labor was going to be backbreaking.

3. My number one desired fooring was tounge and groove bamboo flooring. Home depot had it at 2.99 a square ft. I just couldn’t justify the cost. It would have cost 1004 for the wood alone.. actually more as I would need to buy about 100 dollars extra for wastage and cutting. Also two contractors packs of PL400 glue add about 90 dollars to the total. I just couldn’t do it. Then I went in Costco and found the same flooring for 2.10 a sqft. still really pricey 705 dollars. By the time I got the extra 750 plus 90 for the PL400..  so about 850 vs 1200 at lowes/home depot prices. I sat and thought about hard and consulted with my friends that were giving me advice. The overwhelming advice was put the nicer floor in. It will look nicer and it is what you want. Not to mention that though not super easy it is a lot less labor than painting the many coats of polyurethane with sanding between each coat. So I did it. I’m still saying ouch to the price but I do love the floor.

Zsanic and I started putting in the flooring the beginning of the week and worked one afternoon and evening to get about half the floor installed.

The first row took a while as we had to pre-lay the boards with holes drilled through them and the floor in a perfectly straight row. This row had to hold against the pressure of all the other boards being laid up against them without moving. The walls at the base are not even because of years of forklifts hitting them. There was as much as 1 inch of variation at the wall side to side. I picked a line even with the wall at the most outward touching point. Then measured drilled and nailed each board in place.



After doing the whole row we pulled it all up and ran our first bead of glue then put the first row back in with nails in place to keep it from moving.




The next few rows went quickly. With one of us laying glue and the other fitting boards in place we moved along quickly. Actually if we hadn’t had to deal some weird spacing dealing with joints in the bamboo flooring falling on the grooves in the aluminum flooring we would have laid the entire floor that afternoon.




on the 6th row we ran into the first of 3 or 4 rows that the joint landed on a groove. This would leave the board able to flex up and down at this joint because it wasn’t supported there. Our solution was to cut shims out of scrap pieces of the bamboo and glue them down in the groove so that both boards at the joint would lay on top of them and give the needed support. stopping to measure the correct thickness of the shim and then setting a jig up on the chop saw to make them and then individually glueing each one down then putting glue on the top of each one as you laid that row of bamboo really took a lot of time compared to the normal rows we laid. However it was worth it to do it right.


we worked on into the evening till we got tired enough to start making little mistakes. One of which really bit us in the butt when we started back up a few days later. However by the time we were finished for the first evening we had laid half the floor. It was starting to look really nice. You can see Zsanic laying some of the final boards of the evening here.






It was a few days before we were able to get back out and finish the job. Miriam was staying at the house while she and Zsanic worked on a job in wilmington and because they were rained out on saturday she helped me with the next half of the floor. This was really cool as it gave Zsanic the time she needed to finish some shool papers that were due on monday.

The mistake from the first day that bit us in the butt on this day of work was that the last row of flooring that we laid had glue ozing out from under the last board laid the entire length of the trailer. It was hard! let me repeat IT WAS HARD! We had to inch by inch take knives and razors and cut out all the excess glue so that the next boards grove would fit the tounge of the previously layed board. It took about an hour and a half for two of us to do it. The skin on one of my knuckles is still growing back a week later. 🙁

Zsanic came out to say hi and bring drinks to Miriam and I.



After watching me lay a bead of glue Miriam confiscated the pneumatic glue gun and layed the glue there after 🙂 I have to admit she has a steadier hand than I do at it. Everyone involved in laying the floor, me, miriam, zsanic and ben all think that the glue gun is the bomp. The thought of having to use a hand glue gun that you squeeze to lay 17 contractor size tubes of glue is just awefull. So all hail JAY, all hail JAY!!! Jay loaned me his nuematic glue gun that you hook up to a compressor and just pull the trigger to shoot out a nice smooth adjustable stream of glue.


I really liked this shot I took of miriam shiloeted as she layed some glue.


Done for the evening we only had 3 or 4 rows left to lay. This time we actaully laid an extra row past where we wanted to stop for the evening just to make sure that there was no glue ozing out from under the last board. No way did I want to have to go through that horrible process of cutting out the old glue inch by inch. The floor to this point is really looking good.



Something that has made the job go very smoothly also has been the monster worklight that I picked up years earlier to work on my roof in the evenings when we put a new roof on the house. It doesn’t get used a lot but when I need it I need it. 1500 watts of halogen light.  In two adjustable fixtures on an adjustable tripod base.:)


The next morning Miriam and Zsanic are back to work in wilmington but Ben offered to help me finish the floor. It only took a couple more hours to wrap it up.




Here is the finished floor. We put in about three or four more rows and on the last one had to rip each board as it went in to try and get it as close the the uneven wall as we could. I think it looks awesome. It is now a no shoe floor so that we don’t track gravel into the trailer from the drive. That has eaten up the oak floors in the house over the last few years.


These was the total amount of wastage we had. Between reusing cutoffs to start the next row and to make shims we didn’t have much in the way of scrap.




Is that pretty or what. 🙂



If you look hard you can see the shims I put in between the last boards and the wall to tighten everything up as the glue dries.


Next project will be painting the ceiling and starting to put shelves in.

Other future projects are

1. a big window in the front where the refrigeration unit used to go.
2. skylights
3. wiring power to the trailer and and breaker panel and outlets in the trailer.
4. sitting area in the front 8 ft.
5. steps or ramp at the front.
6. Lights
7. Heating and Cooling/Humidity control.
8. computer and desk for cataloging books and using as extension to my office.

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