Friday, August 27, 2010

Project: Rebuild the refrigerator

This is a project from September, 1999

The refrigeration compartment on Eolian was in bad shape when we took possession of her:
  • The door was bent, corroded, and didn't seal well.  
  • The "decor" panel in the door was an unfinished piece of teak veneer, suitably filthy
  • The interior was dirty
  • The floor of the interior was cracked and broken - as if someone had dropped a bowling ball in there
  • There was no drain
  • Someone had cut an opening into the counter above the compartment in an attempt to make it a "top-loader".  The cut was clearly made by a near-sighted drunk with a sawzall.  The edges of the cut out piece were festooned with some stainless strapping to keep it from falling into the refrigerator when in place.  The strapping was sharp-edged and bent.
  • The counter top thru which the hole had been cut was finished with the ubiquitous "wood-grain" Formica.
  • The compressor ran frequently, for long periods.
Any one of these items would have been sufficient incentive to tackle the job, but as I was beginning the job of replacing the counter top Formica throughout the boat, this was the issue that provided the straw that broke the camel's back.

First, I prepared for living a refrigerator-/freezer-less existence for an extended period by training myself to enjoy warm beer.

Next, I found a new Norcold refrigerator door suitable for the service at the old Doc Freeman's chandlry.  Because it had been damaged - the decor panel was dented - I got it for $10.  Then I got a suitable piece of black Plexiglas from Clear Cut plastics, and installed it in the door as the decor panel.

Now the fun starts.  In an orgy of destruction, I tore out the interior finish panels, and then the insulation...  back to the hull,  down to the floor, out to the walls, and up to the counter above.  I left the panel on which the holding plate was mounted alone, because I did not want to loose the refrigerant charge in the system.  The insulation I took out was foam-in-place polyurethane, and all of it (on the bottom at least) was saturated with water.  Clearly it had little, if any, value as insulation.  Urethane foam, broken floor and no drain all contributed to this problem.

Next I went to Home Depot and bought a 4x8 sheet of 2" blue polystyrene foam.  This stuff is closed cell, and will not absorb water.  And a can of spray foam (this is polyurethane foam).

Then I carefully cut and fitted sheets of the foam to the floor, walls and ceiling of the space, creating 2 full layers, for a total of 4".  I installed them with spray foam, and used the spray foam to fill the odd spaces where trimming was hard to get perfect.  Polystyrene is tricky because it will "melt" on contact with most solvents.  The polyurethane spray foam does not affect it however.

Next I got a 4x8 sheet of fiberglass-reinforced abs sheet designed for lining shower enclosures (I think this may be same stuff that s/v C'est la Vie used for their bimini roof, 11 years later  -Ed).  Carefully cutting pieces of this material, I glued it in place with 5200 (I didn't want to chance having expanding foam bulge the sheet).  I also carefully sealed the seams at the corners with 5200.  Outside corners around the door opening got finished with plastic moldings made for this purpose, and 5200.

And then I installed a drain, using a marelon thru hull.

Finally, I leveled the top surface where the savagely-cut lift-out had been using plywood, and with water putty for leveling.  With the new Formica installed, the repair was invisible.

As a finishing step, I cut and installed some of those snap-together soft plastic gridded cushion tiles to take the brunt and spread the load if another bowling ball should get dropped in there and to keep the food from sitting in any water that had not yet made it to the drain.

The end result is a *huge* improvement.  (That's not a mark on the door - it is the reflection of a fire extinguisher on the wall opposite).

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