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Hawg

Do Aluminum Frames Have Negatives Besides Cost?

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I've heard aluminum welds are brittle and the cost is way higher. I've tried to search frame costs but they all say call for price. Are these old wives tales or facts? I want to build a 8 x 12 with a v front house and it looks like the price of a steel frame will be $1400-$1600, any one know what that would cost in aluminum? Also, is the weight difference enough to even care or is no rust the real advantage? Any thoughts from you guys would be appreciated between the two. I'm not 100% sure I won't go 8 x 16 but for this time think 8 x 12. I wish we could build a 7 ft house with outside wheels and be legal, 6 ft 4in(thats the limit,right?) is just too narrow for me.

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Aluminum doest hold up to vibration as well as it's counterpart. Also the oxidation to aluminum can be just as bad if not worse than rust on steel. I have repaired a few aluminum snow machine trailers and oxidation and vibration is what the cause for repair in those cases.

Cost for repair will be greater also as welding aluminum is time consuming and the prep work takes so much time.

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I think you can pretty easily tack on another $1000 to that for an aluminum frame. It won't be significantly lighter if it is built properly. You won't have rust, but you won't on a properly finished steel frame, either.

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I know when you ask ice castle about an aluminum frame they give the "they won't hold up lingo and have no plans to make one" but I think the yetti's might be cutting into their market? I would like to hear from the yetti guys with 2-3 years of use and get their take. I have heard the frames crack near the hitch area....but it is all second hand info. Also what kind of torture they get put through could make all the difference. I do know that if you make trips to Red or LOW at some point that house is gonna bounce through some snow to get off the lake! You can only baby them so much if you want to make it off the lake!

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My uncle has an home-made aluminum frame, the welds cracked where the tounge comes back and meets the trailer. Put some gussets on there and welded it back up no problems since. I think if its well made by someone who knows what theyre doing as far as thickness of materials and such, you wont have issues. I've never heard of much problems with oxidation like Gordie was talking about, I'm not in the triler business though. Not that it cant happen, probably has something to do with the grade of aluminum??

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So what is your take on a properly finished steel frame? Are we talking good paint and proper cure or do we need the spray on bedliner coating or what? I can handle a little rust after 10 years but not 1 season!

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I know when you ask ice castle about an aluminum frame they give the "they won't hold up lingo and have no plans to make one" but I think the yetti's might be cutting into their market? I would like to hear from the yetti guys with 2-3 years of use and get their take. I have heard the frames crack near the hitch area....but it is all second hand info. Also what kind of torture they get put through could make all the difference. I do know that if you make trips to Red or LOW at some point that house is gonna bounce through some snow to get off the lake! You can only baby them so much if you want to make it off the lake!

As if Ice Castle should be critiquing frames holding up! Pay attention to all the 4-5 year old Ice Castles going down the road with tipped in wheels.

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So what is your take on a properly finished steel frame? Are we talking good paint and proper cure or do we need the spray on bedliner coating or what? I can handle a little rust after 10 years but not 1 season!

I have a powder coated frame now. We'll see how it looks after a few years, but it is supposed to be about as good as it gets for steel. I think a roll on or spray on bedliner might be a little bit better, but I've never seen one after a few years so I can't say for sure.

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Lip Ripper-you're our resident expert on builds. Is well coated steel just plain the way to go?

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There are a few places that can do frames with powdercoating. I believe there is a place in Big Lake and I would have to check but I have had powder coating donne in Princeton as well and they have a big booth but not sure if they would do frames.

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Lip Ripper-you're our resident expert on builds. Is well coated steel just plain the way to go?

Thanks Hawg, but I'm far from an expert smile

When I built mine, I built a spreadsheet comparing aluminum vs steel for my wall and roof studs, cost and weight:

Aluminum (1"x2"x1/8"-thinnest available) would have weighed 485 pounds and cost $1,750.

Steel (1"x2"x 18 gauge-thinnest available) weighed in at 533 pounds and cost $570.

It's over 3 times as much $, to save 45 pounds on a 5500# fish house. And you have to weld a bunch of aluminum. No thanks!

My personal thoughts on the trailer frame depend on the final goal. Do you want to build a smaller, super lightweight house? Or, do you want to build just a regular old fish house? I like the thought of super lightweight aluminum frame, studs and siding with a spray foamed interior (like the Zack Shack)...then I'd do aluminum. For everything else, I'd personally stick with steel, for simplicity.

Realistically, when it gets down to it, weight isn't THAT important (within reason). You aren't going to take a wheel house out on less than 6" of ice, and it isn't like you are pulling it by hand. I put my 3500# house out on 7" of ice, and I put my 5500# house on 10" of ice, and both are easily pulled with a 4 wheeler. Even if I built a 1000# all aluminum kick butt super lightweight house, it's still gonna have to be pulled with a 4 wheeler on 6" or more ice. I might get out 2 days earlier than with a 3500# house.

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Epoxy dip coat with powder top coat would be best. As far as process size restrictions... I've seen combine frames dipped in an electrocoat tank whistle

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I had a 7x14 aluminum frame wheel house for three years. I used it to haul atvs and motorcycles. I also used it as a decoy trailer and took that thing for miles across plowed and chiseled fields. No problems whatsoever with the strength of the frame. I sold it and currently have a 8.5 x 16 aluminum frame. Same story....used it this fall going across miles of fields in North Dakota. Been to LOW twice this year and South Dakota several trips. No issues whatsoever. I haven't seen any oxidiation build on either trailer. Some of my buddies steel trailers look like rust buckets after a few years!

Being a manufacturing engineer for 20+ plus years I can tell you that a properly engineered aluminum frame will not have issues, cracks or welds breaking. The ones that do are the manufactures that don't know how to properly build one.

One of the most widely used high-strength aluminum alloys is alloy 6061 with T6 temper. Pound for pound, 6061-T6 is stronger than most steel alloys. Steel is about 3 times heavier than aluminum. (Steel is about .3 pounds per cubic inch, aluminum is about .1 pounds per cubic inch.)

My current 8.5 x 16 fully finished weighs 2430 lbs and it is a tandem axle.

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LRG, I was amazed to see the difference in pole barn steel and .040 aluminum for siding was only about 20#'s on the guys whole house! There are a lot of misconceptions out there on building these houses. We all start out trying for the perfect house and when it's all over it seems we all have a ton of comprimises. One of my business partners does steel siding and has a powdercoat business, I might tap him for the siding but bedliner seems easier on the frame. HDBiker, sounds like you built the dream lightweight version, I don't think my pocket book could do that. I can plan though, and dream. Thanks guys.

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Just a suggestion. i have never checked it out, but why not galvanize your new bare metal trailer. I have yet to see any manufactors start this process but its just an idea. I see Towmaster has started doing this with there trailers. Theres a place in Winsted called AZZ that has deep galvanizing tanks that dips these trailers and light poles 24-7. Wonder what it would cost though. No worries of rust and no worries of brittle welds. just my 2c

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10 years ago I built an aluminum fish house. 6062 3 x 1 channel lower frame. 2 x 2 angle for floor joists and studs. It's still going strong.

Oxidation, as Gordie mentioned, is a factor. I bolted 2 x 2 furring strips to the bottom of the frame and that's what gets most of the exposure.

There is a definate cost difference between aluminum and steel, good and bad. Aluminum will offer much lighter weight, but is difficult to work with. Steel offers high strength and is easier to work with and cheaper, but rusts and is much heavier.

I'll go on record and say if you really don't know how to work with aluminum I'd stay away from it. Yes, there are manufactures out there that make a quality aluminum product but you have to ask yourself how much are you willing to spend for it? If money isn't the bigger issue than I'd say go aluminum as long as the builder is high quality. If money is an issue, and it usually is, I'd stick with steel......unless you know what you're doing and experienced with working aluminum.

Myself, I'm not afraid of aluminum but I deal with it on a daily basis for work.

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For what it's worth I'll share my experience. I've to a 5 year old wheel house with a powder coated frame. I've always washed it several times per winter. It's rusting quite a bit. I've discovered "Fluid Film" and I think I can keep the rust from spreading too much with a few coats a year.

I also have an aluminum Featherlite trailer that is about 12 years old with thousands of winter miles and it's in fine shape!

My concern with the aluminum fish house frames that I've seen is that the outer sections of the tounge don't extend under the house, they're just welded onto the front of the frame. Just look at the fish house frames and an alumium trailer. With a little engineering I think the fish house frames could be rock solid, I just haven't seen one yet.

Galvanized would be great option with a properly built frame. I would neet to be built with channel so that there are no air pockets during the galvanizing dip. Again, proper engineer required.

I built my house so that it could be easily removed from the frame expecting that it wouldn't last as long as the rest of the house.

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If your worried about aluminum oxidizing , you could attach a few anodes on the frame and that will take care of it. My River Pro has 4 of them and zero oxidation after 14 years.

Other options are anadizing for aluminum or if there is a place that can TIN coat the steel?

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LRG, I was amazed to see the difference in pole barn steel and .040 aluminum for siding was only about 20#'s on the guys whole house! There are a lot of misconceptions out there on building these houses. We all start out trying for the perfect house and when it's all over it seems we all have a ton of comprimises. One of my business partners does steel siding and has a powdercoat business, I might tap him for the siding but bedliner seems easier on the frame. HDBiker, sounds like you built the dream lightweight version, I don't think my pocket book could do that. I can plan though, and dream. Thanks guys.

The pole barn steel isn't substantially heavier....I'm guessing about 30% more, or 5 pounds per sheet. It also isn't much, if any, cheaper. The aluminum is a lot easier to work with, and you end up with a 'tighter' finished house.

There are many ways to skin a cat. There are many more ways to build a fish house!

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Powder coating is by far not the best when it comes to rusting. Once it gets chipped it will start bubbling and coming off in sheets. The powdercoating actually holds in moisture making it bubble up and rust even more. I'd rather have a good epoxy paint primer for steel at least when it chips sheets don't fall off and if it needs repainting you can do something with it, powder coating not so much.

I'll take aluminum, how many steel semi trailers do you see?

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I probably should have qualified my statement with "readily available finishes on fish house frames". Epoxy may be better...I have no experience with it. I don't know of anyone using epoxy, though.

I will agree with you that if there hasn't been proper surface prep, or low grade metal, powder coating will come off in sheets. I've definitely seen that before with cheap China-made patio furniture. I have also seen lots of powder coated finishes hold up to years of abuse. Wheels, snowmobile suspension parts, dirt bike frames, snow plows, etc.

This all said, every type of finish is going to chip with the right impact, or from wear. Part of the reason I think bedliner may be a good finish is that it will slightly absorb those impacts. With the way I do the siding/diamond plate I'm not super concerned about rust. I run the diamond plate down to the bottom of the frame rail (sealed top and bottom), and spray foam on the underside, so the only part of the frame continually exposed to the elements is the hitch area and some suspension and hydraulic pieces.

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