words & photos - Chris Fincham
A Melbourne caravan repairer has created an innovative caravan verandah, boosting valuable van floorspace by around 30 per cent

Outdoor balconies are occasionally seen on luxury motorhomes, fifth wheelers and toy haulers. But now a Melbourne caravan repairer has come up with a clever verandah for caravans, bringing apartment-style indoor-outdoor living to the towable RV market.

Revealed at the 2012 Victorian Caravan, Camping & Touring Supershow, the Sky-Deck is an aluminium and composite folding apparatus that mounts at the front of the van and can be opened up or closed in less than 60 seconds.

Its creator, Brett Bell of Melbourne Caravan Repairs, came up with the initial idea and sketches about 10 years ago and spent around 18 months painstakingly developing and engineering the innovative product.

“We noticed that the trend was leaning towards larger and larger caravans,” Bell said. “So I wanted to make use of all the space that is wasted by the A-frame sitting out the front, doing nothing.”

Easily operated by one person, the Sky-Deck adds nearly two metres of additional living space. Bell said the 10mm thick roofing and walls are guaranteed against hail damage for 10 years.

The timber-look floor on the display model is powdercoated aluminium, and available in 25 colours.

Bell said the Sky-Deck adds around 100kg to the average six metre van; not bad considering it can add almost 30 percent of additional floorspace.

The Sky-Deck is currently only available on the Kingston Bell range from Caravans West in Springvale, Victoria, but Bell hopes to make it available on a wider range of caravans as his manufacturing capacity increases.

“At the moment I can produce around five decks a month, which makes it a relative limited commodity. The plan is to produce around five a week,” he said.

“If a few manufacturers get on board I’d love to be able to customise the hand rails to their colour scheme and things like that.”

Bell said the Sky-Deck should appeal to a broad spectrum of caravanners, from families wanting a ‘play pen’ for young kids or pets, to retirees with dodgy knees and hips who will appreciate the flat level, indoor/outdoor walk-through area.

With 3.5 square metres of space, there’s enough room for a couple of chairs, BBQ and other items. A TV can also be mounted on the van for viewing under the stars.

While Bell would not divulge the extra cost of adding the Sky-Deck, he admitted it added less than $10,000 to the overall price of the van.

The Sky-Deck has been extensively road-tested, and is capable of withstanding winds of at least 60km/h, according to Bell.

“My best recommendation is if it’s the type of weather that you are going to put your awning away, it’s time to put the deck away,” he said.

“We do have a set of screens and blinds that will be available in about two weeks time that go all the way around to give you a bug free enclosure,” he said.

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To comment on this article click here Published : Wednesday, 14 March 2012
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