Tag Archives: airstream renovation

Awnings and Demo

Now that we’ve had this Airstream for a few weeks, we’re really getting moving on the work that is needed. When we first picked it up, I spent the first few days going through the various components and testing what did and didn’t work – did the 12V lighting work when a battery was in? If we plugged into utility power did the outlets work? Could you put water in the drain and have it come out of the tank?

Fortunately, these tests all generally had good results. The wiring inside was working without issue and the other basic components, such as the gray and black water tanks, seemed to hold water and empty without a problem. It was my understanding from the purchaser that the previous owners (who had it for 15+ years) had winterized it before it mostly sat, so it was expected those would work.

One of the other things I tested on the outside were all of the awnings. Turns out they are in amazingly good condition. The only issue was the large patio awning did not want to open. A little research revealed that this was because the steel tube was bowed. ZipDee (the maker, who is still in business) has instructions on how to fix it yourself. So one evening Mary and I took apart the awning and gradually bent the bow out of the tube, fixing the awning. I gave them a quick cleaning and now we have three working awnings. Huzzah!

However, as mentioned in the previous post, this travel trailer is a ultimately a gut renovation – everything on the inside is going to go. That includes all of the insulation packed between the inner and outer “skins” that make up the trailer. But before we could get there, we had to tear out things like the walls, fixtures and flooring. That process took about two weeks. Here are some photos of the progress. You’ll notice that there is a shot of the rear floor, which is basically completely rotted out. This is a well known issue in vintage Airstreams because of how the rear bumper is designed – it essentially lets water flow into the edge of the wood floor, leading to rot. We’ll be fixing that as part of the renovation. Also, the boys wanted to help out a bit.

Next up is taking out the interior skins to remove the insulation that we know will be really nasty since there has clearly been colonies of mice in here.

The Airstream

During the pandemic, I’ve been engaged in several various projects around the house. At the end of June I was inspired by a story in a magazine that I subscribe to, The Family Handyman, to think that perhaps we could tackle a really big project – renovating a vintage aluminum travel trailer. It’s a big project, but we have all the skills to do it well. In the end we would have multiple uses for it – set up correctly, we could use it with the kids to go camping and when it’s at our house it can easily be a guest house, in part because I ran plenty of power to our shed.

At first I was looking for an Avion travel similar to what was in the magazine. Avion is a now-defunct aluminum trailer manufacturer. Their frames (the parts you care most about) were widely considered to be of higher quality than rival Airstream and they continued to use higher quality interior materials long after Airstream switched to plastic interiors to cut weight.

However, a few things intervened. First, Avions are harder to find. There was one in our area, and it sold a few weeks before I decided to look. So, I looked more closely at Airstreams instead. After a little research I got excited about an Airstream as an option, and there were several in a 1-3 hour radius of us to look at in various conditions. We’re not the first people to do this, and as a result there is a cottage industry of small businesses that offer parts new and used and lots of support\documentation on the process and plenty of other blogs with tons of inspiration to reference. We took a day trip just before the 4th of July weekend and looked at two different 31 foot Airstreams. At first I was going to be non-committal, but after we got home I did more research and we decided the next day to go pick up the one closest to us, which from inspection was in solid structural condition.

So, here we are – the proud owners of a 1980 Airstream International 31ft travel trailer. While structurally sound, the interior is essentially trash and everything will be gut renovated – up to and including replacing all the insulation and the wood flooring.

We’ll chronicle work we do on this project here as well, stay tuned!