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Old 01-12-2017, 07:40 AM   #1
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1984 31' Excella
Lenexa , Kansas
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Full Renovation of Stella the 1984' Excella

Hello! I just joined the forums but have been long using it as a resource and thought I would share our renovation experience. My wife and I purchased a 1984' 31' Excella about a year ago, took it on some trips out west from Kansas (Arizona, Colorado, Utah) with our young children (now 3 and 6) and are loving the experience.



The previous owners had done some cosmetic changes, including changing out the rear bed area with a full king platform and mattress, painting the interior walls, replacing curtains, and installing floating wood floors. We stripped the original goucho to the frame and put in new foam and fabric, which helped with smell, but did not do a lot in the way of comfort. We had also replaced the toilet during our "Out West" trip because of smelly issues (the new floating floor that they had installed was thicker than the original flooring and the old toilet couldn't seal properly resulting in sewer gas venting into the cabin - we replaced that bathroom section with vinyl and a new a toilet for good measure and that took care of the issue). We also replaced the tires and brakes before going through the mountain passes of Colorado.

However, because our 30+ year old trailer needs a bit more "love" (she's very smelly, has soft spots in floor, shows obvious signs of water leaks/damage, et cetera), and because we love projects like this, my wife and I decided to go all in and do a complete overhaul. As so many have done before us, I wanted to share our experience with the hope that someone might find the information useful, and also so that we can benefit from the broad experience of the members of this forum.

Day 1: Our First Challenge - Getting her up the driveway
We live on a hill. Let me rephrase, we live on a ridiculous slope with a driveway approach angle that from day one was the bane of our existence in trying to get our airstream near our house:



When we purchased the airstream, we knew it was unlikely that we would be able to park it at our house because of this. I was completely new to trailering at that time, and every angle/direction I attempted resulted in the rear of our long trailer bottoming out in the street/driveway (the street runs downhill at an angle opposite of our uphill driveway. Suffice to say we ended up puting it in storage about 5 minutes from our house.

Finally, a year later and after we had mentally committed to doing a full renovation and enlisting the help of our kind neighbor (who used to build trailers), we were able to get Stella up our driveway! (Okay let's be real, I let my neighbor back it up our driveway after doing a three point turn into the grass shown to the right in the picture above. Threading a needle, for sure. Here she sits:



Day 1 Continued: Starting Tear-Out
The first thing we did was remove the goucho (we had previous practice due to our refoaming/upholstering job 6 months back so this went quick):



Then the flimsy fold out table:



Then the overhead bin above the sinks (which was crumbling apart):



Then the floating floors:



Then the king bed frame, and at that point we ran out of daylight/energy.

Day 2: Removal of Interior Continued
I wish I could say I "tore things up" and got a lot done on the second day, but the credit goes mostly to my wife - I ended up having to do work-work instead of "fun"-work for most of the day. She got a lot done:



I ended up helping the last few hours of the day to help take care of the last of it:



We left the pipes for now until we decide 100% if we're relocating anything (which we probably won't at this point).

Day 3: Drilling out Rivets and Removing Interior Skins
I should mention to anyone considering this endeavor that one major step we took before removal of each item was meticulously taking photos and videos of placement/orientation/et cetera so we can remember how everything gets puts back together. We are doing this because we're not sure which elements we are going to save/reuse and which we are going to scrap altogether, and better safe than sorry. In preparation for the interior skin removal, we also drew a little diagram (and put labels on each panel) to help ourselves later:



We drilled out a million rivets and got out the upper panels. The insulation was pretty neat - it was like looking at one of those ant farms, except with mice (Hooray!). We have a space heater running because it has been down in the 20s at night. We ended up picking up an LED work light tripod and it's been the bees knees. Here's a picture of my awesome better half all bundled up:



I put the kids to bed and she finished cleaning things up:



Day 4: More Rivets and Removing Interior Skins
This day was the more tedious of days. My wife bore the brunt of the effort, and an effort it was. Removing a million rivets, electrical fixtures, water hoses, window trim, door trim, and other oddness takes a good amount of time. Still, we were able to finish the remaining skin and insulation tear out and get everything down to the "bones":



Day 5: Today! Sub Floor Removal
I have done a lot of "research" on floor removal and have read that we need to be very cautious especially around removing the middle section of flooring. My intent is to remove section by section and on every floor frame cross member place a "shim" of the sub floor to prevent the whole thing from dropping. Based on other people's experience with floor removal in terms of how long it takes, combined with a busy schedule today, it's unlikely I will get to the point where I need to worry about it, but feel free to share any additional tips you may have. More to come later .
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Old 01-12-2017, 08:47 AM   #2
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Full Renovation of Stella the 1984' Excella

Thanks for your report! I look forward to watching the progress. Keep the pictures (more the better) and commentary coming. Hope your pint sized helpers aren't too much bigger by the time you get done! Fun
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Old 01-12-2017, 08:54 AM   #3
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1972 31' Sovereign
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Welcome!
Ah, yes. That looks familiar. We did a shell-on subfloor replacement. Shell-off would probably have been easier, but hind sight and all of that...
Pictures are good, as well as labels. We used cardboard mockups and painters tape to figure out our layout once the floor was replaced. You can get very innovative with floor plans!
Good luck and keep posting!

Kay
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Old 01-12-2017, 09:16 AM   #4
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1984 31' Excella
Lenexa , Kansas
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Minno View Post
Welcome!
Ah, yes. That looks familiar. We did a shell-on subfloor replacement. Shell-off would probably have been easier, but hind sight and all of that...
Pictures are good, as well as labels. We used cardboard mockups and painters tape to figure out our layout once the floor was replaced. You can get very innovative with floor plans!
Good luck and keep posting!

Kay
Thank you for the kind words! I actually read your entire thread about Little Girl the other night - it was one of the big catalysts in motivating me to take on such an endeavor (and keeping me up well past bedtime ). You guys did a great job with yours!
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Old 01-12-2017, 12:49 PM   #5
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1990 34' Limited
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Conroe , Arkansas
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Great job! Keep the pictures coming. During this Teardown you need to (plan ahead)
Things like solar power feeder cables, adding a second AC unit, fantastic fan, or just the wiring for something like that. Go LED all the way when you put her back together. Upgrading to 50amp service if you choose to do that.
Remove reseal or replace all the roof equipment fans AC unit etc. run a couple of conduit passes front to back and also across the bottom under the floor from your battery charger to behind the fridge or the stove area. Doing these cheap and easy things while your interior and floor are removed will simplify upgrades later to the Airstream.
I'm in the middle of a 34' Limited Teardown so I'm interested in your progress.
Thomas
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Old 01-12-2017, 01:42 PM   #6
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1972 31' Sovereign
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Nice to know we helped motivate someone else. WE were helped and motivated by many others on the forums also. Come spring, we'll probably be reworking the black tank as we made a 'little' mistake plumbing the vent stack. Chris will probably build a new black tank. Oh well, no one's perfect...
As Thomas says, plan for the future as much as you can. Take pictures, so you can remember things later when you want to change things. It will happen! Our pictures have helped us several times when we've added lighting, etc.

Kay
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Old 01-12-2017, 01:59 PM   #7
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1983 31' Excella
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following.
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Old 01-12-2017, 02:28 PM   #8
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Very cool! keep the updates coming
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Old 01-12-2017, 02:38 PM   #9
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Love the pictures!
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Old 01-12-2017, 03:28 PM   #10
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YAY for your wife! I want to meet her so we can share refurb stories :-)

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Old 01-13-2017, 08:44 PM   #11
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1984 31' Excella
Lenexa , Kansas
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Day 5 - Just Kidding, No Subfloor Today
I had fully planned on getting to the subfloor today, but the massive pile of garbage outside our airstream and in our garage demanded our attention:



We are starting to look like hoarders:



So we spent the better part of the day organizing the mess, bagging up the garbage, rolling up and tarping the savable items (aluminum siding, et cetera), and running back and forth to the dump with a pickup load at a time.

After that, we started taking photos of the items we are planning on selling or giving away for free. For example, the old stove:



After that, I planned on starting the floor tear out, but realized we still had a bunch of "little" things to do before that could go full steam, such as removing the furnace, toilet floor flange, and miscellaneous water/drain pipes - so I made short work of those items:



Throughout all of this I was stressing about the "next steps", specifically "what am I going to insulate with?" and "where will I be able to get reasonably pricing long sheets of aluminum if we want to replace the interior skins?" and "wow there a lot of wires in here, I hope I can sort this all out", and "maybe I should just buy an already completed airstream, what did I get myself into?"

Then I turned around walking back from the house and was reminded how awesome it will be to take this thing out when it's all done:



Day 6 - Subfloor Removal, for Serious
My better half spent the majority of the day scrubbing at the walls removing the last bits of insulation, and also started the process of clearing out the wires we didn't want to keep, and finally cleaning the last bits of insulation and mess from the remaining salvageable wires. I was stuck inside doing no-fun-work, as I like to call it.

While I was working, I took the liberty of figuring some of the answers to my questions from the previous day:
  • Insulation - after careful review and consideration, my plan is 1.5" Roxul with the possibility of the foil bubble stuff wedged between it and the interior aluminum skin. Good insulation, but still breathable to hopefully help with potential condensation issues.
  • Interior Siding - AirPartsInc.com - how lucky am I, this provider is right here in Kansas City, and the woman I spoke with was tremendously helpful. At this point I think I will end up scrapping all existing interior skins and doing a full replace so it looks as nice as possible.
  • Shower Pan - Oops, these are apparently very expensive to replace, and mine is currently buried at the dump. However, it seems Inland RV has a decent price, especially compared to other places I looked (does anyone here know of/recommend another vendor for the wheel well shower setup?)
  • Wheel well Covers - our interior side wheel well colors were a bit rough. Looks like Inland RV has those too (and a bunch of other stuff)

One other big thing I did was start a Google Spreadsheet to list out all of the items we will need to purchase/obtain to complete this project. The list will continue to grow I'm sure, but having it helps me keep my mind straight.

After wrapping up work-work, I spent about two hours starting to tear out the floor. Knowing that the shell is held up largely by the floor, I opted to trim away at the floor about 4-6 inches from the edges, and then plunge out around each bolt in the middle areas. It went pretty fast, using only a circular saw, hammer, and flat pry bar - in about 2 hours I was able to have two thirds of the trailer ripped up and most of the leftover middle bolts taken out:



The frame looks pretty good, some surface rust that we will grind off and then a few coats of the Rustoleum Rust Reformer should do it. Belly pan looks great too.

I'll finish the rest of the subfloor removal (sans the strip around the outside edge) tomorrow.

A week or so back I ordered a Progressive Dynamics PD4655V converter-charger to replace the EXTREMELY loud one that was in our unit. Before it got too late I ran to Home Depot to get some fuses, wire, and other supplies to test it out. I grabbed one of the lights that was on the 12V set of lights from the interior of the airstream, hooked it all up, and it worked!



I have to admit, I had to "phone a friend" (I am lucky enough to have an electrician buddy) to walk me through some of it, but after a thorough explanation I'm feeling pretty good about the wiring situation.

The last thing we've been doing tonight (and will continue to do) is daydream floor plans. From the picture above of the tear out you can see that the gray water tank has a second pipe coming up off to the right - not sure why that is there but I'm thinking we may take advantage of it and try for a double sided bathroom setup, rather than the rather cramped single side we had before. So the plan would be vanity/sink on the left, toilet "closet" next to it on the left, and then to the right/across from the toilet closet would be the tub/shower spanning the space that the vanity/toilet would occupy, with pocket doors to close it off from the rear bedroom and front kitchen area. Anyone have any thoughts/suggestions on this front?

More to come soon.
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Old 01-14-2017, 07:49 AM   #12
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1984 31' Excella
Lenexa , Kansas
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I just posted an electrical-related question in the electrical sub forum - hopefully that was the correct place to put it:

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f37/...ml#post1898952
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Old 01-14-2017, 08:34 AM   #13
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1972 31' Sovereign
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Remember that your waste tanks need to be vented, so the second pipe coming out of your grey tank could be the vent.

Kay
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Old 01-14-2017, 08:54 AM   #14
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1984 31' Excella
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Minno View Post
Remember that your waste tanks need to be vented, so the second pipe coming out of your grey tank could be the vent.

Kay
I had thought about that, but there was already another gray tank vent going up on the left side of the trailer; you can see it front/left in this photo:



Maybe this thing has been rehabbed once before, or it came stock that way because the different models sometimes had one or two side bathrooms?
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