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Old 01-02-2014, 10:30 PM   #1
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Our 1986 32' Excella Rehab -- from rear bedroom to bunkhouse with two bedrooms

We had so much fun rehabbing our 1989 29' Excella and turning it into a bunkhouse for our seven kids and ourselves (Katie and Rob) and Grandma Alice. We made it exactly what we wanted. Then we ran out of things to refurbish or remodel on it, and found ourselves itching for another big project. We had restored, remodeled, and redesigned several campers prior to doing our '89 Airstream and knew we were up for the challenge. One weekend last summer we were up at our favorite Airstream campground, Top of Georgia Airstream Park, when our friend Carol (Aviator) pointed out that the mossy old Excella in dead storage had people emptying it out. We investigated and with Carol and some other friends we helped the nice couple we met there as they took load after load to the dumpster and to the dump. It turns out that the kind old man who owned the Excella had died, and here were his son and daughter-in-law cleaning it out to sell. We had heard lots of stories about the old man as he was by all accounts the nicest guy around and did not know a stranger. Sadly, he had fallen several years prior to this and had become trapped in this Airstream, and concerned friends at the park had called the rescue squad after several days. The poor guy had to be taken out the back egress window by stretcher. He never did make it back to his Airstream, which was eventually moved to the storage area where it sat, leaking heavily, for several years. When we first saw it, the floor was so far gone that the frame outline was clearly visible through the sagging carpet which dipped down into the belly pan, and almost every surface was covered with mildew or mold. The stench mixed with the lingering odor of heavy cigar smoke. Still, the skin looked great except for a few hail dings and some belly-pan damage from an old fender-bender which had torn off a segment protector and damaged an awning bar. The windows were leaking but the original glass was intact, and the rare 32 foot length was a dual axle (our preference) with a perfect floor plan for making both a larger rear bunkroom for our seven kids as well as a front permanent bed for us. We were told that the A/C was new when the owner fell, and that there was a new-in-box segment protector to replace the missing one. The Airstream had been cared for and lived in and despite the intervening years of neglect, it had good bones. We helped the couple open the windows for some ventilation and let them know that we would be interested in it if the price were right. We really didn't think anything would come of it since we were very far apart on price.

Fast forward a few months and we were meeting the owner's son in Chattanooga to get the title. We knew we would want to have the project Airstream behind our travel-ready Airstream in our back driveway, so naturally we went out camping. We spent the night at Fort Mountain State Park and got up early to meet him in Chattanooga. We then immediately went to Top of Georgia to retrieve the Excella, having not seen it since the day we glanced it over back in the summer when it was being cleaned out. We bought it without any knowledge of the systems being functional and without even doing an inspection. It might now have been the smartest way to buy an Airstream, but we really liked the couple and the layout of the trailer, and we loved the stories we'd heard of the owner. We headed across North Georgia to pick up the trailer. We had the old wheels from our '89 Excella in our van with us, since we knew the '86 tires would be too old to use safely.

When we got there to pick up the 1986 32-footer, we noticed that it had been moved, and that someone had recently installed the replacement "new-in-the box" segment protector the old man had bought just before he fell. It was a very bad install and was very disappointing. We are very particular about our own work and were frustrated about this botched install. Still, we were glad to see that it was otherwise mostly intact and went about doing some more emptying including the verrrry heavy mattress from the bedroom, and some assorted long-expired canned goods. We pulled it up on blocks and set about switching out the wheels for our old '89 wheels. Some nice folks at ToG helped us by lending us a couple of tools since the tongue jack wasn't working, a long extension cord, and even a golf cart to take the big mattress to the dumpster. The people there sure are nice folks. The inside of the Airstream smelled even worse than we remembered, and we also were told by a bystander that the "new" A/C didn't work. Greeeeeeat. We hitched up in record time, took the bricks and plastic off the roof which were covering the leaky vents, and headed for home a couple of hours away. We were camping in our own '89 that weekend at Fort Mountain, so we were on a deadline to get to that park before the gate closed at ten. We got to our house in Marietta in the dark and chocked the wheels with firewood since we couldn't find chocks. We immediately raced back to Fort Mountain and got to the gate at ten on the dot! We'd been doing the Airstream retrieval since before dawn and were exhausted and filthy. We had nice long showers and sat down to eat dinner in our pristine, gorgeous, painstakingly remodeled twenty-nine footer to look at all the photos of the moldy mess we had dragged home. Reality was starting to sink in as we listened to the crickets and frogs outside over the quiet hum of the Airstream dishwasher. What had we gotten ourselves into this time?
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Old 01-03-2014, 12:09 AM   #2
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1986 32' Excella
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Canton , Georgia
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The project starts....
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Old 01-03-2014, 03:51 AM   #3
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More pictures please looks good so far.
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Old 01-03-2014, 07:50 AM   #4
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Canton , Georgia
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Our first order of business was to wash and seal the outside. The trailer leaked like a sieve. After removing years of piled-on silicone and what looked like epoxy and yards of roofing tape (shudder) using a combination of methods- even using a wood chisel and a screwdriver to carefully clear all of the built-up gook-- we sealed with adseal for big cracks and acryl-r for small cracks and vulkem where needed. We painted the top white with Rustoleum gloss white enamel oil base. Adseal comes in white and gray so we switched back and forth. Acryl-r takes time and patience but even the tiniest leak at a rivet can wick water, and it works especially well to take care of those. The vents all needed replacement but we waited to replace those until after painting inside.
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Old 01-03-2014, 07:57 AM   #5
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We really should have bought stock in sealants!
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Old 01-03-2014, 09:36 AM   #6
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Once the outside was sealed we turned our attention to the floor. We had to remove all of the front and rear furniture and the wardrobe closet. We wont be putting everything back since we are going all custom to make a two-bedroom. (the front bedroom with be open-concept with a permanent bed for the parents and the rear bunk room will have six full-length single bunks (three sets of two bunks rack, single size) and a pullout seventh bunk in between. We're also doing a custom sofa the length of the steetside front wall. We're adding front and rear a/c and a dishwasher (since we love the one we put in our current Excella) and a central vacuum. We won't be putting the closet back in since we will be filling that space with bunks.

We were worried that we would need to remove the kitchen and bath but were thrilled to find solid floor there. The floor in the front and back was gone. It had turned into a sort of soft soil, a fragrant moist loam. the floor in front had been "repaired" by covering with plywood right over the rot. Then carpet was laid over that. Meanwhile all those layers had disintegrated and the frame was clearly visible through it all, with carpet dipping down between frame members. The rot was all dug out and cut back to the closet solid floor at the frame. New plywood was routed to fit into the c-channel and sealed. The belly pan was cleaned out and reinstated and the new floor sections were screwed into place.

Next it was time to get the electrical upgraded. We decided to go with 50 amp service with this Airstream since we wanted to add an additional A/C in the back. After replacing the ancient batteries and converter (we used an intellipower 60 amp smart charger) Rob installed a new outside 50 amp connection and then pulled the old 70-amp single-phase panel and installed a new 2phase 100-amp panel. Then he added new separate circuits for the microwave and dishwasher and the new rear a/c unit. He added all new breakers and gfci. Then we bought a new 30-lb 50 amp cable for outside-- what a chunk! The thing weighs a ton. Then while the walls were open he ran a new drain line for the second a/c and of course the power for it as well. This all sounds so easy but it was a ton of work which mostly happened while I (Katie) was off teaching my special education class at the nearby elementary school and while our seven kids were also at school. All I had to do was give him my wish list and he magically made it happen over the next few weeks.
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Old 01-03-2014, 09:50 AM   #7
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The original interior after a lot of scrubbing looked better but was still hiding a ton of floor rot. Notice the layers. Here's before, during, and after the floor repair and the beginning of the 50 amp electrical upgrade and putting in the electric and drain line for the new rear a/c.

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Old 01-03-2014, 09:58 AM   #8
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More progress photos:
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Old 01-03-2014, 10:03 AM   #9
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Old 01-03-2014, 08:24 PM   #10
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1959 26' Overlander
Powder Springs , Georgia
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The trailer with the most toys!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Skatiero View Post
We're adding front and rear a/c and a dishwasher (since we love the one we put in our current Excella) and a central vacuum.
...and to think... I was worried that this trailer wouldn't have as many toys as your current trailer.

I must know. Will this trailer have a doorbell?
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Old 01-03-2014, 08:38 PM   #11
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A doorbell? Of course! In fact, it already does.

Here are some photos of the painting progress so far. After scrubbing with an ammonia solution, rinsing, and then using over 500 rivets to fill holes, we spent several days masking and painting. We still have to finish the bathroom, galley, and door painting but here's the progress so far. The nicotine staining is about to be a thing of the past.
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Old 01-03-2014, 08:42 PM   #12
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.

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Old 01-13-2014, 09:29 PM   #13
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The work continues on the 1986 '32. We took a few days off to go to the Canopener Rally in Florida. we had a blast and the '29 worked perfectly. We had a few pangs of wondering if we should sell the '32 instead and keep the '29 since we have it set up so perfectly for us, but the lure of the permanent additional bedroom won out. We had a great time looking at lots of beautiful Airstreams and stealing, ahem.... Borrowing some great ideas. In our '29, we have one permanent bedroom in the rear. It has permanent quad bunks. It also has hidden swing-down bunks in each side in between the top and bottom bunks which hide during the day, allowing the bottom bunks to be used as sofas during the day, and which swing and lock down in seconds. That makes triple bunks on each side, and the seventh bed goes into the center aisle. (we have seven kids ages 10 (almost 11) to sixteen (almost 17.) When we travel without the kids we leave the middle bunks folded up and have lots of head room on the bottom bunks and we just sleep back there. We made the middle bunks easily removable, too, so that the bunkroom can turn into a roomier set of quad bunks if we ever want that. Or perhaps I should say, if the future owners want that-- since we are selling the '29 in the Spring.

When we camp as a whole family, the seven kids sleep in the bunkroom and the grownups are in the living room. In the living room we have a U-shape sofa, which is actually an L-shaped sofa and a chaise. One leg of the L is a huge lift-top storage compartment and the other houses a trundle which pulls out and pops up to make a queen bed for us. The Chaise has storage underneath and pulls out into a a single bed for Grandma, who camps with us about half the year. We have a little divider which can be set up between our bed and hers. We have a table which goes in the middle of the U which can then seat all of us for those stormy days when everyone needs to eat dinner inside. We also put a table in between the back bunks when they are in the quad bunk position so the kids can play cards etc. we have flat screen tvs with DVD players etc in the living room and in the bunk room. we have worked it out to work perfectly for us--- except that we have run out of projects (the axle replacement was the final biggie on our long list) and we would love a permanent bed for us.

We talked a lot about the old and new campers this weekend at the Canopener Rally in Florida. The kids were not happy about giving up the '29. It started to sink in that this would probably be the last big trip in the 29.

We have spent so much time working on the infrastructure of the '32. that the kids haven't yet realized how nice it is going to be. It was like that in the '29 as well. Our kids don't care at all about new electrical and plumbing and sealed seams and solid floor or new axles and brakes and shocks. They care about having their own beds and a nice place to hang out in storms. One thing they asked about which we hadn't thought about at all is the screen house. For the 29. we made a custom screen tent which goes up in about five minutes. It hangs from three eye hooks at the ends of the side and center awning bars and then snaps to diverted snaps up the sides of the Airstream, along with a skirt which snaps along the bottom. It has zipped doors and can stake down or not at the corners. (we actually use water bottles to hold down the corners when we camp on concrete. The screen tent more than doubles the living space. It won't work on the 32, though, because that awning is longer than the 20' awning on the 29. Argh! So I guess I am going to be making another screen tent and the old one will go along with the 29. it was made for. The kids were adamant that we still have a screened porch we can show movies on in the 32. (& some nights we hang a sheet from one awning bar and project movies onto it for all the kids.)

Progress: the inside is painted, the floor is now solid, the outside is sealed, and the bathroom sink comes tomorrow and the new toilet is sitting in a big box in the foyer, so we are almost ready to put the bathroom back together. The floor was in perfect shape when we pulled the toilet, which shocked us completely! We removed the vanity, mirrors,and medicine cabinet and stripped and sanded them, and removed eighty layers (I may be exaggerating) of silicone caulk from the shower and scrubbed, stripped, sealed, recoated, and recalled the shower, put in a new drain, and shower head and valve, and bought some really cool stuff called 3form to use for a new divider wall between the vanity and shower. We also bought new laminate to craft a new counter and ordered. New stainless sink. Haven't chosen a faucet yet.

The kitchen backlash was a bear to strip but is finally down to bare Aluminum after Rob spent hours with a heat gun painstakingly peeling (literally) am inch at a time. Next up is to put down the gorgeous Allure edge maple flooring we bought. We used the same floor in the '29 in a different pattern and have been thrilled with it. We still need to finish the interior door skin, kitchen trim, and window frames-- strip, paint, rescreen, and reinstall. Then onto kitchen counters-- already bought the cool round sink. We still need a stove and to order the dishwasher, since Rob promised we would put another one in this Airstream since it has been such a great addition to the '29. We have tackled some of the lighting but not all, and we are finalizing the furniture and bed layouts. We still haven't decided exactly how to divide the front bed from the living room. 3form panels and a curtain like a new Sport? a real wall and a pocket door like the amazing 1970 model Airstream redid at the factory recently and which we visited during the CanOpener? No divider at all? low shelves? Please chime in if anyone out there has any Ideas! (if anyone is still reading!)
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Old 01-13-2014, 09:33 PM   #14
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Shower before and after. (Before picture is following tons of scrubbing and cleaning-- still looked awful.)
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