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Old 08-19-2003, 08:36 PM   #15
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Epoxy is NOT magic!

When an Airstream already costs in the $40-60,000 range new, how many exotic solutions will put price in the range where only Ah-nuld will be buying 'em? Airstreams are unique in testing longevity of materials -- when a plastic box trailer wouldn't be pretty in half the time!

Rather, I suggest that it is necessary to take some interest in the systems on board. In this instance it requires periodic inspection to make sure plumbing remains intact. We are spoiled with the stability of our house pipes, but nobody tries to haul that stack of 2x4's over railroad crossings! It is a necessary part of "buying used" that inspection is important and the PO may have had their blinders on.

Epoxies come in all flavors and only certain types are intended for damp use. Marine epoxies are available but are not the panacea folks expect. I have dabbled with boat building so let me march out some facts. Cocooning in epoxy is a near impossibility in a complex structure.

Epoxy only soaks in a short distance depending on the characteristics of the wood. Epoxy set begins to restrict further absorption at some point. You can encase a piece of wood in an epoxy cocoon and the majority of wood in the center will "normal."

The coating will fail at some point under stresses of normal use. Period. I haven't even added in the penetrations of fasteners, joints and utility lines. (bonded brackets -- hmm...) Trailer boats that are taken out of water and stored dry between uses have a chance with this treatment.

Wood absorbs plenty when water is available once the epoxy layer is breached. Now the epoxy works against you, preventing evaporation and accelerating rot. Marine applications work with the characteristics of the material and epoxy is highly valuable in many ways. Vacuum bagged veneering truly would impregnate the wood, but at a high weight penalty.

I don't want to be in an enclosed trailer with anti-rot treated plywood floors (chromated copper). Even more durable woods like white oak (more axles, Andy!), Douglas fir, cedars, cypress, tamarack or redwood deteriorate in the presence of moisture and oxygen.

So maintenance and upkeep are the solution for what we are offered at an affordable (ulp!) price. Would a complex foam-cored epoxy wood laminate still be limping along after 30 years on a Sovereign? Maybe not, but it would be interesting for a while. Keep thinking, using the 'Search' function, proposing, and working things out. Fun idea!
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Old 08-19-2003, 09:11 PM   #16
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Airstream did try something along this line in the Argosy Minuet models. Some of them have an aluminmum/foam core floor. It seems to be holding up well, but it depends on use. Some of the units have a low spot in the high traffic portions of the unit.

The Argosy line was a test bed for new ideas, that is why the 70's argosy trailers had the wrap around windows years ahead of Airstream. If you want to stay in the Airstream family, it may be worth seaching for one to replace your soverign with.
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Old 08-19-2003, 09:35 PM   #17
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We must remember that we are talking about trailers that are 20, 30, 40 years old.
I too have found floor rot in the back of my 78. My fix will be marine grade ply (no voids, more layers,better glue) and coat both sides with 2 part West System Epoxy before installation (We use it in upscale exterior home aplications with good results). At the seams i will use a good quality Silicone (Lexel is my preferance). I think it would be important not to seal the hole floor after the installation because the the floor needs to have some flex ( going over railroad tracks ) . The A/S is pretty well protected from from road splash so most of the water damage that we experience is from leaks above.


Just my 2 cents
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Old 08-19-2003, 09:47 PM   #18
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sealing plywood for floor

I am about a week away from putting a new plywood floor in a '57 Bubble. The frame has been repaired, painted, etc and step rebuilt, all original plywood is gone and the shin hasn't caved in. The channel at the bottom of the skin must be lighter than air because the whole skin seems to be floating.
I did put 3 coats of interior polyurethane on all sides and edges of the new plywood - exterior too offgasing my paint man said. I figure the new floor and wood wll last about as long as I do - 64 tomorrow - and that's about all I care for it to do. I want my last check to bounce - reread the "Wondrous One Horse Shay"
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Old 08-20-2003, 02:22 AM   #19
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Thumbs up Happy Birthday~!!

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"Happy Birthday to You~"

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Old 08-20-2003, 07:20 AM   #20
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Even though it is a major job floor replacement should probably be considered part of normal maintenance. Some things like greasing bearings have a relatively short cycle, this just has a much longer cycle. When I did mine I found a lot of other problems, including severely rusted fasteners holding the body to the frame and the floor to the frame, cracked welds, frame sections that were rusted through, wiring grommets no longer through the ribs, etc. Unless there is a severe leak the floor will last 30-40 years and at that point it really is time to inspect a lot of the structure and systems that normally can't be seen. These do bounce down the road and flex around so problems are a reality. It is also the opportunity to upgrade items like insulation, replace aluminum wiring, add network wiring, etc.

A forever floor is nice to shoot for, but with current technology (and the technology at the time these were built) not really possible. A proactive preventative maintence program will prolong the life of various components, but look at aircraft which the Airstream is model on, and how many times they have been torn down by the time they reach 30.

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Old 08-20-2003, 09:23 AM   #21
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The floor

Having to separate a 31 ft. fuselage from the chassis to get at a rotted floor and most of the internals is so time consuming and expensive (if you pay someone else) that the Airstream should really be considered disposable after 30 years. There is no way this repair can be considered a good investment unless you are just plain "eaten up" with Airstream nostalgia. That will be the next owner of my AS.

With dozens of holes and windows an owner is constantly chasing water damage and doing repairs. When comparing Airstreams to aircraft it would be important to remember that most aircraft are owned and maintained by big corporations and the military. They either benefit from tax subsidies or our money (taxes). Private aircraft ownership is dwindling because of cost of ownership, including O&M. Private aircraft ownership is hard to justify in dollars.
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Old 08-20-2003, 10:29 AM   #22
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Robert,

Using the rational of 30 year life on an Airstream I can agree with. But if you comapre it to the lifespan of a comparable box trailer that costs the same I would be willing to bet the box trailer will be in pieces in 15 years or less if used with the same frequency and towed a comparable number of miles.

There is a point where the the design will have a failure no matter what materials or methods are used.

The only way that the unit would NEVER need a floor is to make it out of aluminum or a compsite that is thick enough to handle the stresses and strain. Then the frame will eventually rust away, so you make it from aluminum or a compsite too. Then it will still need axles that will wear out as well. When Porche tried to make the all Aluminum 928 the frame was good for 100K before it would start to crack from the stresses of driving.

There has to be a mid point in the process. I agree that plywood is not the best choice, but some of the solutions that are available today were not even invented in the 70's. Or if they were the cost to implemet would have made the units so expensive that they could not be sold. I would love to have a carbon fiber frame and a compsite floor that would never fail. I don't have that kind of $$$.

It is an interesting issue, but I doubt that you will find a production unit made by any manufacturer that is going to last like an Airstream does. I belive that the longevity of the unit was part of the reason that the company had trouble when the gas crisis hit. They had just come off of a decade of robust sales and the market was saturated. With no real need to replace your trailer, due to it not wearing out in 10 years, the demand shrank, and then OPEC did us in.

Just my ramblings
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Old 08-20-2003, 12:47 PM   #23
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Quote:
A proactive preventative maintence program will prolong the life of various components, but look at aircraft which the Airstream is model on, and how many times they have been torn down by the time they reach 30.
In that, I agree with what you're saying about proactive PMI but...aircrafts with that kind of longtivity are usually subject to ten of thousands pressurization and take-off/landing cycles, hence the stress factor far exceeds anything that your normal A/S would be subjected to. That, plus you're dealing with human lives in a hazard environment. (Over water, hi-altitude, etc...just mandates those kind of maintenances frequency) Don't you agree?

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Old 08-20-2003, 01:55 PM   #24
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53FlyingCloud

I agree completely, and my aircraft analogy was a bad one, I only used it because of the construction and the fact that they do manage to keep flying for many years, but with a lot of major maintenance.

My real point is anything 30 years old needs some fairly heavy maintenance. All equipment has a service hours/mileage chart when PM, lube, oil changes, etc., should be done. I don't consider it really out of line that a plywood floor replacement is on the list at 30 years. It might be a lot of work, it might be expensive to have done, but I am not suprised that after 30 years of twisting, vibrating, freezing, baking and the occasional leak plywood needs to be replaced. When I was young an old guy told me if it is moving, it is wearing, and I haven't found anything in all the years since then to dispute him.

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Old 08-20-2003, 02:18 PM   #25
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How bad is your floor?

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Old 08-20-2003, 10:04 PM   #26
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How bad you ask?

You know I looked at it again tonight as I prepared to re-set a "vistaview" window in the aft stateroom (it leaks). There is a soft spot near the door, and water damage from the leaking in the aft stateroom. The plumbing under the galley floor was a real treat to get to -sawed an "inspection port" there to repair copper piping that had frozen/split/leaked. We are 12" (25%) over normal in rainfall here in the eastern US -so the whole thing stinks of mildew.

Probably need to chill out and do the patch repair. Patching just isn't my style. Most folks would look at this unit and say it looks great.
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Old 08-21-2003, 07:43 AM   #27
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Marine goodies

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sawed an "inspection port" there to repair copper piping that had frozen/split/leaked.
For a decent appearance and possible later access, you might consider a marine deck plate. They are water and air tight when closed and open with a twist for access. I have one in my Airstream that was left over from my sailing days to give me access to the forward terminal block.
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Old 08-21-2003, 08:14 AM   #28
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access ports

I have thought about placing deck plates to access those ridiculously hidden drain valves(my hand won't even fit into the space), and provide a top cleanout on the water tank.

Maybe I'll just shop for a big pontoon boat and drop the fuselage on top of the fuzzy astroturf deck. One of those nice aluminum models. Rip off the rails and bimini, add a rudder and trolling motor and follow in the footsteps of Wally - off the beaten path!
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