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Old 07-18-2014, 08:56 PM   #1
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1976 31' Sovereign
Pittsburgh , Pennsylvania
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Shell off or on repair?

Hello all,

I have my 76' sovereign just about gutted and I am wondering what method should be used to replace the subfloor.

There's rot in at least two places so far.

The first is under the window at the front of the camper to the right of the the door if your looking in. The second is just outside the bathroom, to the right of the water heater (if your looking at it from the inside).

(Please feel free to give pointers on proper orientation descriptions)

I haven't pulled the bath or sink yet but I imagine I will find some rot there as well.

So the big question is, shell on or off for repairs?

I am at the point of a total gut and interior replacement so I lean towards shell off but the logistics are a it daunting. Is there any reason I can't just replace the subfloor in sections rather than a total lift? I can see rust on the frame but I am not sure if that's just surface or if I should plan to have it sandblasted and rewelded.

Can that be done piece by piece or only with the shell off?

I am trying to keep resale in mind as well.

I plan to redo all of the wiring if that makes a difference.

Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks!

Mikal
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Old 07-18-2014, 09:22 PM   #2
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1972 25' Tradewind
Hopkins , Minnesota
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Welcome to the Forum!

Others will also chime in here, for sure. But pictures help us all help each other.

That being said, if you have small areas of floor rot, they can probably be repaired either by cutting out the bad areas and patching them in, or...in some cases, you can use an epoxy filler to harden the soft areas. However, if you are dealing with numerous areas or large sections, you are going to be better off replacing the whole thing. It can be done with the shell on...but if you are also dealing with a rusted frame, you might as well go the whole monty and do a shell off....pulling the frame and having it repaired. And if that is what you decide to do...there is plenty of information on the Forum as to how to go about it... whether you lift the shell with a gantry system, or use jacks and stands.

When you get everything removed, brace the shell with 2x6s and 2x4s so it will retain it's original shape throughout the process. Measure your old floor and make a template of the radiuses at the front and back. It's very difficult to reproduce these radiuses after the fact...and will save you a great deal of heart-ache when it comes time to reunite the shell with the frame.

You also want to remove the belly pan and remove all the pink insulation down there. It just attracts moisture and leads to frame failure.

Good luck! Post lots of pics...and feel free to ask lots of questions.
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Old 07-18-2014, 09:27 PM   #3
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Also - be very conservative about your expectations for resale. If you are looking at a complete shell-off (or on) restoration.... you can expect to spend upwards of $10,000, especially if you are replacing all of the systems and redoing the electrical. If resale is your goal, it will be very difficult (unless you are a mechanical guru, or know one) to get your money out of it. IMHO.
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Old 07-19-2014, 09:48 AM   #4
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If you just have a few small sections of rot, then I would just patch them and leave the shell in place. You will have a better idea when you remove the bathroom and have a good look at the rear end. Being that you have a 70's era trailer, it is very likely that the floor will be rotted all along the rear end, the rear hold-down plate will be rusting away, the rear cross members of your frame will be disintegrating as well. You might also want to drop at least the rear few feet of bellypan to get a good look at the frame, as this is where it is likely to be the worst.

Are you going to be replacing the axles? Do you intend to do tank work? Do you plan to POR-15 the frame? If you have lots of floor rot, extensive frame repairs, plans to replace all the insulation under the floor, etc., then I would say you should do a shell off, and particularly, you should use a gantry system so that once the shell is on the ground, you can use the gantry frames to lift and "rotisserie" your frame. If you lift with a gantry, no bracing is required. You will be lifting against the ceiling, and the ribs and C-channels are perfectly adequate to keep the shape of the shell while you work on the frame.

It all boils down to how much damage you have, and how "complete" of a restoration you intend to do. If you are goign to pull out all the interior skins, remove the insulation, and replace all the wiring, it sounds like you are going all the way--you might as well do the shell lift and make the frame and floor work easy.

good luck!
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Old 07-19-2014, 09:52 AM   #5
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Have a look at the following thread:

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f36/...on-115765.html

Post 9 and 11 show some good pics of what can be done with the gantry frames. There is also a diagram for building the frames in a pdf at the end.
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Old 07-19-2014, 09:57 AM   #6
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I was able to carve out the bad portion and then re-laminate that area. I used West Systems epoxy and then treated the entire floor. My attachment shows the area completed, sorry but I must not have taken a before picture. Much easier than opening a very large can of worms! Post some pics and you will get allot of advice.
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Old 07-20-2014, 11:26 AM   #7
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1976 31' Sovereign
Pittsburgh , Pennsylvania
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Quote:
Originally Posted by arktos55343 View Post
Also - be very conservative about your expectations for resale. If you are looking at a complete shell-off (or on) restoration.... you can expect to spend upwards of $10,000, especially if you are replacing all of the systems and redoing the electrical. If resale is your goal, it will be very difficult (unless you are a mechanical guru, or know one) to get your money out of it. IMHO.
Thanks for you opinion. A good friend who happens to be an architect has offered to work out the design as well as take part in the rebuild. I would not be able to undertake this alone but I am pretty confident that his assistance and folks like you on the forum I may be able to make it through the tough parts.

It is good to see that a total restore with be upwards of $10,000 and I imagine thats doing most of the work myself?

I have also consider doing the work on the frame and floor and reselling it at that point to someone who would like to do a total restore without that mess but I am not sure if there is a market for such a thing.

I am alos fortunate to have an Airstream Service Center within a 20 minute drive from my place.

I will plot along for a bit before I make a decision one way or the other.

Thanks again!
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Old 07-20-2014, 11:32 AM   #8
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1976 31' Sovereign
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Belegedhel View Post
If you just have a few small sections of rot, then I would just patch them and leave the shell in place. You will have a better idea when you remove the bathroom and have a good look at the rear end. Being that you have a 70's era trailer, it is very likely that the floor will be rotted all along the rear end, the rear hold-down plate will be rusting away, the rear cross members of your frame will be disintegrating as well. You might also want to drop at least the rear few feet of bellypan to get a good look at the frame, as this is where it is likely to be the worst.

Are you going to be replacing the axles? Do you intend to do tank work? Do you plan to POR-15 the frame? If you have lots of floor rot, extensive frame repairs, plans to replace all the insulation under the floor, etc., then I would say you should do a shell off, and particularly, you should use a gantry system so that once the shell is on the ground, you can use the gantry frames to lift and "rotisserie" your frame. If you lift with a gantry, no bracing is required. You will be lifting against the ceiling, and the ribs and C-channels are perfectly adequate to keep the shape of the shell while you work on the frame.

It all boils down to how much damage you have, and how "complete" of a restoration you intend to do. If you are goign to pull out all the interior skins, remove the insulation, and replace all the wiring, it sounds like you are going all the way--you might as well do the shell lift and make the frame and floor work easy.

good luck!
It looks like the floor is pretty much rotter to the tail so I now feel that I am in the shell off world. I have no resin to believe that the axles have ever been replace so they would be on the list. I imagine they should be swapped when the frame is inevitability being repaired?

Not sure what tank work entails?

Yes, I would POR-15 the frame.

Do you know if you can rent a gantry frame or should I plan to build one out of wood?

Thanks!
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Old 07-20-2014, 11:34 AM   #9
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I am pretty sure the damage to the subfloor negates use of patches but I will keep it in mind for the future.

Thanks!
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Old 07-20-2014, 12:08 PM   #10
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I would doubt that a ready-made gantry would be available or cost effective. Making them yourself (one fore, and one aft over the vent holes) requires only some lumber, bolts, screws and a block and tackle set-up. Search the forum for pictures of others' projects. Myself, I used hydraulic bottle jacks and stands to lift my shell inches at a time, until I could pull the frame out. It's nerve-wracking...but can be done.

Installing new axels and wheels depends somewhat on the projected length of time that you think you will need to complete the project. New tires and torsion axels have a limited lifespan. If it takes you 5+ years to complete, then you have 5+ year old tires that have been sitting and weakening (5 years is the expected lifespan of standard trailer tires). The torsion axels can last 25+ years, but need to be exercised periodically to keep them in good working condition. So, keep that in mind before you outlay the money for new gear right away.

I'm not putting new tanks back into my AS. Not planning on having a toilet that needs a black tank (most decent campgrounds have showers and toilets...let someone else clean them), and I will save a lot on extra weight. If the frame and floor are rotten/rusting, then no-doubt the supports for your black tank are done. You will need to determine if you can reuse your black tank, or need to build/buy another (some tanks are available from Inland RV...among other places). Or you may know of someone who can weld ABS...and just make a custom tank.

It is all of these (seemingly) little things that will add up big time in the end. The more work you can do yourself, the less money you will spend. Having any of the work farmed out to shops will cost you $$$$$.
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Old 07-20-2014, 03:41 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gronlampa View Post

It is good to see that a total restore with be upwards of $10,000 and I imagine thats doing most of the work myself?

I have also consider doing the work on the frame and floor and reselling it at that point to someone who would like to do a total restore without that mess but I am not sure if there is a market for such a thing.


It sounds like you want to do the work with the intent of making some money somewhere along the line rather than doing it for yourself. A gutted trailer with a repaired frame and floor is worth something, but maybe not nearly as much as you think and probably wont have as many takers as one in original or fully restored condition. And its a ton of work, how much per hour do you feel like making? May not even make minimum wage.
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Old 07-20-2014, 10:13 PM   #12
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1976 31' Sovereign
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Originally Posted by aquinob View Post
It sounds like you want to do the work with the intent of making some money somewhere along the line rather than doing it for yourself. A gutted trailer with a repaired frame and floor is worth something, but maybe not nearly as much as you think and probably wont have as many takers as one in original or fully restored condition. And its a ton of work, how much per hour do you feel like making? May not even make minimum wage.
Good points.

We purchased the Sovereign with the intent of need moving it from our farm. Unfortunately we had to sell our farm and we drive 2 Honda Fit's. To get any use of the Sovereign we will either have to purchase a large tow vehicle or pay to have it moved around.

If purchased an Airstream to take camping etc. it would have been a much smaller model.

I may just fix this one up as a nice back yard guest house. Just trying to look at all of my options before sinking a ton of money into it.

Thanks!
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Old 07-20-2014, 10:26 PM   #13
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Maybe if you shackle the two Fits together..... sorry...just a little joke

It's good that you are looking at all of your options. In the end, it is your Airstream...to do with as you wish. Not every Airstream is destined to live its life on the road. Some will make a very nice guest cottage. Use your imagination, and make it something special for you and your loved ones.
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Old 07-21-2014, 01:32 PM   #14
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San Antonio , Texas
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69 Safari owner in San Antonio

Hi all,
I am in the great debate myself to do a complete shell off or on? I have had a few people stop by (airstream owners and non) and read the forums, read Restoring a Dream book, and watched (the only 2) youtube videos out there. Still perplexed at if I should just raise the shell a piece at a time for the welder to work on the outriggers, cross member replacement, etc.

The floor IS completely gone though. I've started making the "X" brace and need to build a stronger base/cross beams to jack it up a few inches to get a 12 footer between the shell and the floor (if I do the complete shell off).

I've seen all kinds of contraptions (the gantry, special saw horses that adjust, 4-man lift off, and others). I feel at this point with all the repairs I have to do to the frame, put on new axle AND completely build a new belly pan...it would probably behoove me to take the whole thing off?

Some people are scaring me saying that once the shell is off, it will be really hard to get back into place while others make it sound like no big deal. Would love some feedback.
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