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Old 05-03-2008, 04:08 PM   #1
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Smile Help the new girl find a good Airstream fit (and relevant threads)?

Hi,

I've been reading several threads here as a nonmember for the past couple of weeks, and I finally decided it's time to pipe up. I am pretty much a total Airstream n00b; I slept in a beautiful Airstream travel trailer a few years back and, having spent some time in other motor homes too, appreciated the quality of Airstream. And I've always loved the gleaming, rounded silver look of them. I read Carlos' long thread documenting his amazing transformation of a 60s Airstream, and am inspired by his beautiful work. I am not wealthy, not an artist, and not very handy with a lot of tools, however. Still, I am willing to learn and to cope with hammered thumbs and such. (Guess I'd better get that tetanus booster first, though! ) I also read the thread "How much space does a girl need?" all the way through, and that provided a lot of food for thought for me.

Here's my situation: I am looking for an older TT to renovate into my own living space. I will be living in it full-time, but will not be moving it very often, at least not at first. I have a small but growing candy-making business, and will need a decent kitchen with lots of counter and storage space for that. I'd like to have the flexibility for my children (10 & 8) to sleep in it with me if they want. Otherwise, my needs are few, and my preference is for simplicity and functionality. I would like to have solar power and a composting toilet, if possible.

As I'll be parking it outside my ex's house, having working systems (with the exception of heating/cooling) at the outset isn't critical. I'd like to be able to live in it as much as possible while working on the interior, though ... the house just isn't big enough for me to have my own room, and this gal needs her space! He has a Ford Explorer (2007 model, I think) and has said he's happy to tow home whatever I buy. I am planning to buy my own tow vehicle later, once the renovation is done.

I am not sure what size range of travel trailer I should focus on. I'm also not sure if I'll be getting in over my head with such a project! But I really do want a custom space and am willing to learn all I can to make that happen.

Here are my specific questions, and I appreciate any and all responses to them.

1]. Am I being unrealistic with this plan? (Should I buy a working TT first and get used to living in one, then start on the renovation project [with that TT or with a different one]?)

2]. What size range should I consider, given the current tow vehicle's capacity and my needs?

3]. What threads here would be most helpful for the design/renovation part of my project?

Thank you so much for your help, and for this amazing forum!
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Old 05-03-2008, 04:22 PM   #2
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Reality

To do what you want - and with two children - I'd start with a 31 or 34 footer or even rethink the whole idea. Before you do anything else check the regulations for commercial cooking in your locality. You'll find that doing it out of a HOUSE is difficult, from a trailer that you and your kids live in? Legally impossible.

Let me suggest that if you really want an Airstream, you run your business out of a commercial kitchen that will pass local food inspections. A very good friend of mine is a commercial chef who does delivery work. Some chefs get around the commercial kitchen rule by coming to your house and cooking, but this severely limits their income. He found a Moose Club that would rent him their kitchen one day per week. He prepares about 80 meals (4 per customer) and delivers them the following day. Most social clubs will be delighted to get some additional income from a facility that basically stands vacant 4 to 5 days a week. As long as you keep it clean, you could be a very welcome tenant.

As for the older Airstream, be aware that the wet climate of the Pacific northwest is hell on the frame and floor of Airstreams. Buying a very old one locally usually means a frame off restoration - and sometimes a NEW frame.

Widen your range or look for one that's less than 10 years old. Charm of the true vintage unit is nice... but when you have to choose between your family, your new career and your project trailer... which one will always come in last?

Paula Ford
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Old 05-03-2008, 05:36 PM   #3
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I agree that the 32'-34' should be the range to look for and nothing older than 10-15 years old. The trailers that have "lived" closer to the coasts will have more rust and rot as mentioned above.
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Old 05-03-2008, 05:39 PM   #4
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I'm a newbie as well and doing a lot of research, and Paula is very correct. You can conceivably convert an Airstream into a commercial kitchen, or you can convert it into a fulltime home, but you can't do both to the same one and stay legal, from what I understand. Even if this is a small cottage business that runs under the legal radar, I don't think that you're going to find even an upgraded Airstream kitchen to be adequate. The kitchens in Airstreams are more compact (obviously)--smaller cooktops, smaller sinks, smaller ovens, less counter space--and are geared to only pull so much power at a time. I'm skating at the edge of my knowledge with the electrical and gas stuff, I'll leave that for the more knowledgeable to address, but unless you lose a good bit of other stuff (like seating and storage) for counter and cook space, I think you're going to run into serious issues. I've not made candy, but I've done soap and candlemaking quite a bit, and can't imagine trying to do it in an Airstream.

Neat idea, though, and Paula has a great suggestion about the local Moose Lodge, VFW or whatever. If you can afford to have a TT for living and a TT custom-renovated as your kitchen, that would be nifty, but it sounds like a spendy proposition. If you can swing it, it sounds great. Renovating yourself seems to be something that only the truly handy and saintly patient should attempt.

You asked for links, here you go!

http://culinaryfool.spaces.live.com/Blog/cns!A7D1373D92F448FA!2769.entry
http://www.airforums.com/forums/f36/...ion-38204.html
http://www.airforums.com/forums/f36/...ent-17197.html
http://www.airforums.com/forums/f45/...ity-17203.html
http://www.airforums.com/forums/f45/...nces-1125.html
http://www.airforums.com/forums/f426...ner-35558.html
http://www.airforums.com/forums/f348...new-32343.html
MoCo Loco: Airstream Mobile Office
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Old 05-03-2008, 05:43 PM   #5
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Paula is 100% right - get over it. You cannot restore a vintage Airstream and attempt to run a start-up business AND raise two children at the same time. How long will your parking arrangement last? Is it even legal? If you continue with this dream, we'll see another "project started but can't finish" ad showing up soon. Darol
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Old 05-03-2008, 05:56 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sunni
... I would like to have ... a composting toilet, if possible.
hi sunni and welcome to the forums...

the only easy or realistic notion in your first post is the toilet...

go with one like this...

cheers
2air'
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Old 05-03-2008, 07:00 PM   #7
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"Get over it"? The "only easy or realistic notion" is the toilet idea? Thanks so much for the encouraging welcome.

Paula, thank you very much for your comments; they are very helpful. Only western WA is rainy; the eastern part of the state is desert. I've been looking there (on Craigslist), and have seen some promising ads. My business is seasonal, so I have the summer to work on the trailer and find an off-site kitchen solution; your idea is brilliant and I'll check into the possibilities.

Fiamma, thank you also for your ideas, and all the links. I really appreciate your taking the time to compile that list.
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Old 05-03-2008, 10:16 PM   #8
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Hi Sunni,
Welcome to the forum. You doing your homework and that's good. You already have experiance making candy so you'll need to envision how little space you can get away with as it's easy to run out of room. You may find that an RV oven (without an upper heating element) may be a bit tricky for critical cooking. It doesn't sound like your kids live with you but rather may occassionally visit. You may find that you need to time that in the "not cooking" season for space reasons if not any of the other stated reasons. As tempting as solar might sound I suspect you'll find it to be a poor return which is why you don't see it much. A trailer that has spent it's life in eastern WA is likely to have much less rot and rust issues than a western trailer. Still check for water damage in the ussual places. Good luck.
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Old 05-03-2008, 10:36 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sunni
..1]. Am I being unrealistic with this plan?...
i don't see a 'plan' in the first post which is more of a brainstorm, and...

streams have thin skins, but that won't cut it for asking total newbie questions...

1. what is your budget, be specific.

2. the outhouse suggestion is no joke either...

3. also be A LOT more specific about the business side, candy is vague.

so answer 1 and 3, and here's a reading assignment...

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f446...let-35866.html

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f444...ence-8635.html

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f444...tion-8747.html

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f161...mag-11874.html

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f444...ons-31011.html

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f446...ment-7278.html

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f444...ole-25326.html

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f444...ank-17777.html

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f446...eas-15657.html

http://www.airforums.com/forums/84262-post9.html


cheers
2air'
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Old 05-03-2008, 10:48 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sunni
Hi,

I've been reading several threads here as a nonmember for the past couple of weeks, and I finally decided it's time to pipe up. I am pretty much a total Airstream n00b; I slept in a beautiful Airstream travel trailer a few years back and, having spent some time in other motor homes too, appreciated the quality of Airstream. And I've always loved the gleaming, rounded silver look of them. I read Carlos' long thread documenting his amazing transformation of a 60s Airstream, and am inspired by his beautiful work. I am not wealthy, not an artist, and not very handy with a lot of tools, however. Still, I am willing to learn and to cope with hammered thumbs and such. (Guess I'd better get that tetanus booster first, though! ) I also read the thread "How much space does a girl need?" all the way through, and that provided a lot of food for thought for me.

Here's my situation: I am looking for an older TT to renovate into my own living space. I will be living in it full-time, but will not be moving it very often, at least not at first. I have a small but growing candy-making business, and will need a decent kitchen with lots of counter and storage space for that. I'd like to have the flexibility for my children (10 & 8) to sleep in it with me if they want. Otherwise, my needs are few, and my preference is for simplicity and functionality. I would like to have solar power and a composting toilet, if possible.

As I'll be parking it outside my ex's house, having working systems (with the exception of heating/cooling) at the outset isn't critical. I'd like to be able to live in it as much as possible while working on the interior, though ... the house just isn't big enough for me to have my own room, and this gal needs her space! He has a Ford Explorer (2007 model, I think) and has said he's happy to tow home whatever I buy. I am planning to buy my own tow vehicle later, once the renovation is done.

I am not sure what size range of travel trailer I should focus on. I'm also not sure if I'll be getting in over my head with such a project! But I really do want a custom space and am willing to learn all I can to make that happen.

Here are my specific questions, and I appreciate any and all responses to them.

1]. Am I being unrealistic with this plan? (Should I buy a working TT first and get used to living in one, then start on the renovation project [with that TT or with a different one]?)

2]. What size range should I consider, given the current tow vehicle's capacity and my needs?

3]. What threads here would be most helpful for the design/renovation part of my project?

Thank you so much for your help, and for this amazing forum!
Welcome to the forums
Nice response to that rude post, Sunni....right to the point. That is not the norm here.

Speaking from my experience restoring an older trailer, it is not possible to work on the unit and attempt to use it for camping or as living space. Decorating, maybe, but once you start real restoration work it becomes a constuction site with dust, tools and multiple hazards to deal with.

Ask for a living space and a cooking operation, sounds really difficult. You mentioned counter space and storage as important items.....not available in any Airstream I have seen.

Size DOES matter......in your situation with kids and long term living needs.
If it is not travelling that much, look for a larger trailer. The larger models are often more reasonably priced also.

Most importantly, and you asked.......it is not realistic to buy an older trailer and spend large amounts of time and money restoring one when you can find a more recent model (last 15 years) that is in good operating condition that is ready or almost ready to use right away. Vintage restoration takes years of work and cost more than most of us would admit and would take most of the fun out of it if we did.
It is hard to get one thing do do many things well. Trailers are great for travelling, camping, OK as catering vehicles, then not any more as campers.

The Carlos project is major in scope and I suppose works for him as a travelling art studio/loft on wheels. I have the same model and use it as a travel trailer only. Combining use means compromising on the other purpose in a very small space.

Composting toilets.....I have no idea? But 2airs photo is a composting model, yes?
Keep reading renovation treads...lots of good..and bad ideas
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Old 05-09-2008, 11:20 AM   #11
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Narrowing things down, then.

Quote:
Originally Posted by safari62
Most importantly, and you asked.......it is not realistic to buy an older trailer and spend large amounts of time and money restoring one when you can find a more recent model (last 15 years) that is in good operating condition that is ready or almost ready to use right away. Vintage restoration takes years of work and cost more than most of us would admit and would take most of the fun out of it if we did.
It is hard to get one thing do do many things well. Trailers are great for travelling, camping, OK as catering vehicles, then not any more as campers.
Thank you! That answer all by itself is enormously helpful for me.

I've been thinking about my "brainstorm" and the responses from y'all here, and here are my current answers to 2air's questions:

Quote:
1. what is your budget, be specific.
I have around $15K cash to buy a trailer. I could finance a purchase, but I really prefer not to do that unless I absolutely have to ... and then I wouldn't be comfortable spending above $30K. Yes, I am a tightwad. I have been over my head in debt before and really don't want to do that ever again, and the current economic climate has me nervous.

I can realistically devote $500/month toward trailer repairs/mods.

Quote:
2. the outhouse suggestion is no joke either...
But it's not a towable solution to the problem. After reading several threads on the subject, I concede the issue.

Quote:
3. also be A LOT more specific about the business side, candy is vague.
I have already found a way to take the business off-site, as Paula suggested. Thanks, Paula!! Mostly I make truffles. Other than the candy molds and tempering machine for them, my products don't require specialty equipment.

More information: we live in a rural area, way outside the nearest town and on a private road. I don't think my living in a TT will be a problem.

I have been leaning toward longer models just because they mean more space. But my understanding is that a lot of that space is devoted to being able to sleep more people, which I don't need. So I will still need to change the interior some to make it more usable for my situation, no? And, isn't it generally true that older TTs are lighter than newer modelsódidn't they start getting heavy in the late 70s? With fuel costs going "up, up, and away", dry weight should not be a trivial consideration, it seems to me ...

Still thinking, looking, and learning ... thanks for the great help so far.
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Old 05-09-2008, 11:52 AM   #12
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agree

I will just follow with validating other posters, go big, 30 ft or more plus wide body, don't go vintage, 15 year old or less and don't expect to live in it while you are fixing it up. Try to find an Airstream where everything works. And most important, find a forum member with experience to check out any prospective unit BEFORE you buy. If you look at the member's profile there is a line that denotes that members willingness to "inspect", usually with some condition such as distance they will travel to help.

Great to see you found your commercial kitchen solution, because an Airstream just won't work for that unless it is dedicated to just that, meaning no living in it if it is a being used as a commercial kitchen.

Keep learning and asking.

Just a note...some folks are more direct with opinion than others, even though some comments may seem rude, usually they are just trying to keep you from making a mistake that they have experienced or have seen others make....
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Old 05-09-2008, 12:35 PM   #13
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Sunni, Check the current classifieds on this site. There is an '85 32' two door Excella advertised by a new forums member in NW Oregon. I've met the owner but have not seen his trailer. Judging from his TV and current Airstream, I'd say the '85 probably one of the best you'll find. I'd buy it except that it won't fit in my driveway! It's within your budget, too. Darol
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Old 05-09-2008, 12:44 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TIMEMACHINE

Just a note...some folks are more direct with opinion than others, even though some comments may seem rude, usually they are just trying to keep you from making a mistake that they have experienced or have seen others make....
Heh, delicately put. I love this statement.

I also agree with it. Some people are very dry and direct anyway, it is just their nature. But, when you add to that the stark nature of computer message board chat, with its lack of verbal and visual cues that help you interpret normal language, well, you have a recipe for the occasional unintended conflict.

Anyway, keep reading and learning and asking questions. I've spent a lot of time on computer message boards over the past two decades, as an owner, administrator, moderator, and merely as a simple user, and this one is by far the most helpful I've ever seen. The community is close and tight-knit but welcoming as well, without being overly cliquish. It's really a unique place.

Good luck and have fun!
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