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Old 02-17-2010, 03:21 PM   #1
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1977 27' Overlander
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To Gut or not to gut

I am really deliberating on whether to completely gut my airstream or not. My dilema is that it needs an interior paint job for sure. I'm not crazy about the configuration, it's a rear bath with twin beds in the center and the front. How easy is it to move the toilet and plumbing? Dare I tackle the Gut??
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Old 02-17-2010, 03:36 PM   #2
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Hello fellow Canadian!

I have seen a lot of "gutted" Airstreams for sale on eBay, Kijiji, etc. where owners had the ambition to start the "deconstruction", but failed to start the "reconstruction". Once gutted, they go real cheap...

I would suggest finding out from folks (on this site) who have been through the process you describe from start to finish how much it cost for parts & labour, how long it took, how it turned out, whether it was do-it-yourself work and whether or not their marriage survived the renovation.

You also commented that it needs paint - has the wallcovering been peeled off down to bare wood panelling? I'm not sure how easy it would be to successfully paint over top of the vinyl factory covering - again, some here will know an answer to that.

Also, I have the 1977 Owner's manual & service manual for Airstreams. I can email you electronic copies if you need them. Let me know.

Kevin
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Old 02-17-2010, 03:48 PM   #3
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Thanks Kevin! Some great advice..

I have both the service and original manuals though the previous owner made it clear to me that my Airstream is currently know where near that configuration! I have been glued to Kevin Tetz on the DIY Network who makes all of this restoration look so easy. I'm afraid that once I start I'll just get too impatient to get it finished. I hope not..The furnace is gone as well as a few other things so my thoughts are to pull it back to the walls and keep in real simple...hmmm, lots to think about.
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Old 02-17-2010, 04:01 PM   #4
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Make sure you count the cost . . . stuff may not go back the way it came out!!

Here are a couple threads you may want to read to help you in your decision:

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f348/fix-up-or-buy-new-32343.html
http://www.airforums.com/forums/f232/vintage-vs-new-21750.html
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Old 02-17-2010, 04:31 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Mitzi View Post
Thanks Kevin! Some great advice..

I have both the service and original manuals though the previous owner made it clear to me that my Airstream is currently know where near that configuration! I have been glued to Kevin Tetz on the DIY Network who makes all of this restoration look so easy. I'm afraid that once I start I'll just get too impatient to get it finished. I hope not..The furnace is gone as well as a few other things so my thoughts are to pull it back to the walls and keep in real simple...hmmm, lots to think about.
Kevin's videos are well done and informative but I noticed that he really omits or glosses over A LOT of the time-devouring details. I understand that this is necessary to make a good snappy video segment but I think it would be safe to add at least 30% more time (and probably that much more money too) to each project he tackles. Maybe more like 50%....75% ??

I learned a lot of home renovation skills from working with a good friend who's a contractor. His "philosophy" when approaching old house renovation work was to never destroy more than is necessary to get the job done correctly. A full-gut of an Airstream to tackle an interior paint job seems like over kill to me, personally, especially if the floors are sound.

Can you post any photos?
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Old 02-17-2010, 04:55 PM   #6
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Been there, done that (check my photo's).

You DO NOT want to gut your trailer if you just want to paint.

But if you do, it will cost big money, so you might as well do anything and everything while you have it down that far ... it's hard to stop once you get started!!

We estimated $4,000 - $5,000 to renovate ours and ended up re-doing everything, $40,000 later!

So how much more do you think you could sell your Airstream for AFTER the paint job, if you were to sell it? Yea, that may not be your intent, but you need to know, if you can't get your money back, that your efforts are a labor of love.

If only someone had enlightened me before I fell down that path!!!

What's a sheet of cabinet grade ply (1/8th, 1/4, 3/8ths, etc) now days? And how many sheets will you need if you have to rebuild a cabinet piece, or two, or.... to get things back in correctly?

And how much will it cost to rebuild the framework for the ply? How many board feet of solid 1x oak, or even worse (price wise) black walnut?

And one last thought: how many camping days are you willing to miss while you are doing all that work?
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Old 02-17-2010, 05:40 PM   #7
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Gutting a trailer is a very time consuming proposition. Putting things back in the original location is hard enough, but I truly can't imagine the time and effort and cost to move the bath. Paint it as is and you will have time to enjoy it. Another factor in a total reconfigure job is cost. How much of the cabinet making can you do, electrical, plumbing, etc. It cost a lot doing it yourself, trust me on that.
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Old 02-17-2010, 05:41 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Spiffy Gem View Post
...We estimated $4,000 - $5,000 to renovate ours and ended up re-doing everything, $40,000 later!

...

And one last thought: how many camping days are you willing to miss while you are doing all that work?
Truer words were never writ!

I've done [or am in the middle of redoing] five Airstreams. Every time I get mostly done I look back and say to myself I should have gutted it to start with. Trying to work around a few cabinets alway takes a huge amount of extra time. Sometimes I'll start on fixing just one thing and the next thing you know I've slowly discarded 90% of the insides and put in new, the whole time working around things trying to "save" them.

One thing I wouldn't recommend is moving the shower/toilet. It can be done, but it's no small job. That also goes for the fridge, if only because you now have to remove and patch the fridge vent and reinstall it some place else. Actually, that's not that bad a task, it just looks daunting.

As for cost, here's a gouge. Half-inch birch plywood is $55 per sheet. A dinette takes 3 sheets. A double bed takes two sheets. Sometimes you can get two partitions out of a sheet, but usually just one. You will wind up with at least 6 (both ends of the bed, both sides of the fridge, etc.). You'll be up to $1,000 in plywood, $500 in maple trim, and another $500 in varnish and hardware before you know it. And you need a wood working shop, at least a bandsaw, horizontal belt table sander, and table saw (at least that's what I need. One can do it with a saber saw, but not me.).

On the other hand, there's a lot of pride in having made it yourself, just like you like it (this attitude seems to put the beak on the folks who buy new and go camping immediately ).

Zep
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Old 02-17-2010, 06:20 PM   #9
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Nothing wrong with "gutting" it as long as you have a plan in mind. Take pictures of everything now as is and then carefully remove beds, cabinets, counters couch, fridge, etc. Take more pictures as you go along and store everything so that you can reinstall those items that you need.With everything out you can inspect the water lines, flooring, walls and make any repairs needed. You can also clean and paint those areas that need it as well.

I can't even speculate on the possibility of switching the rear bath to a center bat configuration. But maybe others will offer some input on this.

On my 1976 A/S when I bought it in 2000 it was it good overall condition for a trailer that had been sitting in a dirt field for 10 years. But it was dirty and all of the appliances, AC and furnace didn't work. My water lines must have had 20 or more holes in the copper pipes and all of the fixtures were bad.The drapes and material on the couch were dry rotted. So I brought it home and started taking things out. I made my repairs, cleaned it up real good, painted where it needed it and remodeled the trailer from front to back replacing the old Formica and carpet with wood floors, oak cabinets and Corian counter top. I replaced the old back breaker couch with leather recliners and installed new drapes. I added a few upgrades along the way in satellite TV, new axles with disc brakes, RV 500 tankless water heater, new AC, new fridge and a great bar with a pull out shelve.

All of this did not happen overnight, it has taken 10 years working on a few things at a time and I was still able to travel in between projects. I stopped keeping track of the cost a few years ago, but whatever you estimate, double it. But by doing the work yourself you will save a lot of money but it is time consuming. You need a place to work on the trailer and the tools do it with as well.

Here are a few pictures of the current results.

Don
1976 31' center bath Airstream Sovereign
Attached Files
File Type: pdf Don's 1976 Airstream.pdf (4.58 MB, 238 views)
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Old 02-17-2010, 06:56 PM   #10
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Just my two cents, but if I were to give advice it would be to focus on getting it weather tight first, then start furthest from the door and tackle about 8' of trailer at a time. Fix floor issues if there are any, and start refinishing/rearranging and working your way forward, so that you're only a few feet away from having something to go camping in. Otherwise you'll likely join the countless owners that gut with grand plans then figure out its more expensive and more time consuming than they expected. If our first trailer had been gutted like the 63 to be honest we'd probably have sold it before we finished it, because we wanted to camp!
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Old 02-17-2010, 07:27 PM   #11
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Hi Don,
In looking at your pics, I noticed that the new axles have disk brakes. What brand are they?
I am in the process of upgrading my '74 Argosy 26. In the next month or so I will have completed the upgrade of the Galley, Dinette and Bath. The Berthing area will have to wait until 2011. Still have some work to do on the gas lines and belly pan. Here are a few before and after pics. I have about $6,000 into it counting the cost of the trailer, taxes and license.
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Old 02-17-2010, 07:43 PM   #12
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Mitzi, something comes to mind. Airstream made a small amount of Overlanders with a center bath. I wonder if it would be easier (and maybe even quicker!) to hunt one of those down rather than rip apart yours. Likewise, there are plenty of 80s 25' trailers, or even some 28' Argosys, with a center bath arrangement.

I say this because I'm daydreaming about my next trailer - and realizing that making big changes costs a lot and takes a lot of time...

Tom
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Old 02-17-2010, 09:45 PM   #13
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If you want a hobby, a long term hobby, and have the facilities, then gut it and have fun renovating it. If you just want changes, then the first change is to change your mind, use the trailer and go camping. Compare five years of camping vs. five years of a hobby renovating your trailer. Better, buy a second trailer. That way you can have your hobby and camp too. Good luck. Have fun either/both ways.
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Old 02-17-2010, 09:47 PM   #14
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Mitzi's Airstream Photo's

Thanks to all who provided such great insight and recommendations.

Attached are photo's of my current Airstream...any other opinions are most appreciated!
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