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Old 05-27-2009, 08:28 PM   #1
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Help in fixing leaks during frame up restore

I am in the process of performing a frame up restoration on my '69 Sovereign. After powder coating the frame and replacing the floor panels, I am of the assumption that completely fixing the shell would be the next step. Many of the window frames(not window seals) have leaks and a number of seams on the exterior sheeting have leaks(mostly where sheets attach to ribbing). Visibly you can see a discoloration at seems and ribbing where water has made it inside the shell.

Now we're not talking huge leaks, but enough that in a good rain the leaking areas produce enough that the sub flooring shows signs of water. I am wondering if there is a tried and true way of seal coating the interior before wiring and insulating that will stand the test of time.
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Old 05-27-2009, 09:40 PM   #2
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If you plan to seal the exterior seams, I would use parbond, acryl-r, alcoa gutter sealant, or vulkem in a syringe.

You could really do the same with interior seams if the interior panels are out.

Good luck,

Steve
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Old 05-27-2009, 10:15 PM   #3
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a more detailed explanation

Thanks for the info Soldiermedic.

I am definitely new to AS restoration, yet I have put in enough hours on this old girl to get a good lesson in Vulcam application. I have replaced a number of windows(without issue yay!) and have replaced many a rivet with the Olympic type. Most of the loose rivets were definitely caused by people climbing on the roof. The areas where I see leakage seem to be at places along the ribbing or studs where the original interior sealents were not thoroughly applied. I have no dought that AS did a good job, but it looks like poor application tequnique none the less.

At this point in the project I have removed all the interior skin panels and am getting ready to remove the front and rear interior fiberglass sections. All plumbing, wiring, and fiberglass has been removed. I plan to pressure wash the interior this weekend. I have some time while the frame gets powdercoated to plan for new subflooring and then attack the waterproofing. I was hoping to find a solution on the lines of a spray on coating that can be applied to the inside of the shell that would solve leakage issues.

Many people have writtin of a technique involing the pressurizing of the AS to find leaks. Do you think that this same method could be applied while spraying the interior, forcing the sealent into the leaks.
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Old 05-28-2009, 08:47 AM   #4
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Ira,

I actually offer the pressurizing service for trailers, but don't think that a reverse system would be easy or practical. Your leak areas are probably much smaller than you are thinking, and from my experience, a lot of water can come from a small hole.

Also make sure to check your roof vents, sewer vent gaskets, and all the window gaskets as they are a huge leak source.

You can find a local vendor who does the pressure test once you check everything else, and you may be surprised with the amount of leak repair needed.

Steve
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Old 05-28-2009, 11:14 AM   #5
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Elastomeric liquid rubber

Although enthusiasts seem to stick with the tried and true sealant options(vulcam, etc.), I can't help but wonder if there is an option that could permanently stop leaks in an Airstream. I have been batting around ideas for awhile now and I think that I may have come up with the answer. This is not to say that someone else has not already found the answer or found that I am dead wrong. This is where the great knowledge of this large community will surely help.

After calling multiple AS dealers and Airstream direct, I have learned that the aluminum expands and contracts during temperature changes. So whatever I use to waterproof the interior, it must be flexible! Also, the sealant must bond to aluminum and polyurethane based products. There is an elastomeric product called Ames blue max liquid rubber that will bond to aluminum and polurethane based products that is used in projects ranging from foundation waterproofing to pond liners that is lightweight, 800% flexible and mold/mildew resistant. After curing, it can stand pressures up to 100 psi(not that this would be necessary). More importantly, it is water based and contains 1g voc per liter. They claim NO offgassing after curing, completely non-toxic. It does not stand up to UV rays very well, but as an interior waterproofer, I do not see sunshine being a problem. If it took 10 gallons, you would add 100lbs to the dead weight of the trailer. This barrior would also help to prevent sweating inside the walls of the trailer.

Now it may sound like I am sold on the product, but I am not as of yet. I would really like to hear some input on this idea. Total cost of this product would not exceed $400.00. Here is a link to their site, check if out if you have a moment and tell me what you think.

Basement Leak Repair, Basement Waterproofing, Basement Waterproofing Sealer & Paint

Thanks All!!
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Old 05-28-2009, 12:21 PM   #6
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This may be a good idea, but it's hard to know if it will be worthwhile until someone tries it. I would be surprised if it works better than vulkem. The original black tar-like sealant sprayed on the inside of the shells for some years doesn't seem to do anything to prevent leaks either. At least mine sure didn't.
I will be using vulkem on the seams inside and outside of the shell to better protect against future leaking. I understand that it helps to have the vulkem warm, and I'm also looking into a pneumatic caulking gun to help with the application. The original vulkem in the seams of my shell, which is 45 years old last month, is still flexible and very sticky.

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Old 05-28-2009, 12:40 PM   #7
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After chatting with Soldiermedic and reading what you posted, I certainly would not argue that vulcam works well. I hesitate to be the guinea pig on this one, but maybe in order to prevail I must bite the bullet. I would like to hear more on this topic, maybe someone out there has tried this out or has some kind of experience with rubber membrane products. It's tough, the product seems to be the fix-all, but you just never know without real experience. I suppose I could hit all seams with the vulcam and then spray the interior. If nothing else, maybe the application would help with condensation issues.

Keep em coming friends, I am interested in anyones advice and experience.
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Old 05-28-2009, 01:27 PM   #8
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I may be mis-informed on this, but my understanding about condensation is that the more you seal a structure, the more condensation you will get.
I'm also working on a plan to direct water that does penetrate the outer shell so that it won't end up on the interior floor. IMHO this is something Airstream should have addressed 50 or 60 years ago. It is a poor design that allows every leak to potentially cause significant structural damage.
Same thing with the banana wraps going on the outside of the skins above them. This is designed to channel water into the bellypan, instead of shedding it, causing the insulation and frame and sometimes the floor, to rot away prematurely.
These are two of the most common problems associated with older Airstreams and I intend to eliminate them both from my future.

Keep up the good work!
Rich
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Old 05-28-2009, 03:19 PM   #9
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Rich,

The belly pan on my 53 tucks under the outside skin thus preventing water from entering the pan.

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Old 05-28-2009, 04:12 PM   #10
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Well, they must have gotten a little more ignorant of this in the early sixties! I was quite surprised when I found it that way. Actually, the bellypan tucks under, but the banana wraps at the front corners are on top of the skins above them.
There was much evidence of water in the bellypan, the insulation was so far gone I was able to remove it all with a shop vac, and the bottom of the plywood subfloor was uniformly rotted all over. The frame was in fair condition considering the rest of what I found down there.
I read somewhere that the bellypans were not made to be watertight so any moisture that got inside would be able to escape. This is just not the case. The pan is not uniformly flat, causing water to pool in the pan in many areas. I found black rot and mushrooms in mine.
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Old 05-28-2009, 06:30 PM   #11
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flashing and condensation

I looked over my '69 sovereigns outer skin and noticed that the aluminum does flash properly. Sheets are fastened from the bottom up. The interior skin flashes in a fashion to keep condensation drips inside the wall. The steel screws that attach the c channel to the floor are rusted beyond recognition and the flooring under the c channel is rotted out. So in order to keep water and moisture out of the living space, they had to sacrifice longevity of the floor system. I hope I just made sense.

I have a close friend who has been an engineer for near as long as I have been alive. This gentleman has extensive experience in building custom boilers and A/C units. After a nice long conversation, I gather that utilizing modern chemistry to solve some of the problems that most seem to experience is a must if you have the funds. I believe that after replacing loose rivets and damaged panels, vulkem(tried and true) should be used on the interior along seems and ribbing. After doing this I gather that the elastomeric membrane(which bonds to poly based products) will help to eliminate condensation inside the wall while helping to waterproof. Finally, when it's time for insulation, icynene foam would be a great option. Mice do not like the stuff, no off gassing, drains water and is mildew and mold resistant. Not to mention that 1 1/2 inches of icynene is near equivanent to 4 inches of fiberglass. By insulating the AS in this fashion, the only time condensation should occur in the living space would be when humidity is high and the aluminum is cool. So close up the AS and turn on the heat or the A/C depending on the time of year. Problem solved???

I would still really like to hear more opinions and options while considering these issues. I thank all who have offered their experience and opinions.
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Old 08-04-2009, 10:22 PM   #12
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I would think that it would be a great enhancement sealing our airstreams...I am seriously thinking of trying this stuff...
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