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Old 07-18-2007, 03:45 PM   #1
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Re-engineering for semipermanent installation

Hi - My name is Vic and I am not an owner . . . yet. I have been looking at Airstream Trailers for some time as possible full time dwelling. I am drawn to their compactness, elegance and "light" environmental foot print - this latter characteristic, it seems to me, is especially true of used trailers which have already been manufactured.

I will not be using the trailer as a "travel" trailer per se and while I might relocate the unit from time to time I am willing to sacrifice some of the mobile characteristics of the trailer for full time, especially winter, suitability.

Thus my question - Is there an existing thread or other source of information that deals with more radical modifications to an Airstream to make it full time livable? One of the major problems seems to be condensation. Seems to me if you increased the air flow significantly with a relatively small central heating unit mounted seperately from the trailer with sufficient capacity to heat the increased air volume this problem would go away. One might even consider elevating the trailer and puting a small furnace underneath. Do Airstreams have return air systems? Has anyone ever installed one?

I will check out the information that apparently lies some where in this forum on bubble wrap insulation. Are there advantages to starting from a empty trailer? Can you remove the inner walls or blow foam in whatever dead space exists between the aluminum skin and the interior?

Does anyone make double glazed windows for these things?

I know there are a lot of questions here but any comments will be appreciated. Guidance in my research is also welcome.

VGA
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Old 07-18-2007, 03:59 PM   #2
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Alaskan Airstream

I saw an Alaskan Airstream with thick, heavy insulation. Cool.
You also bring up a good point about recirculating air to remove the moisture because of condensation by the water vapor expressed during breathing and sweating.
A/c's and dehumidifiers can take the water out but with heating I think venting is key. Some wasted heat carries water vapor out with it.
Do you remember the houses that rotted because they did not have vapor barriers in the super insulated houses of the 70's and 80's? I do.
Aluminum Airstreams have plywood floors and steel frames. Mold and bacteria thrive in closed warm moist environments. There is a balance somewhere.
When we camped out one winter we had bales of hay and plastic around the base and vents cracked. I think it all depends upon how much time and/or money you spend on the project.

R
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Old 07-18-2007, 04:21 PM   #3
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Hi Vic,

Welcome to the forums. You might consider a park model like some of the old Spartans. I have seen a couple of very nice restorations, and they were built for what you want in the first place.

Vaughan
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Old 07-18-2007, 04:21 PM   #4
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Welcome to the Forums. We are glad to have you with us.
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Old 07-18-2007, 04:31 PM   #5
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I know where you live...

If you're near the coast, winter living isn't all that big of a deal. I live in Virginia Beach and last winter used my furnace (as opposed to the heat pump side of the A/C) for about 3 weeks total.

Unless you're in the mountains or plan to go farther north, you really don't need to go through "the full monte" rebuilding one from the frame up, just to get "green". Of course if you choose vintage with the specific idea of modernizing I'd say GO FOR IT. There's no better time to put in all of the bells and whistles.

The other part is a simple truth - nothing lasts forever - even the pyramids are showing some significant wear. I admire those who build their dream Airstreams, but after having a home that was a constant fixer upper for 24 years, I'm into LIVING in it not redoing it. To each his/her own though.

If you full time, appliances will wear out. Most people DON'T full time in trailers or even mohos, so they aren't built to withstand 365 day living. Frankly I'd expect the water heater to be first with the stovetop being second. The water heater is six gallons so if I average 20 each day, that's 3-4 complete cycles daily. I generally take very good care of my stove, but during a recent rally I left a bit of burned on food on the stainless steel that surrounds the burners - didn't scrub it all off til I got back to VA. I was disappointed to see that there were some very small pits - with a tendency to rust - in the top where the acid from the tomato sauce had done it's thing. It's a cheapy - and they make millions of them so one day when I'm near the local salvage yard, I'll liberate either a whole new 3 burner stove or at least the stainless steel top. I've never beent there when there wasn't a trailer or moho less than six months old sitting totalled.

Oh, and WELCOME... there are only two kinds of people on the planet, Airstreamers and Future Airstreamers... my friend you've been infected with "aluminitis". It's incurable.

Paula Ford
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Old 07-18-2007, 05:48 PM   #6
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Airstreams are not the best-insulated trailers available, but they are more suited for cold-weather use than many realize and some models are probably better than others. We spend much of September in West Yellowstone, Montana where night-time temperatures commonly are in the 20's. Perhaps our experience with those cold nights might help you.

The insulation in our Bambi is good enough that the outside is covered in frost in the morning after a night with inside temperatures of 60-62 degrees. The trailer is a Safari model with the fuzzy covering on the interior walls which probably helps insulate and reduces wall-condensation. We keep interior condensation to a minimum by keeping one roof vent and one window at least cracked open no matter what the outside temperature. The resultant chimney effect with the warm, inside air quickly circulates moisture out and fresh air in. Thoughtful use of the bathroom vent with the door closed also helps.

Perhaps someone does make doublepane windows which could be used (most European trailers have them). We have the cheaper (?) Hehr windows which have mostly fixed panes with smaller opening flaps. Using clear polycarbonate sheet we have double-paned the non-opening parts of our windows. The space between glass and plastic is about 1/4 inch and does breath slightly. The result is very little or no condensation on the double-paned parts of the windows and a quieter interior.
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Old 07-18-2007, 05:55 PM   #7
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I assume that Spartan is another brand of trailer. I'll check it out. Otherwise, what is a "park" model? Does or did Airstream make such a product?

VGA
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Old 07-18-2007, 06:05 PM   #8
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There are many companies making true "Park Models" I think they are limited to 400sq ft and have wheels, are toewable but made to be permanently located. I think I have a picture of one with some attachments. The large Spartans were built as Park models. The main structure in the picture is what would be towed to your site. The addition on the right in the picture was added after the Park Model was situated on the site. Also know as RV cabins..
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Old 07-18-2007, 06:18 PM   #9
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Rivet Spartan Trailers

Quote:
Originally Posted by vangle
I assume that Spartan is another brand of trailer. I'll check it out. Otherwise, what is a "park" model? Does or did Airstream make such a product?

VGA
Hi,

Spartan was another, but still interesting, company. Since the trailers weren’t intended as campers, they are larger. Not bad if you rarely move and live in it.

The “Park Model” means that it didn’t have water or holding tanks. I was meant to be used where these facilities, water and sewer, were available.

The one I am most familiar with had a bedroom at each end and floor to ceiling windows with a sliding door in the living room galley area. The galley was a large curve opposite the windows, and there was a small head inside the wide end of the curve. All birch interior. Everything was polished, wood refinished, and new wood floors put down. Very nice.

Here is a link to a Spartan restoration website:

http://spartantrailer.com/

But, hey, I live in a 34’ Excella myself.

Vaughan
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Old 07-18-2007, 06:36 PM   #10
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Rivet Further Spartan Info

Quote:
Originally Posted by vswingfield
The one I am most familiar with had a bedroom at each end and floor to ceiling windows with a sliding door in the living room galley area. The galley was a large curve opposite the windows, and there was a small head inside the wide end of the curve. All birch interior. Everything was polished, wood refinished, and new wood floors put down. Very nice.

http://spartantrailer.com/
The one I was describing was a Crescendo. I neglected to mention that it was a 1.5 bath as the attached floorplan shows.
Vaughan

Quote:
1959 marked the final year of production. At this time Spartan had a very extensive line of trailers with 19 models. The largest reaching 10 feet wide by 50 feet long. A fleet of 29 2-ton Internationals was used to deliver these large homes. Among this line up Spartan introduced the "Crescendo" and the "Carousel" two trailers with ultra modern 50's styling and never before seen curving floorplans. Sadly this would be the last of the Spartans produced.
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Old 07-18-2007, 10:16 PM   #11
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quite a few of the units came with double pane (pain) windows that are well known for having internal leak problems. We use a de-humidifyer for a comfortable humidity level but it doesn't have to work very hard in the winter. I suspect it will be hard to seal up a unit to a point where some reasonable exchange of air isn't automatic. Then again, Mississippi winters arn't that bad...
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