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Old 10-06-2006, 04:20 PM   #1
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Airstream's built on a solid foundation? - NOT!

I just saw an Airsteam advertisement in Trailer Life magazine that proclaimed that Airstreams are "building on a solid foundation." The ad says "...these trailers couldn't be any stronger."

What a crock of misleading advertising!

I just toured several highly rated RV manufacturers (as rated by independent consumer groups). All of them were using some type of a single sheet of 5/8" OSB-type flooring that extended the entire length of the RV, which they claimed was for strength and durability, and it was bolted by carriage bolts to the frame. One of them told me theirs was manufactured by Weyerhouser, and guaranteed against warpage for 25 years.

I believe that my Airstream floor is 4'x8' sheets of plywood, and I'm not sure how, or if, it is secured to the frame. Airsteam's own service technician recently told me that the side of one plywood sheet on my trailer (at least) wasn't even secured to the frame when he replaced my floor vinyl recently, and my floor creaks and groans every time I step on it. He said he put in some additonal screws in it at the time - but one of these RV manufacture's I recently visited said that screws are prone to come loose over time.

Why doesn't Airstream make its trailer floors out of a single sheet of composit material extending the entire trailer length instead of 4'x8' sheets of plywood?

John
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Old 10-06-2006, 05:21 PM   #2
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John,
At least in my Airstream the plywood was fastened together which would give you the same principle as a single sheet. The Weyerhouser product is known as "structurwood" and isn't all it is supposed to be. I have a popup with the stuff in it. It's stronger, won't rot, yada yada. Well it did...rot and fail. Unfortunately the camper in question was a Fleecewood product so there basically was no warranty. As far as the missing fasteners in your unit, that it typically Airstream quality...no extra charge. Screw vs bolts is like arguing politics there are no clear winners. FWIW in the 70's vintage trailers the floor is held in with carriage bolts on the outriggers and a special screw thru the floor into the metal crossmembers. They definitely have not loosened up over time, in fact both of them had to be cut out to facilitate floor repairs.

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Old 10-06-2006, 06:34 PM   #3
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Arrow Rotting out floors

Hi Flyfisher and Aaron; While I agree with your complaint, the whole deal ends up in saving pennies by the manufacturers. At times it is unacceptable yet we choose to put up with it. If you gentelman think that such material does not belong in RV, try aluminum boats. Some of the manufacturers use roofing sheeting in a boat. As a rule the boat usually sits in a cool water with hot sun burning the carpet. Condensation galore! Few years later it needs a new floor. Instead of replacing them with standard exterior plywood we have experimented with composit plastics and other materials. Plastics were impossible to control in direct sun. Wrappage was ot of control and the idea was abandoned. We have found a product known as a Sign Board. It is a marine like plywood that is interbonded between two skins of aluminum. We decided to test it not being sure what effect will the elements and direct sun have on glue bonding the aluminum skins. To our surprise some floors last already ten years without any sign of decay or delamination. It must be kept in mind that this product is exposed to the most harsh environment.

Therfore, since I am in the process of restoring from ground up my 26' Argy.
I am dead serious about using it for the floor in my RV. This stuff in 5/8" is much stiffer than 3/4 ply. The most wonderfull part about it is that aluminum blocks the moisture from both sides. If you place a bedding tape in the joints and outside edges you have 100% waterproof floor. I will have one. Thanks for listening, "Boatdoc"
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Old 10-06-2006, 07:53 PM   #4
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boatdoc,

You have got the right idea. I believe there is also a material similar to Sign Board that uses honeycomb aluminum sandwiched by coated aluminum sheets. I cant remember the manufacturer (maybe Mitsubishi?), but I saw it at a trade show for the signage business several year ago. Maybe somone else in the forum knows more about it.

Oh yea, I agree, sometimes AS really blows some smoke up our ____ about the superior construction methods. But I still love my AS.

John
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Old 10-07-2006, 05:24 AM   #5
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Arrow Rotting out floors

Good morning John; To tell you the truth, we have experimented with many products of all sorts. I have been at it for 41 years. When it comes to aluminum honeycomb, I must agree that it has many advantages pending application and requirement. On the other side, we must also weigh out the negatives. First negative is the sky high price. Second one, is the limited applicability. Doorgunner cant attest to the issue with it's applicability. Aluminum honeycomb must be attached with special fasteners which are also expensive. My biggest concern with such application is frame flex. We have tried it in aluminum boats which flex to some extend. Even with special fasteners we have experienced problems with ovaled out holes
becoming loose at the attaching hardware contact area. The problem occured because of the flex within the aluminum boat. The friction caused by movement in the contact area's has worn out the panels right thru the thin skin. Where supported by small area, wear was accelerated. Becuse of its designed in rigidity, this type of panel cannot tolerate flexing. When the frame flexes diamensions change due to arching effect which pulls on the fasteners. Aluminum honecomb by design retains it's diamensions and when the flexing of the frame occurs the only thing can give, is the panel at the fasteners. It is however a wonderfull lightweight product for weight reduction for applications where flex or accidental punctures are avoidable.

Looking at the sign board and considering application requirements I think it is a best chioce for $ 90.00 per 4"x8" sheet. Tremendous rigidity and density of marine grade plywood meets all of the criteria for the floor. It will tolerate nominal flex and it has acceptable cross section density. It will not absorb water. To seal it from direct contact in the support areas, we use 3M Rubber Mastic Tape. #2228 is 2" wide and .065" thick, and boy**** DOES IT STICK !!!!!!!! and it is perfect for contact areas with the sealing the moisture from entering around fasteners. What else would we want? ***** maybe someone else to do it for us for free.
[just a joke] Thanks, "Boatdoc" 26' Argy.
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Old 10-07-2006, 11:02 AM   #6
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What is in the airstream is much better than OSB. OSb delaminates when wet. Airstream is at least using an exterior grade plywood.

Aluminum honey comb is a good idea but is susceptiable to "rot" as well. It will corrode when exposed to water/salts/ minerals. Edges need to be very carefully sealed.
Michelle the aircraft mechanic speaking...
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Old 10-07-2006, 11:16 AM   #7
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Volunteer ??

Hello boatdoc,

Did that sound like Michelle the aircraft mechanic was volunteering to be that mystical forum member who would help with installation for free?

Great info from both of you, when I am ready for a new floor, be prepared for my formal request for HELP.

John
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Old 10-07-2006, 01:52 PM   #8
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Well,
that depends on if I am free and how much one can intice me to show up.
My job here ends in November and I am looking for a warm place to spend the winter.
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Old 10-07-2006, 06:25 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thecatsandi
What is in the airstream is much better than OSB. OSb delaminates when wet. Airstream is at least using an exterior grade plywood.

Aluminum honey comb is a good idea but is susceptiable to "rot" as well. It will corrode when exposed to water/salts/ minerals. Edges need to be very carefully sealed.
Michelle the aircraft mechanic speaking...
Michelle -

I don't know about OSB delaminating - Weyerhouser says that its OSB Structurewood will not delaminate. Their statement to this effect is at: http://www.weyerhaeuser.com/ourbusin...hnical/faq.asp

I'm not convinced that using multiple sheets of plywood, which are not securely fastened together and/or to the frame at all of their edges is better than one single sheet of flooring material.

I owned two other travel trailers before getting an Airstream and neither of them had floors that sang songs (out of tune) when you walked on their floors like my Airstream does.

John
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Old 10-07-2006, 07:23 PM   #10
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John, Most of us have older Airstreams which necessarily calls for us to attempt our own repairs, but gosh, I believe if I was blessed with such a new unit as yours, I would have a trip by the factory, make an appointment with Schu, and see if I couldn't find out what the deal is. They may have stopped using it, but for a good while, the floors were tongue and groove, marine grade 5/8 plywood, and the ones I've worked on had more screw/bolts in them than I wanted to remove at the time! I do think they would want to help you find the problem.
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Old 10-08-2006, 08:40 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by steelbird312
John, Most of us have older Airstreams which necessarily calls for us to attempt our own repairs, but gosh, I believe if I was blessed with such a new unit as yours, I would have a trip by the factory, make an appointment with Schu, and see if I couldn't find out what the deal is. They may have stopped using it, but for a good while, the floors were tongue and groove, marine grade 5/8 plywood, and the ones I've worked on had more screw/bolts in them than I wanted to remove at the time! I do think they would want to help you find the problem.
BLESSED? Cursed is a better description.

We've made 5 trips to the factory in the past 2 years - all at our own expense - plus, we had terrible experiences with 2 Airstream dealers who were absolutely worthless. The first time I mentioned the floor squeeks to the factory service people their "fix" was to stuff added insulation in beneath the floor. My last trip there this past spring is when the factory service guy told me that one side of a plywood sheet had not been secured to the frame. He put screws in it and that fixed the squeeks in that area, but as soon as we started using the trailer after he fixed that area the squeeks and groans shifted to another spot a foot or so away, plus a couple other areas have begun making similar strange noises over the course of the summer.

My trailer reminds me of those kids' peg boards, where you pound down pegs on one side of the board, then turn it over and pound them back through from the other side. As soon as I think I've gotten all those pegs (problems) pounded down, there are just more problems surfacing in other areas.

I thought we had all of the problems resolved in our trailer at the start of this summer, and then it came close to burning down. I smelled a very strange smell in the bedroom, and then we lost all electric power in our trailer. It turned out that the generator transfer switch box (we have the remote generator plug, a factory option, on our trailer) installed under the bed had burned up. I later learned from a nearby dealer we took it to for repair, that it was caused by loose wiring - I can't proved this came that way from the factory, but after seeing some of the other shoddy wiring in my trailer, I'd bet that was the case.

John
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Old 10-08-2006, 10:14 AM   #12
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AS reminds me of Harley Davidson...BEFORE they "fixed" their product.

Harleys have always been more expensive than their competition but that is was OK since the brand brought other emotional benefits to a Harley owner. In the late '70s and early 80s...and continuing today...HD management determined that to keep this product premium they had to offer products that were at least as good (quality/reliability/features) as their competition. HD has invested slowly (but steadily!) in their product and now is as good or better as the competition as a quality reliable motorcycle. No flaming from any non-HD fans...and can maintain a significant brand premium.

My wife and I want to move toward an RV as we reduce our cross country motorcycycle touring (getting older...on the birthday list yesterday!)...and we both love the AS brand and history...along with the AS aluminum and shape. As with our HDs...we are willing to pay a significant premium for a quality AS.

However, my research (and lurking) causes great concerns about spending $80K-$100K for a new 30'-34' Classic Limited...I just don't think AS has
"fixed" the issues they have that are discussed in this thread and many others. There ARE other quality TTs...Titan/Arctic Fox/Bigfoot/Sunline and likely others...that sell in similar lenths and features for less than 50% of a comparable AS. If you want to "spend up" toward an AS price there is New Horizon. These SOB TTs match AS features and in the opinion of many are actually better in the quality/fit and finish arena.

Please don't take my message as trying to degrade AS...I would like to buy one!...If you can honestly say they have solved the issues of moisture intrusion and serious rust and floor rot from whatever causes it?

Most seem to feel the primary design flaw is the combination of plywwod flooring/"sponge" type under floor insulation, frame steel that is not adequately "treated" to resist the enevitable moisture and road/sea salt it is bound to expereince and finally a "belly" pan that retains the moisture that finds its way into the under floor frame area.

Amazing that the SOBs may have less frame rust/moistyre retention/floor rot issues because they do not put the "sponge" type insulation under the floor and the frame is exposed to the air...and can allow moisture to disipate and dry??

OK...that said...please tell me why I am wrong??? Please be factual and not emotional. What has AS done on a 2007 model to assure a new owner that you and very unlikely to have the problems that are surfaced here by owners of 2000 and later years ASs...let's ignore the older issues...not relevant to this question...except for what AS should have learned.

Thanks...Tom R in Two Harbors
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Old 10-08-2006, 11:29 AM   #13
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Tom R,
You are right about the fit and finish issues. I live about 1 mile from an A/S dealer and go over there to lurk sometimes, check out the new models. I am appalled at the lack of attn to detail in the new trailers - I think that issue has become worse in recent years. If I were to buy one now, the dealer would be replacing poorly cut, too short trim.

Having said that, I have never pulled an SOB that pulled as easy as either my '98 25' Safari did, or my current '72 21' GT. They just cut the wind better due to shape or whatever. I really noticed it when I changed from my old SOB to the Safari while towing with an undersized, underpowered vehicle.
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Old 10-08-2006, 04:37 PM   #14
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Arrow OSb.

Quote:
Originally Posted by thecatsandi
What is in the airstream is much better than OSB. OSb delaminates when wet. Airstream is at least using an exterior grade plywood.

Aluminum honey comb is a good idea but is susceptiable to "rot" as well. It will corrode when exposed to water/salts/ minerals. Edges need to be very carefully sealed.
Michelle the aircraft mechanic speaking...
Hi Michelle; The stuff I am talking about is not OSB. It is made by Omega Panel People company called Laminators Inc, small private entity. Product is designed to be used on Billboards [Outdors] it is 85% stronger than MSD and it is called Luster board/sign ply. Used it in boats many years now without delamination problems. Thank you, "Boatdoc"
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