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Old 04-24-2019, 09:58 PM   #1
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1989 32' Excella
Raleigh , NC
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89 Excella with rotten floors -- what to do?

Hello! I am new to the forums and looking for some advice.

Last summer, my grandfather passed along his beloved '89 Excella Airstream trailer to us. We were ecstatic to have it, bought a vehicle to tow it (that happened to have an Airstream stripe on it (though we didn't know that until someone at Grandpop's campground told us)) and managed to make it from NJ to NC only making one wrong turn that put us in the middle of DC at rush hour. It was all meant to be!

On our first camping trip with it, we realized that going up a mountain with our very long trailer and old vehicle was more involved than we thought. And then it leaked in the rain. So we resealed it all. And then we realized that the floor under the beds was completely rotten from a much longer leak. So then we got all of the furniture out to replace the floor. And now we have a semi-gutted trailer and are realizing we might be in over our heads.

Our questions:
  • Do we need to replace the entire floor, or could we focus on the back where the rot is the worst?
  • To replace the floor, do we have to take out all of the interior panels?
  • If we have to take everything out, how hard is it to safely reinstall the gas stove, etc?
  • Is it realistic to do this as total novices?
  • How do you value and sell a trailer that has these issues as-is?

We were so gung-ho when we got the trailer, but the realities of having a limited budget and a toddler really have us second guessing whether this is the trailer for us. Your advice would be so very appreciated.
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Old 04-24-2019, 10:08 PM   #2
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You can do the repairs without gutting out a lot of stuff. As long as the frame is not rotted out, there is plenty to support the new floor.....just cut out as much as you can, repair it as neatly and tightly as you can, use plenty of sealant to seal up what you cannot get perfect, and go enjoy your Airstream. The good thing about an Airstream is that doing repairs is not like throwing money down a hole....as it would be in any other camper.....
I would clean and paint the frame in the repair area while the floor is out, just because you can, and if it has been leaking it is probably rusty down there......Thats easy tho....
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Old 04-25-2019, 12:13 AM   #3
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welcome to the forums! you can replace just the rotted areas of your floor. pull out just what you need to to cut-out/replace the floor. it is not to hard for us newbies. i had 2 small places in my 80 careville. mine was easier because the trailer was gutted. still go slow and you will find it not so hard. good luck and keep us posted. kurt
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Old 04-25-2019, 05:56 AM   #4
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1989 32' Excella
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ke6gkv View Post
welcome to the forums! you can replace just the rotted areas of your floor. pull out just what you need to to cut-out/replace the floor. it is not to hard for us newbies. i had 2 small places in my 80 careville. mine was easier because the trailer was gutted. still go slow and you will find it not so hard. good luck and keep us posted. kurt
Thank you so much for this vote of confidence!

We went ahead and cut out all of the carpet except for in places that are under appliances and fixtures we did not yet remove (closet, kitchen cabinets). When you replaced sections, how did you deal with the floor covering?

Our idea was to keep the carpet under those things (we heard it would travel quieter, though we weren't sure why it mattered since no one will be in there while it's moving... I guess it's just good cushion so it's not all rattling around?) and just use trim around the edges of the laminate wood floor we plan to install. Does that sound like it would work?

I appreciate your advice so, so much! Thank you!
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Old 04-25-2019, 06:51 AM   #5
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1989 32' Excella
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mkcurtiss View Post
You can do the repairs without gutting out a lot of stuff. As long as the frame is not rotted out, there is plenty to support the new floor.....just cut out as much as you can, repair it as neatly and tightly as you can, use plenty of sealant to seal up what you cannot get perfect, and go enjoy your Airstream. The good thing about an Airstream is that doing repairs is not like throwing money down a hole....as it would be in any other camper.....
I would clean and paint the frame in the repair area while the floor is out, just because you can, and if it has been leaking it is probably rusty down there......Thats easy tho....
Oh my goodness, thank you so much for the advice! I am waking up to renewed hope for this!

But, as they say, no good deed goes unpunished, so let me pepper you with 20 more questions...

Can we skip taking out the walls, then, if we get the new subfloor flush with the wall and use sealant at the edges?

And since we've pulled the carpet out, is it okay to leave carpet under the hall closet, water heater, kitchen counters and big structures we did not remove and put a lightweight wood laminate in the rest? I guess we would use molding around the things we can't get under to make it look nice.

Going to scour the forums for floor replacement threads (the wealth of knowledge here is incredible!) unless you know of a good one?

Also, I am trying to figure out how to post pictures, so I hope this will work and you can see what we're talking about in the back. We can see the ground through some of it... yikes!


Here are a few shots, just in case that didn't work.

Thank you so much!
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Old 04-25-2019, 07:00 AM   #6
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You really should remove the lower skins to properly repair the floor.

Here is how I fixed my '91

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f36/...oor-54952.html
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Old 04-25-2019, 07:22 AM   #7
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I have done a couple of floors.
I would remove just enough of the interior lower skins. Also you will need access to from the exterior so be prepared to drop the belly pan and some lower skins.
If you are a bit handy this is a DIY job.
A few items are needed:
- patience and commitment, this isn't a big dollar job, it is a time consuming job to do it correctly. My wife took care of our baby which allowed me to concentrate on the trailer and knocked the job out. My daughter just turned 10 but we are on our 3rd Airstream.

- new plywood - the new plywood must fit inside of the lower c-channel. There are elevator bolts on the c-channel (this is why you need access behind the panels and below the floor)
- you may need some new self tapping floor screws (vintage trailer supply)
- 1/8" pop rivets (interior skins), large flange pop rivets for the belly pan and pop rivet gun
- sealant Sikaflex 221 to keep water from infiltrating from around the bumper area


I'm sure there is more but that's all I can think of at the moment. Continue to search the forum threads or PM me with questions.
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Old 04-25-2019, 07:30 AM   #8
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Know that if you leave the carpet (and subfloor) in those places, you run the risk of ongoing decay, which might include mold. That said, you will be able to *use* the trailer, rather than just having a *project* for the next two years.


Also, consider vinyl flooring (usually called LPV - luxury vinyl plank), as it will hold up much better than laminate wood and installs the same (click lock).



The endeavor you are asking about is a huge one, but you have the benefit of starting out with a "free" Airstream. You might think about using it this summer and fall to see if you enjoy the lifestyle and the layout/functionality of this particular model, then perhaps sell this one and "upgrade" to one in better condition so you can spend more time camping and less time restoring.



Or... roll up your sleeves and prepare for a *lot* of (rewarding) work!
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Old 04-25-2019, 08:31 AM   #9
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I'll be the voice of caution.

Doing the floor replacement is not rocket science. The vast majority of those of us who have rennovated trailers started out as novices as well, and learned as we went. That said, the trailers were not built in such a way that replacing the subfloor is easy (the floor is sandwiched between the shell and the frame, thus requiring you to access the bolts from above and below, resulting in you having to remove the lower interior skins and the edges of the belly-pan).

You may be able to see the frame in the rear just looking down through the rotten holes in the floor. Take a good look at it. In many cases the rear-most cross-member has rusted almost completely away, and frame repair is needed in addition to the floor replacement. Remember, this is a 30 year old trailer that has evidently been leaking and rotting for a long time.

The springyness in your axles is created by rubber rods that age out in ~25 years, so you will need to replace your axles at some point as well. Again, not rocket science, but it is heavy lifting, and the axles themselves will run you ~$1500+ depending on supplier.

My recommendation to you would be to go to the Portal tab of these forums, scroll down and keep your eyes to the right and look for the Trailer Inspector's Checklist. Go through your trailer with the checklist. This will help you to more thoroughly evaluate the overall condition of the trailer, and what all needs to be done. Next, make an estimate of the time and cost of doing the needed repairs. The search function is your friend, there are threads covering literally everything you are up against.

Now you will be ready to make the decision--do you want to go camping, or spend your time (and money) repairing a trailer?

I was well on my way to completing a rebuild of my trailer and then we had a baby. He is 3 yrs old now, and my work on the trailer has slowed to a crawl.

So if you decide this isn't the trailer for you, what do you do? First, don't disassemble it any further. The trailer is moveable as it is, but if you disconnect the shell from the frame and get half way through the floor repair, the trailer is not going to be safe to tow anywhere in that condition.

Figure out what the trailer is worth by looking at comparable completed listings on eBay, current ads on Craigslist, and the various RV sales sites. The truth is, that practically every trailer that is as old as yours needs all the same things your trailer needs. So even though you have discovered a rotten floor, I would say that its value is still on par with the other ones for sale. Yes, you are going to have to find a buyer who is looking for a project, but there are plenty of us out there.

Good luck!
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Old 04-25-2019, 09:44 AM   #10
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Some years ago I owned an '89 Excella. The next owner is still using it...very pleased with his 30 year old AS. I wish we hadn't sold it!

P&S Trailer Service back then said the '89 is one of the most sought after trailers (that was 2012). I wouldn't be worrying about carpet under things you can't access unless there is evidence of it being wet. Most trailers I see that have had "professionally" installed new flooring, just have the carpet cut back as far as accessible and new floor covering installed. Your rear floor rot is probably from the seam at the back above the Bumper. It is a well know leak and starts the floor rot from the back wall forward. You should also suspect the rear window frame. I'm no expert on fixing the floor, but as I recall others have worked the wood out from under the sill and cut and pushed the new floor back under it. It would seem to me that as noted above, you will need access to the bolts that hold the sill in place, and since, assuming you have a rear bed or rear twins, the back of the trailer is covered by bed and cabinetry then you can cut access holes in the skin above the sill, and then cover them with a strip of Aluminum riveted to the ribs to re-establish the strength that the interior skin provides to the overall rigidity of the shell and frame. Treat the plywood you use to replace the floor with any good sealant. I like straight epoxy that soaks into the wood edges. There are water resistant wood choices out there also

When you get it finished, don't seal the seam at the back. P&S recommended that the seam be well oiled several times a year. Sealing can't stop all the water in a complicated joint, but oil repels any water that gets in.
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Old 04-25-2019, 10:02 AM   #11
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Does the rot go under the outer walls? If so, how much? Is the rot black and kinda flaky, or wood-not-there rot?

I couldn't see any pics from your link. If you want to upload pics, under Additional Options, click on Manage Attachments. Should be easy after that.

First off, loose the carpet! That stuff is sooo nasty! If you bought a house with 1989 carpet in it, it would be gone in a second, right? I'm with kidjedi, using some sort of vinyl is the best way to go. I did a bamboo floor in mine, and you can read about me weeping about the terrible performance in numerous posts. It is pretty though...

Back to your subfloor. I agree with all those that say you should peel back the lower inner skins, cut a big piece of marine ply and replace the bolts that squeeze the C-channel, subfloor and trailer frame. However... if you replace the floor in like 12" sections, you can probably pry up the wall with a wonder bar, slip the offending piece out, and slip/beat the nice new plywood in. Be sure to seal all edges with a penetrating sealant, and lots of caulking wherever you can. Use more plywood under the joints to sister the seams so that your floor is strong. This isn't the most optimum way to go, but if the rot isn't so bad, it'll get you down the road.

One other thing to be aware of- your 32' isn't the most desirable length. The little ones fetch the most money, so don't base your value on the prices of old Bambis or Globetrotters.
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Old 04-25-2019, 10:27 AM   #12
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1990 29' Excella
Stone Mountain , Georgia
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Excellante View Post
Hello! I am new to the forums and looking for some advice.

Last summer, my grandfather passed along his beloved '89 Excella Airstream trailer to us. We were ecstatic to have it, bought a vehicle to tow it (that happened to have an Airstream stripe on it (though we didn't know that until someone at Grandpop's campground told us)) and managed to make it from NJ to NC only making one wrong turn that put us in the middle of DC at rush hour. It was all meant to be!

On our first camping trip with it, we realized that going up a mountain with our very long trailer and old vehicle was more involved than we thought. And then it leaked in the rain. So we resealed it all. And then we realized that the floor under the beds was completely rotten from a much longer leak. So then we got all of the furniture out to replace the floor. And now we have a semi-gutted trailer and are realizing we might be in over our heads.

Our questions:
  • Do we need to replace the entire floor, or could we focus on the back where the rot is the worst?
  • To replace the floor, do we have to take out all of the interior panels?
  • If we have to take everything out, how hard is it to safely reinstall the gas stove, etc?
  • Is it realistic to do this as total novices?
  • How do you value and sell a trailer that has these issues as-is?

We were so gung-ho when we got the trailer, but the realities of having a limited budget and a toddler really have us second guessing whether this is the trailer for us. Your advice would be so very appreciated.
____________
We have a 1990 Excella 29 manufactured 12/89 with rear twins bought in 2009. It had rear floor water damage and some at the front curb under sofa. I removed the beds and dresser in rear and took photos at every step. I removed the sofa in the front and the TV cabinet, the writing desk and the eating table and ripped out the carpet.

We made an appt with P&J Airstream repair in Helena OH (Google them) and insisted on marine grade plywood. They replaced the floor where need, I paid them and came home to Georgia and put down new vinyl board flooring and I reinstalled the beds and couch. P&J do this floor replacement every week and know exactly what to do and how to do it. Ten years later I am still glad I had them do it. The new floor pieces needs to be bolted to frame where the old floor was and the outside edge needs to fit into and securely engage the perimeter U channel frame. It is worth the money and Im pretty handy with tools. Jackson Center could also do it for longer wait and probably more money. Good luck.
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Old 04-25-2019, 11:27 AM   #13
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1989 32' Excella
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SuzyHomemakr View Post
Does the rot go under the outer walls? If so, how much? Is the rot black and kinda flaky, or wood-not-there rot?

I couldn't see any pics from your link. If you want to upload pics, under Additional Options, click on Manage Attachments. Should be easy after that.

First off, loose the carpet! That stuff is sooo nasty! If you bought a house with 1989 carpet in it, it would be gone in a second, right? I'm with kidjedi, using some sort of vinyl is the best way to go. I did a bamboo floor in mine, and you can read about me weeping about the terrible performance in numerous posts. It is pretty though...

Back to your subfloor. I agree with all those that say you should peel back the lower inner skins, cut a big piece of marine ply and replace the bolts that squeeze the C-channel, subfloor and trailer frame. However... if you replace the floor in like 12" sections, you can probably pry up the wall with a wonder bar, slip the offending piece out, and slip/beat the nice new plywood in. Be sure to seal all edges with a penetrating sealant, and lots of caulking wherever you can. Use more plywood under the joints to sister the seams so that your floor is strong. This isn't the most optimum way to go, but if the rot isn't so bad, it'll get you down the road.

One other thing to be aware of- your 32' isn't the most desirable length. The little ones fetch the most money, so don't base your value on the prices of old Bambis or Globetrotters.
Hello! Thank you so much for the picture tip. I think it's working now!

So, the rot goes from wood-not-there to the flaky kind with some "wood soup" in between.

And I mistyped earlier (novice building vocabulary, to boot!) the floor we got is actually the vinyl "wood" floor that clicks together that kidjedi mentioned, so at least there's that!

Thanks, too, for the tip about the length. The trailer is great for what my grandparents used it for, which was relocating to FL for the winter and basically having their whole house with them, but it is pretty long for weekend "camping" trips.

Still digesting all of the amazing information that is here. Thank y'all sooooo much for the help!
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Old 04-25-2019, 11:36 AM   #14
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1969 18' Caravel
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Decision Time.

Welcome to Airstream!

You are in a situation that differs from most of us here that have a serious condition colloquially known as "aluminumitus" -- we love AS trailers and the AS lifestyle of getting out and "glamping" in style.

You have inherited a "free" AS (no such thing, as you are discovering), rather than getting into it on purpose, and you may, therefore, not fully realize what situation you are in.

So before dropping serious coin, or getting to a point that requires serious investment either to fix it or get it road worthy to sell it, you should realize the costs and take stock of your resources, (both time and money), goals and desires.

To get the rotted floor fixed is gonna cost you thousands (still a deal, given the trailer was "free"). How well it is fixed, what materials you use, and if you DIY or pay someone else will impact the project cost. For instance, if you replace the plywood with more plywood, the material cost is cheaper, but plywood does not last, and any water, whether form leaks, condensation, spills, plumbing issues, water intrusion from outside, etc. will ruin it in another 10 or 15 years. If you go with a composite material like Coosa Board that is virtually water proof, the floor will last the life of the trailer, but cost much more.

There will be other issues that crop up from time to time: the appliances will eventually give out, the A/C, the water pump, the water heater, etc. will in turn need replacement.

The axels, as already pointed out, will need replaced sooner or later, and tires, brakes, etc.

You have a mobile house that will require at least as much maintenance and upkeep as a regular home will -- are you up to that at this stage? Is your benefit going to be worth your investment? Only you can answer that.

AS owners come in all ages and income brackets, but safe to say, most are in the later half of life when they have more time and resources to spend. Even so, there are many AS owners who are young and raising a family and use the trailer for unforgettable family experiences.

This forum is a gold mine of help and information. No matter what needs to be done to your rig, it doubtless has been done and documented on this site numerous times, so take advantage of this site, whatever you decide.

All the best!
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