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Old 09-03-2017, 10:36 PM   #1
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1975 31' Sovereign
Gainesville , Florida
Join Date: Sep 2017
Posts: 10
First Timer 1975 31' Sovereign

Hi everyone!

I brought home my silver pickle yesterday and have jumped in head first! I want to turn this into a tiny house and get myself as close to off the grid as possible.

So far I've been scrubbing and sweeping, but I'm ready to learn all about where these random wires go to, what's this hose used for, etc. etc. Any advice on where to begin? The subfloor is in good shape, I plan to install a composting toilet, solar panels, new fridge, and fresh flooring along with some fresh interior paint. Budget of $5k.

Since I have no experience, would you recommend I see if an RV expert can walk through my trailer with me? I'm trying not to feel overwhelmed by my total lack of knowledge, but it's creeping up quickly.

Any and all advice is appreciated! I'm excited to be a part of the Aluminati cult
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Old 09-04-2017, 08:47 AM   #2
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1974 27' Overlander
Baltimore , Maryland
Join Date: Mar 2016
Posts: 1,039
Welcome. We did something similar to what you are describing. We're not quite finished, but we are on the road now. I blew past $5k a loooong time ago. I suspect you will too, but with some research and some luck, you can probably do things in stages to make it work.

First thing is to address anything structural. Frame and subfloor. I know you said the subfloor was good, but it's worth another look. It will never be easier to fix a bit of subfloor than it is now. If the subfloor looks questionable somewhere, there's a good chance the frame under it has some rust that'd be worth looking at. Very common for several outriggers to be busted and in need of welding repair.

Axles. How do yours look? If they're original, they most likely need replaced.

Leaks. Get a suction cup and a bottle of Captain Tolley's, and check every single rivet. If the suction cup sticks, the rivet is good. If it doesn't, hit it with the sealant until it does. Check the sealant around your windows and doors. It's probably due to be dug out and replaced. Check the rubber gaskets on your plumbing vents. They're probably cracked and leaking. Check all your window and door gaskets. They probably need to be replaced.

Check all your appliances and systems for function. Original plumbing systems of this vintage tend to be a patchwork of questionable repairs. Do you have a propane alarm? You need one. And a fire extinguisher.

What kind of fridge do you want? If I had to do my reno again, I'd seriously consider a vitrifrigio/danfoss DC compressor fridge. Works great with a serious solar system. But then again...

Your budget is probably going to preclude a serious solar system. I suggest installing a solar combiner box on the roof and run adequate sized wires to wherever your solar controller is going to be. Then you can easily add the panels and controller later when you have the money. Build a big battery box and put a regular sized battery in it for now, so you can get a bigger battery bank when you have the money. I'm running 200 watts of solar and a 100AH battery, and it's just enough to get by with some hand-wringing when we have two rainy days in a row. I have plans to add 2 or 3 more 100 watt panels and buy a bigger battery when I can.

Do you want an inverter? I bought a big honkin' inverter that can run anything in my Airstream, and to be honest, I mostly use it to run the coffee grinder. You can do most everything on 12V if you plan it out. Get car charger for your phone and laptop. Get a 12V television if you want one. Convert your lighting to LEDs so your battery lasts longer.

I guess that's enough to get you started. Lots of folks have blogs on their renovations, and they're worth checking out. Mine is in my signature. Spend some time on the forum reading all the reno threads, and you'll get an idea of what you need to do. Post pictures on your own thread and ask questions along the way. You'll get a lot of help.
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Old 09-05-2017, 11:53 AM   #3
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1975 31' Sovereign
Gainesville , Florida
Join Date: Sep 2017
Posts: 10
Holes in the subfloor and other new developments

Hi TheGreatleys!
Thanks for the reply, although you've added some anxiety haha! But I think it comes along with this new adventure. You're totally right about the floor, don't go off the previous owners' word. I pulled all the front furniture out and sure enough found a few holes in the subfloor. So priority one will be replacing the front subfloor. Thankfully the rest of the trailer floor looks good. I don't have any experience with gas or electric work and planned to hire someone to check my systems. I live in Florida and am thinking about just pulling the furnace out from under the sink since I would rarely use it and could get by with a space heater if needed. Thoughts? I plan to replace the oven with a micro/convection oven combo and the water heater with a tankless. I'm not sure about the fridge, I was considering putting in a regular household fridge/apt sized. I am a biologist and spend 9 months living at a field station and 3 months at my university so I only plan to tow my Airstream 2x per year.

Next up is the frame and getting all the systems checked. I've been watching others blogs/videos and am feeling more confident about this. I'll keep you posted! -Katie
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Old 09-05-2017, 12:48 PM   #4
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1974 27' Overlander
Baltimore , Maryland
Join Date: Mar 2016
Posts: 1,039
Quote:
Originally Posted by slvr_pickled View Post
Hi TheGreatleys!
Thanks for the reply, although you've added some anxiety haha! But I think it comes along with this new adventure. You're totally right about the floor, don't go off the previous owners' word. I pulled all the front furniture out and sure enough found a few holes in the subfloor. So priority one will be replacing the front subfloor. Thankfully the rest of the trailer floor looks good. I don't have any experience with gas or electric work and planned to hire someone to check my systems. I live in Florida and am thinking about just pulling the furnace out from under the sink since I would rarely use it and could get by with a space heater if needed. Thoughts? I plan to replace the oven with a micro/convection oven combo and the water heater with a tankless. I'm not sure about the fridge, I was considering putting in a regular household fridge/apt sized. I am a biologist and spend 9 months living at a field station and 3 months at my university so I only plan to tow my Airstream 2x per year.

Next up is the frame and getting all the systems checked. I've been watching others blogs/videos and am feeling more confident about this. I'll keep you posted! -Katie
If you plan on using a household fridge, convection microwave, and space heater (presumably in addition to the air conditioner you'll need while in Florida), you're going to need an electrical hookup. Solar isn't a going to keep up with those appliances.

You'll save some money if you eliminate the solar system. Then you'd only need a small battery for towing.

Double-check the subfloor in the very rear. You've surely read about the design flaw that funnels water from the bumper lid into the subfloor. The very rear, the very front, and around the door/furnace seem to be the most common areas of subfloor damage.

We pulled our furnace and did not replace it. We have a small electric space heater that we use if it's mildly cold and we have electric hookups. It does fine as long as it's warmer than 25 deg F or so outside. Our main heat source is a wood stove, though that's probably excessive for Florida, especially if you're never boondocking. The furnace was originally piped to the water tanks to keep them heated. We added electric heaters to our tanks in case we need to stay somewhere cold for a long time. If you eliminate the furnace and it gets well below freezing for several days, you'll need to heat your tanks somehow or keep them empty. That might not be a problem in Florida.
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