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Old 03-30-2003, 01:03 PM   #1
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Body off?

Please help me make a descision. I have a 67 Caravel, gutted completely.
I have taken off all the inner skin.
I also will be replacing the lower outside skin panels on each side.
I also will be replacing the belly skin, and while its off, I will sandblast the frame from below just to clean it up and give it a coat of paint under there. Its structurally in good shape, just surface rust, but just to clean seal and protect.
The floor is fairly sound but very dirty and a little wavy in spots and I was planning on giving it a layer of fresh 1/2in ply inside to tighten and freshen it up before starting the interior build.
My debate is the amount of labour.
Since I will have it down to this level of dissassebly should I just go the extra mile and pull the body off, and pull the floor up and replace it?
It would be so much easier to sandblast and paint the frame with everything off. But after looking at WilliamHenshall's.. um "experiece" I am a tad eskeered.
What do all youse guys think?

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Old 03-30-2003, 05:43 PM   #2
5 rivets, 1 loose screw
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1966 20' Globetrotter
Saginaw County , Michigan
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Hi Andrew

I have to say I admire your ambition. Sounds like
you're ready for a large investment in both time and
money in your project and I salute you for your willingness
to do whatever is required to restore this vintage Airstream
properly and help keep the legend alive.
The link below details the restoration of a '65 Caravel
and has loads of helpful info, including how they repaired
the floor without pulling the body. If you haven't already
read through it, I believe you will find it helpful
Best of luck to you.

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Old 03-30-2003, 06:02 PM   #3
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You have the interior out and the inside panels off. You will be removing most of the lower panels anyway, so at some point you have to drill out the rivets fastening them to the U channel anywya. You are 90% there! But that is still a lot of work, so the issue is entirely the condition of the floor.

You say your floor is "wavy". I can only construe that to mean the plywood is delaminating. How much is affected? Any way to replace just those areas?

You are right to raise the issue at this point because if it is ever going to be done, now is the time.

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Old 03-30-2003, 06:53 PM   #4
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If you have the time, I'd do it. First, you won't have to worry about it again for a long, long time. However, if the plywood is still in good shape overall, maybe just a few fixes could get it to spec (apoxie injections, etc).

I am speaking from a bit of homeowner exp. I had problems in my bathroom and as I had it all ripped up, I made the choice after I started to rip up the finish floor, then the subfloor and glued and screwed new 5/8" plywood. The only time the floor ever was as strong was when it was new back in '55. Going the extra mile was a BIG PITA, but in the end and a few aches and pains later, she's all done and I'll be long gone before it will need it again!

Granted it's a bit different than a trailer, but you seem fearless and hands on enough to have already gotten this far, so when in Rome I say!

Best of luck with her whichever way you go!


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Old 03-30-2003, 07:34 PM   #5
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before your decide what to do about the plywood in your trailer, you should read one of the many advisory on plywood danger inside a house (in a trailer, it is even worse): Danger of Formaldehyde (plywood)

We have been doing a lot a research these last 3 years, as we are planning to build a house "soon" (!!!)
Here is a summary of one of zillion of advisory on that topic, this one from

"SOURCES: Pressed wood products (hardwood plywood wall paneling, particleboard, fiberboard) and furniture made with these pressed wood products, urea-formaldehyde foam insulation (UFFI), glues,......"

"HEALTH EFFECTS: Eye, nose, and throat irritation; wheezing and coughing; fatigue, skin rash and severe allergic reactions. May cause cancer......"

"Steps to Reduce Exposure: Use "exterior grade" pressed wood products (lower-emitting because they contain phenol resins, not urea resins). "

The type of plywood used at the time your trailer was made, and unfortunately still available, has been banned for the construction of mobil homes. Many health organizations would like to ban it for indoor use completely, work place included.

Consider using "exterior grade" plywood. For the size of your trailer, it will be a smart move.

Good luck with your renovations. (Is the spelling of "labour" a typo, or a hint about your country of origin?)
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Old 03-30-2003, 08:29 PM   #6
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Not a bad point. If it makes you feel safer use a respirator or mask when cutting it up and paint over it to "seal" it. Regular plywood is innate since the glues are sandwiched in between the layers and then cooked. Most of the heat burns off a lot of the excess resins and such, but I am sure there are a few things left over. Cutting can release some stuff, but I'm not sure any more nasty stuff than being in a bar enjoying second hand smoke, yet some have reactions to sawdust, etc.

BTW, houses since the late 60s have had plywood sheathing (of varying types) on the roof, sub floors and some sub walls.

In fact, my new '03 Bambi had a sticker on the sink counter that said some materials used in the construction are known to cause cancer in the state of California. The type of plywood in question being banned in mobile homes, makes me now wonder how many other things are in it besides the plywood that can cause cancer still. Not that I loose much sleep over it or anything, cause the water we drink is more likely to have mercury or something worse in it.

No slam on California, cause I think they have the right idea, however, if that sticker were needed in most other States, 99% of the things you do would have that sticker, not to mention that every day you hear this causes cancer then it doesn't, then it does, wait, no, this does instead. It makes you numb just trying to keep up with it all.

Use caution and common sense, but don't be afraid of the big bad wolf, it's everywhere. Not to be a trite, but if the plywood doesn't get you, there are too many other things that could.


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Old 03-31-2003, 07:23 AM   #7
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Thanks everyone, for the feedback
I am very aware of toxins and stuff in materials, having a father with MCS, I am also quite sensitive to these things myself so the points about formaldehydes and other nasties out gassing are well taken
J54mark, the plywood has some slight wave to it , but it isn't delaminating, it is more like a is very slight bow here and there, its really not that bad- almost like it is caused by a little expansion/contraction of sheets jammed together too tight. It is very slight, but enough that with the dirty condition of it all it makes me contemplate replacing or sheathing over it.

My consideration of all of this comes from the floor and underbody. Since I am going to sandblast the surface rust from the frame then repaint and re-insulate underneath.... perhaps the extra labour used to get the body off will be made up by how much easier it will be to work on the frame from above, rather than crawling under there with the sandblast hose and dragging itchy fiberglass insulation across my stomach as I stuff it in, or getting the styrofoam cut to fit nicely if I decide to go that route.

My hesitation comes from how much further I already have gone that I planned in this project. My house is the same way Eric. "Oh lets put a new floor in the bathroom"... 5 weeks later I end up down to the Joists and I find the drains aren't run right, "Oh while I'm down here I should really rewire this and that... and that AC duct..looks kinda ratty....well if I'm going to replace that I may as well replace that and that and that".

I guess I should quit hemming and hawing and just take the body off, I could spend more time thinking about it than doing it

While I'm here typing.. what are the opinions on Styrofoam vs. Fiberglass insulation and sealing (painting) the subfloor vs. letting it "breath"


P.S. C&M
I'm American, but I just prefer the original British spellings of some words. I like labour better than labor, but I do prefer color to colour, I guess I'm just weird
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Old 03-31-2003, 08:57 AM   #8
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Well I'm contemplating a body off and if I'm going to that extreme I plan to do everything I can to protect that floor. I have decided if I do it I'm going to put down a PURE vinyl floor. This has no paper backing. Glued around the perimiter and wapped under and stapled under the edge. This stuff has some give so it's not likly to tear like a paper backed version as the trailer flexes. Any place I have to put a hole throug it I will seal with silicone of Vulcem. The presure of whatever is bolted through it will also act like a gasket as well.
THis will help with the outgassing problem since it will seal the inside from the wood.
If a leak does develop it will prevent it from getting to the wood from the top. My intention is to use it as a water barrier and not final flooring but you could. This stuff tends to yellow with age. I plan to put a purgo or laminat floor in as final flooring. THis would still be visiable in storage compatments.
They way I see it is may leaks go unnoticed because they get under cabinets. In my case the whole underside of the bath is rotted out and not a single bit of that is in any way inspectable short of pulling the bath out or the belly pan. In that area I also plan to put down a membrane they use in roofing. It comes as a sheet and directly adhears to the ply wood. Any nails that passthrough are sealed.
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1988 R20 454 Suburban.
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Old 03-31-2003, 09:45 AM   #9
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Andrew, do we have a lot of information about styrofoam and fiberglass ???? You bet, glad to share some of it:

Among scores of them: "The Building Research Association of New Zealand Incorporated" had great articles, but redisigned their page. Cannot find it in line, I have collected some texts.

Summary on STYROFOAM:

"Serviceable life of at least 50 years under normal conditions.

"Styrofoam boards require no maintenance apart from maintaining the integrity of the cladding system covering the product in external situations.

"Styrofoamboards are resistant to degradation by moisture and micro-organisms.

"Styrofoam will melt when brought into contact with a heat source. Although Styrofoam board contains a fire retardant, this will be effective against small fire sources only and the board will burn if exposed to an intense fire.

"When correctly installed, will not create or increase the risk of damage resulting from condensation.

"that at no stage during handling, installation, or serviceable life does the product constitute a health hazard."

Don't know where we got this one (EPA ? they have a lot to say on that subject).

A summary on FIBERGLASS:

"Fiberglass: A Carcinogen That's Everywhere - The Asbestos of the 21st. Century

" Fiber glass is now causing serious health concerns among U.S. officials and health researchers.
"Four major manufactures of fiber glass insulation campaigned for three years to prevent their product from being labeled a carcinogen by NTP......, in 1994...., official policy of the U.S. government... that fiber glass is "reasonably" anticipated to be a carcinogen.
"In the U.S., fiber glass must now be labeled a carcinogen."

In our house we have decided to use only "exterior grade" plywood to remove the guassing risks from the glue (phenol resins are - for now- considered safe)
We have a lot more if you need it.
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Old 03-31-2003, 03:00 PM   #10
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[QUOTE]Originally posted by amfab
[B]My house is the same way Eric. "Oh lets put a new floor in the bathroom"... 5 weeks later I end up down to the Joists and I find the drains aren't run right, "Oh while I'm down here I should really rewire this and that... and that AC duct..looks kinda ratty....well if I'm going to replace that I may as well replace that and that and that".

Man, it's like talking to myself! It's hard not to do it right.

As bad as some feel about fiberglass (from all the hype in books and magazines), if it's enclosed like in joist, etc, it's kind of hard to breath it in and thus get sick from it. I worked with some asbestos removal people that came here to work and removed a bunch. They frankly told me that as long as the stuff is not disturbed, your in better shape than if you go lay into it. Fiberglass is a bit different in texture than fiberglass. Sure you don't want to breath either in and that's why most places that deal with it wear protection. Once enclosed though, it's fairly harmless.

I have a good fear of fiberglass too, but I will tell you that oz for oz fiberglass does a better job and will last just as long, if not longer. My house is more than 50 years old and the original layer is still doing it's job without any heath problems as a result. Parents grew up in the same situation all their life and are now in their late 60s. All fine so far. Grandpa worked with plastic manufac in the 50s and 60s and got lukemia.

BTW, the air you breath right now could contain asbestos from the brake pads all around. The 2003 Airstream manual specifically talks about precautions working on the brakes.

As you can see, you can go round and round on the subject of health. Bottom line, I use gas or diesel to get from point a to point b. I know there are cleaner, safer, more environmentally better alts. However, I still use fossil fuel which can also cause cancer among other things if you get into they hype!


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Old 08-14-2003, 04:02 PM   #11
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Flooring: You have said that you have the trailer stripped down to the frame. After you have painted the trailer and put a ceiler on it ; before you install the plywood floor,install a sheet of alumnon the full length of trailer. Revit or screw the alumnon floor down.before you install 1/2" or 5/8th" exterior treated plywood, put 30lb felt down over the alumnon floor, then enstall the plywood. After you install the plywood, cover the floor with moore 30lb felt. This insures that moisture from below or from above will not rune the floor. The felt on top of the floor can be stapled down. Be sure to over lap or fold under the felt paper to keep moisture from entering around the edge. I have rebuild three trailers like you have, and found when desembling them the floor and bottom part of walls( if part made of wood) have routed out. I know Airstream trailers are made most of alumnon.
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Old 08-14-2003, 11:28 PM   #12
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Your complete and detailed location that shows on your post could be of interest to Airstream thiefs

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