The Airstream Diary

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Finally Hot Enough

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airstream repair airstream trailers #airstreams #airstreaming


Well, it’s finally hot enough to get back to work on our Airstream out at A&P Vintage Trailer Works. I don’t even want to look and see how long it has been since I last posted here, but those of you who were excited about the site, and it’s content, TAKE HEART!

I am about to implement some major changes at another site that occupies my time, that should start to either, a) curtail interest, or b) generate income – either of which could possibly free me up to pursue the Airstream life a little more intensely.

Speaking of websites, Ann and Paul’s is doing well, and Paul and Ann are bringing it up to speed.


Paul replaced the back deck that was cut in error on the tail, and left us scratching our heads. NOTE – If your tail deck is rotted out, and you have to create a new plywood deck for the back CUT IT TOO LARGE! If it doesn’t fit, cut it down. What we had was too small, and that is a death sentence for that piece – that was sikalflexed – bolted – epoxied – painted with epoxy around the edges … imagine all that work lost. Thanks to Paul for coming to the rescue though.

Now we are waiting for the Marmoleum fixer to get in and fix the bubbles in the sheet of MarMo on our floor. No telling how much time has passed since that debacle, but once that is done, progress will come fast and furious.

I expect to be mobile by this fall at the absolute latest, and then who knows where?

Stuck and Unstuck

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Looks like we are still stuck at GO as far as the Marmoleum issue goes. Just wish we had gotten it right to begin with. I am trying to avoid calling the Marmoleum a “worst case scenario,” but that’s where we’re headed – cost and appearance. Once I can bring myself to think about this entire episode, much later in life, I will go back through and tell you what all went wrong, and how you can avoid my mistakes.

However, I finally decided to bypass what I thought would be the normal order of things, and am fast at work – bolting down the trailer, and working my way to the back where I had to remove rivets to the back center outer skin – in order to get the uniquely angled steel piece to go in AND MOST IMPORTANTLY – be Sikaflex-ed and bolted down – through the U channel, through the flooring, through the plywood, through the skeleton piece of steel angle that was abandoned and through the new back crossmember. Also found that the bottom edge of that back inside skin had corrosion progressing quickly (remember the tail rot?). So that will have to be backed or fronted with a new sliver – the location is just below the back hatch if you are playing along.

The front end cap is out. That revealed another tiny skeleton – this one a lizard. Removing the Airstream end caps also lets you get a look for evidence of leaking, and test for water leaks before you put it all back together. That funky Airstream smell is just about gone, and I think these last vestiges of pink fiberglass insulation will be the final hint of “that smell.”

Starting at one end and working to the other is the way you want to check leaks and go back together. In previous weeks / months rains, I found a freight train of water running down outside the diagonal seam in the front end cap, and straight under the window frames of both curved front side windows (note photo of aluminum tape which diverted the flood). It was a non-stop torrent. The process for removing those windows is to first TAP the centers of the rivets, and second – drill out those rivets. The windows are still in, but according to Paul, they are jinked behind the frame of the front center window to some extent, and the final remove takes some real strong sensitivity (how’s that for an oxymoron!).

The end cap itself is in perfect condition, and will need some custom woodwork for the opening that had the gauges and speakers, as well as a new door on the wide compartment that is at the bottom of the end cap (below the gauges and all).

Leslie has done a quick and fantastic job of replacing the gaskets around the windows, and is down to her last window which just needs to have the new foam (D Pattern) stuck on (came pre-backed with sticky covered with peal off paper backing.

NOTE – I shot some video of work done to prepare windows for new D Gaskets. If you want to see it, let me know.

The Sun Finally Shined

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The sun finally shined on the ground at A&P Vintage in Cottondale, and we were able to unroll the marmoleum, cut it to fit and we have liftoff!

In three days of intense and windy work, our “Full Monty” is now fully dressed – back together again and in one piece. These last three days were the kinds of intense work days that went fast and left us spent.

If you decide to use the sheet marmoleum for your Airstream restoration, be sure to remember the width of marmoleum means you will have to “splice” in some extra length into the width for full coverage. The more we look at the material we used for the back compartment (below the bed), the more we like it.

Once we were certain that the shell was going back onto the frame, I clamped a GoPro 3 camera into the shell and let the camera roll.

The things we had to contend with, as the reassembly got underway were; 1) a brand new nest of freshly hatched wrens had made our front endcap home, 2) Now it would matter if it rains, so the roof had to be secured, 3) unexpected things like that custom made angled steel at back of trailer being completely misaligned.

When trying to reconstruct something from nothing, as is the case with an Airstream Trailer with tail rot, sometimes you hit it, but most of the time you miss it. Think about it. We were cutting templates for the rear deck (marine grade plywood) where there was no deck – completely gone and rotted away. We missed by distance and circumference just a bit, but enough to cause me to have to plug in the plasma cutter and amputate the angle iron at the rear of the trailer. That was depressing after I had sandwiched it in with calk plywood and a pretty strip of shiny aluminum (that would’ve formed the back compartment top). These are the kinds of things that happen to you if you work on an Airstream trailer. To begin with, they aren’t exactly made by robots on an assembly line, so even if we copy a cut, a wedge or some funny angle … well, maybe we shouldn’t have. It’s a healthy point of view to question everything you see on the way down, and on the way back up when rebuilding your Airstream.

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Looking for a Spring Break

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The wind is swirling around North Texas today, as winter’s last gasp is a big breath.

Yesterday, we went out to A&P to see if we could lay the Marmoleum and also some flooring that goes under the back bed. That last item, flooring under the new bed at back, was no small task. I am the one that was “hard to please” when it came to a small patch of flooring that no one will ever see.

Seeing as we have a massive new area under the bed at the rear of the Airstream, I wanted to find some kind of floor that would reflect light in that new cavern of space. I went down a road that lead to the wrong item – snap together plastic coin flooring. It certainly is white, but too thick and … plastic! So that’s getting shipped back, and as you can see, once I got my mind off white it was easy to find flooring that worked.

We found it at Home Depot, and it’s about the right thickness, is fitted together like a puzzle, and extremely durable. We bought enough to go over the edges, then trimmed it to the edge of the deck – doing away with the exposed tabs and tucking it under where the support wall for the bed will hit the floor (that sitting on top of marmoleum). It’s a very dark grey and still has the “coin” pattern. The pattern combined with the composition of the tiles should prevent things from sliding around too much, but eventually I will be going back in with velcro tabs and ties for the things that need to be secured but removable underneath the bed.

Airstream Trailer floor
It may be invisible, but it’s a place that could get a lot of wear – flooring for compartment under bed.

Overlap reasonably.

cutting airstream flooring
Cut carefully. Red arrow denotes one of those epoxied forstner countersunk elevator bolt holes – sanded SMOOTH.

The rain let up, and we were finally able to lay out that flooring and trim the round edges, and also allowed the plywood deck to dry out. Leslie was anxious to lay the marmoleum and drop the shell back on top, but I knew we needed our advisers to tell us what we were getting into …

Thank goodness we waited until Ann & Paul returned to talk laying marmoleum. What we didn’t know is that marmoleum gets brittle in colder temperatures and WILL CRACK if flexed just wrong! Disaster averted. So we unloaded the roll of Maromleum (probably about 125 pounds), re-covered the deck, and retreated to A&P’s for an afternoon imbibing of a “Dark & Stormy” which looks the color of ice tea, and is anything but Texas tea.

Airstream flooring
Flooring gets put together, placed, marked underneath with pencil, un-puzzled, and then cut.

So the marmoleum is ready to lay, and is in waiting for warmer weather to make it more pliable. Then we will roll it out, cut the wheel well from the template Leslie created, roll it up and then roll it back out on the deck. There are a few things to know, and remember about using Marmoleum on Airstream trailer floors.

First, Marmoleum is sheet style rolls of linoleum. It’s organic.
Second, make sure temperatures are at least in the mid-60’s and 70’s to 80’s is even better – when handling sheets of Marmoleum.
Third, cutting Marmoleum is like cutting linoleum – use one of those hook tipped knives, new and sharp. I will make sure to demonstrate the cutting technique in a later post.

I’ll detail the amount of Marmoleum we used to cover (not completely) our floor. Rolls of Marmoleum are not the full width of an Airstream trailer floor. That means there will be a seam. That means we had to order extra to cover that remaining area, but that seam will not show – except for a small area coming out from under the kitchen toward the front street side (long ways).

There are a few nuances to putting in new flooring during a full monty restoration of an Airstream. You can put the trailer back together and then flush cut your flooring to the walls of the trailer. OR you can lay the flooring and then put the trailer back onto the decking, sandwiching the flooring under the U channel and creating something of a gasket between the trailer and the floor. I chose the latter because it is a lot easier to simply draw around the rounded corners of the deck (from underneath) onto whatever flooring is used, and have a highly accurate cut-to-fit.

The reason I was adamant about getting some floor covering under the bed before we put the trailer back together is because of that sandwich effect. Imagine allowing part of the trailer to rest on a sandwich of Marmoleum and part of it resting on the plywood decking. There’s the probability that the old rivet holes for the inside skins would not line up to the tune of 1/8-inch. So if you are going to sandwich, sandwich it all. Many folks with better financial means would choose to go Marmoleum front to back (under the bed and all), but I wanted something more durable that Marmoleum for that back storage – who knows what’s going under there? These rubber coin tiles cost a fraction of Marmoleum, and are within thickness tolerances of Marmoleum – making for an even sandwich.

The last observation is one that’s easily overlooked. ONCE YOU have your new flooring on your new decking, and your trailer on your frame, it needs to be immediately WEATHER PROOF. Before it goes back together, we have three fan holes (take that down to two?) and a gaping hole where there used to be an air conditioner. All of these need filling, and preferably with the actual appliances – obviously not before the framing comes out from inside, but as soon as that framing comes out and those holes are accessible —- SAME DAY. The search now begins for fans and a new air conditioner. After the A/C there’s really only one major high cost appliance left – the refrigerator.

New Airstream Decking Now Bolted Down

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Just the day before we left for a respite in Santa Fe, NM, we spent half of that day finishing the laying of the decking on the Airstream trailer. The slideshow shows what the new deck construction is all about, and is a far cry from where we came.

The deck is pilot drilled with a small bit, then drilled with a forstner bit for square edged countersinking, and then I came back through and drilled the 5/8” final hole through the deck and cross beams and outriggers.

Since some of the sheets of plywood share a common beam, we still have to stagger the elevator bolts getting close to the edge of the plywood, and sometimes close to the edge of the underlying steel cross member.

Before the plywood is finally laid on the frame, we hit every surface with calk that provides a seal and adhesive.

Since the plywood was lifted, you can see Leslie using a long, heavy punch to realign the holes.

We then dropped in elevator bolts on the perimeter. If the elevator bolts don’t go, realign them because the threads are very soft and easily shredded.

Use a regular washer and lock washer on the bolt. We tried nylon lockers and locking nuts, but they all spin the elevator bolt head, so they don’t work when you are bolting down the Airstream deck.


As you may recall, the tail of this particular Airstream was through-and-through rotten. That was mostly due to plumbing issues, but the curvature of the trailer also funnels water right down into this vulnerable area. SOLUTION: Lots of calk in the sandwich that includes plywood, the unique angled piece of steel, a sheet of aluminum (for attaching the back bumper box lid. All these are bolted SNUG against the frame. The holes drilled should go through the sandwich.

Just like all areas that get calked, work fast, and get tightened down to compress that calk to the edges and get the compression on the whole thing.


MarmoleumLeslie is hooked on the look of Marmoleum, and the efficiency of sheet flooring, the organic nature of the product, and the great colors all make it our hands-down choice for flooring. So we’re looking at colors, and leaning toward the yellow side of the wheel.

To get an idea of where we have come from on the Airstream Safari, be sure to look back at previous stories. Here’s a link to show you the original appearance of the Airstream deck and frame.



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