a big hello to neighbors from the north.. greg, jennifer, and their two boys hail from canada and sent me an email sharing their airstream adventures, tales of renovation, and tips for those thinking of embarking on the same journey.. thanks greg for taking time out to answer my questions and share photos.. ♥ that cotton candy pink!
1. Do you travel full or part time (or just for weekend trips)?
Jennifer is from Northwestern Ontario; she is used to being at a cabin in the summertime, and my family cottage is in Inverhuron. We decided to purchase a “traveling cottage” so that we could explore all the beautiful provincial parks in southwestern Ontario and give our boys the experience of Ontario’s beautiful natural lakes. Our traveling is limited to weekends and summer holidays with our sons, aged 8 and 1 ½.
2. How did you decide on an Airstream as your RV of choice?
We have always loved the timeless lines of the Airstream trailer ~ their clean lines look both modern and retro. The attention to detail and history were a real draw. With Airstream, we knew we’d own a trailer that was beautiful, functional and that held its value.
3. What year is your Airstream and did you do the restoration yourself?
We wanted an Airstream that was pre-1970 because we were very interested in the natural teak interior. Our 31” Airstream Sovereign Land Yacht was built in 1969 in California. We did the restoration ourselves over a period of five months. Fortunately the exterior work had been completed by the previous owner who restores antique aircraft. He decided to paint the exterior silver instead of polishing the aluminum. He basically said: “I want to spend my limited weekends and holidays camping and enjoying the outdoors, not buffing my trailer.” We are happy with the painted finish, it stays shiny without all the manual labour of buffing and looks great.
The interior was useable but was showing its age. Thick carpet covered the trailer from bow to stern (even the entire bathroom floor…..hello mold factory!). At the time of purchase, the owner mentioned that there were “spongy spots” near the toilet, but that he hadn’t wanted to poke around too much. We ripped all the carpet out and discovered rotten holes around the toilet and along the rear wall. In fact, the only thing holding up the rear of the trailer was the black tank as the floor had completely rotted away from the supporting channel. Complete rear end separation!
In the front half of the trailer, water had seeped down through an improperly replaced window, causing rot in the floor along the wall and underneath the “gaucho.” To track the water damage, all the front interior wall skins were removed, wiring was inspected and repaired, new insulation (Roxal) was installed before removing sections of subfloor and replacing with ¾” pressure-treated plywood. All of the rivets were drilled out of the leaking window, a replacement Lexan pane was installed and tinted to match the other windows, and finally re-riveted.
The bathroom was totally gutted, right down to the frame rails and the ribs. The wall skins were removed, wiring was re-wrapped and replaced, new installation installed, and an inverter was added. A new sub-floor was added (much to the relief of the black tank), and covered with a new vinyl one-piece before reassembly. A new toilet, new fixtures, and copper/ABS plastic plumbing, as well as an “improvised” copper shower curtain to keep our little tub splashers from getting too wild. Last, but not least, we discovered the old water heater had frozen and the tank was split; we ended up installing a new 10-gallon Atwood electric/ propane water heater which was absolute heaven and definitely lifted our “camping” experience to the “Airstream” experience.
On our brand new subfloors we installed a cork floor from the bathroom forward. Lightweight, durable, and a perfect compliment to the vintage teak interior (not to mention, reasonably priced), the cork floor was perfect for little bare feet to patter along.
Cosmetically, our trailer needed an update. The original pea-green and old-gold colours had to go. We stripped the old mactac off of the overhead bins and replaced with a brighter, turquoise/brown polka dot pattern. Speaker covers, switchplate covers, the oven trim plate were all spray painted a soft gold. After online Airstream forum research we decided to paint all interior walls in a light turquoise using Zinsser Perma-White Mould & Mildew-Proof Interior paint (yes, it’s tintable!) ~ the bathroom we painted in a vintage Cotton Candy Pink.
We replaced all of the old screens with black aluminum screening. The spline size is not the typical standard size as we found out after a few failed attempts. The screens were damn difficult to replace, but we got the hang of it. We found the right size at Lowes for a fraction of the Airstream dealers price. We also removed the old blinds and replaced with bamboo roll-up blinds. The kitchen curtains, throw pillows, and the dividing curtain were reupholstered with a complimentary fabric in vertical stripes and trimmed with white shell trim to echo the polka dots. We also replaced the bathroom blind with a new white vinyl roll up blind. We reupholstered all of the couch cushions with a durable brown velvet fabric that would be kid-friendly and not clash with all of the other colours.
All of the 110V electric receptacles and switches were updated. Interior lights were all converted to use LED/incandescent with a two-position switch. The LED saves battery power but doesn’t have the ambience of the incandescent light. We could go on for a few more pages, but you get a general idea of the work done inside.
4. What tips do you have for those thinking of restoring one themselves?
Ask yourself: how much do I love my marriage? Ha Ha! (love this! we say the same thing!!)
Do not attempt a complete restoration in five months.
Absolutely investigate any “squishy spots” and do not install carpet. Ever.
A propane/electric water heater is a beautiful thing.
A propane/electric fridge… also good. We were able to stop wherever we wanted, cook up a lunch for the kids, and get back on the road.
5. 31 ft is not the biggest, but is a long Airstream, do you find that challenging or is it totally worth the extra space?
We were amazed by the space. Definitely worth it if you have a vehicle that has enough power to pull it. Longer camping sites need to be reserved farther in advance we’ve found, so “spur of the moment” camping sprees are somewhat limited.
6. What do you know now that you wish you had known when you first got started?
“Squishy spots” are expensive. Buy a rock guard for the front window, it’s well worth the $500 as 1969 is the only year with the “squared off” corner on the side windows which cost $500 to replace.
7. Have you traveled in the U.S. as well as Canada? What are the major differences if so (in relation to camping)?
We haven’t taken the trailer to the U.S. yet, but we have friends who highly recommend Michigan’s National Parks.
8. We can’t wait to explore Canada, any need to know info for traveling throughout?
We have yet to leave our province of Ontario, but would like to travel to the eastern provinces in the next couple years.
Provincial parks have great websites for viewing your actual site which can be reserved in advance. Here is a link to the Ontario one we frequently use : http://www.ontarioparks.com/english/index.html
9. Favorite camping spots?
Algonquin Provincial Park
The Pinery Provincial Park
Inverhuron Provincial Park
Sauble Falls Provincial Park
10. What’s your number one advice for anyone thinking of rv’ing?
Educate yourself on how all of the systems on your trailer work and what condition they are in. There is a pile of information available on Internet forums, do some research before you jump right in.