SOOOOO…now to our wall situation… We saved our aluminum walls and had plans to use them, but plans changed. During the original demo we bought paint stripper to attempt to get the Zolatone off because I’m a germ-a-phobe. They were dirty + brown + who knows if anyone smoked in the trailer over the years. It took Zach a while to get one full section free and clear of the vinyl. He battled with it long and hard. And in the end, the vinyl won. After getting stripper on him dozens of times- even with gloves, glasses, and other PPE- Zach decided he had enough for the moment. The walls looked like a patchwork quilt with some of the walls bare + some with Zolatone. Also we made a new layout for the airstream so our new outlets are obviously not where the original outlets are. We contemplated back + forth with do we buy all new aluminum + start fresh or do we consume hours prying off the vinyl. The main problem was this would cost SOO much money for the new aluminum. And too much time stripping/cleaning the old. I wanted the walls white. So I would have had a VERY hard time buying new aluminum then slapping white paint on it. Especially after paying an arm and leg for the material. Of course when we started this project I commented on how I wanted tongue and groove wood like we did on the tiny house. But Zach said that would be too heavy and a pain in the rear. We really wanted to keep the trailer as light weight as we could, staying true to the Airstream-way. Zach then wondered if we could find plywood that could withstand the curves of the shell. So we started looking into 1/8 plywood and found a few different options to choose from online. Naturally, our eyes turned towards birch plywood. But, it was not cheap. Most places we found it in 1/8” were aircraft websites. So off to Home Depot we went in search for 2 different choices that were available at our store.
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We were so happy to see how flexible it was. This was the perfect compromise for us. I got the wood I wanted and Zach got easy install. All in all we spent around $300 on the walls + I get to paint them white. WIN WIN. The guys cracked the very first piece of plywood by trying to stand it straight up and down to fit the curve from bottom to top.. And after much tinkering they finally figured out the best course of action. By using the wood sideways, it allowed it to conform to the curve of the roof. It has to do with “going with the grain” they said. The only areas they had a tad bit of trouble with were the corners. The original plastic yellowed corner cap was bulky and ugly! So making a new cap was a must. And boy oh boy- they sure did one heck of a job.
They joked after riveting the pieces in place that they should have made multiple templates so that we could sell them online. And if you’re wondering how the wood got fastened to the ribs and to each other I will tell you. Zach chose to go with 5/32 large flange aluminum rivets from mcmaster.com. He made a good choice. The large flange helps to grab a good chunk of the plywood, not allowing it to crack or slide over the rivet. The rivets were long which allowed them to overlap the wood and still be able to grab the ribs. We were kinda skeptical as to how it would turn out once we overlapped the wood. But honestly, once each section was caulked and painted- you couldn’t tell at all. Cutting the holes for receptacles and lights and the windows were done with a Dremel tool. This little thing came in handy! It made life so much easier for them.
Using wood ended up being a huge success for us. It definitely saved time trying to clean/strip the original aluminum walls. If you have any questions about our walls or possibly need help on how to make your corner cap, we would be thrilled to help. After all, we are all in this together.