Roof - A/C Unit + Paint on roof

Our next task on the list of things to buy/do was our a/c unit and finding a good quality elastomeric reflective roof paint. With only a few different brands to choose from for a/c unit we focused on one main brand. And mainly because it was the brand we have seen on so many other RVs + somewhat the only brand we have seen on almost any website. That brand just happened to be Dometic. We have no clue what the original unit brand was. Our original unit was shattered and not even sure if it worked or not.  And we honestly wanted to start fresh.  After many hours of scouring reviews and reading opinions Zach finally decided on a certain one. The Dometic Penguin II with Heat Pump.

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I know Zach had his eyes set on the Penguin the moment he saw it. Zach ooohed and ahhhed at how sleek it was and how it didn’t stand up to high like all the others. I personally could have cared less whether it was tall or not. As long as it does its job- that’s what matters the most. Zach cares about details like this. Sometimes too much. But I trusted his judgment that he knew this unit would work for our needs. At 13,500 BTU we think it is plenty enough for our Airstream. And not to mention, it has a heat pump. Side note: This unit definitely works great, but for our long Airstream we really could use another. The back where our bedroom is located stays cold all day. The front on the other hand is rather toasty! The Penguin, like the other models from Dometic, come in 2 colors. White and Black. Because we chose smoke gray Fan-tastic vents Zach wanted the black unit. He thinks the white would draw too much attention and not look as great. Well, he didn’t get his wish. We bought the white unit, and got a good deal on it also. The unit and ceiling unit arrived in perfect condition. Once the unit was hoisted onto the Airstream and Zach sent a picture, I still think the white doesn’t look bad at all. He still thinks otherwise..

 

But enough of the unit. Because that is not the only other important task that needed to be done on the roof- besides the vents that we mentioned in an earlier post. We read on @airforums where plenty of other streamers were applying an elastomeric reflective roof coating to help insulate and cool off their tin cans. I can only imagine having an Airstream out in the desert with the aluminum basking in the sun.. But hopefully we can help to cool ours down. Before Zach would apply the insulated paint he chose to use an aluminum primer to prep the roof for paint. He used Rust-oleum aluminum primer. It etched the surface very well and we were pleased with the product. It took only 1 quart to cover the roof. And next came the insulated coating. We chose to go with KOOL SEAL roof coating. The fibered aluminum roof coating is the exact coating we used. It is silver in color when applied. Having read on the forums where other coatings have helped drop the inside temps close to 15 degrees and some even more, we can’t wait to see how KOOL SEAL helps our tin can. KOOL SEAL recommends applying 2 coats, and that’s exactly what we planned to do. Only 1 coat is on at the moment, because its wayyy too hot outside to add another coat. 3 gallons is what we had but we didn’t use all 3. The first coat used about a half gallon. Zach masked off the center roof panel, where the sides and roof meet. Thus, once painted the roof panel will barely be seen. So naturally whatever color you choose, white or silver, nobody will tell. And if/when we add our solar panels that will help to hide the silver, which doesn’t look bad at all. We wish we had actual temperature reading and usage opinions to recommend this product. But only time will tell… After applying Zach read where the fibered roof coating has less reflectivity than white elastomeric roof coating. He has no clue if that depends on brands or not. But fibered aluminum roof coating is what we had so we chose it. Have you applied a roof coating? If so, which did you choose? And can you tell a difference??

Windows

If you want to talk about a time-consuming job, lets talk about windows. Lets talk about rusted, tight, welded screws, which hold the plexiglass in its place. Lets talk about the gunky, dried up gaskets that took forever to peel, pry, push, and scrape off. Enough of the venting about the chore of the windows. Lets talk about the process.

 

I (Zach), was naturally chosen to tackle the chore of removing and replacing seals on the windows. Which didn’t seem all that bad.. Until I started on the first one. Colleen had seen where one couple used Goo Gone and razor blades to get their seals off. I started using the same method along with a metal putty knife. And I’m glad I got the metal knife. Because in my opinion, that helped give me more leverage to push and scrape than a razor blade would have. The Goo Gone worked decent. I also used Goof Off at the same time. I learned that letting the Goo Gone sit for about 10-15 minutes did wonders. Who knew reading the instructions from the bottle would lead to great wisdom.. But still, I was searching for something else that would do the trick easier. After posting a pic on Instagram, Colleen was told to try a number of crazy things. Brake cleaner. MEK(methyl ethyl ketone). And the most surprising one- gasoline. This seemed very odd, but yet had my attention. Continuing on with the ever fun project I finally decided to try gasoline. I found an old empty spray bottle (Tilex) and poured some into it. Sure I was feeling a tad loopy from all the chemicals I had floating around me, but I was desperate to try anything. And at this point gasoline and a lighter didn’t sound half bad. I now knew why someone mentioned gasoline. Because while doing this task you would have gotten so fed up with the windows you wouldn’t mind setting fire to them all… Well maybe not exactly because they are a pretty penny to replace. But it felt like the window seal restoration project was never going to end. So I just kept on chugging along. Spraying Goo Gone and then Gasoline. Spraying Goo Gone and then Gasoline. Letting sit for about 10 minutes each time. Some windows were easier than the other. And some had an excess amount of glue. After saying this, I can say Goo Gone and gasoline did help in taking off the glue and old seals. But the best thing you can have is patience. And maybe good elbow grease and a metal scraping putty knife.

 

Our plexiglass in our windows were tinted… And after many years the tint had faded to purple and needed to be thrown in the trash. I figured we would just replace with new plexiglass and tint. But Colleen had other plans. Just ditch the plexiglass all together. I am still unsure about this as we have 2 little heathen boys. I pray nothing gets thrown or a fight doesn’t ensue near a window. That would be a terrible day. Some time was spent taking the plexiglass out- mainly because the screws holding the frame around the plexiglass were rusted tight or had been stripped. Just another wonderful job that I was given.. A little WD-40 and surely that would have them. But I was wrong on a few. It took about 3 rounds of WD-40 to get some more out. Others still wouldn’t budge. My next thought was to go buy a screw extractor bit. I have seen these things used in person and they work extremely well. After removing the first 2 screws I had only like 7 to go. But that’s when my luck ended. The bits would no longer drill into the screws nor would they grab to extract the screw. So if you’re wondering what my next idea is, it might possibly involve gasoline and a lighter. Or maybe a chisel and a hammer. Because I was out of options at this point.

The chisel and hammer were chosen as the last result to remove the last 2 remaining screws. We knew going into it that this method had consequences. HUGE consequences. COSTLY consequences. And the worst could have happened. While almost getting one screw head off I heard cracking.. Not a good sound when working on windows. That sound meant we would need to find a new window. We knew these windows were expensive. So immediately I began searching on my usual go-to Airstream websites- odmrv.com (Out-of-Doors Mart), vintagetrailersupply.com and airstreamsupply.com. I even emailed an RV salvage yard and called a few RV glass websites. No luck.. Then as a last resort I turned to eBay for a look. Luckily there was a few on eBay. The websites I mentioned above did not have windows in stock and they were more than we paid for our eBay window. Of course this window was used, but it looks just as good if not better as our originals. And it also came with the frame that rivets to the shell. So it was definitely a win. 

But the seal and plexiglass removal was not all that needed to be removed. The original safety film on our glass was peeling and needed some tending to. So I had to scrape this off on each window with a razor blade. That was pretty tough on the hands and fingers and joints. Installing the new security film was not hard at all. I have done some window tinting before so this helped. This task is not for an expert at all. Beginners can easily install. The film we ordered came with detailed instructions, a razor cutter, and a squeegee. All I had to find was a squirt bottle and some soap. Not the same squirt bottle with the Tilex lol. The only advice I will give for installing is to cut the film at the exact length you need. The instructions say leave 1 inch around. This was difficult for the first window because of the curves in the corners and the frame around the window. And if you want to make sure you don't cut too short just leave an 1/8" gap all the way around. After installing the new film I feel very happy we chose to do this and to not worry about it. In no time I had all 6 side windows re-filmed. 

 

I hope you have better luck than I had at the windows. If you are reading this and want to stop your project all together because of some silly windows- DON’T. Because a little hard work is good for the soul. So think about those nights out glamping in a remote desert or a mountain range and how you wanted to give up but didn’t give in. Then you will be happy with yourself. I'm sure I will be happy also.

Interior Walls

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. 

Demo, Framework, Shell, Bellypan, + Axles

On April 26, 2016 we purchased a 1972 Airstream International Sovereign. My husband looked online for months obsessing over them + when we finally found one we agreed on. He jumped at the opportunity to go buy it the next morning. We bought it from a guy in Mississippi who had it for about a year. He had hopes of renovating it during his retirement and living in it with his wife while they built their dream home on a river in north Arkansas. His wife didn’t like those plans, so we were the lucky ones to take it off his hands! Zach + my dad drove it back to Arkansas with no problems. Only thing that was missing after the 280 mile drive were 2 old Chevy hubcaps(seen in the picture above). The guy had mentioned he just had the bearings packed on the axles after he drove it home. The reason he did that was because when he got home he realized he was missing a tire and rim. 

Right away we started the gutting process while the Airstream was parked in our backyard.

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My husband dove into reading airforums.com to try and figure out what to do next. It was overwhelming, honestly. There were many forums + so many opinions. But if you have time to scroll, this is an excellent source to gain knowledge and read mistakes from others. It took about 3 days to gut + we were feeling good about the process. But, Zach does say that he wishes he would have taken pictures and kept some things here and there along the process. But most importantly, he says take LOTS of pictures. At first glance our frame seemed sturdy. Zach even stood on the bumper and jumped up and down and everything seemed great. We kept going back + forth with how extensive we wanted this reno to go. I wanted new everything (new frame, subfloor, electrical, belly pan, etc). My husband wanted all this, but knew he would be the one doing all the physical work. Once I finally got my way more demo started to happen. In the long run he was very thankful we decided to redo everything. When he removed the subfloor + shell, our rear end fell to the ground. Apparently there was a leak in the bathroom and everything seemed together, but the shell was the only thing holding it all together. Thankfully Zach is a welder so he was able to weld and fabricate braces to make it secure and make new outriggers. Our outriggers were toast! He also swapped out our original and basically non-working coupler for a new, welded on Bulldog Collar-Lok coupler. 

While we were at it we decided to splurge + get new axles. Zach chose Dexter Torflex axles that we bought locally, but the vendor has stores in many different places and online at www.nueratrailerparts.com. He chose to buy axles with a 22.5 degree down angle so it would give the Airstream more ground clearance for those pesky parking lot curbs/drop-offs and when/if we go boondocking down some uncharted roads. Once he finished the framework + new subfloor he installed the insulation under the floor. Between the old subfloor + belly pan there was pink fiberglass insulation. We had such a hard time deciding what we wanted to do. We decided to go with 1" foam boards and drill it to the backside of the subfloor with wood screws and fenders washers. For our trailer we only used 4 total boards. Next, it was time for the shell to reunite with the frame. Since my dad had a crane(which we used to lift the shell in the beginning) we used the crane again to lift the shell once more. And once shell, axles, and subfloor were in their desired locations Zach installed a new belly pan. We bought the aluminum from www.airpartsinc.com. Very reasonable and was at our door in under 4 days. And very friendly and helpful people to work with. With a new belly pan the next order of action was to install the new stabilizing jacks. We had all 4 original jacks attached to the Airstream, but one obviously was left down from the previous owner and was no longer serviceable. So Zach took to the interweb to find us new ones. And that he did. At a much cheaper price than the original jacks. These jacks are from the same brand as original, only difference is the crank handle does not extend out to the side like the originals. The crank handle on these hides further in. But there's pros and cons to everything, and with these we will gladly take that little con. The 24" jacks were a perfect fit with a quick cut-off of roughly 6 inches Zach thinks from the slide-in supports. And they look great too once in place. Make sure to click the 24" jacks from the same buyer.

 

--If we had to do it over…We would more than likely build a gantry system for the shell. AND before we decided to put the shell back on we’d flip the frame over + add the new belly pan. It was a pain in the B-U-T-T for Zach to complete the new belly pan once the shell was on. Lots of charlie horses and uncomfortable positions to hold the sheets in place. Help yourself and buy some Clecos from airpartsinc.com when you buy your new aluminum belly pan. Having a pneumatic air riveter helped TONS! Zach's hands were worn out enough. So buying this thing of beauty was a no brainer- and a smart decision.

Astro PR14 Air Riveter
Astro Pneumatic Tool

This is our buck-rivet gun kit that was used to fasten the belly pan to the shell around the skirt of the trailer. It's very fun to use. Do a couple of practice runs on some scrap aluminum before going right at it.

 We felt so accomplished, but still overwhelmed with how much was left!

Below are products we used that we recommend!

The product below works wonders! Zach applied this coating with a brush easily. And as he was applying all the rust spots converted to a dark black color. What's even better about this product is that there is no need to paint over it with a metal paint. But, Zach did use a black metal paint just in case. Can't be too sure! We definitely recommend this product!