Gut job costs for a complete vintage airstream budget rehab

Have you been considering renovating a vintage airstream? One of the most common questions we receive is asking about our vintage airstream budget, or the costs for the complete gut job we are doing.

Wednesday, the Airstream Adventure Mobile, has been our project now for the past year. She’s a 1975 27′ Overlander. Eventually, she will be our full-time home, where we will work and play. My goal is to be a digital nomad. Ken, my adventure partner, enjoys taking things apart and rebuilding them better. At first we thought we would have an easy remodel job…but as we learned – most vintage airstreams need a lot of work! We basically know the approximate costs for remodeling our ‘tin can’ based on other renovators we’ve come across. At some point, we started gathering the costs based on what we currently know and on what others have spent. Below are the gut job costs for a complete vintage airstream rehab. Well, almost. Like Wednesday the Airstream, it’s a work in progress (stay tuned!)

illustration of Wednesday by Lisa Stimpson
Lisa, a friend, gave us this wonderful illustration of Wednesday. Great motivation to get her finished!

But first, progress update

Christmas 2019 pose in front of our vintage airstream
Our 2019 Holiday card photo…before we realized how challenging working in the winter outside would be!

Last year we were advised that all airstreams have two things – leaks and pests. Since then we’ve learned that renovations ALWAYS take longer than anticipated. With the onslaught of the pandemic, we thought our increased spare time would make the rehab go faster. However, what we couldn’t have forecasted, was that many of the vintage parts we need would be out of stock or much delayed. Another consequence was the increase in lumber costs – so many house remodeling going on and the demand has jumped!

inside the airstream renovation
The last of the walls included the end cap. Those are important to treat carefully!

Once we took all the things out of the airstream, we were able to take a good look at what needed to be done. Like many others with bathrooms in the back, there was a lot of wet and rotted wood. The entire subfloor needed to be replaced. Since we were removing that, we might as well make sure the trailer was solid. And that required lifting the shell off…

Where are today on the budget airstream renovation

Our new workshop was previously used by an auto mechanic

Our big news is that we have found a workshop! This will allow us to work on all parts of the airstream on a solid floor (not the cold, wet dirt), have walls and a roof – plus heaters! Winter cold and wet won’t stop us now. We can lift the shell much easier. There are large areas for varnishing the wood, cutting all the parts, putting the windows back together properly and shelves to organize all the things.

Earlier in the year

Progress has been slower or delayed. We are learning so much as we go along. The ins-and-outs of insulation, layout design, plumbing & electricity, window repair and gasket replacements. Ken added interior supports and lifted the shell off the base. That was definitely impressive.

floor plans and 3d drawings of airstreams
One skill I don’t have is designing. I tried different methods, including a 3d modeler software. The middle image is my dream, the bottom my pseudo attempt (using established images)

map of airstream remodel
I finally made a map where I can move around all the pieces, as well as have the frame, plumbing and wiring somehow included.

Before the pandemic hit, we made a road trip to Reno and bought wool insulation at the manufacturer. We decided later to use Rockwool (not a wool, but spun rock) for the floor insulation, hoping it will deter future pests.

Fixing windows on the vintage airstream
All the windows need complete repair. One window even seemed to have an aquarium!

Fixing windows on the vintage airstream
There are 13 windows. Each one takes hours or days to take apart and clean. Next up will be to add new gaskets, put back together and then add tint.

the supports for the vintage airstream shell
Ken build the supports for the vintage airstream shell. Without them, it could fold like a tin burrito

The lift as seen from the back end of the vintage airstream
Here you can see how much of the shell was lifted, and new subfloor added

Fun or interesting side things

Have you ever noticed that once you own a certain vehicle, you start seeing them everywhere? That’s what it feels like with the airstream. It definitely has its own cult. I learned that the famous glass-blower artist Chihuly has a collection of vintage airstreams – he even has one he uses for glass blowing demonstrations. My friend, Brenda, lives in a tiny house community where there are vintage airstreams to rent nightly. I was able to stay in a model that is the same year and length as ours, and even meet the remodelers.

The Chihuly vintage airstream in the Seattle museum

Vintage Airstreams at Tiny Tranquility, Waldport OR
Another 1975, 27′ Overlander based at Tiny Tranquility, Waldport OR

chicken and her eggs under the airstream stairs
Funny story – the chickens were we are staying are free range. It seems one (or more) decided the underneath of our stairs was a good spot for laying eggs (instead of the usual nest in the coop)! Such a surprise!

montage of vintage airstream and geese
There are also these wonderful Sebastopol geese where we are staying. One day I convinced them to follow me to the airstream! I felt like Mother (Auntie?) Goose! We had a few weeks delay when the monster fires raged in Oregon. While we were relatively safe, the smoke and ashes were everywhere. We even took down the overhead tarp due to the forecast of strong winds.

Airstream Budget & Renovation Resources

three books on airstream life
While most of our research is online, there are some cool books to check out. These three seem to cover a lot of info and inspiration.

The vintage airstream budget – wish list

ITEM ITEM COST WISH LIST ACTUAL
Wednesday, The Airstream 1975 Overlander, 27′ $6,000 $6,000
HARDWARE
cabinet push latches . Sea-Dog 224300-1 Push Button Rim Latch – #6 Rh,Chrome (each $17.79, approx 35 needed) 17.79 622.65
Soft closing hinges (8 pack) Blum CLIP top BLUMOTION Soft-Close Hinges, 110 degree, Self closing, Face Frame, with Mounting Plates (Full – Overlay – 8 pack) 39.18 500
hinge overlays (5 pack) Blum 973A0500.01×5 973A Blumotion Straight Arm Full Overlay Hinge for Doors, Nickel Finish (Pack of 5) 11.95 see above
Drawer slides (2 pack) LIBERTY 942405 Soft-Close Ball Bearing Drawer Slide, 24-Inch, 2-Pack 20.02 see above
Adjustable Table Stand (WUPYI Adjustable Table Pedestal Stand 22″-28″,Aluminum,for Marine Boat Caravan Motorhome
Brand: WUPYI)
112.99 540
screws
bathroom door hinges
bolts
bed hardware
self drilling sheet metal screws
heating duct
1/8″ cobolt drill set w double ends (10 pieces) Neiko Pro 10219B 1/8″ Cobalt Drill Bit Set with Double Ends, M35 and M42 Alloy (10 Piece) 12.9
vents & clamps
aluminum rivets -1/8″ 100 pack(Vintage Airstream Supply) 4.99 50
Large Flange Rivets – 3/16″ Diameter 100 pack (Vintage Airstream Supply) 9.95 100
Airstream Buck Rivets -Brazier Head Rivets 6.95
replacement stabilizer jacks $165 $330
pop riviter
buck riviter
clecos
cleco pliers 8
BUILDING SUPPLIES/APPLIANCES
lumber for shell off support
plywood for subfloor
marine plywood for subfloor (2 pieces) 220
cabinets
countertop 580
lumber for walls/supports 1500
plywood for seating/storage
aluminum sheeting for bellypan 300
outrigger replacements 120
varnish for subfloor
Goo Off & acetone 50
window scrapers/razors 15
Scotchbrite sponges 10
wall degreaser, mop
rubber gloves 5
Flooring
bathroom door 300
bathroom tile
bathroom teak mat 90
Bed Lift (gas struts, supports) Suspa C16-08054 C1608054 20″ Gas Prop, Quantity (2), Force 100 Lbs Per Prop, Force Per Set 200 Lbs, Camper Rear Window, Tonneau Cover Lift Supports, Window Lift Support, Made in USA 60
fridge option NOVA KOOL RFS7501 RV REFRIGERATOR (link: https://www.campervan-hq.com/products/novakool-7-5-cu-ft-dc-refrigerator-freezer-rfs7501. another option $1000 Norcold N3104AGR 3.7 cu. ft. 1 Door Refrigerator (3-Way AC/LP Euro, Right Hand Door Auto LCD Control Grey Door) 1800
Co & smoke detector (X-Sense CD07 Carbon Monoxide Detector Alarm, 10-Year Battery (Not Hardwired) CO Alarm Detector with LCD Display, Auto-Check & Silence Button) 35
propane detector (Propane/Natural Gas Detector, Home Gas Leak Alarm, Tester, Sensor, Sniffer; Monitor Combustible Explosive Gas Level: Methane, Butane, LPG, LNG; Sound/Light Warning & LED Display, eBook) 45
Propane furnace (Suburban NT Furnace) 900
Wool insulation (Havelock Wool) 500
Roxul Wool (insulation for flooring) 250
Reflectix & Reflectix tape 250
RV table pedestal 50
PLUMBING & HARDWARE
shower hardware & valve body (Delta Faucet R10000-UNBXHF MultiChoice Universal Shower Valve Body for Shower Faucet Trim Kits) 220
shower pan 150
shower walls (surround & plexiglass window)
Kitchen Sink
Kitchen faucet (pull down) Kraus KPF-2631SFS Oletto Kitchen Faucet, 21.75 inch, Pull Down Stainless Steel 198
black tank (if needed) 270
grey tank (if needed) 230
tank valve & sensor 90
tank fittings 95
compost toilet 1000
bathroom sink stopper (Decor Star PU-001-TB 1 5/8″ Bathroom Faucet Vessel Vanity Sink Pop Up Drain Stopper Without Overflow Brushed Nickel) 18
bathroom sink faucet (Decor Star BRG01-TB-U Single Handle Bathroom Lavatory Vanity Vessel Sink Faucet UPC cUPC NSF Lead Free Tall Brushed Nickel) 50
bathroom sink 60
spigot flange (Valterra T1006 3″ Spigot Flange) 8
Tank Sensor probe (KIB MP5 Screw-in Sensor Probe) 2? 4?
SHURFLO (255-313) 1/2″ Twist-On Pipe Strainer; SHURflo 182-200 Pre-Pressurized Accumulator Tank,Black; SHURFLO 94-591-01 Pump Silencing Kit; Shurflo 2088-554-144 Fresh Water Pump, 12 Volts, 3.5 Gallons Per Minute, 45 Psi 140
Fresh Water Pump (Shurflo 2088-554-144 Fresh Water Pump, 12 Volts, 3.5 Gallons Per Minute, 45 Psi) or (GIRARD 2GWHAM Tankless Water Heater) 66
copper connections 45
plumbing (assorted) 400
caulking for plumbing 40
RV sewer hose (10′) (Camco RhinoFLEX 10-foot RV Sewer Hose Extension Kit with Swivel Fitting, Frustration Free-Packaging (39774)) 20
3″ waste valve cap (Valterra T1020-1 Waste Valve Cap – 3″ with Capped 3/4″ GHT, Black) 8
Sewer hose or cap connector (Valterra T1029-1 Termination Adapter – 3″ Bayonet x 3″ Spigot) 8
tankless water heater (Shurflo 2088-554-144 Fresh Water Pump, 12 Volts, 3.5 Gallons Per Minute, 45 Psi) $1,300
ELECTRICAL
power converter 325
Romex
Fuse box 50
Wiring
Terminals (blocks) 175
Electrical Supplies
Electrical plates
thermostat (Honeywell TH1100DV1000 Nonprogrammable Heat Only Thermostat, White) 30
30 Amp plug (Furrion F30INS-SS Stainless 30 Amp Marine/RV Inlet) 210
30 Amp cable (Furrion 30ft 30 Amp 125 Volt Cordset with FaultSmart and PullSmart technology – F30R30-SB) 100
RV batteries (2) 400
wire connectors
circuit breaker 60
latching button that switches 12V power on and off.
MC4 connectors
LED superthin round lights indoor (acegoo RV Boat Recessed Ceiling Light 4 Pack Super Slim LED Panel Light DC 12V 3W Full Aluminum Downlights, Cool White (Silver)) $30 for 4-pack X3 120
USB ports
screws & barrel connectors
INTERNET & TECH
antennas
Signal Booster
Monitor holder (NewerTech NuMount Pivot Wall Mount for iMac and Apple Displays)
cables
External hard drive (4TB). (Seagate Expansion Portable 4TB External Hard Drive Desktop HDD – USB 3.0 for PC Laptop (STEA4000400)) 120
EXTERIOR
fantastic fans (2) Fan-Tastic Vent 801250 1250 Series Vent – White ($175) 350
Dometic air conditioner, controller & gasket kit (Dometic 640315C Penguin II 410 Amp Low Profile Rooftop Air Conditioner(Polar White)) 1175
Propane tanks & fittings (regulator kit: Cavagna (52-A-890-0006C Auto Changeover Regulator Kit $50) 500
Propane certification 70
LED Hitch Lights (Northpole Light LED Light Bar, 2X 18W Waterproof Cree Spot LED Light Bar Work Light, LED Off-Road Lights, Driving Fog Light with Mounting Bracket for Off-Road, Truck, Car, ATV, SUV, Jeeps) 12.99
Main door seal ($1.49/foot) https://vintagetrailersupply.com/airstream-main-door-seal-1974-vts-1099/ 44
TremPro PolyUrethane sealant ($7.82 each X24) https://www.vintagetrailersupply.com/trempro-635-polyurethane-vts-267/ 188
Exterior polishing (DIY)
Bottom third paint (Navy)
lock for tow
Main door lock
screen door metal art
storage door locks
Awning repair or replacement
7 pin socket, connector, cable, junction box (between TV & Airstream) 100
Power Jack for Tow (Barker (30828 Power Jack – 3500 lb. Load Capacity) 225
Special White Paint for Roof (Liquid Rubber RV Roof Coating – Solar Reflective Sealant – Waterproof – Easy to Apply – Brilliant White,5 Gallon) 280
WINDOWS
gaskets
interior sealant
window tint (35%)
copper brushes (for cleaning)
polishing supplies
fuzzy seals for window
replacement screens
Chrome paint for hardware 9.99
TremPro Silicon sealant – aluminum color ($5.99 each, X 13). https://vintagetrailersupply.com/trempro-644-rtv-silicone-aluminum-vts-566/ 78

Where’s the total?

As I mentioned earlier – this is a work in progress. We aren’t working on her renovation full-time, and this airstream budget list is even further down the priority list. We are guesstimating that it will cost somewhere between $25,000 – $50,000 when we are done. And that may or may not include all those hours of labor! It’s on my to-do list to update this, along with adding links to products so that if you’re in the process – it’s a little easier for you to find what you need.

Tell me in the comments if you are considering or have your own Airstream project. And follow Wednesday on her Instagram account @WednesdaytheAirstream

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2 Comments

  1. Nancy E Daugherty

    Looks like a list to send to Santa … (often!)

    Reply
    • Stacey Newman Weldon

      I need to update it with links – so Santa knows where to send his elves!

      Reply

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