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Before it was ours…

Before we get too far ahead in the renovation process, I wanted to post some before photos and talk a little bit about how we bought our Airstream.

We found our Airstream listed online.  We live in Florida and the Airstream was in California.

We did have the trailer inspected by someone in California before we bought it.  He caught a few minor issues but didn’t catch others.  Overall, the trailer was in good shape and was roadworthy.

This particular trailer caught our eye because it was the right year and the layout seemed perfect for our needs.  At 28 ft, it was about 2 ft shorter than what we had been aiming for – but we wouldn’t have to modify the existing floor plan significantly.

airstream 28 fp

We had previously looked at a 2005 Safari 30 ft bunk-house with the Queen bed in the front.  By the time we planned and re-arranged everything the way we wanted, we would have spent way too much money fixing it up.

So we opted to lose 2 ft (which in RV-life is a whole lot of closet space) – but we figured we could make it work.

The previous owner had already removed the dinette – which we would have done anyway. The L-shaped couch provides a great and practical TV watching area and the floor plan has the split bathroom layout that we wanted.

These before pictures are from the listing.  Similar to pictures you might see of a staged house on, the photos show the trailer at its best.  When it arrived to us, it was not as clean and there was more wear and tear than we were expecting – one drawback of not being able to view the trailer in person.

We probably would have offered a lower price if we had seen it in person- but knowing that we are replacing most of what is worn and the fact that trailer was priced well within range for the year and size – we feel good about the purchase.

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In the next week or so we will post in-progress renovation pictures.  We already pulled out the desk and started ripping off the wall-fabric (endearingly referred to as mouse-fur).

More to come!

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Buying an Airstream – New, Used, or Vintage?

So you’ve decided to buy an Airstream.  Do you buy New? Used? Or Vintage?

First it may help to define what we mean by New, Used, and Vintage.

We considered an Airstream “New” if it was brand new or up to 5 years old (give or take).  Why?  Because models in that range generally had a pretty high price tag and still looked new – both in wear and style.

“Vintage” included those rare gems built circa 1980 or earlier.  These Airstreams could often be found for an affordable – even bargain price – but might need significant repairs.

Take a look at this great post on buying a Vintage Airstream from LivinLightly – Before You Buy a Vintage Airstream.

“Used” fell somewhere in between “New” and “Vintage.”

We decided to go with a Used Airstream and ultimately focused our search on early to mid-2000 models.

A Used Airstream would probably need some maintenance and repairs, but have no major service issues.

We knew significant service issues (water damage, electrical work) would be outside what we would be comfortable doing ourselves and would end up costing us a ton of money to get fixed professionally.  If you don’t have the time or skill to DIY –labor costs will end up being the most expensive part of your re-model ($124-$129/hr in our area – Tampa, FL).

A Used Airstream would also be dated enough that we wouldn’t feel bad about ripping out the interior to customize our living space.

We plan to live in our Airstream, so no matter what model we ended up with, we were planning to make some modifications (we don’t need the space consuming dinette that comes standard in most Airstreams).

And, while we plan to use professional help for complex renovations, we figured we could manage some minor aesthetic improvements ourselves to save money (see our post Airstream Cabinet Update – DIY).

So far, our 2005 Safari has suited our needs perfectly.  After a thorough inspection it needed some repairs but nothing outside basic wear and tear.

For us – not having some huge wood-rot surprise was worth the higher up front cost.

We are still tallying up our overall expenses for our Airdreaming lifestyle and will share in an upcoming post.

If you’re trying to save the most money and you have a lot of time (and hopefully skill) to do the work yourself – I would say go for the best trailer you can find at the cheapest cost.  A lot of people go that route and end up with a great remodel at a low cost.

Take a look at this great thread on Airstream Forums:  What does it cost to buy and renovate a Vintage Airstream).



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Airstream Cabinet Update – DIY

We are completely skipping important back story and jumping ahead here.  I promise this didn’t happen overnight and there was a whole process and plan behind all of it.

BUT…since we started on some of our DIY projects this weekend we wanted to share right away.

We will explain in more detail in other posts, but for our Airstream update we are doing certain upgrades ourselves and using professional help for many others (e.g. electric).

One of the big face lift items is refinishing the wood looking laminate cabinets.  Our cabinets are in good shape but we really want to brighten up the small space and go for something lighter.  Here are some BEFORE pictures:


I opted for paint.  I did a lot of research and read a lot of blogs about painting laminate cabinets.

We ultimately settled for the following process (that is still in progress):

  1. Select a paint.  I researched Rust-Oleum and some other options (I think one blogger used Glidden Gripper).  We picked Cabinet Rescue in white. (
  2. Remove cabinets from frames.
  3. Sand with 400 Grit fine sandpaper (I originally picked up something coarser but the service rep at the paint store recommended the 400 Grit – so we will see).
  4. Wipe away any dust from sanding.
  5. Using a high density foam roller, apply a base coat.

This is the step we are on and I can tell you we will definitely need a second coat but the finish looks good so far.



After letting the first coat dry for 24 hours we applied a second coat of paint to the cabinets.

Our Airstream cabinets have a slight texture to them.  We used a 400 Grit sandpaper and lightly scuffed and sanded the laminate but did not sand away the texture.  So after the first coat, some of that laminate color still bled through.

The second coat fully filled in the texture and covered any of the laminate still showing after the first coat.  We ended up with a very smooth finish while retaining some texture.

Here is a picture of a finished cabinet face.  I placed it against our current kitchen cabinets.  The finish is just as smooth and an even more vibrant white.

Cabinet face

Once we’ve re-installed them in the trailer we will upload some more photos!