AIRSTREAM RENOVATION: Installing the Insulation, Subfloor, and... THE TRAGEDY!!

It's the BIG DAY. The day we lower the shell back onto the frame and move the Airstream to the side of the house for winter.

A couple days prior, I drove 4 hours to Salt Lake City to the Airstream of Utah to pick up the curved c-channel as well as some straight c-channel. When I got there I found out the bad news... they sent the wrong c-channel curve! They sent the one for the newer wide body Airstreams. What the heck am I going to do now?!? I NEED to get this shell back on ASAP. I can't wait another 2 months or however long it took to get the c-channel in from the factory.

So I took the curve piece anyway, thinking I might be able to cut it in half, and shorten it in the middle by 6 inches. But the curve did not match the curve of our trailer.... time for PLAN C. I take another look at the original c-channel, you know the one that was smashed and corroded. Yeah well, I cleaned it up and straightened it out as best I could and decided it will have to do. WHAT OTHER OPTION DO I HAVE AT THIS POINT???

My thought was that I could get it on there and see how it felt and if I wasn't happy with the result I could always lift the shell back up again and replace it once I got the right piece. But this way at least we could move the RV off the side of the road for winter... not ideal, but when life gives you lemons.

Installing the insulation

We planned everything for a Wednesday because it was supposed to start snowing THE NEXT DAY. Well as soon as I got to Shoshone what do you think was happening? IT WAS SNOWING. GAH!

Because it was Fall the frame was full of leaves, and ice. So we had to clean it out before we could do anything. We also needed to stop it from filling up with more snow and ice. So I took the massive 40x20 foot tarp I bought to cover the Airstream for the winter and tented it so that we could work and keep the snow out. It was supposed to stop by the afternoon but at least we could get started.

Once we got it all cleaned out it was time for the insulation.

What type of insulation we were going to use was a big deal for me. I did lots of research in the early stages. I didn't want to use anything petroleum based or anything that was toxic/hazardous and not friendly to the environment or our health. Which rules out a lot of insulation, let me tell you. But after looking at insulation made of rock, insulation made of sheep wool and other things, I settled on Hemp.

I am big believer in the Hemp plant. It has a lot of amazing uses! In fact we used to use it all the time in America to make ropes, clothing, and even paper. It's amazingly sustainable. In 1 year you can get the same amount of material in Hemp as you would from a 21 year lumber growth! Incredible!

I originally heard about Hemp's insulating ability from friends of our who used it on a building up in the mountains not too far from where we live. They said they were able to maintain temperatures above 50 degrees all winter without heating the building. And it's in a place where it can drop below zero outside. Now that's cool!

They used a local company here in Sun Valley, Hempitecture. So I gave them a call and bought a pallet for under the subfloor. The depth of the frame measures at 5 inches, and they have a 5.5 inch option. It worked perfectly. At an R value of 3.7 per inch, this give us an R20 rating for under the floor. Which is great!

It was super easy to install. It's all natural plant from the earth, so it's not itchy and you don't even need to wear a mask because you aren't breathing in harmful chemicals!

For pieces I needed to cut, I just used the angle grinder and a cutting wheel and it gave me a nice, fast cut. Then we just shoved it in to the frame cavities. And for the smaller holes, and crevices, we just tore off chunks and shoved into all the nooks and crannies to make sure it was sealed up tight.

Installing the Subfloor

After getting the all the insulation in, We took the subfloor and laid it back onto the frame, piece by piece. At this point most of the work is done for the subfloor so we just need to make sure it's in the correct position.

We also add on all the c-channel around the subfloor in their proper positioning as well. The original c-channel piece already have holes in them for the rivets, and we can line those up with the corresponding holes in the shell. For the new pieces, we'll have to drill new holes once the shell is on.

There was also two spots in the subfloor, where the edge of the board did not land on a beam, and when you walked on it it would sag a little. So I came up with an idea of using an aluminum angle bar and splitting it at the ends and riveting it into the frame. This gave it just enough support. And I am pretty proud of myself.

Lowering the Shell

Well, this is it. The moment we've all been waiting for. Ever since we raised the shell, it's been a stressful time just hoping nothing bad happens. That it will hold up through all the crazy wind storms we had. One time it almost didn't and my brother and I ran down at 9 o'clock at night to add more support.

But now we were finally securing back to its rightful place. So I removes the supports so we could lower it, and then all of a sudden it was time for dinner. By this time the weather was nice and calm. The sky was clear, and there was no wind. We ate dinner, and Lacie had a quick business call to attend to.

I also just remembered that I had another metal piece that need to go on under the subfloor in the rear. This is a piece that the rear bumper storage lid attaches to. So while I waited I got that piece cleaned up. As I was brushing off the corrosion, I noticed it has started snowing big fluffy snowflakes out of nowhere.

I didn't think much of this except, "Of course it would".

The Tragedy

A couple minutes later I hear a big THUD. I run out to see what happened. At first i wasn't sure what happened exactly, with the Airstream being covered in a tarp. Though I could tell something was off but I didn't want to believe what I knew in my heart.


I stood there for what seemed like an eternity, hoping it was all just a bad dream. "THERE IS NO WAY THIS JUST HAPPENED" and then Tom came running out "WHAT HAPPENED?!?" he said. "It FELL OVER", I cried.

I ran over to see for sure. It was sitting half on the frame, half on the ground. The subfloor half exposed, and quickly getting covered in snow. We started panicking. What do we do? We started getting the tarp off. I got a broom to brush all the snow off the subfloor. I am half sad, half INFURIATED. Really?!? WHY??

What happened was that the snow weighted the tarp, which consequently pulled the shell over onto the ground...

And then the snow stopped.

Really? A 15 minute dump? Where did it come from??? I could still see stars, was there just a rogue snow storm going around ruining people's lives?!?! WTF?

I may have said some choice words and threw some 2x4s. And just to kick me while I was down, while I was trying to get the tarp off I stepped onto the belly pan in the rear which ripped it off the frame.... (as you can see in the above picture)

I sat down and took a breather. It's going to be ok. There's nothing we can do to change it, what happened happened. Being mad about it or all "woe is me" won't change anything. Stop. Breathe. Think. Come up with a plan.

There's no getting it back on now, but we can't leave it like this. We start calling friends, the only way we can move this thing is if we get a lot of manpower. The shell really isn't that heavy and theoretically if we had 10 people we could pick it up.

A couple of people start making their way down from Hailey, but not enough.

So we asked the neighbors and they put out a call to their church members here in Shoshone. The next thing I know guys are here waiting to help. We all get under the shell and ready to lift and...

about 5 more guys coming streaming in through the door to help. On the count of three we lift it up and walk it over to the lawn and set it down gently. And as quickly as they came they were all gone. Thank, God. Thank you all for coming out to help us! I am not sure what else we could have done at 8pm that night...

Assessing the Damage

Now that the shell is safe and sound on the lawn, I take a look at the damage. It's mostly on the curb side where it landed. There is one big dent in the rear that I notice. The front curve panels are bent on the edges but nothing worrisome, especially since the rock guards cover those anyway. The rear bottom panel is actually the worst, it got torn from hitting the frame. But luckily we were replacing this piece anyway!

All in all, the damage is not irreversible. The biggest thing hurt was my ego, I think. 😂

also some of my beautiful paint job got scratched up

So for now, we just put one axel back on so we can move the frame to the side yard and tarp it for the winter. The shell is sitting on the lawn, and we can throw some extra parts and pieces underneath to keep them out of the weather. And Ali wastes no time making it her new doghouse!

Watch the Video!

That's it. I am now all caught up on our Airstream Renovation posts.

If you've been paying attention you'll know I am writing these a couple of months after the fact. Partly because I just slacked off on writing them because it actually takes a lot of time (though I think I am starting to get into a flow), and also because we didn't have a website from September until February when I launched our new site.

It's now March 19th, 2021 the day of writing this, and the weather is starting to warm up and it is lovely. I am so excited. The first day of spring is just a couple days away and we are starting plans on how to make repairs to the shell to straighten it out so that it fits on properly. And we are also trying to figure out how we are going to lift it up onto the frame. I am thinking a crane, or a forklift of some kind.

We also had something else thrown at us, not unexpectedly, but way sooner than we expected. So stay tuned for news on that as well.

Thanks for reading! And please leave a comment below and let us know what you think. If you have any suggestions for content you'd like to see, or if you think I should be more detailed in the future with these Airstream Renovation blogs. Let me know how I am doing. All this content is for you!

And please, stop by our shop and show your support by getting some Chasing the Wild Wonder shirts to wear around and show off to all your friends!

About the Author
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Ben Figueiredo

I make a living as a filmmaker & Website Designer, Telling Stories, creating content for businesses, entrepreneurs and even couples getting married. As a Five on the Enneagram, I love learning. Absorbing as much knowledge I can. I am into Biohacking, holistic wellness, and Rewilding so that I can be the best version of me to enjoy life with my family connecting with nature, our community, and God.

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