The Products We Used to Remodel Our Airstream

Products used to Remodel Airstream |

Ok ya’ll. Today is a doozy of a post. I get a lot of questions about the specific products we used to remodel our 1978 Airstream Sovereign. I’ve tried to link to the exact products we used, but we also borrowed when we could, repurposed and recycled. We were on a tight budget and a tight timeline. We spent about 4 months remodeling the Airstream and we spent about $1,500 to fix her up. I’m also writing this post two years in the future, so I’m remembering as best I can. If you want to read more about our remodel, check out this post. Alright, on to the good stuff!

Interior Cleaning
One of the biggest challenges we faced when remodeling the Airstream was the dirt, dust and grime. Our Airstream was original when we bought it. It needed a thorough cleaning. A bleach-water mixture worked best for cleaning the walls and we wore dust masks to help with the fumes and icky stuff.

Luckily we didn’t find too much water on the subfloor when we ripped up the carpet. The floors were not “springy” so we felt comfortable just sweeping the subfloor, cleaning the water spots with bleach and using an industrial fan to dry everything completely out. We also sealed the floors with one can of KILZ 1-gal. General Purpose Interior Water-Base Primer. Which brings me to…

We wore safety glasses to paint the Airstream. Since we were painting the ceiling, it was easy for paint to fall and get into our eyes, hair, etc. I actually wish I had worn a hair net. I was getting paint out of my hair for a month after we finished painting!

We used standard rollers and paintbrushes to paint the Airstream. We used rollers on the walls and occasionally needed paintbrushes to fit into small cracks or crevices. The rollers worked best and didn’t leave any brush strokes. A small trim paint roller was also helpful for getting into small spaces.

First we used Kilz on the walls, but we had trouble with it sticking and covering. The best thing we found was about 3 cans of Valspar Signature Paint and Primer. We used this on the walls and on much of our furniture. It covered well, but we still had to do about 3 coats to cover up the vinyl, original Airstream walls.

To save money, we decided to keep the original roll-top cabinets in the Airstream. To paint those we used Rustoleum spray enamel (about 4 cans) of flat white. This worked really well, the first time 🙂

We cheaped out a bit on the counters and used one small can of a Custom-blended Oil Based-Enamel Paint. This has had the most chips and if I was to do it again, I might try a countertop paint. My friends used that product in their home and it turned out great.

We did not pull out our original shower, but we did want to update it. To update the shower we used two kits of Tough As Tile Epoxy Finish, Spray-on Kit, Bisque. This worked well in the application, but we have had some peeling and we’ll need to spray it again soon.

I often get asked about how the paint has held up over the years. If you are curious, check out this post.

Installing new screens in the Airstream made a world of difference. The old screens were original, split in some places and full of pollen. To replace the old screens, we used screening, a spline and a spline roller. We used a plastic spline and by the third window it was demolished. I’d recommend getting a metal one like I linked to. To check out exactly how put in new screens check out this post on how to install window screens in an Airstream.

Out of all of the renovation tasks, sealing the windows and door with caulk was my favorite. It was so gratifying to get a nice clean line using a caulk gun. This was essential to ensure that water stayed out of the Airstream.

Unfortunately it doesn’t look like the flooring we used in the Airstream is still manufactured. The closest thing I could find was this Pergo Max Thoroughbred Oak Embossed Laminate. We chose laminate floors to keep the weight of the trailer low in case we ever want to pull it. Laminate floors were also more economical than hardwood. We used a thin layer of underfloor that I wouldn’t recommend. The floors get quite cold in the winter. If I was laying the floor again, I’d use a thicker underfloor like this Vapor Barrier Flooring Underlayment.

For lumber we tried to use wood we had from previous products to cut down on cost. We also used old barnwood from the property we live on. For the new stuff, we simply measured and went to Lowe’s. Here’s some bed buildout tips and what our custom drawers look like.

Washing and buffing
Some Airstreams, like our own, will never get that super-shine without drastic measures, such as an acid bath. Prior to owning the old girl, we think someone used a product that took off some of the original clear finish because it is unnaturally patchy in spots. If that bothers you, here are some tips for getting a super shine. We’ve decided to forego a more natural look for the time being.

First we washed the Airstream with a vinegar and water mixture, then we used ArmorAll Car Wash Concentrate to wash it again. A double wash might not be necessary for you, but it was for us! We washed and dried the Airstream with soft cloths. To buff the Airstream, we used Turtle Wax Ice Paste and we borrowed an electric buffer but buffers aren’t as pricey as I imagined.

Phew! I’m tired just thinking about it. That’s all I can remember in terms of the products we used to remodel our Airstream. Still have questions? Feel free to leave ’em below or shoot me an email.


This post contains affiliate links to products we used while renovating our Airstream. The opinions are my own, but I may make a commission if you click on the product and purchase it. Affiliate links help to pay for hosting and upkeep of this blog. Thank you for reading.

8 thoughts on “The Products We Used to Remodel Our Airstream

  1. allyson

    This could not have come at a better time! Thank you so much! We just bought a smaller version of your girl. Same wallpaper and everything! I’ve followed your blog for about six months now… Way back when this whole tiny house thing was still just a twinkle in my eye. I’ve loved and studied your affordable makeover. Those full renos are beautiful but not realistic for us, so I’ve really appreciated your story… Quick question, do you have any more information about your bed build out that you can share? I tried to heed George’s advice of “just buy one!” but i have yet to find a pre-made bed frame that’s a affordable/fits our needs.

    1. melanie Post author

      Hey Allyson, so glad we could help! We built out bed in such a hurry that I didn’t document it well. George said that jokingly, but yes, buying one would probably be easier. This Ikea storage bed would have been a great choice, if we were to purchase one: If that’s too expensive, I’d enlist the help of someone with woodworking skills. These 21 DIY bed frame projects also might help:

      Good luck!

  2. My Northwoods Life (@KristaFornear)

    Just discovered your blog and I love it!! We purchased a 1977 Airstream Argosy we are fixing up right now and I would love some advise on your appliance, how you go about heating/cooling your Airstream and anything else you are willing to share about your journey. Thank you!

    1. melanie Post author

      Hi Krista, you might want to check out my New? Start here page and my FAQs. I briefly address my heating/cooling on the FAQs page, but I’ll write a longer post to address that in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!

  3. Pingback: How to Create the Perfect Whitewash – a small life

  4. Chaz

    Hey thank you for all this information. One question, what did you use to attach the new wood to the interior walls? And anything else in that realm you may have used? Thank you

    1. melanie Post author

      Hey Chaz,
      We really didn’t attach new wood to the interior walls. We built the furniture to really fit into the space and then attached it to the floor using screws. Thanks for reading!

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