Demolition Phase I

airstreamPhase one of demolition work, the stripping out of the built in furniture, cabinets, bulkheads and mechanical equipment was, in retrospect, the easiest part of the whole project. Phase two of the demolition involved removing all the interior skins, getting rid of the black and gray water holding tanks, tearing out of all existing wiring and plumbing and lifting the body from the frame and was considerably more arduous.

For the phase one work I decided that I would take it slow and be somewhat methodical. It is tempting when doing demo work to just grab a big hammer, prybar and sawzall and let it rip. This can be satisfying in so many ways. The downside of such an approch is it creates a horrendous mess that then needs to be cleaned up and you don’t really learn too much about how the original went together. Plus, of course, an Airstream is not exactly like a wood frame building.

So I tried to take things apart carefully and then lift them out as opposed to smashing things and tearing them apart. I attempted to unfasten things the way they were fastened. So if it was a screw, I wanted to unscrew it, not pry it out even if that meant grabbing solvents to loosen the thing and carefully back it out with much sweating and grunting or even drilling it out. If it were a rivet (and boy howdy were there rivets) I wanted to drill it out. Staples, glue, etc each required its own particular mindset.

While I did enjoy reasoning out how the thing had been put together at the factory, it became apparent quickly that I did not want to put it back together the way it had been built. It shocked me that for all appearances, the build out of the interior, from skins to furniture and cabinetry, seemed mostly a series of decisions on how to correct for or cover up the mistake or bad workmanship that had come before. I was also not impressed by how things were sequenced, meaning what you would have to do to access something that might need repair or maintenance. Even something basic like how to get to the water pump was not well thought out and certainly not easy to do.

My slow and methodical approach to stripping out the interior ended up paying big dividends. As I worked on taking the thing apart I developed some thoughts on how to put it back together.

  • Respect the person that comes behind you (that person may be you). Make it logical and reversable.
  • Maintenance won’t get done if it isn’t reasonably easy to get to the thing that needs maintenance. Make it accessible.
  • Trailers leak. Heck you pull them down the freeway at 60-70 miles an hour and then bounce them along a wash board forest service road. If it doesn’t leak now it will in the future. You can fix it but in order to fix it before serious damage occurs you need to know you have a problem. Think about that when choosing finish materials and designing interior components and how they are installed.

These thoughts became more developed when I moved into the build out phase but they certainly had their genesis during the dismantling.

A good ending point for this segment is to repeat that phase I demo was the easiest part of the whole project. But at the end of the first phase of the demolition I came face to face with one of the low points of the whole project: the state of the gray and black water tanks. Disgusting. Which is the subject of the next segment.