Phase One: The Demolition

Greetings from the chilly Northlands! We have returned to our hometown of Olean, New York to remodel our Airstream and hopefully empty our Olean home of all unnecessary belongings before putting it up for sale. After living tiny for the last year, Michael and I have both come to the conclusion that we never want to live in a big house again. Even though our Olean home is not considered large at roughly 1600 square feet, it feels enormous after living in about 228 square feet in the Falcon. Already after less than a week, we both are itching to get the remodeling done on the Airstream so we can get back to living in it again. It’s been a busy several days since our arrival in Olean, so busy I haven’t even gotten a hold of any of my friends yet. I barely had time to visit my family since getting back into town, but we’ve had a nice couple of visits with them in our few spare moments. This week I hope to make time for friends, too.

Thus far, Michael and I have emptied the trailer of all our belongings (which are now sitting in great lumpy piles all over the living area downstairs), and gotten all of the cabinetry and walls out of the Airstream. We still have to remove the pipes, and then we have to start removing rivets to take off the inner skin. That part is going to suck. I may be able to talk my brother into helping with that part, but it all depends on schedules of folks this week. We have a LOT to do before we can even think about building the new stuff in the trailer. This part of the work is fairly messy and at times unpleasant (particularly since at some point before we purchased the trailer a mouse had field day in every nook and cranny of this entire trailer, and we are finding mouse poop EVERYWHERE). There are moments of fun, though. I really like it when I get to stomp on cupboards and drawers and get to break things. That part is fun. 🙂 I also happen to like when I finally get all the screws out of things before being able to tear it off the wall or floor. Very satisfying.

We have pulled up all the horrid flooring the previous owner installed, revealing the subfloor. Two things about that: the previous owners were fools, since the things they did to “improve” the trailer only served to ruin it (like installing the wood flooring and toilet incorrectly); and it’s surprising to discover that Airstream would use chipboard as the subfloor of such an expensive RV. I mean, Airstream seems to spare no expense when it comes to finishes, but chipboard? An odd discovery, to say the least. We are also finding unpleasant surprises like black mold which probably grew as a result of all the condensation we created during the colder months in Nevada. This, my dears, is why we will be installing an air exchange unit which also controls humidity. Since we are removing the furnaces which haven’t worked since the first night we spent in the trailer, we plan to use at least one of the intake/exhaust openings for one of the furnaces as the spot where we install the air exchange unit. Hopefully this works out well, but all remains to be planned.

In between work sessions, we have made various runs to stores to compare prices for things like flooring options, wall coverings, sinks, refrigerators, and countertops. We think we have finally settled on most things, though we haven’t completely set it all in stone yet. Part of the dithering is coming out of our need to see what’s under all the pipes and floorboards first, since we still aren’t sure how much it will cost to repair any damage from water leaking, and maybe even mice chewing. Ew. Really, some of the finishing touches may need to wait until the very end when we see what money we have left after purchasing supplies. Still, it’s exciting to finally be in the phase of discovery and possibility. We have a lot of work ahead, and Michael has his moments of doubt about whether or not it will be worth it with all the scary things we’re finding as we go. Whether he has faith in the Falcon or not, my faith in our tiny home remains. I trust we will be able to repair it and make it a modern, comfy space.

For now, we believe we have decided on a vinyl option which is a fairly convincing faux wood for the floors. It seems like it will be a better choice than actual wood (which was our preference) because the vinyl won’t rot or get moldy. Since the space is so small, water is a much bigger issue than we expected it to be, and we are learning how very serious it is when we find spots of mold growth in specific areas, like near the door. Tile is too heavy, and linoleum is ugly, so it looks like we’re doing vinyl in click-lock planks as a floating floor. We still aren’t sure what to use for the walls, because the aluminum inner skin has been awful for cold. It acts like a giant conductor of heat or cold, which is bad in both very cold and very hot climates. Instead, we think we may go with some quarter-inch plywood, since wood will better insulate. Still need to think on that one. We also believe we have decided to go with lexan as a backsplash in the kitchen area, as it’s durable, light, shiny, and inexpensive. It also may look spanky up against stainless steel countertops, which we would like to have instead of laminate.

The bathroom may prove to be a little more difficult, because we have learned that shower pan replacements are ridiculously expensive for Airstreams (like a few thousand—because they add diamond dust?). Michael thinks he can re-gel the shower pan to make it nice again. I hope so, since we don’t have that kind of dough to dump into a thin piece of something resembling plastic. We may do lexan for the shower surround, too, but still not sure about that. The rest of the design elements are a work in progress, partially in limbo while we figure out what we can work with once the whole shebang is opened up and we know exactly how we can rewire, replumb, and replace walls. Hopefully we can install electric floor heating, as the cold floors in Nevada (where it didn’t get much colder than single digits, and only on a couple of occasions) were fairly miserable. Even with the skirting Michael made it got quite cold on the floor, and our poor dogs have to lie on it all the time. Besides, if we can do the heated floors it will serve as our main source of heat, and then we can supplement with some kind of propane heater if needed. Nice and toasty.

As of this moment, we plan to make a couple of dump runs tomorrow to get the trash out of the trailer (though we are saving some of the better wood for repurpose in the new build), and then hopefully get started on taking down the inner skin of the interior walls. I am getting so excited to see the progress as we work along day by day, and if anyone has any questions about what I’ve shared, I will hopefully have answers for you. Of course, if anyone has already completed a project like this, we would absolutely love to hear from you, since we tiny home/Airstreamers can always swap ideas amongst ourselves. It truly is an amazing life to live, and I honestly feel like this choice to live with a smaller footprint has made a huge difference in our lives. So, my darling ducks, I hope you have plans to go do something or make something amazing today. Don’t wait. Who knows what tomorrow may bring? Do it now. No regrets!

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