Remember two years ago when we spent nearly every day for a month buffing, polishing, and repolishing the aluminum tube that we call home?
Well, since then we’ve done our best to nullify all that hard work. Dusty dirt roads, muddy campsites, narrow tree-lined roads that we had no business driving down, three months parked next to the ocean, and a whole host of similar sins against aluminum contributed to sad state we found ourselves in this winter.
To be honest, even without our mistreatment, even if we had parked under cover, never drove in the rain, always wiped off the squashed bugs, and avoided all those tight spaces and dirty areas (aka the BEST boondocking spots), things would still be looking a little rough. The fact is that all polished Airstreams eventually need repolishing.
So we did what any sane person who spent a good part of one winter polishing an Airstream would do…we paid someone else to re-polish it. This is a big step for us. We fall firmly into the category of enthusiast DIYers. If something breaks we fix it (eventually) and if something needs updating or renovating, we tackle it head-on. But even we can admit when enough is enough. Polishing an Airstream is not fun. It’s dirty, fussy, and frustrating. It’s also really time-consuming and after last winter’s long and drawn out interior renovation we simply were not up for another big project.
Which is why when we found ourselves on the California coast not far from a professional Airstream polishing business it only made sense to reach out for a quote. And when the quote came back at a reasonable rate we took the plunge and made arrangements to have the work done. For the first time ever we were going to have someone else work on the Airstream. Does this mean that we’re getting lazier or smarter?
I’m putting my money on smarter. Dropping it off all dull and scratched up and then picking it up two weeks later all shiny and beautiful was pretty awesome. Here are a few photos sent to us during the polishing process.
We choose C.F. Detailing in Ventura for several reasons. First, we had seen their work on both Instagram and in person on a friends ’70s Airstream that was polished there. It was also convenient to our location, the cost estimate was extremely reasonable, and they were able to get us in during the dates that worked for us. Overall, we are very happy with the results. The scratches and oxidation are gone, the watermarks a thing of the past, and just look at that shine!
Now that we’re looking spiffy on the outside, let’s talk about an indoor project. I’ve always wanted to paint the wood cabinets and wall panels in the Airstream. The faux oak look is just too dark for such a small space. Last winter I took the first steps during our renovation extravaganza and painted the upper cabinets in the bedroom a crisp white color. The results were pretty dramatic.
After a year-long break from home improvements, I was ready to tackle more painting and decided it was time to brighten up the hallway. My intention was only to paint the bathroom door and two walls on either side. But as tends to happen, the project blew up until it consumed nearly one whole side of the Airstream. In the end, it took two full days of taping, painting, and living in close quarters with wet paint to complete the project.
It can be kind of a pain to do indoor painting projects while living in an RV. The limited space means you have to be extra organized and always watch where you walk/lean/ careful. I spent a lot more time than normal covering things with plastic and taping off the floor and ceiling to keep it neat and reduce clean up at the end. I also simplified things by using an all in one paint + primer.
The first time around I got all fancy and used an oil based primer followed by multiple coats of latex paint. My theory (backed up by some things I learned on the Googles) was that the laminate wood finish on the cabinets would not take well to a simple coat of latex paint. The role of the oil-based primer was to act as a bond of sorts between the shiny laminate surface and the top coat of latex. The problem is that oil based paint it a huge PITA! It’s messy, smelly, takes forever to dry, and requires a lot more than water to clean up.
With no desire to deal with the oil primer, and no place to paint outside where the fumes would be vented (this project happened at a beachside state park with too much blowing sand for outside painting) I decided to try a different, simpler approach with the latex paint + primer. I think the results speak for themselves.
A good scrub down of the surface followed by three coats of Lilac Muse (AKA “white”) in a semi-gloss finish was all it took to make the transformation. I will admit that the change took a few days of adjustment. In the store, the grey-white that we picked out wasn’t even close to a pure, bright white but at home on the walls, it was really, really white!
One month later and I am pleased to say that we are loving the new look. The degree by which it has brightened up in here is amazing. So far the paint is holding up well and is proving to be easy to wipe down and keep clean. In fact, this painting project came out so well that I’m about to tackle another section along with a much-needed change in the bathroom. Stay tuned for another edition of Airstream Updates…