The days of old copper piping for our Airstream Argosy had come to an end when we decided to renovate her. But even more dire to our plumbing renovation, was discovering the intake for the a Water Hook up, ran next to our 30 amp electrical box. What were those 70’s Airstream Argosy builders thinking?
Researching our plumbing project we found a few surprising details. No need for copper, Pex Piping was installed in most new RV’s and much easier to install, AND there was something called the “Shark Bite” that meant I wasn’t going to have to take a plumbing course to learn plumbing.
Our first step was to map out what faucets we were going to be using, and how the fresh water tank was going to be utilized when boondocking. We new we had 3 main faucets. Kitchen, Shower, and Bathroom Sink. We opted out for hot water in the bathroom sink, and we really wanted a outdoor shower along with our Center Bath Shower. We drew up our plans with anticipation and excitement. The one component we had NOT decided on was our Hot Water Heater.
We saw a video on using the Excel Tankless On-Demand Gas Water Heater VENTFREE – Propane (LPG) – Low Water Pressure Startup. Low Water Pressure Startup. Starts up with only 2 psi. of water pressure. Holds up to 150 psi. All other tankless gas water heaters require at least 20 psi to start up due to their outdated technology.
This sold us right away. The best part is that is runs on 2 D Batteries and that will save our Deep Cycle Batteries.
The next step was to buy 2 rolls of 50 ft Pex 1/2 pipe. One Blue (cold water) and one Red (hot water). Then buy the appropriate Shark Bite fittings including a Check Valve that you will see explained in our video below. A big expense however was the Crimp Tool Pex 1/2 and the SharkBite PEX Pipe Crimp Ring 1/2 Inch, Plumbing Fittings.
TIP: DO NOT secure the crimps until you are done mapping your Pex. Things change, design changes, and you don’t want to waste time taking apart the crimps.
Our design includes a outdoor shower utilizing the old battery box and re-using the old Argosy shower fixture. We also wanted real copper piping in our Center Bath. The GOOD NEWS, Shark Bite makes connectors for copper piping. NO sweating copper.
All in all, we are very happy with our design and using Pex as our piping choice. Time will tell how well the Shark Bite connectors hold up.
We will do a full review of the Excel on Demand Water Heater when it’s installed, so SUBSCRIBE to your YOUTUBE Channel and hit the “bell” so you can get all the updates on our Airstream Argosy Renovation.
We have to admit, we were a little nervous with the decision to put a wood burning stove in our Airstream Argosy. It’s not normally done in moving RV’s. After all, the goal was to make our Argosy as eco friendly as possible without the need for so much propane. We also are avid backpackers and always looking to “multi-use” gear, including RV gear. The other reason was in colder or wetter environments, propane heat tends to cause condensation in your RV and that is something we did NOT want. The dry heat of a wood burning stove eliminated that.
The first step was to see if was even allowed. We read a good article on RVLIFE.com and how many RV’ers have installed one. We then researched on RV Forums there was much debate on it. Seemed to be a thumbs down, but there was a lot of mention that a Pellet Stove would be better. We also looked at the National Fire Protection Association’s Standards for Wood Burning Stoves in a RV. We also looked at Ordinances and Regulations for Wood-Burning
We out weight the Pro’s and Con’s and determined that the Con’s weighed heavily on the safety part and the Pro’s seemed to be more on effective heat in small places.
With all the research we noticed a trend among the Marine Lifestyle and how they were using a wood burning stoves quite a bit. So if they were using it, why couldn’t we?
That is when the Cubic Mini Wood Burning Stove found us. It was made in Canada and they had two sizes. The Cub, and the Grizzly. The Grizzly only weighed 35 lbs and could heat 200-400 sq. ft. Since our Argosy is a little under 200 sq ft we thought this may just be what we are looking for. Plus, when we saw a video of someone installing it in their Airstream. But what really sold us was the fact if you remove the rail you have a cooking area of 6 1/2″ from the flue to the edge of the plate and 13″ side to side. We were sold. Now we have a piece of gear in our Argosy that in cold months we could boil water and have heat at the same time without ever turning on propane.
The true test of course was that; would it do what we needed it to and was it going to be functional and pass inspections of any kind. We did notice the one thing that could “burn” us, was the transportation of wood from State to State. But we found a solution to that also. It turns out that the Cubic Mini Stoves (made in Canada) are really Pellet Stoves according to the size and capacity of United States Standards. The Cubic Mini’s have a 3 inch Flu size which by all U.S standards are Pellet Stoves. In Canada of course, they are called “Wood Burning Stoves”.
Speaking of Flue size. (AND THIS IS IMPORTANT) There is a single wall 3 inch pipe for wood burning stoves, and a 3 inch double wall. You need to go with the double wall. This will prevent creole from collecting in your pipe and it’s much safer. We went with the Durevent Double Wall Pipe. (1) 12 inch, (1) 24 inch, (2) Duravent Pellet Stove Vent Elbow 45 Degree Insulated 3 ” Dia. Double Wall All these pipes are made for pellet stoves. Again, Pellet stoves are named that in the U.S because of size. Canada does not do this. So in essence the Cubic Mini in the U.S is a a Pellet Stove and thus sanctioned by Fire Code Standards and are allowed in Mobile Homes.
Please subscribe to our YouTube Channel. We’ll answer all questions there.
Here is the Video of the Installation: Many questions answered on the video.
Other Items we used to complete installation:
Rutland 500°RTV High Heat Silicone (Black) 10.3 Oz Cartridge
DEKTITE PIPE FLASHING BOOT: #7 RED High Temp Silicone Flexible Pipe Flashing Dektite
Simpson Duravent Pellet Vent Wall Thimble Insulated 3 ” Double Wall Steel (I made my own)
Century Drill and Tool 05074 5-Inch Shark Hole Saw
Bringing back a 40 year old Airstream Argosy is not an easy task. There are some things we wish we would have known before we dove into the deep. Let’s start with a little history on a Airstream Argosy
History: Argosy trailers were made by Airstream Company starting 1971 in Versailles, OH. near Jackson Center, and are usually recognized as “Painted Airstreams”. Many features were first tried out on the Argosy models, and then incorporated into the more traditional Airstreams if they were a success. A good example is the large front wrap windows. These painted trailers were able to utilize steel end caps and aluminum panels that were damaged or blemished. Argosy created a series of diminutive trailers in the ’70’s called the “Minuet”. There was the 6.0 Metre (20?), the 6.7 Metre (22?), and a 7.4 Metre (24?) Minuet.
Beginning in 1974 Airstream began manufacturing a Class A motorhome, badged “Argosy”. These began as painted aluminum 20- and 24-foot models, and were followed in 1979 by the first of their Classic model motorhomes, with an unpainted aluminum body, much like the trailers they are known for. In actuality, these were modified trailers, mounted on a step van chassis also modified for the motorhome.
The first Argosy trailer was put on the market April 1971. (1972 Model)
The first Argosy motorhome introduced December 1973.
The Rehab Project: What do you do first? It can be overwhelming. More than likely, you have pulled your Argosy to a location where the renovation will take place. You probably did an initial inspection and did due diligence to pull it. Or maybe you had it lifted and towed to your designated area. Either way, you are dealing with a 40+ year old frame.
Step 1 the frame: Inspect the Frame! Crucial to the future of your travel experience. Your frame is going to have rust and perhaps some corrosion. The faster you deal with the frame, the more you can renovate. There are 3 crucial areas of the frame. 1. Axle 2. Outriggers (the camper sits on these) 3. the under frame. These have to be looked at and or fixed.
How do you fix or repair a frame? That’s a good question. It’s either going to be repairable, or you are buying a new frame. If the frame has corrosion which means there are holes in it, it has cancer. That cancer is spreading and will break down your frame to where it’s unusable. If your frame has rust and little corrosion, you can save it and even repair it. We sanded, scraped, and removed ALL the rust on the frame, and then used POR-15 to paint the entire frame to rust proof it.
Step 2 the tear down: You have to ask yourself one question: How far are you willing to go? Renovating a 40 year old Airstream Argosy is going to take on a long journey. Buckle up!!! It’s one thing to remove all the old interior. It’s another to gut it. I mean floor, walls, insulation, wiring. How far do you want to go? If your answer is: “I just want a remodel”. Then you are probably only going to live it in and have it parked. If your answer is; “I want to travel the country”. Gut it, and go to Step 3
Step 3 rivets, lots of rivets: Learn how to remove bucket rivets. Hint, automatic spring hole punch and a 5/32 drill bit is the key. We also bought a Air Pop Rivet Gun for cheap at Tractor Supply. When re riveting the Belly Pan, we used Large Flange Rivets – 5/32″ Diameter to help secure the belly pan to the frame. We did not need a new Belly Pan.
Step 4 panels: Or inner walls are long. 2 of the side panels will be at least 22 feet long. It will take two people to remove them from the Argosy. This is where you will get a feeling of…Oh crap! The top ceiling panel is in between two grooved moldings. The moldings are also riveted in. You will notice that most renovated Argosy’s that you see don’t have the center ceiling panel. There’s a reason why. It’s not easy to come off. Once you bend it, it’s over.
Step 6 the sub-floor: This is where the rubber meets the road in your rehab project. This is also where you will probably find dead things, mice, snakes, etc. that have nested in the insulation under the sub-floor. Our sub-floor was rotted mainly in the front, back, and by the door. The rest of the subfloor wasn’t that bad. But we took out the entire floor nonetheless. Read, How to Remove a Airstream Subfloor.
Tip: The entire camper sits on the sub-floor. You are NOT taking the sub-floor out without removing the bolts that are holding the camper on the frame. Everything in an Airstream Argosy is inter connected with each other. This is how your Argosy has lasted 40 years. They are built well.
Step 7 Remove the Pink Stuff:Removing the pink insulation is a good idea. Why? It get’s wet and will keep everything moist. Ants, bugs, and creatures (especially mice) love this stuff to nest in. Please wear gloves and a mask to remove all the insulation. We removed ours from underneath the sub-floor and did NOT replace it. However we did replace the inner skin insulation, this is how we did it.
After all of this, then you are finally able to start planning your design and plot how you will re-build.