Saving Money on a Renovation

As we are on the final leg of our Avion restoration I thought I would share some money saving ideas we used during the process. 

Let me preface this by saying, a full restoration is NOT cheap but it is possible to save some money on some things that would otherwise be expensive or time consuming. 

Here is our list!

  1. Paint: Probably the cheapest way to make a dark RV interior come to life for very little money. I estimate we spent around $275 in paint and supplies.  Of course, the hours I put into painting were crazy but it was worth it IMO. It makes everything so clean and bright!
    Cabinets – before and after
  2. Reusing old hardware:  I admit I wanted new hardware but when I added up all the cabinet doors and drawers I quickly realized the cost was more than we were willing to spend. So for a $4 can of spray paint I saved us over $200! 
    Hardware – before and after
  3. DIY:  This is definitely the big one!  Being handy will save you BIG BUCKS!  Even if you don’t know how to do something, I can guarantee that there is a YouTube video showing you how to do it. If you can follow instructions then you can do it! Also, having friends who are willing to lend their expertise helps too. While we could have built our lounge area ourselves, our friend Doug is a master carpenter and he made it much better than we could have. Knowing your strengths is key! But don’t be afraid of researching how to fix something. Sometimes it is easier than you think!
    The Lounge – even though our friend Doug built it, I did the cushions myself!
  4. Modify:  for example, we had to replace our awning fabric. Since our Avion has curved sides there is a curved arm bracket for the hardware. It’s the original Zip Dee awning hardware. We called Zip Dee and got a quote – $1300 just for the fabric! 😳. So we looked around and found awning fabric on Amazon for $200. We modified the awning fabric on our original hardware and made it work. Now we have an awning for very little money! Think outside the box!! 
    Using rivets to attach a modern awning fabric to a vintage awning hardware
  5. Consider all electric:  the fridge in our RV was no good. We had no choice but to replace it. Again we wanted to save money and by going with an Energy Star all electric fridge we saved almost $1000! Money that will be applied to our solar that will easily run this fridge while boondocking. And if you don’t boondock then an all electric fridge is a simple choice! Also, we have the added benefit of having more fridge space as the electric models don’t have all the gear on the back that the propane fridge does. And it fit in the same cabinet! Amazon for the win again! 
    New “stainless” electric fridge!
  6. Consider whether it’s a “need” or a “want”:  Sometimes the best way to save money is just to not buy something! I know, what a crazy concept, right? But sometimes there are things you can just live without. For example, I really wanted a Precision Temp hot water heater when it was apparent we had to replace ours. But again, it was a $1000+ so we said no to that dream and went with a $380 6 gallon propane one instead. 
    New 6 gallon water heater
  7. I wanted to get new countertops but again, the cost was more than we could bear. So the next best option was to redo existing countertops with an epoxy makeover! I was skeptical at first that they could make our countertops look decent again but I figured for $90 it was cheaper than the alternative. And you know what? They turned out really well! The one kit had enough to be able to do the kitchen, bathroom, desk and shelf behind the lounge! Definitely a money saving win!  And the kit can be used on almost any surface. 
    New “granite” countertops!
  8. Electrical and propane:  sometimes these systems seem daunting but with a little research the problems can be easily solved. Get yourself a test light and learn how to check for blown fuses. The 12 volt system is a pretty basic system and is easy to learn. Now be careful with the 110 system! Unless you know what you’re doing we recommend an electrician. Propane is also fairly simple and with a little working knowledge you can easily repair minor leaks or install a new changeover regulator! Just be careful to follow all safety procedures. If you don’t know what those are then seek a professional. 
  9. Don’t be afraid of hard work! Putting the effort into your remodel yourself will save you a ton of money. Granted, it might take you longer than a professional but you’ll have the satisfaction of having accomplished all this yourself. It’s a great feeling! Obviously, know your limits (especially with electrical or propane) but don’t be afraid of getting dirty! ☺️

In conclusion, our remodel of this vintage rig has been expensive due to having to replace some of the main components but the fact that we were able to do these things ourselves made the cost more bearable. If we had taken this rig to Camping World or some other RV repair place the cost would have been sky high!

And while we are nearly done with all the major stuff we know that down the line we will need to do more repairs. After all, Armani is nearly 40 years old!  ☺️ But we also know if something comes up we have the skill and moxi to be able to fix whatever is necessary.  And it’s a lot cheaper than repairing something in a sticks and bricks!

That leads me to one other thing especially if you are hitting the road for the first time. This life is not magically perfect! The same issues you had in your home WILL happen in an RV. How you deal with those issues is the biggie. The key is having fun and being able to enjoy this beautiful country in the process of tackling these issues. That’s what it’s all about! 

Cheers!!

Shelly & Mark ~ Boondock or Bust

Avion Renovations Have Begun – The Lounge

When we purchased Armani it was with the knowledge that it needed a lot of interior work. The outside skin and “bones” were in great shape even after having sat in a field for the last 12 years.

Armani at Ojo Caliente! Notice the lack of awning and AC shroud! 🙂 Great skin and bones tho!

But the inside was rough. Not only was it REALLY dirty, a lot of the cabinet doors were warped not to mention we had no way of knowing what systems worked or not.

We also knew it had an electrical issue. The previous owners (an RV “flipper” that dealt in Avion’s and Airstreams) had rigged up the breakers to make sure the outlets worked but that was really unsafe! Fortunately Mark is a wiz with electric and between he and Doug they got the issue sorted out and now we have nice safe GFCI breakers and nothing trips when it is plugged in! Safety first, folks!

Our next project was to get rid of the nasty dirty couch in the lounge area and to get the parquet floor pulled up that someone had put down over the original linoleum. Like I said, really REALLY dirty!

The lounge area – this nasty couch bed needed to GO!
Doug removing dirty couch bed!
All out and now at the dump!
What’s behind door number 1? GROSS!!!

After that was accomplished and all the adhesive scrubbed up (hours upon hours with multiple bottles of Goo Gone), everything cleaned and painted it was ready for the rebuild!

Ahhhh!!! MUCH better! Let the build begin!

As I mentioned in my previous post, Doug is a master carpenter and he has already remodeled their Avion so we drew from his experience and got going on our new “L” shaped lounge!

As all us RVers know, weight is a major concern. We didn’t want to add a ton of weight by using 2×4’s. Doug used 1/2″ plywood strips to create a box (glued and nailed together) to create the legs. He used the same plywood strips to create brackets in between and 2×2 posts against the wall for the base support. Then plywood sheets to form the base of the seat. It goes all the way to the back wall so now behind the back of the couch we will have storage not to mention all the room underneath!

Doug wanted everything nice and light! You see here the beginning of the legs he built.
Installing the base for the lounge!
Getting there!
It’s starting to look like a couch now!
Look at all that storage we will have underneath and behind the back cushions!
The arm rest being built
The back cushion supports
Painted and ready for cushions!

Now before you think this is not sturdy let me tell you, it is SOLID! We are extremely impressed with the quality of this build and if you need any restoration work on your rig we would highly recommend Doug! He is the best!!

And now for the finished project!

The “L” shaped lounge with cushions installed!
The “L” shaped lounge.  There will be a cushioned bumper on the wall to lean against.
The view of the lounge with the arm rest! There will be a cushioned bumper on it as well.

We are very pleased how this all turned out!  I made the cushions myself using 4″ high density foam, batting and material wrapped around and stapled to a board that fit in the appropriate space.  It will be easy to change the fabric in the future if we wish or need to.

Now that the lounge is done we moved onto the old dresser area and tore all that out to build in a new desk!  We’ve also installed an awning and I will be posting on that soon.  Stay tuned! 🙂

Avion Before Photos

I thought I would give you a look at the interior of our 1979 Avion 28J before I start sharing our restoration photos.

1979 Avion 28J – the skin is in great shape! We need to install a new awning though as the original is gone.

Someone had done some “renovations” of their own many years ago in the lounge area and added some parquet stick on flooring over the original linoleum so of course all of that is getting removed and redone.

The kitchen and lounge area before demo. Someone had applied sticky floor tiles to the original linoleum. Ugh.

Everything else had been left pretty much original though so we wanted to keep the vintage feel but make it a more modern living space.  Paint can go a long way in making a space gorgeous!

Kitchen stove and sink. The stove/oven works! The sink is too shallow and will be replaced.  Countertops will be redone and a backsplash will be installed.
The original cabinetry. It looks good at a distance but there were many holes that needed patching so the cabinets will be repainted.

We’ve already begun the restoration. We have removed the old non-working fridge, hot water heater, water pump and toilet. All new items have been ordered and/or installed. We are going with an all electric fridge. (We will explain our reasoning behind this decision in a future post.)

The fridge and old wall heater are gone now.
Looking back down the hallway you see the bedroom and the rear bathroom.

We still haven’t tested the AC unit to see if it works as we don’t have 30 amps at the house. Once we get it back to a livable condition we will plan a short trip to a local RV park to check it out. If it does work then we are on the hunt for a shroud and interior cover for it. If it doesn’t work then that’s an item for the future.

We are also still working on the furnace. Fortunately parts for it are easily obtained and we know we can get it back to par again. Basically that’s the only major item we haven’t had to replace yet! But, we bought this rig for its bones and exterior. We anticipated replacing all the major items so we knew what we were getting into. It’s a labor of love but we don’t plan on letting this baby go so we are in it for the long haul!

The large rear bath. Toilet had to be replaced.

And of course, another item on the agenda is solar. (We are Boondock or Bust, after all!) After having done the off grid cabin thing (and previous RV solar) we know what we need in terms of power. Again, that’s for the future but all I can say is that I’m so glad the cost of solar is going down!

As we’ve started on the renovations already I will be sharing as we go along. The lounge area is nearly complete so that post will be coming soon. It’s going to look gorgeous!

Our Latest RV Project

So it seems that we can never get away from a project. We admit it, we love bringing something old back to life again. First with our Georgie Boy Class A and then our Lance Truck Camper.

But this time we have something special. REALLY special!

Introducing “Armani” – a shiny and soon to be restored vintage 1979 Avion 28J travel trailer!

1979 Avion 28J “Armani”
1979 Avion 28J

No, this is not an Airstream. Yes they are similar but definitely not the same. Airstream aficionados would argue that Airstreams of that era were better quality. Avion enthusiasts would disagree. As you can see, we fall into the latter category. No offense to all our Airstream friends! We really love Airstreams and nearly went that direction. But our friends Doug & Denise changed our minds with their purchase of their 1978 Avion “Ava”.

Doug, Denise, Zoey & “Ava”

We located Armani via Craigslist in Phoenix, AZ. After a quick drive down there (well, 8+ hours one way) we determined that while Armani needed major interior work, the external skin, frame and “bones” were sound!  A quick stop at a tire store for some new “kicks” and we were back on the road by 3pm! We decided to drive to Flagstaff and stop for the night at a motel considering that Armani was not camp ready. 

That’s when we hit traffic on I-17 headed north. Some DUMB ASS had thrown a cigarette butt out his window and caused a wildfire! We crawled along for nearly 5 hours only going 43 miles!!  Please, people – if you smoke so NOT throw your butts out your window!! It’s beyond stupid!!

Stuck in traffic

All of this happened very quickly. We had looked at other Avions and had even driven miles upon miles to view them only to be disappointed. I guess everything happens for a reason!

We didn’t tell our friends of our purchase. They knew we were looking but that was all. We made the decision to get Armani camp ready (well, we could sleep in it and use the bathroom lol) by June 12 as we were meeting our friends at our favorite spot – Ojo Caliente!

Armani at Ojo Caliente! Notice the lack of awning and AC shroud! 🙂

To say they were surprised is an understatement. Look at Denise’s face!

Surprise!!

After the initial surprise we let them get set up while we prepared lunch and champagne to celebrate. 

Only the best!
And of course the cheese & meat plate for lunch!

We had a great time at Ojo Caliente and now we are off enjoying the beautiful mountain air of Pagosa Springs for the next month. We will also be putting Doug to work to get this beauty back to its former glory – you see, Doug is a master carpenter and has already renovated their Avion! The renovations have begun and we will be doing a blog post on those soon.

Cheers to the future!

Cheers to the new endeavor!

Our Quick Truck Camper Makeover

When we bought our truck camper at the beginning of July we knew we only had a couple of weeks to get it squared away for our trip to South Carolina at the end of the month.  We were on a time crunch to say the least!

The first thing we did upon bringing it home was to check all systems out.  Everything works (that we can tell at the moment) and it was good to go.  We could have taken it the way it was but honestly it smelled like it had been closed up for a long time and it really needed some deep cleaning.  Next thing I know I am going on a painting frenzy!

The interior was outdated and blah.  We thought white cabinets would brighten every thing up!  It sure did.

I will be adding a tile backsplash but for now some leftover yellow paint from the cabin works just fine.

I had the teal left over from our cabin door.  I really like how that pop of color looks!

Didn’t do a drastic change in the dinette.  The cushions and fabric were still in good order but we added new curtains and of course painted all the cabinetry white.  The walls we went with a real light tan.

The bathroom before had that hideous wallpaper.  I stripped it all off and then painted with an exterior semi gloss paint.  I know it won’t hold up forever to the water.  When we get back we will be tiling the walls of the bathroom and replacing the flush toilet with our compost toilet.

Bedroom before

The bed area before had a cabinet above where our heads were.  The space is tight enough without that cabinet so we removed it.  Painted the walls a lighter version of the bathroom by adding some white to it.

Whew!  It was a lot of work and we accomplished it all in just two weeks.  We also redid the floors!  We had some leftover flooring from the cabin.  We think it turned out great.

Floors before and after!

We have made our way out to South Carolina – an 1800 mile trip!  It’s been a lot easier than pulling the trailer (even we did tow our 4 Runner) and so far everything’s been great!

Before leaving for South Carolina we went to Ojo Caliente Mineral Hot springs.  I will be doing a post on that amazing place soon!

Our New Rig

Well, new to us that is. 🙂 We have downsized to a 1986 Lance 900 series truck camper!

The camper is in great shape and all systems work! The only thing it doesn’t have is AC but it is wired to have an AC unit in it. At some point we will add one in.

Our 1986 Lance 900 series and 2006 GMC 2500 HD

Looking good on the GMC!


Inside is a bit dated of course. What can you expect from the 80’s? So, our mission is to totally update it and make it a bit more modern! And as we are leaving for South Carolina on July 25th we better get cracking!

What will we do for AC in the south? Well, we are just going to throw a window unit in it as a temp solution. Yeah, it will be a bit redneck-ish but better that than melting in the heat!

LOVE the counter space in the kitchen!
The fridge works great!
Large booth seating with a nice window for views
Queen size bed with lots of storage space
Full bathroom but will be using our composting toilet instead

In the next couple of weeks we will be adding solar, repainting everything and generally just giving it a really good cleaning. There are some minor repairs to make but nothing that is too difficult.

We will get as much done as we can before leaving for SC and our daughters college graduation and will finish up all the renovations when we return in August!

Our plan is to leave our little off grid cabin before the snow flies (generally October) and then hit the road for the winter!

Stay tuned for our maiden voyage. Hopefully it all goes as planned but you never know with us. 😜

Composting toilet and solar install

When last we left off, we had just purchased our new home and had plans to install solar and a composting toilet to get us set up for being completely off grid (boondocking) before our departure date of June 29th (now June 30th).  Well, we are very happy to say we accomplished both these goals!  Our wonderful friends (who will be going full time themselves next month in a vintage Avion!!) came over and helped Mark get it done in ONE DAY!  Yep, solar AND composting toilet complete.  There were a few things that had to be tidied up in the days following that Mark took care of, but the majority of hard work was completed in just a few hours.  And in 100 degree heat, no less.  Needless to say, we bought them a really nice dinner at our favorite place – May River Grill!

When we installed the composting toilet (Nature’s Head on Amazon) , we had to add a piece of wood to give it a little lift on the floor to get above the hole to the black tank.  No big deal for a master carpenter like our friend Doug!  He had that thing measured and cut out in no time flat!

Doug installing the wood piece to raise the toilet above the black tank hole
Doug installing the wood piece to raise the toilet above the black tank hole

Next the guys had to cut the hole in the floor of the RV to install the venting tube.  They did that with no trouble and it looks great (didn’t get a photo of that.. boo)!  I will need to stain the wood piece the toilet is on but that is the last of my worries for the moment! 🙂  Here is the toilet installed:

Composting toilet installed - success!
Composting toilet installed – success!

As of this writing, we are pleased to say that the toilet works like a dream!  NO SMELL and it’s very low maintenance!  If you are curious about what a composting does and how it works, be sure to check out Gone With The Wynn’s video on it.  They do a great job of explaining it!

Also, we will be taking their advice and will be combining our grey and black tanks to extend our boondocking adventures!  This great video of theirs explains how they do it in a very simple and easy manner!  Check it out:

Our solar install was pretty simple as we had previously installed solar on our Georgie Boy.  We removed the solar and batteries when we traded it in and just moved it to our new rig.  We have 4 – 100 watt – solar panels (Renogy Solar on Amazon) with 400 AH of AGM batteries.

Our batteries we installed in our storage bin pass through.  Mark used some 2×4’s as brackets to hold them in place.  The GoPower! 1500 watt Pure Sine Wave inverter (Go Power on Amazon) was installed close by with the battery monitor being installed in the closet of our bedroom.  All neat and concealed!

400 AH of AGM battery goodness!
400 AH of AGM battery goodness!
batterymonitor
Battery monitor
inverter
1500 watt pure sine wave inverter and charge controller

The solar panels were mounted on the roof (picture coming soon) with plenty of room to add more if needed!  We are using the Renogy tilt brackets and they are nice and sturdy for securing them to the roof.  Dicor sealant makes sure they won’t go anywhere.

When we purchased our new rig we had a list about a mile long of everything that we wanted to get done before we departed for our trip.  I am so glad to say that list is nearly complete!  Just a few more things.  It does look like our trip might be delayed by one day but that is no big deal in the grand scheme of things.  Sometimes plans are set in jello and you just got to go with the flow!

So where are we headed, you ask?  We are off to IDAHO!  Why Idaho?  Well, my (Shelly)’s mom lives there and it’s been a long time since we’ve seen her.  Then it’s off to Oregon, Washington, Northern Idaho and Montana (possibly – again, jello plans) until it’s time to head to New Mexico for the Balloon Fiesta in October!

Idaho or Bust!
Idaho or Bust!

We will be pulling out of here on June 30th and making our way via South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah and then finally… Idaho!  Whew!  2500 miles.  We plan to take about 7 days (or more) to do the trip.  Hopefully all goes well!  I will be posting along as we go so it could get interesting. 🙂 Stay tuned and thanks for dropping by!

Shelly & Mark ~ Boondock or Bust!