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 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!

Tiny House For Sale Part 2


We’ve had some questions regarding our Tiny House cabin and land for sale so I thought I would answer them here!

1.  Is there a video?

Yes! Here is the link to a YouTube video that we did on Easter Sunday! It shows the land and the area around it plus and indoor tour of the house!

2.  Is there a well?

No, we haul our water from the local fish hatchery which is about 6 miles away. The water is FREE so we didn’t want to add the expense of a well. Wells average around $25,000.

3.  Is water catchment legal in New Mexico?

YES! That was the next project that was on tap before health issues sidelined us.

4.  Will you take payments?

Maybe. If that were the case we would not negotiate on price and would require a background check, lots of references plus 50% down. It would definitely have to feel right to us as well so no gaurantees that we would offer that.

5.  How far away is shopping, health care, etc?

There is a Lowes grocery store and Ace Hardware 15 minutes away in Chama. In less than 10 minutes you can access a health clinic with doctors in Tierra Amarilla. If you want more extensive shopping there is a Walmart and City Market (Kroger) in Pagosa Springs which is about an hours drive.  There is also a hospital in Pagosa as well.

6. Do cell phones work? What about satellite tv?

We have Verizon and have had no trouble with the signal. A cell booster will help bump up your signal if you feel the need. There are other properties in the area with Direct TV so satellite is certainly available. We just don’t have a need for it.

7. How secure is the area?

Very secure! We left all of our possessions in the cabin and we were gone all winter and there wasn’t a single issue. There are other neighbors close by and everyone keeps an eye on everyone else’s place. It’s a close knit community.  Everyone is very friendly and welcoming!  There is also a locked gated entrance to the main properties that everyone has to go through.

8. What is there to do out there?!

SO MANY THINGS! ☺. Right around the property you have tons of hiking. There is fishing close by. You are allowed to hunt on your property (with correct license and tags of course). Plus there is El Vado Lake just 5 miles down the road and Heron Lake about 12 miles away. The Brazos cliffs are a short drive away as well – you can feed the deer from your hands there! There is also restaurants close by in Chama and of course the trains run in the summer! See a link below on the trains.

Old Fashioned Steam Trains!
Also close by is Ghost Ranch where artist Georgia O’Keefe spent many hours painting her gorgeous art! Santa Fe is a two hour drive away and of course my favorite, Ojo Caliente Hot Springs resort!

Ojo Caliente Hot Springs
Pagosa Springs, CO also offers many great places to eat and explore and also have family oriented hot springs as well. It’s a great little town with a wonderful mountain vibe and only an hour from Durango, CO. It offers skiing in the winter, river rafting in the summer. What’s not to love?

9.  How does the solar and composting toilet work? Will you give us some pointers/advice?  What is included?

We will be happy to do a walk through on the solar and any other aspects of the cabin including showing you where we get the water.  The composting toilet is a Nature’s Head brand – the best on the market!

All the furniture stays unless otherwise requested. We are including the two 30lb cylinder propane tanks as well. Plus all appliances stay.

10.  Is there trash service?
No. All trash must be taken to the local waste transfer station in town.  Burn barrels are NOT allowed due to the threat of wildfires. 

——-

If I get any more questions I will post them here in the future or if you have any additional questions you can contact me directly via the comments section and I will answer you back quickly.  View the MLS listing below:

https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/Lot-36-UNIT-4-Tierra-Amarilla-NM-87520/2094669932_zpid/
Thanks for reading!

Tiny House and Land For Sale

The tiny house cabin

Due to serious health issues we have decided to put our tiny house cabin and land up for sale. 😞

Mountain Cabin with great views and abundant wildlife to call your neighbors.

Details:

600 watt solar system that includes solar panels with a battery set up with 600 Amp hours, Go Power 1500 watt inverter with and a 12 volt electrical system with LED lights etc.

Cabin has a 200 watt wind generator to provide additional on site power.

The interior bath features a Natures Head composting toilet and a separate indoor shower. There is a refillable water storage tank with pump.

Tankless hot water heater runs on propane.

Propane wall mount heater. Kitchen has a refrigerator (runs on solar) and cooking stove and kitchen sink with counter tops.

Cabin has a covered front porch and a 10′ X 20′ rear deck with fire pit and Sail Shade provides shade .

Property has a separate level gravel RV pad and terrific view and a timber covered hills. The Rio Chama Valley offer the best in all kinds of outdoor recreational activities for all 4 seasons of the year. El Vado Lake is just a short drive to great boating and fishing. If you are looking for a “Tiny House” this one is ready to go.
$44,900

Click on this link to see the MLS listing on Zillow:

https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/Lot-36-UNIT-4-Tierra-Amarilla-NM-87520/2094669932_zpid/

See below for additional photos. Click the images to view full size!

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. 😜

Our tiny house homestead build!

We’ve been very quiet lately! We left Santa Fe back in early March and got ourselves up to our new hometown in northern New Mexico.  It was still COLD and there was still snow on the ground.  The road to our property was impossible to get through, but we were close and that’s what mattered to us.

The road to our property - a muddy mess!
The road to our property in late February – a muddy mess!

We did manage to buy ourselves a 4 wheel drive vehicle though!  We found a well maintained (older) Toyota 4 Runner and snatched it up.  It needed new tires but otherwise was in perfect shape.

Our new little Toyota 4 Runner! Perfect run around vehicle

After about a week or so of nice sunny weather our road managed to dry up and we made it to our cabin! It was nice to see that everything was still in great shape and it had handled the winter well.

Made it to the cabin after 4 months away

Our RV pad we had put in last fall looked in great shape too and we couldn’t wait to get started on our build.

RV pad on property looking west
RV pad on property looking west

Here is an update on our build.  As we are maintaining a separate blog for our Tiny House project you can read about that here:

http://offgridtinylife.com/2016/03/10/the-build-begins/

And the second installment:

http://offgridtinylife.com/2016/03/31/the-build-continues/

And yesterday (4/4), after spending a month at an RV park in town we were finally FINALLY able to get our rig up the mountain and set up on the RV pad!  The thrill of waking up this morning to the sounds of nature were beyond compare.  It is beautiful here and quiet and the wildlife abounds.

We are home! You can see the cabin on the hill behind the RV.

It is still a bit cold but nothing we can’t handle.  The solar on the RV is working like a charm!  We sure love this life.

Be sure to follow our Off Grid Tiny Life homestead blog!  We are building a tiny house cabin on 5 1/2 acres in northern New Mexico.  We are completely off grid and will still continue to travel in the RV from time to time or even do some truck camping!

Boondocking by Indian Creek Reservoir 

After leaving Scott Lake dispersed camping area, we made our way over to Indian Creek Reservoir.  Now, while there is a campground there ($20/night for RV… no thanks).  We were after FREE camping.  🙂

To get here, you will take Airport Rd off of HWY 89 that goes to Markleeville, CA.  Head toward Indian Creek Reservoir.  Right before you get to the “airport” (really just a landing strip – there are no outbuildings, etc), on the right there is a small little turn off with a little area that’s cleared off.  Keep an eye out, it’s easy to miss!

The sign on the road - don't overstay your welcome! 14 day limit!
The sign on the road – don’t overstay your welcome! 14 day limit!

There is a small road that continues up the mountain that you could easily tent camp at but unless you have a little tiny RV there isn’t room for a rig there.  Great views tho!

Can you see her?
Can you see her?

There were a ton of deer in this area and we were graced with them nearly every day.  Lots of does with older fawns but we did see a few bucks as well.

Our view
Our view
Another view
Another view

We spent our limit of 14 days here.  There was water to be had for free in the day use area of Indian Creek Reservoir and there is a dump station there as well ($10).  With our composting toilet and only grey water tanks we were able to stay the whole time with no trouble at all.

Ahhhh.... peaceful
Ahhhh…. peaceful
Great place to relax
Great place to relax

We had great parking for our solar and still plenty of shade in the afternoon.  The temps ranged about 80-85 during the day and high 40’s to low 50’s at night.  Perfect!

So nice!
So nice!

We were all by ourselves the entire time we stayed here.  We did have some people stop by who were curious, obviously, but mostly we had the place to ourselves.  There is a bit of road noise from the small amount of traffic that goes to the reservoir but all in all it was a very peaceful place!  We would certainly return.  And it’s FREE.  Did I mention that?? 🙂

Nestled among the trees
Nestled among the trees

This spot is located about 5 miles from Markleeville, CA (no cell service there but wifi to be had) and about 30 minutes from Carson City, NV and Lake Tahoe, CA.

We DID manage to get 1-2 bars Verizon 4g with our Wilson 4g booster.  I think if we could have raised the antenna higher we would have had even better signal.  No AT&T service though if we went to the top of the hill we could get one bar 4g.

All in all a really nice boondock!  Where are we headed next?  Well, our general plan is to make it down to New Mexico as we are going to the Balloon Fiesta!  But as we have a few weeks until then we are going to meander our way down 395.  Possibly go to Mono Lake!  But as our plans are set in jello only time will tell.