Removing the interior skins

This week we’re finishing the interior demolition. We did this pretty quickly after getting the decor and finish-out removed, but we spent such a long time it only felt right to split it into a second post. Make sure you check out our latest video including the skin removal at the bottom of this post!

Removing the interior skins is surprisingly rewarding and pretty simple too. We used a cordless drill, a 1/8″ drill bit, and a whole lot of trash bags. The skins, which is how we commonly refer to interior aluminum walls, are held in by pop rivets. They’re easily removed by drilling through the center where the hole for the mandril is. There’s a lot fewer rivets holding the skin in than you’d think.

The hardest part of the skins is really the fiberglass endcaps. Hard may be the wrong word, maybe annoying? The end caps are also held in by rivets and very few for their size. Finding all of the rivets is somewhat tedious due to the domed shape of the caps and integration with the surrounding structure (ie the rear window). I’m not sure all Airstreams are this way but ours certainly was, with the rear endcap being significantly more difficult due to the bathroom shelves and piecemeal aluminum repairs.

We started removing skin one at a time and moving them out. We were able to make quick work of the length of the trailer but ran out of daylight and had to leave endcaps for the next day. Once the endcaps were free of rivets, a light tug sent them right the ground. We didn’t think it would come down with such a thud. If we were going to save the endcaps, we’d probably have someone brace before trying to pull down to minimize damage, as they break pretty easily. The endcaps took a little effort to get out the doors but since we planned to discard ours we just broke where needed.

Now for the dirty stuff, insulation. Our 1970 model, like most, had pink fiberglass insulation. It comes out very easily but you do need a mask that is rated for working with it and we’d highly recommend wearing long sleeves. Man is it itchy! After cleaning up all of the debris, the skins were carefully rolled in case we decide to reuse them or at least to use as templates. The endcaps were cut down to size and sent to the dump.

Removing this last bit of the interior was pretty satisfying and really got us pumped to move on the the next step. Tune in next week for building interior supports and getting ready to lift the shell.

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