Tiny Shiny Home Blog 2021-09-21T15:02:28-05:00 /feed Tiny Shiny Home hello@tinyshinyhome.com https://tinyshinyhome.com/we-gotta-get-this-shed-done-daily-video-project We Gotta Get This Shed Done - Daily Video Project to Finish our Hyperadobe Earthbag Solar Shed Office 2021-08-18T00:00:00-05:00 2021-09-20T10:02:46-05:00 Jonathan Longnecker https://tinyshinyhome.com/
This post may contain affiliate links or compensated reviews. Please read our disclosure for more info.

That's right, friends, it's another daily video series! We are going to work day and and day out until this hyperadobe solar shed office is finished - and take you along for the ride. Let's get started.

Day 1

We begin our journey picking up where we left off - i.e. we just finished our solar, batteries, and electrical installed. So now we continue plastering the inside of the building. The goal today is finishing the interior brown coat!

Day 2

With the brown coat finished, it's time to start the finishing coat. Too many finishings? Maybe, but that's what we did!

Day 3

We continue to put final plaster coats on in the guest room while Jonathan installs internet antennas and measures for the television they'll be putting in. Nine Nine is all kinds of adorable.

Day 4

Yep, it's more final plaster coating in the guest room. Going a little slower as we do detail work around bottles, lightswitches, windows, and outlets. Also, we fix our front gate.

Day 5

Today is our youngest' birthday! Ada is 10 years old. We can't believe it! Most of the day was spent celebrating, but we did manage to come back and finish the last bit of plaster coat in the guest room. On to the office!

Day 6 

We live in wine country and it's harvest season. Ashley helps a local vineyard by waking up at 3am to go pick grapes. Then, back at home, we create a form for our first ever concrete pad! We end the day stomping grapes and showing off our new 'Get This Shed Done' T-shirts!

Day 7

We finally finish our form, get the area prepped, and start pouring when the delivery truck shows up. Let's lay our first concrete pad!

Day 8

So. Much. Sifting. But first Ashley attempts to fix hairline cracks in the guest room. Then we prep for finishing plaster in the office and Jonathan cleans up all the 'shed' around this place!

Day 9

The boys head to town for some fun at an Airsoft field while the girls keep working on the final coat in the office. We also explore some decorative cob!

Day 10

We push through and FINISH the final plaster coat in the office! What a huge step! Just a few more touchups and the interior walls will be complete 🎉.

Day 11

Today we're cleaning up the last of the bottles, wiping down the walls, and getting ready for the floor in the guest room!

Day 12

We were so excited to get going on the floor, everything went according to plan...Until it didn't. But you'll have to wait until day 13 to find out why!

Day 13

We don't always get it right and we're here to show you our mistakes so you don't make them, too. We failed the first attempt at our earthen floor, but then found the magic combination of mortar sand, our soil, tiny bit of clay, straw and water. It resulted in a pretty sweet floor!

Day 14

We installed our mini split! Wahoo! Cool air never felt so good. But it wasn't easy getting here. As always...there's problems along the way.

Day 15

We're trying a different scratch coat fortified with 10% cement to see if it will hold up to our crazy monsoon rains better. Our cob was solid until the sideways rains came. We're hoping this is the magic mix.

Day 16

That's right, more scratch coat. It's going to likely be days of scratch coat but that's just the way it goes. Plus, we're introducing a new venture we're calling 30 Days to a Better You...Tube :)

Day 17

Today we're starting on the office floor and answering some of your frequently asked questions!

Day 18

Today we lay the rest of our earthen floor in the office, but we also add some more river rock detail! Check it out!

Day 19

Today we go mattress shopping for the first time in a good 10+ years. PLUS, we buy all the things for inside the solar shed. Let's do this!

Day 20

Today we officially start on our front door overhang. We've been talking about it for months, but it's finally time! We begin by measuring a bunch and setting cement braces for our posts.

Day 21

Today is the day, let's build this overhang - decking and all 💪!

Day 22

Storms are rolling in so we had only a few minutes to get the underlayment on and the wood of the overhang painted. Check it out!

Day 23

We start the morning by petting Nine Nine way too much 😂. But then we measure the overhang so we can order our metal roofing, the windows so we can order custom blackout blinds, and then lay the FINAL earthen floor coating in our hyperadobe solar shed office.

Day 24

Today we're touching up our floor due to a minor mishap with our mini split. We're also adding chicken wire on some wood to help our exterior coat of plaster attach better! One day at a time, we're getting this shed done!

Day 25

Jonathan had to take the truck into town for an oil change and errands so Ashley and the kids spent the day rocking the exterior scratch coat on the West and North walls. They got so much done!

Day 26

With everyone back together, we rally and finally complete the exterior cob scratch coat (again - monsoon rains washed a lot of the first coat off). Getting excited to finish this phase of the build!

Day 27

Very productive day today friends! We created some tinted test batches trying to find the right shade for our exterior final coat. Then we worked on some decorative cob elements. And finally we laid down the first linseed oil coat on our floor. Whooo!

Day 28

Lots going on today, friends! We had our buck delivered for goat breeding, replaced our Shelter Logic Garage-in-a-Box cover, and put more coats of linseed oil on the earthen floor in the solar shed.

Day 29

Today we put our final two coats of linseed oil on the earthen floor in the solar shed, retire our ground deploy solar panels for the Airstream, and clean up the mess from the Shelter Logic Garage-in-a-Box re-covering.

Day 30

Let's freeze stuff! Our freezer is finally here and we're trying to fill it up :) And a special delivery from our favorite coffee shop, Talking Irons! Thanks Sara and Thomas. Plus, we got to clean the linseed oil off of our rocks!

Day 31

Today we're waxing our earthen floor in the guest room. Turns out we didn't order enough wax so at least we have one room done, and just in time for the mattress to be delivered. Jonathan and the kids set up the bed, and Ashley stains the window sill.

Day 32

This day did not go as planned, but we're rolling with it and having a couple popsicles.

Day 33

Lots of little projects accomplished today, friends! First we added a heatsink to our REC BMS to help it when balancing our massive battery bank. Then we installed our front door trim (finally), hooked up our off-grid internet in the shed, and got our front door cement pad area prepped.

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https://tinyshinyhome.com/hyperadobe-solar-shed-office-scratch-coat-insulation-and-ceiling Hyperadobe Solar Shed Office - Scratch Coat, Electrical Wires, Insulation & Ceiling Panels 2021-06-22T00:00:00-05:00 2021-06-22T15:38:06-05:00 Ashley Longnecker https://tinyshinyhome.com/
This post may contain affiliate links or compensated reviews. Please read our disclosure for more info.

It’s been too long since we’ve had a chance to sit and write down all the things that have happened since our last 30 More Days of Hyperadobe Solar Shed YouTube challenge. So, let’s just dive right in, shall we?

Connecting the roof and hyperadobe walls

The first thing we HAD to do was build the cob walls up the rest of the way to ceiling and close the structure in. Because of the 1:12 pitch of the roof there was just a lot of weird places to cover. It was way more cob than we realized, but we kept at it and finally made that connection all the way around. Huge day!

Installing windows in our earthbag shed

The next step was to finally install those windows we wanted to put in at the end of our 60 day challenge. We were a little worried about how the clerestory windows would fit, but everything went it with little fuss and leveled up nicely! We did have to trim some of the flange where our hurricane straps went over the rough frame openings, but we were shocked how quickly the windows were installed.

Exterior Scratch Coat

Next it was time to get our first scratch coat finished on the outside. This is a mixture of clay, sand, chopped straw, and water. As for our soil, the ratio we used for the outside scratch coat is:

  • 3 parts native sifted soil
  • 1 part clay
  • 1 part straw
  • Enough water to mix in to get the right consistency. 

If you're doing a project like this, you'll need to test your own soil as everyone's is different.

Despite everyone’s suggestions to ‘just use the cement mixer to make the cob’, we opted for a more natural approach. We used a tarp and our bodies to mix the soil. Why? Good question. Mostly it was because that’s the way cob is supposed to be made. This is an ancient technique that has been used for centuries (though I’m sure they didn’t have tarps to use).

We wanted to experience the full effect of our hard work being put on those walls. The fact that we all touched every bit of soil that went into making this building is mind blowing. Our hands, our bodies built this! Just let that sit in for a moment. I still have trouble digesting the fact that a family of 6 with next to no building experience, created this structure.

But that’s not the only reason we opted to forgo the cement mixer option. You see, we are completely off grid. No power source besides the solar on our Airstream and a little generator. So in order to run the noisy cement mixer, you’d also have to be running a noisy generator. 

Two noisy, unnecessary pieces of equipment means we’d have to constantly be yelling at each other to hear one another, plus the use of more gas. No thank you! And honestly, it really wasn’t so bad. Yeah, it feels like a lot to do when you’re in the middle of the job, but there’s something to be said about getting uncomfortable, putting on your big girl panties, and getting your hands dirty to get a hard job done. We’re not afraid of work, that’s for sure.

Exterior Scratch Coat on Hyperadobe Building

Running Electrical Wires

After we got the outside done with the first scratch coat, we opted to leave our front door overhang until we finished up the inside. We’re in a bit of a rush to finish up inside so we can hook everything up and use it!

First things first, we needed to run all our Romex lines and get those all secured before we could begin the interior scratch coat. We choose to go with buriable Romex. We have seen power run several different ways in earthbag structures like this. We momentarily considered having all our wires run in a fancy conduit on the outside of the cob and bags, but we just really want a nice, clean look for this building, so under they go!

IMG 0393

One thing we would do different next time is to NOT use the U-nails to secure the wires. That’s all we had at the time and we wanted to get it done. But a quick trip the following day to a big town, we picked up some cable staples and that was a game changer. Not only did they stay in the bags better, but they were specifically made for what we were doing. They were wide enough to not squeeze the wires and it was a huge difference in the easy of installing. Just do yourself a favor and invest in the cable staples.

Other than needing to chip away of few bits of bags near the outlets, we were ready to roll. Jonathan somehow thought this would be done in an hour. Well, spoiler alert. It took much longer. Here’s the video proof.

Interior Scratch Coat

Now comes the fun part. Covering all the bags on the inside of the building! We started with the circle. The kids were all in! We finished the circle in just two days. By this time of year, we were really starting to get up in temperatures throughout the day time and when you start hitting the earthbags with water before applying the cob, man did it get humid fast. We were just dripping the entire time, but it had to get done. With the promise of ice cream with each big task completed, the kids were all about it, kept up the entire time. I could not be more proud of them.

One thing that drastically improved our work flow at this point was investing in a hose splitter and extra hoses. This way there could be a hose in the room to wet down the bags before applying the scratch coat, and a separate hose at the cob making station. No more back and forth with the hose and waiting on each other to finish up with it. Streamlining your process like this will make things go so much faster!

IMG 0394

Next it was time to tackle the bigger office room. More surface area meant it really did take about twice as long. But we didn’t give up. It was really cool to see it all transform right before our eyes. No more red bags visible, it really changed the look, the sound, and the feel of the space. One thing we kept saying is it feels like a cave, but not in a good way. It was dark, and we panicked a little. The echo was also a concern. But remember, at this time we had not began work on our ceiling. That comes next and changes things for the better! In the video below, you'll see us finish covering the interior walls.

Insulation Day

We’ve been researching for months about how to finish the ceiling and what insulation to choose, and should we put vents in? It’s a lot to consider but we settled on denim insulation. Mostly because we needed it the day we were at Lowe’s and that’s all they had, but it was a strong contender from the beginning. If money weren’t an issue, I would have liked to use a wool insulation like Havelock Wool, but we are working on a budget and some things have to be cut back.

Now that we had all the insulation, it was installation day. You can watch that video here.

We were pretty surprised at how quickly it went up, and I LOVED that we could use our mesh bags to hold it up. We could have used less if we had cut the straps in half, but we had plenty of bags so it wasn’t a huge issue. We ended up doubling the insulation because it was only 3.5 inches thick and it needed to fit in-between our 2x8 rafters. The with was perfect with our 16” on center rafters and the doubling up of the insulation was perfect because it allowed about an inch gap between the roof and the insulation. We’ll likely be doing this step differently when we build our house, but just remember. THIS IS JUST A SHED/OFFICE! It’s not our living quarters, but rather our first build. We are learning so much on with each step we complete.

Okay, so insulation is up, time for the ceiling! 

Negative Reveal Plywood Ceiling Panels

I’ve known how I wanted to do our ceiling for quite awhile. I wanted crisp, clean lines and a negative reveal. Our neighbor Mike gave us a great tip on a lumber yard in Tucson (Hood Distribution) and we got a sweet deal on 3/8” Birch Plywood. We bought 12 sheets and cut them down into 2’x4’ pieces (four panels from one sheet of plywood). Now, you may be asking, “what the heck is a negative reveal?” Great question!

We installed…we’ll call them perlins...in between the rafters every 2’ on center and painted them black along with painting every 4th rafter black, but in a staggered order. It may make more sense to just watch this video of our ceiling install.

So basically, a negative reveal is when you leave a space between each panel, and that negative space between the ceiling panels shows. It gives the ceiling a nice sense of depth.  As long as you measure and make sure all the spaces are equal on all sides of the panels, it looks really great. 

We opted for an 1/8” reveal which was roughly the size of two quarters taped together. 

Quarters

Yep, that’s how we got it done. Holding up quarters in between the panels for the entire ceiling. Dropping them with each move of the panel, one kid on quarter pick up duty, but we got it done. If you plan on giving the negative reveal a shot, my tip is to start in the middle of the room and measure, measure, measure.

It worked out so perfectly for us to use full 2’ panels on nearly every section we did. Oh, and one more tip! Get a really good quality glue! We used 3 tubes for this project. We glued each panel up and used 16 gauge brad nails to secure it. 

Did we go overboard on the nails? Perhaps, but that’s how we do it around here. I can’t even begin to tell you how great it was to find a battery powered brad nailer. Saved us from having to buy an air compressor and use our generator to run it. It actually worked pretty good even though we would have rather had a Dewalt. Unfortunately all Dewalt’s brad nailers were out of stock EVERYWHERE! Even online!

Well, there you have it. That’s what we’ve been working on since our last Day 60 video. So what’s next? I’m glad you asked!

We’re in the middle of testing a finish for the ceiling panels. Once we decided on how we’ll finish them, we get that done, and then cob our walls up to the ceiling. THEN we’ll be able to begin our final coats of earthen plaster on the walls. THEN we’ll be able to start the floor. THEN we’ll be able to hook up all our solar power stuff!

It’s getting close, but there’s still so much work to be done. We’re here for it!

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https://tinyshinyhome.com/30-days-of-hyperadobe-solar-shed-office-daily-recap 30 Days of Hyperadobe Solar Shed Office Daily Recap 2021-03-18T00:00:00-05:00 2021-04-29T22:42:59-05:00 Jonathan Longnecker https://tinyshinyhome.com/
This post may contain affiliate links or compensated reviews. Please read our disclosure for more info.

Have you ever done something crazy? Like - "what were we thinking, how are we ever going to do this crazy?" This is the chronicle of our 30 60 Days of Hyperadobe Solar Shed Office build. And it is…crazy.

Update: We extended this 30 day project so keep on scrollin' below to see additional progress.

To give you a quick backstory, this project started started as a solar shed to house our batteries and inverter for our off-grid solar system. Then we thought, “hey since we’re building something let’s make it an office, too. Jonathan & Ashely could really use a space to work.” It was going to be a pretty simple rectangle straw bale build, but because of insane lumber price increases, we quickly pivoted and changed it to a combo rectangle & dome hyperadobe building. The dome would house a bed and couch hangout area that could double as a guest room for family.

Why did we choose hyperadobe instead of superadobe earthbag?

  1. We already had the right mix of clay and sand in our native soil (free materials!)
  2. Tube mesh bags were half the cost of solid superadobe cal-earth style bags
  3. Hyperadobe bags didn’t require barbed wire between the courses because the mesh interlocks when tamping. This kept the cost down and made the project much safer for the kids.
  4. Speaking of the kids, this type of building was something we quickly realized anyone could do. This would truly be a family effort.
  5. These hyperadobe bags were also UV treated so we didn’t have to worry about keeping them covered or getting the building up too quickly before they deteriorated.
  6. We were very interested in earthbag building, and this seemed like a newer evolution of that methodology that was even easier and cheaper than what was out there.

So after months of all this research and planning, it was time to get started. We dug the foundation and started laying the first courses. Then we got sidetracked with a bunch of other things on the homestead.

But we’d still work on a course here and there, slowly going up higher and higher until we it was time to install a rough opening for our door and form for our entryway between to two structures.

Finally we got to our electrical box level, and had to make some important decisions about where power would be both inside and outside the building.

Oh, we also made a video explaining our dolly bucket system, and the whole process for laying bags.

And that brings you up to speed where this 30 day project starts. You see, all that progress before I mentioned took months of work. But we asked ourselves, “What could we do if we worked on this thing every day for a month?” And then we asked ourselves, “What if we chronicled the whole process and made a video about it every day, too?”

And then we said, "Nah, that’s crazy!” and proceeded to do it anyway.

Our goal was to complete all the hyperadobe earthbag courses, build the roof, and install the windows and doors by the end of the 30 days. Did we do it? Read on to find out ;)

What follows is a day by day account of our project along with the video we posted each day. Enjoy!

Day 1

Where it all started! But before we could lay any bags, we had to finalize and install our electrical boxes. If you watched the previous video, we figured out how to build the interior electrical box cleats, but were struggling with the exterior ones because there needed to be a way for the electrical wire to go from the inside to the outside. It’s kind of confusing.

Anyway, we ended up using 2x2’s on each side of the conduit, and that worked perfectly.

Building and installing the electrical box cleats took all morning, so we really had to bust it to finish a full course by the end of the day. But we did it!

Status Report: Course 5 Completed, 23" From Floor, Electrical Boxes Installed

Day 2

After yesterday, we were all tired and sore, and it was cold and windy. We were not in the mood, which was not good. It was only day 2! Thankfully the weather cleared up, and we were able to go up one more level by the end of the day.

Status Report: Course 6 Completed, 28" From Floor

Day 3

We had to build door cleats for this level, and came up with a better system for adding the nails for easier installation.

We were also starting to feel like we were finding our groove with the bag technique, and began using our level more consistently on each bag. Looking good!

Oh, and we realized we were quickly reaching a height where we need more scaffolding inside. Hardware store run soon?

Status Report: Course 7 Completed, 33" From Floor

Day 4

This was the day we hit the wall. The kids weren’t feeling it. We were all tired, sore, and bored of putting dirt in bags.

So we resorted to bribery. “Candy, drinks, whatever you want at the dollar store!” we told them if they finished.

It worked, and we made it up one more course for the day.

Status Report: Course 8 Completed, 38" From Floor

Day 5

Bag work came to a screeching halt today as we needed to get some work done and run into town for supplies.

Out here we're 1.5 hours from the closest big box hardware store like Lowe's or Home Depot, so a trip into town ends up taking most of the day. Ashley took the kids and they picked up our door, main windows, wood for the frames, and some smaller scaffolding to use inside the building as we get higher up.

While we didn't get up another course, securing the windows, door, and scaffolding were very important to our next steps moving forward. 

Status Report: Bought Windows, Door, Scaffolding, and wood for rough frame openings. 

Day 6

Today we split up to haul some water, fix our measuring tape, and build more cleats. But we got a flat tire which threw everything off. 

Anyhow, we put in several cleats to help us mount connections for our wires that need to come in through the outside wall. And then went up an entire course!

If that weren't enough, we had to switch out to the spare tire as the sun went down so we could go get it fixed the next day.

Status Report: Course 9 Completed, 45" From Floor

Day 7

What a weird day! We tried to start building our window frames, but had to get our flat tire fixed, wash our puppy, and more.

Status Report: No real progress today, but we got back at it tomorrow.

Day 8

Today we got back on track. First things first, we finished building and test fitting our window frames. Then we went up a whole other course in preparation for installing the frames tomorrow.

We also had so much help today! Our neighbor came and moved more dirt for us, and some friends helped sift. We love this little community!

Status Report: Window Frames Built, Course 10 Completed, 48" From Floor

Day 9

Finally! We were ready to install our window frames. We put in our huge vista window, our small egress window, and a small bottle brick window that we kind of made up on the fly. Each needed cleats and supporting 2x4's to hold them in place until we have more bags installed around them.

Status Report: All Window Rough Opening Frames Installed!

Day 10

Things started getting complicated today. In addition to having to lay bags around our windows and cleats, we also started installing our PVC sleeves for electrical coming into and going out of the building. Oh, and light switches!

All the starting and stopping + shorter runs meant we couldn't use our dolly system, and things slowed way down. We finished got half a course. We were pretty bummed, but this is all a learning opportunity, right? We thought fewer surface area for bags would equal less time, but apparently not.

Status Report: Half of Course 11 Completed

Day 11

After only getting half a course done yesterday, we rallied and did a whole course and a half! Whew! 

Super proud of the kids stepping up and helping us get it done.

Status Report: Course 12 Completed, 56" From Floor

Day 12

Back when we built our door frame and entryway form, we only built part of the form. But we had gotten to the point where the bags were so high that we needed to build the rest of the arched entryway between the two buildings.

So we pieced it together and got it installed in preparation for more the next layer of bags.

Status Report: Built & Installed top of Arch Entryway

Day 13

It's glass bottle cutting day! In preparation for our bottle brick windows, we needed to do some tests on different bottle types and sizes. This will allow us to make sure we're building the frames the right depth and size.

We also took time today to answer a bunch of frequently asked questions to comments we kept getting asked over and over again. 

Status Report: Cut Glass Bottles for Bottle Brick Windows

Day 14

We installed our final unique diamond shaped bottle brick windows on the front of the building, and laid down half of a course. Once again, all the stopping, starting, cleats, and now diamond windows slowed us down.

Status Report: Built & Installed Small Diamond Bottle Brick Window Frames, Half of Course 13 Completed

Day 15

Today marked two weeks since we started the challenge! This morning we did some planning for our roof, then went up another half a course.

Status Report: Course 13 Completed, 62" From Floor

Day 16

We finally built our first lintel that will go over the small bottle brick window. We also start trying a few methods to get the building more level all the way around.

Status Report: Built Our First Lintel, Half of Course 14 Completed

Day 17

Today we actually leveled and installed the bottle brick window lintel, and experimented even more with filling the bags with different amounts to achieve level.

Status Report: Installed Lintel, Course 14 Completed, 65" From Floor

Day 18

Today was all about using our bags filled at different amounts to finally get level all the way around. It took basically two half courses to get there, but we were really happy with the results.

Status Result: Courses and heights got a little fuzzy here with bags partially full. Let's just say we're up higher.

Day 19

Today we had to take a day off from laying bags to finalize our roof plans, put a parts list together, and get estimates from local suppliers.

Status Report: Roof Plans Finalized, Bids Sent Out for Materials

Day 20

After getting back the bids from roofing material suppliers, we made our decisions and got everything ordered. Oh my goodness!

Then it was up yet another half course of bags to finish out the day.

Status Report: Roofing Materials on Order, Half of Course 15 Completed

Day 22

Once again other duties around the homestead kept us from working on the solar shed all day, but we did manage to get up another half course. And then work on our animal paddock!

Status Report: Course 15 Completed, 70" From Floor

Day 22

Today was all about adding hurricane strapping to eventually hold our roof down. And going up another course, of course!

We also talked about a few things we would have done differently for next time.

Status Report: Course 16 Completed, 75" From Floor

Day 23

Today was an exciting day. Even though we only went up half a course, we ran our final bag over the arch entryway!

Status Report: Half of Course 16 Completed

Day 24

Today was our Anniversary! We celebrated by heading into town to pickup 7200 watts of solar panels for our solar shed that we got for an amazing deal at SanTan Solar. And of course we got delicious sushi!

Also, we announced our patreon-style membership area, Tiny Shiny Homies!

Status Report: Solar Panels Acquired

Day 25

Today we had to re-build our dirt sifter as it was starting to fall apart. We also braved the insane winds and sprinkling rain and went up another course.

Status Report: Course 17 Completed, 80" From Floor 

Day 26

Moving right along, we go up another entire course and are now officially above our windows and doors. Lintels here we come!

Status Report: Course 18 Completed, 84" From Floor

Day 27

We built all our lintels today, but only installed 2 out of 3. Getting them leveled and cleated in took more time than we thought. That's ok, we're getting so close!

Status Report: Lintels Built and 2 Of Three Installed

Day 28

Today we installed our final lintel over the big vista window and go up half a course around the circle building.

We also made an off-the-cuff design decision to not lay anymore bags in the area over the arch entryway.

Status Report: Lintel Installed, Half of Course 19 Completed

Day 29

With the end in sight, we rallied for nearly 100' of earthbag in a day - a course and a half with no doors or windows to break it up. Whew! We were sore all over!

We also research and planed for our mini split air conditioner and installed the necessary PVC sleeves.

Status Report: Course 20 Completed, 96" From Floor, Installed Mini Split PVC Sleeves.

Day 30

We made it! The last day we went up the final full course, bringing the earthbag part of this project to a close. 

Status Report: Course 21 Completed, 120" From Floor

DJI 0817 DJI 0818

Wrapping Up the Solar Shed Challenge

I cannot believe our little family pulled this off. While we didn't get the roof installed or the windows and doors put in, we did manage 30 days of constant work, plus shooting, producing, and editing a video each day. That's 17 courses and nearly 100" tall! I'm so proud of us.

We couldn't have done it without you, though. All your encouraging notes, comments, and support helped us make it through.

Many of you are asking, "what's next?" Glad you asked, because we decided to do another 30 Day Challenge. Let's get this roof on!

Day 31

That's right, we're back for another 30 days of hyperadobe solar shed. Yes we're insane. Today we focused on getting the rough opening window frames built and installed for our clerestory.

Status Report: Built clerestory window frames, installed in place with cleats.

Day 32

With the clerestory windows in place, it was time to start laying bags around them to build up the front of the building.

Status Report: Laid bags between window frames, started on the sides.

Day 33

Today we had to finish building up the bags on the front and side of the clerestory in preparation for a very special guest tomorrow!

Status Report: Finished laying staggered bags down the side to match pitch of roof.

Day 34

Excited to welcome our special guest, Ashley's Dad to the Tiny Shiny Homestead. His building expertise and math ninja skills are going to help us get this roof on quickly and correctly. Today we focused on running string lines, getting measurements, and setting concrete bases for our posts. 

Status Report: Picked up Ashley's Dad, ran string lines, dug and concreted in footers for posts.

Day 35

We keep forging ahead with our roof build, readjusting the front beam and setting the back and middle beams in place. It's at this point we realize our change of plans to use one of our 12" tall LVL beams for the back means we need to lay more bags to get the middle beam at the right pitch. Cue a light night bagging session!

Status Report: Front and rear beams in place, added two more earthbag layers for the middle layer.

Day 36

We have rafters! Well, some of them. Finished setting the back LVL beams and started laying rafters.

Status Report: Installed all rear rafters.

Day 37

Our last day with Ashley's Dad so we busted our butts and finished up the front rafters and (gasp) added some decking! Guys, we're getting so freaking close to having a real roof!

Status Report: Installed front rafters and most of decking.

Day 38

After four insane days of roof building with Ashley's Dad it was time to send him home, relax a bit, and finish getting up the decking pieces.

Status Report: Finished installing decking pieces.

Day 39

We finish screwing down the decking on the plywood. We also take a look back at Day 34 working with Ashley's dad to better explain how we are securing the roof. Spoiler Alert - There's been a TON of research go into this roof!

Status Report: Added additional screws to decking. It's firmly locked in place.

Day 40

With the beams and decking in place, it was time to start securing everything. Hurricane straps, rafter ties, and more. Also, more Q&A w/ Jon & Ashley about setting the back beam and adding more bags on Day 35.

Status Report: Hand tightened hurricane straps, screwed in hurricane ties on each rafter.

Day 41

We install LVL supports, tension the hurricane straps, and start installing our facia boards. We also take a look back at day 36 when we started putting on the rafters.

Status Report: Tension hurricane straps, add LVL supports, install front facia boards.

Day 42

Today we install the rear facia boards and do another Q&A sessions about day 37.

Status Report: Install rear facia boards.

Day 43

Time to paint our facia boards, side rafters, and exposed beams!

Status Report: Paint all facia boards and exposed rafters and beams.

Day 44

Today we had grand plans to install our underlayment, but ended up just a bit short on material. Oh well!

Status Report: Hammer stapled most of underlayment onto decking

Day 45

Today we had also had grand plans to finish our underlayment and put on the metal roofing. But our goat decided to have babies instead.

Status Report: Finished underlayment, birthed twin goats.

Day 46

Today we started laying the metal panels on the roof! There were a lot of hurdles to overcome - getting the huge panels up on top, fighting the wind, and generally not knowing what we were doing. Thankfully our neighbor Mike came and helped us out :)

Status Report: Installed all top metal panels on roof.

Day 47

Today we ratcheted all our hurricane straps down, and installed our hurricane ties on the rafters. This was not very exciting, so we also took a minute and answered many of the questions we've been getting over and over again.

Status Report: Tightened hurricane straps, installed hurricane ties, answered all the questions.

Day 48

While the large metal panels went on the roof pretty easily, the trim nearly wrecked us. Words were said, metal was bent, but we pushed through and finished the dang roof. Whew!

Status Report: Finally finished installing all metal trim on roof and didn't get a divorce.

Day 49

With the roof a distance memory, we get to start testing our soil for our cob mixture.

Status Report: Ran some soil tests, mades some cob batch tests.

Day 50

Learned a lot from our first cob mix test, made some adjustments, and started filling in cracks. Also we may have a mud fight.

Status Report: Crack tests.

Day 51

Still working on that cob mix, but decided to try our first bottle brick windows!

Status Report: Completed diamond shaped bottle brick windows.

Day 52

With our small bottle brick windows complete, it was time to tackle the big one. Today we officially started our TopoWindow™ (Topo Chico Bottle Brick Window). That's right, we've named it. This is going to be so cool!

Status Report: Completed first row on the TopoWindow™.

Day 53

Before we could finish our TopoWindow™ we had to cut more bottles. Like, a whole bunch more bottles. 

Status Report: Cut remainder of bottles for the TopoWindow™.

Day 54

With all bottles cut, today we finished cobbing the TopoWindow™ !

Status Report: Completed TopoWindow™.

Day 55

Now that all our bottle bricks were done, it was time to focus our attention on the space between the top of the hyperadobe bags and the roof. We started slow, still experimenting without mix and randomly placed bottles to fill the space.

Status Report: Started cobbing up to the roof.

Day 56

We continued to add cob and bottles up to the roof line.

Status Report: More cob, more bottles.

Day 57

We finally started to get in the cob groove, but ran out of bottle bricks! Had to spend time cutting a bunch more.

Status Report: More cob progress, cut more bottle bricks.

Day 58

Today we really clicked into gear on the cob, and got a bunch finished. We're loving how it's turning out!

Status Report: Even more cob progress, getting so close to the roof!

Day 59

Today we experiment with different ways to fill the wall, and get all the cob to roughly the same distance from the rafters.

Status Report: Built up all cob walls within 4 inches of rafters.

Day 60

We made it! The end of our second 30 day challenge. Celebrate with us as we install our first window and look back at how far we've come since Day 1.

Status Report: Installed our first window...nevermind we're taking a long nap!

Wrapping Up the Second Solar Shed Challenge

And somehow we managed to make it through another 30 days! We got the roof on, learned to cob, built our bottle brick windows, and more.

We couldn't have done it without you, though. All your encouraging notes, comments, and support helped us make it through.

"What's next?" you ask? You'll just have to subscribe and follow us to find out :)

Hyperadobe Earthbag Solar Shed Office with Roof Hyperadobe Solar Shed Office Interior Hyperadobe Solar Shed Office Cob Bottle Wall ]]>
https://tinyshinyhome.com/hyperadobe-off-grid-solar-shed-office-electrical-outlet-boxes Hyperadobe Off-Grid Solar Shed Office - Electrical Outlet Boxes 2021-02-08T00:00:00-05:00 2021-03-21T12:34:02-05:00 Ashley Longnecker https://tinyshinyhome.com/
This post may contain affiliate links or compensated reviews. Please read our disclosure for more info.

And just like that it’s time to add some electrical outlet boxes to our hyperadobe solar shed office!

Everything about this type of construction is different. We’re really just trying to figure it all out as we go. Yeah, we’ve visited some other buildings being built in a similar fashion, but everyone we’ve talked to is doing things differently and also figuring it out as they go. So, we’re determined there’s not necessarily a ‘wrong way’ to install these electrical outlet boxes, but rather just our way.

This entire project is really just a test. We’re practicing to see if this is how we want to build our home or not. There’s so much to learn and we’re excited to be at a new phase in the building process.

For our interior electrical outlets, we’re just taking our cleats, but flipping the 2x4 over on it’s side and attaching the outlet box to the 2x4.

Hyperadobe Installing Electric Outlets

It’s not rocket science. And the cool thing about this type of building, some people don’t install these outlets until the very end, so if we need to, we can always adjust things later!

We'll be installing 3 outlets in the cylinder room, and 3 in the office, as well as 3 exterior outlets which we have yet to decide exactly how to install. 

Hyperadobe Outlet Layout

Ever phase of this build has been met with HOURS of research. We over analyze every detail because we don’t want to mess it up too much. But also, there’s not a lot of information out there about building with hyperadobe bags. We’re just hoping that we can figure it out as we go, create good content, and be able to help others down the road.

We’ve still got a lot to figure out, but we’re up for the challenge!

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https://tinyshinyhome.com/january-chores-on-the-homestead-unexpected-loss January Chores on the Homestead & Unexpected Loss 2021-02-02T00:00:00-05:00 2021-02-02T11:02:19-05:00 Ashley Longnecker https://tinyshinyhome.com/
This post may contain affiliate links or compensated reviews. Please read our disclosure for more info.

Our kids have been asking for us to document their morning chore routine. Likely because they want us to know how much they contribute to the homestead and have valid argument for an increase in pay. Touché.

Really though, they are literally running the animal operation on their own and we couldn’t be more proud. I thought they would get over it in two weeks, but here we are 4 months in with animals and they’re still getting up with the sun and rocking their daily chores.

Adali milking our first mama goat Fay

Milking Goats

Their chores are constantly changing. Now that Fay is being milked, it adds a bit more complexity to the mix. They separate the babies at night and after they get some milk for us, she runs back to her babies to nurse them. Fay is an excellent mother and extremely protective over her little Frankie and Figgy. Some would say, at times…too protective. 

We’ve definitely watched her roll a pig or two and nearly injure Brooklyn. Would love to know from other goat owners if this is typical for her to be so overly protective. 

But we are loving playing with the babies each day and watching them grow. Still up in the air as to if we’ll keep them. I think we’ll decided after we see what sex babies Mable gives us this April.

Ada feeding chickens

Feeding Chickens & Collecting Eggs

Our chickens are finally producing more and we’re getting 3-4 eggs a day! I’d love to add more chickens in the near future and can’t wait until we are able to raise them from babies. One day… All in good time.

Jett feeding Kune Kune Pigs

Fattening Up the Pigs

The pigs are just as annoying as ever, but they’re staying fat and happy on our scraps and some fresh alfalfa hay and pellets. We keep saying…they will one day pay us back in delicious bacon :)

Jax Feeding Rabbits

Our Rabbits are...Boys?

In another turn of events, we found out recently that the trio of rabbits we bought turned out to be a trio of BUCKS! Seriously! We’ve had some bad luck with breeders telling us we were getting quality animals and turned out…not so much. 

It’s all on us though. We’re new at this and we’re slowing learning that you can’t just trust everyone. A costly lesson to learn for sure.

Brooklyn & Nine Nine Playing

Puppy Playtime

Once the morning chores are done in the paddock, the kids let the dogs play with each other and get good and tired before Nine Nine comes back in for the morning. Brooklyn is quickly growing and will soon pass up Nine Nine. It will be interesting to see how their dynamic changes.

Captain's Grave

Our First Loss

When we first discussed adding animals to the homestead, we were very clear with the kids that there will be loss. We all knew it could happen at any time. We’re acutely aware of how many predators we have out here, and the potential risks that come with having so many animals here. Even with knowing it will happen, we were still unprepared for the unexpected loss we experienced this week.

Ada and I were on our way to her horse riding lessons and as we pulled out of the driveway, we saw our cat laying in the road, lifeless. Ada jumped out of the truck to verify that it was indeed Captain, and we both just broke down. It was a long, sad day. I didn’t even realize just how attached I was to this little cat. He’s been our top mouser and a very important part of our homestead. 

We gave him a proper burial and took some time to grieve. We know we gave him the best life possible with plenty of hugs, rubs, treats and warm places to stay. 

We’re super sad to have lost such a great cat. And to those of you who will say, “it’s just a cat” I was once you. I’ve said that before. But now I get it. He was not just a cat. He was part of our family, and he’ll forever be missed.

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https://tinyshinyhome.com/airstream-renovation-checklist Vintage Airstream Renovation Checklist & Guide 2021-01-28T00:00:00-05:00 2021-02-10T18:56:21-05:00 Jonathan Longnecker https://tinyshinyhome.com/
This post may contain affiliate links or compensated reviews. Please read our disclosure for more info.

Airstream renovation is more popular than ever! We get messages each week from people starting their own renovation projects, and they have so many questions. We totally get it, we did too.

But what are you really getting into with a vintage trailer restoration? We thought we had it all planned out, but holy smokes did our project throw us some curve balls!

This article is an exhaustive look back at our process, master plan, checklist, process - whatever you want to call it. And as a companion we've created a PDF Checklist you can download to print and follow along for your own renovation.

It may cause you to think twice about jumping into a project this size. And if this 10,000 word article doesn't do it, maybe our ridiculously thorough cost breakdown will :)

But if you're still game, we have lots to share below. Let's get to it!

Article Overview

  1. Assessing the Damage
  2. Planning Your Airstream Renovation
  3. Demoing your Airstream
  4. Floor & Frame Integrity, Testing Tanks
  5. Shell-Off Renovation
  6. Removing Interior Walls
  7. Exterior
  8. Inspect Wiring
  9. Roof Installation
  10. Closing the Belly Pan
  11. Axles & Wheels
  12. Re-wiring 12V and 120V
  13. Insulation
  14. Install Interior Panels
  15. Take a Minute to Party!
  16. Building the Interior
  17. Batteries & Power
  18. Lighting
  19. Overhead Storage
  20. Propane Lines
  21. Appliances
  22. Bathroom
  23. Countertops, Tables & Sinks
  24. Cabinet Facings, Latches, Hardware, Doors
  25. Floor Installation
  26. Finishing Touches
  27. Go Adventuring!
  28. Additional Resources
Airstream Before Dinnette

Assessing the Damage

Buying a vintage trailer should come with its own handbook, amiright? There are so many things you want to keep in mind when purchasing one of these beauties, but much of it you’re never going to know about until you really get in there and start taking it apart.

So once you’ve made the huge decision of which trailer to buy, before you do anything it’s time to start taking stock of what needs to be fixed.

Checking for leaks

Oh, there will be leaks, friend. Even if the owner tells you there aren’t. As much as we love our Tiny Shiny Home there’s definitely a few flaws in the design. Over the years, rivets will lose their seal, compartments will start to leak, and rear frame separation where they put steel and aluminum next to each other is a genuine concern.

Start by opening the cabinets and looking for water stains on the subfloor. Also, look for water stains along the interior skins and ceiling.

You’ll likely find even more leaks once you finishing demoing, but this is a good place to start.

Testing Water Systems

Does your city water inlet work as expected? Any leaks around your faucets? Look for water lines in cabinets and under the sink and check for leaks.

How about the fresh tank? Can you fill it up and use the water pump to push water to the faucets?

Does the hot water get hot and mix properly? All of these are important features you wan to be working properly.

Sagging Axels & Old Tires

Most likely you’re going to need new axels and tires. In fact, I’d say get them replaced before moving the RV long distances if you can. We got lucky and towed ours about 1,000 miles right after we bought it, but we easily could have had a blowout or axel failure. Shoot, we had a 3 year old axel fail so it happens.

That being said - if this renovated trailer is just going to sit permanently on some property you can skip this step. But if you plan on traveling with it, invest in good axels and tires.

Oh, and add a lift for good measure, especially if you plan to boondock or take it off-grid.

Windows

Airstream windows are like gold encrusted diamonds. They have rounded corners and are curved vertically to the shape of the trailer. In other words, you can’t just run down to Lowe’s and grab a new one.

Plan on shelling out $500-$700 a piece for any broken or missing windows on your vintage Airstream. Plus they may be out of stock or hard to find, even at the places that sell them. This is important to keep in mind when planning our your renovation. Are half of them busted? It’s going to cost a small fortune to replace them, and you may have to wait months before they’re even delivered.

Rivet Leaks

Next you’ll want to check the exterior rivets for leaks. Use this suction cup on each one, and if it pulls off easily then it’s time to replace. For now, just mark the problematic ones with some tape. You’ll want the interior skins off to buck rivet new ones later.

Checking each rivet now will give you an idea of how many rivets you need to buy and how much time to set aside for resealing.

Floor Damage

Like we mentioned above, viewing the subfloor for water stains is a great way to look for leaks. But it could also signal larger problems you need to be thinking about now. Is the floor soft in any areas? Does it feel like it drops down (especially in the rear)? There’s a good chance the stains have turned into more permanent rotted wood which will need to be replaced.

You won’t know for sure about any of this until the Airstream is properly demoed, but will help you mentally prepare for the work ahead.

Seals

There are a number of seals on the door, compartments, and windows that you’ll likely need to replace. While they are fairly inexpensive, there’s a lot of manual labor involved with removing the old, rotting seals and replacing with fresh ones.

In addition, the windows will probably need new positioner guides, and screens will need to be replaced.

And for goodness sake, be careful taking the windows out - remember, they’re expensive!

Electrical

At this stage, it’s important to test all the electrical systems. Does the battery & 12V system work? Do the lights and switches operate properly? How about fans and speakers? Furnace, fridge, and water heater? Do all the running/brake/backup lights work when connected to a tow vehicle? Do the brakes engage?

When connected to shore power do the plugs and air conditioner work? Is there an inverter that powers the plugs from the batteries, and is it working properly?

At this stage it’s important to check basic functionality because if things aren’t working right, there could be issues with rodent damage behind the walls. This can also inform whether you get to use the existing wiring or will have to replace.

Propane

Did the trailer come with propane tanks? When was the last time they were certified? With a vintage trailer you’ll probably need to get them re-certified so that they can be re-filled.

What about propane lines? Are they in tact and free of leaks? Do the propane appliances like furnace, hot water heater, stove, and oven work as expected?

Plumbing & Tanks

Any leaks around your plumbing?

Take stock of how your tailer is setup. Does it have a fresh tank, gray tank, or black tank? Ours didn’t have a gray tank at all - that’s right, all that sink and shower water just flowed out onto the ground! You could fill up the tanks, but it’s going to be hard to really test for leaks these until you demo, so just make a mental note of the setup for now.

Cabinets

Original vintage RV cabinets can either be in surprisingly good shape, or in need of immediate replacement. Most of the time, you’ll be able to tell pretty quickly which category yours falls into. 

The first step is to open and close all compartments. Our vintage Airstream had these weird sliding doors everywhere called Tambours. Some of them still worked great, but many of them wouldn’t budget or got stuck half way.

Spend some time pushing and pulling on the walls and cabinets, too. You want to see if they’re still properly attached to the walls and to each other, creating a safe, strong interior.

Lots of people don’t bother replacing cabinets because 20 years ago everything was built like a tank. Even with our 1972, all the interior walls and cabinets were super solid, and we hated ripping them out.

If you do, make sure to take some time and marvel at how well each piece fits together and provides structural integrity while still remaining lightweight. Pretty cool.

Appliances

Test those appliances! These can be some of the largest costs involved with renovating a vintage Airstream, so take some time and really put each one through its paces.

Furnace - Does the thermostat work properly to turn it on? Does it blow hot air out all of the vents? Check the outside vent to make sure it’s not blocked with any debris. And of course, check for propane leaks as well.

Refrigerator/Freezer - Does it stay cool as expected when connected to shore power? Does it switch over to propane when running off your batteries? Check for propane leaks here as well.

Stove/Oven - Do these light and create a flame? Do the knobs work to change the flow? Sometimes these units will be separate, so be sure to check them independently, and look for propane leaks. While you’re at it, why not cook up a tasty dish just to make sure?

Air Conditioner - Does the thermostat work properly to turn it on? Does the compressor kick in and blow actual cold air? Are there any leaks around the unit on the roof?

Hot Water Heater - Most likely you’ll have a 6 gallon water heater that uses propane and/or electric to heat your water. If you haven’t used it before, it will take time to fill the reservoir and get it up to temperature. Try it both on battery power (so it uses propane only) and hooked up to shore power. With both, check for water and propane leaks.

Vents - Do they open and close properly? Do they leak? If there’s a 12V fan and light, see if they still work.

Tongue Jack and Ball Hitch

You’ll definitely want to make sure your hitch coupler locks properly. The last thing you need is it coming decoupled when towing, right? We’re still using our original because it was in great shape, but they are easy to replace if yours is making you feel unsafe.

Also, keep an eye on that tongue jack! Ours was electric and totally gave out on us right at the end of our renovation. We took the Airstream to the countertop shop and couldn’t get it off the truck because it wouldn’t go up high enough.

--

Whew, that was a lot of assessing, yeah? Well friend, we’re just getting started. Now that you’ve taken stock of what works and what doesn’t it’s time to dig in and begin your planning. Ready, set, go!

Side view of Airstream at sunset

Planning Your Airstream Renovation

Oh my goodness - where do you even start? We know exactly how you feel. Renovating a vintage trailer is a gargantuan task that requires knowledge of everything from electrical to plumbing to fabrication to woodworking to interior design and more. But I think we can all agree that before you start any work, you should have some sort of plan.

Will this plan change? Most likely! That’s ok, though. Get some ideas on paper so you can start thinking through how everything connects together.

Research Other Renovations

First things first, spend some time researching what others have done first! There are so many beautiful renovations out there, and you’ll get lots of good ideas in inspiration. Here’s a few to start with:

Basic Floorpan & Layout

Now it’s time to plan your own. Measure your interior dimensions, make a mockup, and start placing cabinets, beds, appliances, bathrooms, etc… where you want them. We used Adobe Illustrator because I’m a designer and that’s what I was used to. You can also try programs like Sketchup or just grab some graph paper, make cutouts and move things around.

The key is that your mockup has to be to scale so you have a realistic idea of what will fit where. Even at this early stage, you need to start thinking about some how other systems will integrate with your design.

  • Make sure to put the wheel wells in your mockup. You’ll quickly see how what you thought was an empty space actually isn’t - and how you’ll need to build cabinets or beds to conceal them. Or maybe you’ll work them into the design as a bench. Just don’t forget to put them in the floorpan.
  • Get under the trailer and see where the propane lines come up through the floor to various appliances. Start thinking about which appliances you’ll want to have propane, and how you might need to reroute those propane lines if they’re in a different place.
  • Another thing that may not be obvious until you start demoing is the furnace ducts and tank cavity heating. If you’re planning on using a propane furnace, remember that you’ll need space for ducts to run the entire length of the trailer on the side it’s installed. You’ll also want to plumb that duct into the water tank cavities under the subfloor to keep them from freezing in cold temperatures.
  • Speaking of water tanks, don’t forget that their location is critical to how you run your plumbing. You may not know where they are exactly right now, but you should be able to tell by searching your model online. The location of the tanks are important, so it’s probably best not to change these radically. For instance, the fresh water tank is likely located just in front of the axles for stability when towing when it’s full. And too many full black or gray water tanks near the rear of the trailer could cause trailer sway. Make sure you’re thinking through how your sinks, shower, and toilet will drain - their location may be limited by where the tanks are located.
  • Related to grey tanks, you’ll also want to plan around their vent tubes. If you look on top of your trailer you’ll find at least one opening where the tank can vent. You may have to build cabinets around these to hide them so keep that in mind.
  • Finally, when thinking about plumbing always make sure you can access the connections. So even with a cramped area like a shower give yourself a way to get in there if something needs to be fixed.

Decide on your power system and Create an Electrical + Wiring Plan

There are so many ways to power a vintage Airstream! It can be hooked up all the time, or run off solar and batteries. Planning your power system is kind of a whole thing that I won’t get into here. But you can check out our deep dive article, and see how we chose to design a low power system specifically for living off-grid.

To go along with your floorplan, create another layer and start thinking about how you’re going to get power to your appliances. We also focused on where our lights would go, and how they would be grouped together for switches. You’ll have to figure out how to run wires through the ceiling or along the floor in cabinets, keeping in mind which side of the trailer your appliances, switches, and plugs will be on.

Airstream floorpan with light groupings and appliance locations.

At this point you don’t need a 100% locked in electrical plan - things will probably change the deeper you get into the renovation. But you want to have the high level things figured out, and be thinking about how it will integrate with your cabinets.

Ashley after demo

Demoing your Airstream

Now that you’ve got a plan, it’s time to start disassembling everything.

I should back up here for a second - many people decide to use as much of the original interior as possible so a full gut isn’t always necessary. I mean, we recommend it if you plan on living in it or traveling with it because of potential structural issues that may need to be addressed.

But if you’re trying to keep it uber simple you can probably skip this step. Alright, onwards!

You may be tempted to just take a sledgehammer to everything, but we recommend taking it slow and paying attention to how everything is put together. You’ll get a lot of great ideas for your own build when you see how the engineers designed these vintage interiors. We were really impressed with their ingenuity.

You’ll also find out very quickly that everything is connected to each other. There’s no way to just take out one cabinet because it’s attached to the wall, ceiling, and nearby cabinets, too. Often in ways you wouldn’t expect. Just keep hunting for that rogue screw - you’ll find it eventually :)

We tried our best to keep things in good shape, hoping to sell. Especially the appliances. They’re still sitting in a storage facility somewhere, but if they still work try not to trash them. Maybe someone can use them.

One thing we recommend is saving the dividers as templates for when you create your own walls. Recreating that curve is THE WORST™. Trust us.

We ended up making several trips to the dump (and getting charged for it), but we had a few dumpster divers come and pick up some of it for us which was kind of nice.

Speaking of the dump - if your water lines use copper, try to save it and recycle. Same if you’re going to replace your propane lines. You’ll get a few bucks back at least.

Be careful pulling out plumbing and fixtures - there could be water left in the lines or you could crack your tank like we did taking out the toilet and have to buy a new one.

Eventually you’ll get all the cabinets and fixtures out, then you can focus on the flooring. Getting down to the subfloor will be really important because you’ll be able to clearly see any soft spots, rotten areas, or water damage.

At this point, you’ll also need to decide if you’re taking your interior walls off. If you’ve come this far, we highly recommend it. Having access to the area behind the walls means you can adjust or replace wires, insulation - and most importantly deal with leaks and re-riveting. More on that in a bit.

Congratulations, the first stage of your demo is complete! Now let’s see what your frame and tanks look like.

Before Tanks Installed

Checking the Integrity of your floor and frame, testing tanks

Now it’s time to open her up and see how big of a project you’ve gotten yourself into. The next step is to drop the underbelly and check the frame for rust and cracks.

A deteriorating frame means you’ve entered “shell off” territory, and you’ve got a more complicated project ahead of you. You’ll have to separate the top of the Airstream from the floor and frame, re-build it, and reassemble. More on that in a minute.

Now we did have to replace part of our subfloor. The back near the bathroom had rotted out, and we had the beginnings of rear frame separation. So we did do significant work there. But we didn’t need a lift or total re-fabrication of the frame.

While you have the underbelly off, now’s the time to really test your existing tanks for leaks. If you can, remove them entirely, fill them up, and see what happens.

Also, if you’re going to need new tanks (or additional tanks), you need to think about ordering these soon. They are custom and take time to fabricate. Ordering custom tanks was one of the most stressful processes of our renovation. Making sure we specified the exact location and type of fitting was terrifying since they were so expensive. Thankfully, it all turned out ok in the end.

Shell-Off Renovation

We mentioned that we didn’t have to do a shell-off renovation, but in case you do find yourself with an unsafe frame, these are the basic steps.

  1. Remove interior walls, wiring, and insulation. 
  2. Brace the frame so it doesn’t warp or bend when you lift it off.
  3. Remove the sub-floor (this is very difficult because of the way the floor, frame, and shell are bolted together).
  4. Carefully use a pulley or lift system to suspend the outer shell so you can work on the frame.
  5. If you’ve come this far, you’re probably going to re-build the frame so hopefully you're good at welding. Might be worth having a company build it for you.
  6. Once you’ve got a shiny new frame you’ll lower the shell back down, and connect the subfloor and frame all back together (this is also difficult).

Like we said, we didn’t have to do this, but we know others that have. Here’s a few folks you should check out for more detailed info on shell off renovations.

Interior Walls Off

Removing Interior Walls

We quickly skipped over interior walls earlier, but wanted to provide some more context.

Document panels before removing 

We highly recommend taking copious amounts of pictures and numbering each interior panel as you remove them. That way you’ll know what order and where to put them back. Drilling out interior rivets is easier than buck rivets, but also tricky. You have to get right through the middle and destroy the expanded part on the other side of the wall. The exterior ring will break off and get stuck around your drill as well. Take it slow, and have some extra hands for those big panels. Or use Clecos to keep the panel up until you’re ready to take it down.

Check Insulation

With the walls off you’ll either have some nice fiberglass insulation to remove or a horror show of dead rodents, feces, and chewed wires. Our plan was to replace this insulation so we removed it all.

Remove Vinyl

Have vinyl, fur, or some other ridiculous material covering your beautiful aluminum? Turns out you can remove it (with great effort). Get heavy duty gloves, some disposable paint brushes, and a large flat area. Start in warm weather and layer several coats of Jasco on the vinyl, letting each application sit for 20 minutes or so. Depending on the age of your panels, you may need 3-4 coats before you start to see the vinyl bubble up.

At that point you’ll be able to rip a lot of the vinyl off by hand or with pliers. But there will still be stubborn parts left. Re-apply your Jasco again until they start to loosen up, and use a plastic scraper to get the rest off.

Now comes the hard part - what’s left after removing the vinyl is the glue they used to adhere it. And it is some nasty stuff. You’ll need approximately 400 heavy duty paper towel rolls, and gallons of Goof-Off. You’ll put the Goof-Off on the glue, and you’ll get a few seconds to wipe it off. The key is that you can only remove a few inches of glue at a time. It’ll quickly dry and then start smearing if you’re not using fresh towels and Goof-Off so take it slow.

Finally, use WD-40 to polish and shine it up when finished. Oh, and take note of what parts of your panels will actually be visible. There’s no need to do a bunch of extra work for an area that will be covered by a cabinet!

Removing Endcaps 

If your Airstream is like ours, you probably have some large plastic endcaps inside that will also need to be removed while removing the other panels. Be very careful with them to avoid cracking, especially if you’re going to re-use them. Our front cap had a bunch of gauges in it so there was some wire detangling that needed to happen during the process. They’ll likely be large, heavy, and awkward so get them on a solid surface as soon as possible.

Caulking Airstream

Exterior

Oh the vintage Airstream exterior! It’s so shiny, but so prone to leaks. You’re going to have a lot of work to do on the outside before you can focus on the inside. Let’s get to work!

Testing rivets for leaks 

If you didn’t do your rivet leak test already, now’s the time. Check every. single. one. But now you’ll want to drill out the bad ones and replace them. Don’t bother with the expensive fancy rivet drill - just use a 1/8” drill bit, take it slow, and you’ll get the hang of it quickly. We recommend buck riveting with a bucking bar instead of using olympic rivets. With the interior walls off you’ll have full access to do it right.

Also, check all your seams for leaks. Scrape off the existing caulk and re-seal with Trempro. Related - don’t bother with any other sealers. Trempro is the only thing you need, trust us. Go ahead and re-seal the inside seams with Trempro for good measure.

Remove & replace all seals from windows and compartments

Rubber gaskets are relatively cheap, and the last thing you want is a leak you could have easily prevented. Take each window and compartment off, scrape off the existing seal, and replace.

Windows will probably need new screens, which can be found at any hardware store and are easy to replace. And you might need new positioner guides as well. Vintage Trailer Supply sells them, and they’re easy to drop in.

Stabilizers

You’ll want to decide if you’re using the original stabilizers or adding new ones. You would have had to take them off when removing the underbelly. Ours were in pretty good shape so we disassembled, painted, and re-lubed them before putting them back on.

Front Door 

Re-sealing the door and screen will be tricky, especially if you don’t want them to leak. Do lots of testing here before putting everything back together. Also, we recommend adding a deadbolt at this stage for extra security as they normally require access behind the interior walls. We wish we had done it back then as it’s too big of a pain to do it now.

Remove Paint 

Those old Airstreams really love blue, amiright? There’s a chance you’ve got a few lovely blue stripes or multi-colored plaques that are going to need updating. How you choose to do it is up to you. Some strip all the paint off and re-finish like it was to maintain that vintage glory. Others like us remove all the color for a more modern look. Either way, there are going to be letters, plaques, decoration that need some attention.

Stabilizers

While you have the underbelly off, take those existing stabilizers (use some jacks to keep it steady while they’re off) and give them new life. We completely disassembled ours, removed the rust, primed, re-painted, and re-lubed so they were as good as new.

Patch Holes 

There’s a good chance you’ll need to do some patching on your exterior. For us, there was some damage near the door and an old radio antenna we didn’t need anymore. This is pretty simple, cut some exterior aluminum larger than the hole in the shape you want, add some Trempro behind it to keep water out, drill holes evenly, and use clecos to hold it in place. Then buck rivet permanently. You can even make fun shapes like stars, circles, etc… to give your trailer some personality.

Tail & Running lights 

Besides checking to make sure the lights actually work when hooked up to a tow vehicle, you may have a damaged, leaking, or broken light. Taillights can be in a pre-made enclosure that you might have to replace if it’s messed up enough. But the running lights are fairly standard, and can be changed out easily. Be careful, though - sometimes these are leaking through their holes into the shell and need to be sealed from the inside.

Leak Testing

Finding, fixing, and re-fixing leaks turned out to be one of the most frustrating aspects of our renovation. Just when you think you’ve got them all, you’ll find a new one. Or realize the patch job you did didn’t work. The best way to leak test is to have your subfloor visible, the inside walls off, and then let the trailer sit outside in a couple of good downpours. With the interior walls off you’ll have a much easier time tracking those leaks down (they’ll be visible on the wall or ceiling). And with the subfloor visible, you’ll find those small, but persistent leaks as you see visible wetness on the wood.

I’m not going to get into too much more detail, but just want to encourage you not to give up. Sealing the trailer is going to be vital to its usage and longevity in the future, so keep at it until ALL the leaks are gone.

Airstream with interior walls off and 12V wiring.

Inspect Wiring

With the interior walls off and insulation removed you should have full access to all your wiring. So it’s time to make some decisions!

Use Existing Wiring

Inspect the 12V wiring already in use. Does it all look good? Did everything work before you demoed? What are you power plans like? If you’re trying to throw something together quickly and not reinvent the wheel, you could just leave everything as is.

Or if you’re like us and planned on re-designing the power system from the ground up for our family of 6 to live off-grid you might as well pull them out and re-run everything. I mean, if you’ve gone through all the trouble of ripping the interior out and removing walls and insulation I’d go ahead and replace the decades old wiring - but that’s just me!

Additional Wires

Even in a perfect world where you have no additional power requirements, and all your cables look perfect, now is the time to run any additional wires for displays, switches, remotes, antennas, thermostats, and more. Make a plan, start a wire list guide, and know exactly what you need to do.

7-Pin Wiring

How do the wires look for your brakes, running lights, brake lights, etc…? These were the only wires we didn’t replace - though we probably should have.

Jon Replacing Rivets On Roof

Roof Installation

Let’s get that roof installed, patched, and waterproofed! An Airstream renovation will likely involve replacing a lot of the equipment on the current roof. And you want to get it all put in and sealed back up before moving on to the interior.

Airstream roof plan for mounting solar panels.

We spent a lot of time doing mockups and layouts of our roof because we had to find the best way to fit as many solar panels as we could up there. Sandwiching them between 3 vents, an air conditioner, and various TV and internet antennas - on a super curved roof no less - took a lot of measuring and planning.

Vents & Fans

Good vent fans aren’t super expensive, and are most likely worth replacing. Keep in mind the size of your vent shrouds when measuring for other items like solar panels.

There are also gray water vents to keep in mind. We had two, and even though we kept them in the same place, the vents themselves needed to be replaced and re-sealed.

Air Conditioner

Even though our 1972 AC still worked, we weren’t about to hit the road full-time without replacing it. With an Airstream, you’ll want to install the drainage kit that allows the unit to drip its condensation through a tube that runs through the walls down to the wheel well. This was a little tricky, and made it hard to connect to the should inside with the wooden runway we added to the ceiling. The connecting tube was only so long!

TV Antenna

There are newer cool omnidirectional TV antennas - if TV is your thing. But we opted for an old raise, lower, and point style so we could attach a directional internet antenna to the top. Honestly, this turned out to be a huge pain because we had to install it to the side of the AC with all the solar panels we added, necessitating a crazy custom mount because of the curve of the roof. We’re glad we got it done, but it was a huge pain.

Internet Antennas

In addition to the directional, we also installed an omnidirectional 4G antenna and wifi booster antenna as part of our robust internet setup. These took up very little room, so easy to plan for.

Solar Panels

Like I mentioned, our solar panels required a ton of planning to get 5x 100W panels to fit between everything. We decided not to screw our panels, but to use special tall mounts, Aluminum primer, and VHB tape. Then we bought our own aluminum bars, tapped them, and created a way to tilt at 45 degrees in the winter.

Running Wires

Some of the things you install on the roof will have their wires built in. For instance, a TV antenna’s wire will come down through the bottom, so you don’t have worry about finding a way to run the wire through the roof and keep it waterproof. Same for your vents and air conditioner.

But items like solar panels and internet antennas you’re on your own. Some people use a combiner box - it’s a water proof box that requires you to cut a hole in the roof and seal it. The box allows you to make connections inside, run wires out the bottom inside, and close it up on the top.

Airstreams also have these really cool refrigerator vents that you can use to run wires into if you don’t want to drill holes in your roof. However, there area are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Make sure to let the wires go down past the vent before going up into it so that water can’t follow the wires inside
  • There will probably be a screen of some sort that you’ll need to cut through. Keep as much of this as you can so it still functions to keep bugs out.
  • The edge of the vent and the screen are very sharp. Use some PVC pipe or something similar to protect your wires on those edges.
  • Use wire guides to keep your roof nice and tidy.
Dad And Jon Install Belly Pan

Closing the Belly Pan

With the outside shell sealed and the roof finished, you probably want to move as quickly as possible to get the underbelly buttoned up. This will allow you to move your focus to the interior, and be sheltered from the elements. That doesn’t mean this step is easy, though! There is still a lot to do.

Wheel wells

How have those plastic wheel wells held up after decades of use? Do they need to be patched or replaced? Now’s the time to do it. We ended up just patching ours with aluminum pieces and rivets.

Install Water Tanks

This is a big one. Replacing or re-installing your fresh water, gray water, and black water tanks is a big job, and tied to any planning you have already done for placement. Because of our composting toilet, we converted our black tank to a gray tank and added a second smaller gray tank that we connected via a PVC pipe to make one big gray tank. Making sure all the tanks are properly supported and insulated is very important.

Floor Insulation

When you dropped your bellypan, you likely found a bunch of old gross fiberglass insulation down there. This is the time to replace it or come up with a new type of insulation to put in. We ended up using string and small pieces of wire to hold the individual sections up until we were ready to put the pan back on.

Propane Holes & Vents

Where are your propane appliances going inside? Do you need to plan for more holes in the underbelly or close off some existing ones? Same thing for any floor vents you may not be using anymore. Now is the time to patch them up.

Rivet the Underbelly Back On

With everything in place, use clecos and a pneumatic rivet gun to put the pieces back up one at a time. If existing rivet holes are too large, go with a bigger flanged rivet, or drill new holes. This is a big step, friend! Take a minute and celebrate!

Patched up wheel well

Axles & Wheels

With your belly pan back on, let’s install your axles and tires!

Install new axles and wheels

We highly recommend putting new axles on your trailer, especially if you plan on driving it anywhere. Torsion axles wear out over time, and unless someone has put new ones on recently they aren’t safe. Same with your tires. A blowout or axle failure on an Airstream can be catastrophic, so spend the extra money and replace these.

The axles will bolt to your frame, and you may have to drill new holes to make it work. We ended up removing our shocks during the process as they didn’t fit with the new axles. We also recommend 16” truck tires for a small lift and guarding against blowouts.

Decide if you want a lift

While you’re adding axles, now is the time to add a lift if you want one. We made the mistake of waiting a year, and adding it after the fact was incredibly difficult with the existing propane lines. A lift will help longer trailers not bottom out so often, especially coming out of weird gas stations or going down boondocking roads.

Test your brakes and lights

There’s a good chance your brake lines will run inside the belly, so once the axles are put back on and wired up you should take some time to test them. Also test your running lights, brake lights, and reverse lights as well.

Man holding Airstream renovation electrical wiring diagram on an iPad

Re-wiring 12V and 120V

We touched on this earlier under “Inspect your Wiring,” but really you probably don’t want to get into a huge job like rewiring until everything is sealed and closed up outside. Re-wiring your trailer is a huge job - so huge we have multiple deep dive articles explaining what we did.

  1. Planning our Solar & Electrical
  2. Installing our Off-Grid Power Setup

This “checklist” article won’t get into that much detail, so make sure to go read those for more background.

Plan where your power center and batteries will be

Knowing where your batteries, inverter, converter, distribution blocks, and fuses will be will directly impact how you run all your wires. Lithium batteries can be installed anywhere, but Lead Acid and AGM have to be vented to the outside. Most of these large pieces of your power system should be very close together, too.

Once you’ve decided on an area that will fit all this equipment and be safely vented, you can get into the details of wiring.

Plan Every Wire

You’ll want to know where every single wire is going to and coming from - and how it’s going to get there. Things like:

We recommend first designing a mockup of your trailer showing where all major appliances and lights will be. Be thinking about your cabinets and how you’ll run and hide wires.

Then use a wire list guide to number and add additional information to document your entire wire setup.

Install wiring

With your plan in place, run each wire, numbering it on both sides, and bundle them based on the route you’ve decided on. We have bundles running through our roof, walls, and along the floor on the roadside.

Make sure to allow extra wire on both ends, and use wire clips to keep them snug up against the ceiling. For wires in the wall, tuck them into the ribs next to the insulation.

Removing Interior Panels

Insulation

Now that your exterior is mostly finished and waterproof, you’ll want to decide on your insulation. There are so many ways to do this - spray foam, fiberglass, denim, Reflectix, rockwool, etc…

Do your research

We aren’t going to tell you how to insulate - but keep in mind that some types are temperature dependent. For instance, we were going to do spray foam, but by the time we got to it the temperature was too low outside. So we switched to a combo of Reflectix and rockwool sound and fire batten.

What we eventually realized is that you have a 1.5” cavity to fill with something. And the R values weren’t different enough to get to stressed about it. So do your research, and do what works for you.

Installing Insulation

It’s time to install! Spray foam will be a whole thing, complete with special suits and lots of expensive gear. Other types will be a lot simpler - maybe some spray adhesive or metal/wood strips to hold up the ones on the roof. You just need it to all stay in place until you get the panels back in.

We’ll get to actually hooking up these wires later, but you’ll need it all planned and installed so you can get the interior panels back on for now.

End Cap Done

Install interior panels

The time has finally come to put those interior walls back on! Are you excited? I’m excited! This is a huge step forward! Ok, enough exclamation points. Let’s get down to business.

Air conditioner condensation tube

Remember when we covered this during the roofing section? Well it’s just another friendly reminder that you need your air conditioner condensation tube in place before putting your skins back on.

Ventilation for gray tanks

Same idea here. Even if you replaced your tank vents on the roof, you still need to connect to them somehow. Our kitchen sink vent actually had a formed PVC pipe that went behind the skins. Crazy, right?

Re-installing your interior panels

Remember when we talked about numbering each panel and taking lots of pictures? Now is the time to get those pictures and study them. You’ll need to put the panels back in the opposite order you took them out. This is where clecos become your best friend. Also you should have a few friends come over to help because really long panels are impossible to get up on the ceiling by yourself.

End Caps

Oh yeah - by this point you probably already have a good idea of what you’re doing with the endcaps you took out earlier. If you’re keeping them, a nice coat of paint will make them look like new again. We kept our bathroom cap, but threw away our front cap in favor of new aluminum strips. That in itself was a whole process - we got our inspiration from here.

Take a minute to party

I know I said you should be really excited in the last section, but let’s take a breath and really appreciate how far you’ve come. From this point on, it’s all downhill. You’re basically done with the outside, and ready to start your inside build! It’s a huge accomplishment, and a huge relief to switch gears from exterior to interior work.

Ok, party’s over, let’s get back to work.

Lower Kitchen Cabinet And Wall

Building the Interior

While you may not have every single detail figured out here yet, you should definitely have solid plans for where each cabinet, structure, and appliance will be.

Focus on large areas first

Get your largest areas built first. Dinette, kitchen, beds, and cabinets. We started with our bunk beds because they had to be integrated into the wheel wells. Build these structures around appliances, and keep in mind wiring, plumbing, water lines, and furnace ducts. We used tape on the floor to mark where everything would be to help visualize as we built.

We built everything from scratch with 1x2’s, 2x4’s 1/2” and 3/4” plywood, and custom milled poplar. But we also had Ashley’s father-in-law - a carpentry ninja who could make anything we dreamed of. He even helped us build these awesome fold down bunk beds for the kids.

Leave cabinet facings until later

No need to get bogged down with doors, latches, and hinges right now unless you’re installing something pre-built. For now, you need to get the main structures built.

Wheel Wells

Did I mention wheel wells earlier? In most trailers, the wheels are blow the frame. But with Airstreams, they come into the frame, eating up precious space. When designing and building, try to use them to your advantage.

Mark where your tanks are on the floor

The last thing you want to do is accidentally screw into your brand new water tanks! Use tape or spray paint, and mark where they are.

Use Walls for Integrity

When you demo’d the trailer, you probably noticed how everything was connected together. Walls and cabinets were connected to increase the strength of the whole structure. Try to do the same thing as you re-build your interior.

Walls in particular are great ways to tie cabinets and beds together for extra rigidity. In particular, we used walls between our kitchen, bunk beds, and bathroom that helped support our folding bunks.

Connect to ribs or studs

Wherever possible it’s important to connect you cabinets to an actual rib, and not just into the skins. Ribs function like a stud behind the wall of a house, so it’s good to have the ribs marked on your skins. We recommend self tapping sheet metal screws combined with wood framing that you can then attach your cabinet to.

Furnace Ducts

I mentioned this earlier, wanted to circle back. If installing a propane furnace, it’s important to remember that you’ll need to run multiple ducts to various areas of the trailer. Often these will have to go through the cabinets, so you’ll need to make sure you’ve got room for them.

Counter tops

Once you’ve got all your cabinets and counters built, it’s time to get that counter top on! We custom ordered solid surface tops, but many use butcher block or create their own. Be careful here with weight - most cheaper residential countertops are very heavy.

Lithium batteries installed in a renovated vintage Airstream.

Batteries/Power

There’s an awful lot of work that goes into installing an electrical system in an Airstream. You’d be doing good to read our thorough breakdowns of how we planned our power and then how we ran all the wiring and connected everything. The explanations below are the high level overview version.

Connecting your Wires 

While you should have already run the wires you need before you put your interior skins back on, you probably haven’t connected them to anything yet, and that’s ok! Now that you have cabinets to install appliances into and hide wires, it’s time to start making those connections.

We recommend DIN-Rail Terminal blocks for cleaner, safer junctions at both your appliance end and power center end, but you’re free to make your connections however you like.

Fusing and Grouping Circuits

During this phase you’ll be grouping lines onto fused circuits. Large appliances should be on their own fuse, but smaller loads like LED lights or 12V charges can be grouped together.

Create a Wire List Guide, and number every line so you can track down what you’ve done later. It will also help you plan how to group smaller loads and what fuse size they will need.

Install Batteries & EMS

Now that your power center is grouped and fused it’s time to add some power! Install your batteries, and make any connections necessary for sense boards, Energy Management Systems, and more. Running solar? Connect your solar panel lines to your solar charge controller, and program it for your batteries to start charging them.

Install Inverter, Converter, & Transfer Switch

With your batteries connected, it’s time to start adding the other important pieces. Connect your Inverter and Converter, keeping in mind you may need a transfer switch for your shore power connection to avoid power conversion loops. Oh, and don’t forget to add circuit breakers for each major line.

These will all connect to your 120V wires, and be sure to make any junctions inside a sealed box.

Testing 12V

Begin testing any appliances that run off your batteries. Do the lights turn on? Do USB chargers work? Do your internet boosters or propane alarms turn on? Does your Inverter power your 120V receptacles?

Testing 120V

Now plug up to shore power. Does your converter charge your batteries properly? What about when they’re full - does it float properly? Does the transfer switch turn your inverter turn off? Do all the plugs and 120V appliances work properly?

Testing Solar

Is your solar charge controller programmed properly for your batteries? Are the panels outputting the correct amounts of voltage or amps?

Remote Monitors

As part of your charge controller or EMS install you’ll likely have some kind of monitoring panel. Really study what you’re seeing on these as you do all these tests and begin to get familiar with how everything should work.

Lights On

Lighting

Switches

Part of your light grouping will be connecting switches to turn them on and off. There’s a good chance you’ve done this already, but if you haven’t now’s the time.

Overhead Lights

Now that your power is setup, finalize any overhead lighting and grouping, and get your ceiling closed back up. FYI, this is a very exciting day!

Overhead storage in Airstream

Overhead Storage

We found it was best to start building floor level cabinets first because they were so structural, hid wring, and enclosed appliances. Once you’re done there, it’s time to build upper level cabinets.

Size and stability are the key here. You’re working with a very rounded roof and limited mounting opportunities. Making these small enough that you don’t hit your head on them, but large enough to actually store stuff is a tricky balancing act.

For mounting we recommend a few ways to stabilize:

  1. Install a wooden rail that runs the length of the cabinet and is secured to the wall via self-tapping sheet metal screws that go directly into the ribs. Hopefully you still have those marked, right? Screw in every rib you can, and use the rail to install your cabinets onto
  2. Create riveted brackets near the top of the cabinet for additional stability. You probably saw these when you demo’d, and can even reuse them if you want.
  3. We talked about walls earlier, and upper cabinets benefit tremendously from their additional support. Secure your cabinet horizontally into the walls with screws.
Propane Lines Underneath

Propane Lines

Propane is one of those parts of the renovation that is a “whole other thing.” Learning how to cut, flare, and connect copper lines, add shutoff valves, and mount everything can be a lot to take in. All in all it shouldn’t be too bad, though.

Installing Propane Lines

There will be lots of planning here as you figure out how to take your trunk line and split off to all the other appliance lines you need. Especially in the fittings needed for these connections. Get yourself a cutting, de-burring, and flaring tool as well.

Propane lines are usually run on the underside of the trailer for safety and access reasons. Keep in mind that if you’re doing a lift you may have to re-route them above the axles.

Install Shut-Off Valves

It’s always a good idea to add a shut-off valve for each appliance under the trailer. This way if a leak develops at your stove (which totally happened to us after a year of travel), you can shut off the propane to it and work on making fixes safely.

Install a new Regulator 

Chances are your original regulator is old and should be replaced. Thankfully they’re cheap! Go ahead and invest in this now while you’re running new lines.

Re-certify propane tanks

Do you have shiny vintage aluminum propane tanks? Don’t throw them away! You can get them re-certified for a fee. It took us a while to find somewhere that would do it, and you may need to get new valves put in. Of course you can always buy new ones, too.

Test for Leaks

Many folks are wary of propane for good reason. A silent leak could be deadly. Thankfully, testing propane lines is pretty easy. Get some soapy water and wipe it on all connections while you’re using a propane appliance and creating pressure. Bubbles mean you have a leak so you’ll need to re-make the connection.

Of course, you should also have a propane/CO2 detector hardwired to your batteries that is constantly checking for those things in the air. And make sure any time you run a propane appliance that it’s vented to the outside. For instance, when running our oven or stove we turn on our vent to suck those fumes out.

Airstream Kitchen Stove

Appliances

While you’ve likely already installed the majority of your appliances, here are a few other things to keep in mind before you start finalizing your interior.

Finish all appliance installation

This is where you finish everything up. Physically finalize your appliance installations, thinking about those vented to the outside like your furnace, water heater, and fridge. Make sure they’re all level and have the appropriate amount of space around them.

Connect Propane & Power

Finish making your propane connections inside if you haven’t already. Also, finish making any power connections to your appliances as well.

Connect Additional Wiring

Many appliances will need more than just power. Things like thermostats, tank sensors, and speakers all need to be connected for things to work properly. Thoroughly test each one to make sure it’s working as expected.

Airstream Bathroom Vanity

Bathroom

Hey! Time for that bathroom! After you’re over the initial shock of just how small this space will actually be, let’s get down to the basics.

Install your Toilet

Decide on the toilet. If going the traditional flush toilet route, you’ll want to make sure your tanks are in the correct places and lined up to be plumbed to the toilet. I know, I shouldn’t have to say this, but we know renovators who have failed to actually hook up the toilet to the black tank. It’s a bit ridiculous.

If going the composting toilet route (like we did) it makes things a little easier. Just make sure to leave room for the plastic throne. They’re bigger than a normal toilet.

Install your Shower

Installing a shower or tub can be complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. Many renovations out there have some beautiful tile work and fancy fixtures, but you could go our route and choose function over fashion. You just need to know how you plan on using this RV. Will you be traveling full time? Will you be primarily boondocking down crazy bumpy roads? Staying at RV parks all the time? Are you stationary and not so worried about the weight of the final build? You’ll need to know most of this before you even begin your renovation, especially before you begin installing a nice tile wall back there :)

When plumbing the shower/tub you’ll need to keep a few things in mind. You’ll want full access to all the pluming. Even if it’s a tiny 4 inch ‘closet’ like what we have, we know we can at least get our hands back there to turn off the water should there ever be a problem. Make sure you take in consideration the ventilation pipes that will come from your gray tanks or plumbing lines. And that P trap, make sure you have plenty of room for that under your tub or shower. You may have to get creative and raise the tub up a bit to accommodate it, but it’s a necessary step that needs to be thought about.

Bathroom Door

Lastly, what about a door to shut off the bathroom? If you’re traveling alone, perhaps this is less of an issue, but for us, a family of six…we needed that door :) Will it swing into the bathroom? Will a pocket door work better for you? Lots to think about. You just don’t want to get in a situation where you install a door only to realize that when the door swings open, it’s running into your shower curtain rod.

Airstream Dinette

Countertops, Tables & Sinks

Time to start thinking about countertops and sinks! That’s a very exciting step and really makes your trailer begin to feel more like a real home. But let me tell you what I wish we would have done differently. Our kitchen sink! Guys, we bought a really nice Ruvati stainless steel kitchen sink, but we wanted an undercount sink. If you listen to nothing else we say, please listen to this. Do not do an undermount sink UNLESS you plan on reinforcing it from the underside. Huge mistake on our part. Let us say it again, a trailer is nothing like a normal home. You’re hauling this trailer down the interstate at 65MPH things will rattle loose. We promise you. Some things will break, don’t let it be your kitchen sink. 

Ours came loose on our second trip, probably because we were storing our Berkey in the sink while we traveled so that’s another no-no. It never occurred to us that we would need support under the undermounted sink. Thankfully we still had room and some scrap wood that we could make some bracing underneath, but let that be a lesson to you :)

Of course you want to make sure all your sinks are plumbed to your gray tanks, but you know…we’ve heard of this step being forgotten. Don’t forget your vents for the tanks.

As for countertops, there are so many different options out there. We went with an acrylic solid surface and have been pretty happy with that. Just wish we could have found a lighter weight option when we were in that stage.

If you’ll have a dinette table or a table of some sort, nows a great time to get on that, too.

Kitchen and Kids Bed

Cabinet Facings, Latches, Hardware, Doors

Hey, it’s really starting to look finished in here! Don’t give up now, though - we still have more work to do. Assuming you built your own cabinets, now’s the time to get the door facings on.

This turned out to be way more time consuming and expensive than we thought. By the time it was over we had nearly 50 cabinet door facings to make, paint, and install hardware onto. Woah!

Building Cabinets and Drawers

Now is the time to build those drawers and cabinet doors. There are so many ways to do this, so no crazy details here. Just be consistent in your style and sizing.

Hinges and Drawer Slides

Install each drawer slide hardware on the opening and drawer itself. And install hinges on each facing. We highly recommend soft-close mechanisms, and a tool like this to help make mounting 100+ hinges faster.

Locking Latches

One of the most important pieces of hardware in your trailer will be locking latches for every opening. When you start driving, you want every single one locked down so things don’t start flying everywhere when you hit a bump. The final stage of the cabinets will be installing these. We recommend going with high quality metal ones that will last.

Airstream Flooring

Floor Installation

Oh, the great floor debate. There are so many ways, materials, and opinions on what’s the best option for flooring in your Airstream. I’m not here to tell you exactly how you should do it, but I kind of am :)

Why we Recommend a Floating Floor

We really, really, really suggest you do a true floating floor if you plan on hauling your trailer. Yes, it looks pretty on Instagram when you see an empty trailer and the subfloor covered up by the latest trends in vinyl planks or marmoleum - but from experience, you really want to be able to see that subfloor around the edges of your trailer. Around all the edges is where you’ll likely see leaks. And if it’s covered in new flooring it can be difficult to see where the leak is affecting your subfloor.

Installing your cabinets first and your floor last will not only save you money on the cost of the flooring, but it will also save on over-all weight of your build. Flooring is not light.

Installing it last will also allow you to change it out should you ever have a major problem. We know folks who traveled with a full fresh tank, the kitchen sink came on, filled up their gray tank as they were driving and overflowed the kitchen sink onto the entire floor messing up their new hardwood floor they just installed. However, because they installed the flooring last, it was easy to remove it, dry out the subfloor, and replace it. Not so easy if your flooring extends under all your cabinetry.

Some people don’t use underlayment, but we’ve found it adds a bit of cushion to your step and a bit of insulation to the floor. We get several comments about how nice it is that our floor isn’t freezing cold in the winter, compared to theirs. Yeah, it adds a bit of height to the floor, but not enough to make a huge difference.

If you do a true floating floor and are worried about what the edges look like, add some quarter round, trim, or even just caulk around the edges. It’s easy to remove and doesn’t cost as much as trim.

The only thing we screwed into our floating floor was our pedestal for our dinette table and our composting toilet.

1972 Airstream Remodeled

Finishing Touches

Can you believe you just rebuilt your trailer? I mean, what an accomplishment. The hard work was worth all the blood, sweat and (so many) tears. Now you have this incredible space that you get to decorate and live in. Obviously I’m not going to tell you how to decorate the inside of your trailer. 

You may want to stuff it with camo colored roosters for all I know! 

But there are a few things to consider when adding the finishing touches. If you can, live in the trailer for a week or so before you commit to any permanent mounting of shelves or decor. It really helps to know exactly how you’ll end up using the space before you make anything permanent.

Mounting Tips

The last thing you may want to do is put holes into your brand new walls. In that case, you need to know about Command Strips and Command Hooks. They make some really great options for hanging things as well as fastening things to the wall that will withstand all the jostling around that towing your trailer will cause. 

They’re easy to remove and don’t leave a sticky residue on your walls. They also make Velcro versions of their mounting strips and that makes things even easier!

Of course there are some things you’ll likely need to mount that are more permanent like a shower curtain rod, knife rack, mirror, etc. We really liked to keep it simple. Our bathroom has one tiny mirror mounted from Ikea and our retractable shower curtain is a huge space saver. With an already extremely tiny shower, having the ability to push that shower curtain out a bit further makes it feel so much bigger than it really is. Then being able to push the shower curtain rod back into the the shower space when not in use makes the tiny bathroom feel just a bit bigger. Little things like that make all the difference when living in a tiny space.

Paint, Backsplashes, & Wallpaper

The aluminum walls of your Airstream make for easy clean up. I can’t speak to if you have decided to paint them, but for us with bare metal walls, it’s super easy to just wipe down. However, you may be wanting more finishing touches like a backsplash or wallpaper. All of that can be done and done really easily. Just do your research if you decide to tile and opt for a flexible grout if you plan on traveling full time.

Backsplashes, wallpaper, and paint are also great ways to make the inside of the trailer feel like your own. You probably already did your painting or staining while creating your cabinets, but backsplashes and wallpaper are easy to add after the fact.

Cushions & Mattresses

One thing I’m sure you’re wondering about - cushions and mattresses! Yes, you’ll probably need something custom created so unless you’re great at fabrication this can get tricky.

Our first attempt was to order custom sized foam and have someone create covers for our dinette and kids beds. We used this for many years until the foam started to wear out. Then we replaced with organic, natural wool-based cushions. This was waaaay more expensive, and we’re not sure if it was worth it. You’ll have to find that line between affordability, comfort, longevity, and health for your own renovation.

Curtains

You’ll also want to think about curtains to cover your windows. These will likely need to be custom, though we have had luck taking existing curtains and making them shorter ourselves. We highly recommend these simple curtain rods to keep them in place.

Virgin, Ut Boondocking

Live Like You Mean It

Well then. If you’ve made it this far it’s obvious you had deep motivations for renovating a vintage trailer. And likely you’re going to use the dang thing, right? So now’s the time friend! You’ve put in the work, and created something amazing. It’s time to get out there and live like you mean it!

We hope this exhaustive look back at our renovation helped you a little bit, and we’d love to know if you have anything to add. As a companion piece to this article we’ve created an Airstream Renovation Checklist you can print out and check off as you work. If anything its sheer size will give you a better idea of everything you’re getting into with a vintage trailer restoration.

Grab yourself a copy, and get to it!

Additional Resources

We have plenty more Airstream renovation resources available if you still have questions!

And you can always give us a shout in the comments below.

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https://tinyshinyhome.com/hyperadobe-earthbag-dolly Hyperadobe Earthbag Dolly Bucket System + How We Lay Our Hyperadobe Bags 2021-01-19T00:00:00-05:00 2021-03-21T12:33:29-05:00 Jonathan Longnecker https://tinyshinyhome.com/
This post may contain affiliate links or compensated reviews. Please read our disclosure for more info.

Let’s talk details about how we’re laying our hyperadobe earthbags and the systems we’ve implemented to make our build go as smoothly as possible. Hopefully this will help someone looking to build this way in the future. Let’s dig in, shall we?

Bucket Dolly Delivery System

Through our research, we’ve seen this bucket system more than once, but could never find information about how it was put together. We’d pause videos, zoom in as close as we could, and squint to try to make out exactly how it was built, until one day we were just like, screw it! So we built our own version - here’s how we did it:

Hyperadobe Bucket System

Buckets + Brackets

For the bucket system you will need two five gallon buckets. Simply cut the bottom of one five gallon bucket, and on the second bucket, you’ll cut all around the side about 4 inches from the bottom of the bucket. The second bucket will slide over the first bucket creating one large bucket with the bottoms connected with duct tape.

Now comes the hard part. With much trial and error we finally figured it out! We used scrap 1x6 and 2x2 pieces for this part along with 1-5/8” screws. We cut two pieces from the 1x6 scrap that measure 3x5 and 5x9 and a 2x2 piece that measures the width of your dolly. Ours is too short here and we’ll be replacing it very soon.

Screw the smaller 1x6 piece into the bucket from the inside while holding the larger piece on the outside. We added more screws going from the outside to the inside just for added security. Once your wood pieces are attached, add your 2x2 spacer to the bottom. This may take some trial and error to decide where it best fits your dolly. Next, grab these metal brackets that will allow your bucket to hook onto your dolly.

You should end up with something that looks similar to our bucket system here.

Dolly Wheels for Hyperadobe Earthbags

Dolly Wheels to the inside

When picking out a dolly, you’ll want to BE SURE that the axel can be removed. Look for a dolly with cotter pins and an exposed axel so that you know you’ll be able to remove that axel. For this part, you’ll need conduit that will go over your axel, we ended up using 1” scrap that we had already. You’ll also need a way to cut the conduit.

Remove the cotter pins, wheels, and the axels. You’ll measure your conduit pieces so that you’ll end up with 5 pieces to space the wheels on the inside of the dolly. Your measurements will likely be different than ours, but make it to where the wheels are as far apart (on the inside of the dolly) as possible.

It should look something like this when you’re done.

Dolly Wheels for Hyperadobe Earthbags

Dolly Frame

The dolly (or handcart) we found has a metal bar the runs down the middle which made adding the triangular frame to it pretty simple. We just used 5/8” plywood that we had on hand and cut it to the width of the dolly and as high up as you think you’ll need. We could have gone up higher with ours though.

Hyperadobe Dolly System - Earthbag Dolly

We drilled two holes into the center bar of the dolly and attached the back piece of plywood with bolts. This is plenty secure as long as your back piece of plywood extends to the outside bars of your dolly.

Hyperadobe Dolly System

Now for the angled part, if you’re more handy with tools and have more options than we do, you could probably cut this to a correct angle, but we did it the cheater’s way. We used scrap 3/4” plywood and attached it to the front piece of plywood so that when it sits on an angle the inside piece of plywood acts as a lip and the angled piece is flush with the bottom of the dolly. Just take a look at this picture which likely explains things better than I just did :)

Wahoo! Now that you’ve made your own dolly system, let’s talk about the way we are laying our hyperadobe earthbags. Now, there are likely thousands of ways this can be done and the majority of it just depends on your soil. We lucked out and our soil actually has quite a bit of clay and sand in it already, so…let’s get into the details of how we’re laying our bags.

Hyperadobe Earthbag Door Frame

Laying Hyperadobe Earthbags

Hyperadobe bags are a little new in the earthbag world, and we couldn't find a ton of information on them. We're still learning, and may update our recommendations here, but this is what we've learned so far.

Measuring for Hyperadobe Earthbags

Measure, Cut & Tie Your Mesh Bags

First you’ll need to measure and cut your bag. We’ve opted for the hyperadobe mesh continuous bags on this build, but we’ll eventually be experimenting with another style on a future project.

We use a flexible measuring tape to lay in the middle of our bags and determine how long it needs to be. Make sure you add 2’-3’ extra because you’ll be tying off the ends of the bags. We just use a standard pocket knife or box knife to allow for a clean cut to the bags.

Hyperadobe Bag Tie Off

Now that you have your bag cut, you’ll need to tie off one end. We’ve seen people just tie a knot at the end, and that works, but it uses extra bags so we like using these rebar ties instead. You can find rebar ties and the twisting tool to twist them at any big hardware store. Now that your bag is tied off, we like to pull it inside out so that the tied end is on the inside of the bag. This is not necessary, but it makes the bag look real clean on the ends.

Hyperadobe Bags on Bucket

Put The Hyperadobe Bag on Your Bucket

With the bag pulled inside out, you can now thread it onto your bucket. Start at the bottom and just scrunch it up. We’ve found that 46 feet of bag is pushing our limit of what this bucket can hold. We could likely squeeze on 50’ of bag, but thankfully our building isn’t that big :)

Now that the bags are on the bucket, you need to secure them. We use an exercise band that we just tied to fit snug around the bags. This will allow the bags to slowly let out once you begin filling them with soil.

Cement Mixer

Mixing Your Material - Clay Soil with Water & Cement

Like I mentioned before, we really lucked out with the type of soil we have on our land. We have a few friends that come help us move dirt from one part on our land that will eventually be turned into a pond. We then sift the dirt through 1/4” screen and we’re good to go.

For our mixture, we’re adding 12 parts of our native sifted soil to 1 part Portland cement. This gives us added assurance that our mixture will stick together nicely. On the bags that are below grade, we used a 12:2 ratio for extra stability.

Throw the cement and the soil into our cement mixer, mix it up dry, then we just add enough water to get the consistency that we’re looking for. You’ll want to be able to form a ball in your hand and have it hold shape easily. Too wet and your mixture will be difficult to tamp, but too dry and your mix will likely not stay together. It’s a fine balance, but not too difficult to figure out.

Filling Hyperadobe Bags

Fill Bags, Let Out & Form

Now comes the fun part - filling the bags! We take the mixed, damp material, dump it into our handy Gorilla Yard Cart, and bring it over to the area of the wall we’re working on. Many people use coffee cans or other small buckets, but we really like this feed scoop.

With your bucket system in place, start the process. The elastic band should allow the bag to let out slowly for an even fill. Ends are a little tricky. We usually fill about a 16” of dirt, pick up the bag and drop it against the ground a few times to flatten the end. Then we “swing” it up so the flattened end butts up against the wall or other bag it’s next to. Cal-Earth calls this “Hard-Assing” which is hilarious.

From there, you want to fill the bags all the way up into the bucket so that as you move the dolly back, the bag is let out evenly. Don’t be afraid to spend some time forming the bag before tamping. We’ve found that “getting it where you want it to go” is much easier by hand, and creates more uniform, flat bags.

Hyperadobe Earthbags - Tamping

Tamping the Top & Sides

On our very first bag layer we made the mistake of tamping when we finished the entire 46’ bag. The first part had dried out too much by then, and we didn’t get the structure we were hoping for. So we learned it’s important to tamp as you go.

But if you tamp too close to the dolly, you can run into issues as well (since there’s still a lot of movement near the bucket, it could crack what you’ve done). Hyperadobe earthbag has a lot of “fine lines” in its process, and this is one of them.

You’ll need to tamp on the material pretty hard to get it to compress. Don’t be afraid to really whack it. 

Hyperadobe Earthbags - Tamping Sides

We take the extra step of tamping the sides with a 2x4 to ensure uniformity, and to make sure the sides are solid as well. This will also aid in our finishing as we'll use less material to fill in the cracks this way, as opposed to having rounded bag walls to work with.

It’s ok to come back and make changes, too. Sometimes you’ll think it looks good, but catch at a different angle and see that it’s not level. You’ll get the hang of it.

Hyperadobe Earthbags - Interlocking Bags

Tie Off Bags at End

As you get towards the end of your run, you may need to ditch the dolly, especially if you’re coming up against a hard surface like a door or window frame.

Take the bucket off in plenty of time so you don’t get stuck, and then just hold the bucket the rest of the way.

As you get even closer, remove the bag from the bucket and hold it by hand. Now you need to finish the end. We’ve been using our re-bar ties, but are considering just twisting and folding under because it’s difficult to hide those ties properly on the outside.

Knowing how much of the bag to fill, and how far it will come out after tamping takes a lot of trial and error. But you’ll get a feel for it quickly.

Hyperadobe Earthbags - Interlocking Bags

Overlap Bags at Intersections

One more thing to keep in mind is buttressing and overlapping. For any non-framed entry way or a wall longer than 10’, you need buttressing support.

The buttress should interlock or overlap every other layer so they hold the wall in place. You should also interlock for any walls that intersect. In our case, the circle area intersects the dome, and we make sure to switch which wall overlaps on each layer.

Whew! We’re still in the middle of this project, and hope to share more details soon - but we hope that explains this process in detail and will help others who might be building with hyperadobe earthbags. Let us know if you have any questions in the comments.

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https://tinyshinyhome.com/tiny-shiny-fix-it-day Tiny Shiny Fix-It Day 2021-01-12T00:00:00-05:00 2021-01-12T10:01:52-05:00 Ashley Longnecker https://tinyshinyhome.com/
This post may contain affiliate links or compensated reviews. Please read our disclosure for more info.

As much as we would love to be working on our Solar Shed Office build full-time, we needed to address a few broken items and things that needed fixed around here.

Fixing the Set Screw in our Kitchen Sink

First up was fixing our wobbly faucet in our kitchen. We love our Kraus faucet that we’ve had in here since the very beginning, but after years on the road and having to take it apart a few times, the set screw had stripped out the hole keeping it tight against the mount. While I was excited about the possibilities of getting a new faucet, Jonathan was determined to fix it. Armed with a drill bit, a tap, and a bigger set screw he was on a mission.

Kraus Faucet

The process was rather easy, just drill a bigger hole 5mm hole (13/64), and use the tap to make the threads to fit a 6mm set screw. It took all of 10 minutes, so why did I go weeks with a wobbly faucet? Sigh…

Replacing the Fan Motor in our Fantastic Fan

Next was replacing the motor on our Fantastic Fan in the bathroom. It’s been out for a few weeks now, and we thought it was perhaps just a blown fuse, but turns out the motor just quit. We contacted Fantastic Fan (now owned by Dometic) to see if we could just purchase the motor instead of having to replace the entire fan, and they were more than happy to just send it out to us. Score! We love when companies have excellent customer service and go above and beyond to help their customers out. High Five, Fantastic Fan!

Fantastic Fan Motor

Just a couple ladders and a few tools to get the job done, all Jonathan needed to do was take off our Max Air Vent Covers, remove the shroud on the fan, cut a few wires, drop in the new fan, and crimp the new wires in place. Presto, the fan works! However, we do not recommend our ladder placement in the video, friends. Do not try that at home!

Changing the Batteries in our Ultrasonic Rat Deterrent Devices

On to more projects. This is one that we do every month or so, but we needed to replace the batteries in our Ultrasonic Rat Deterrent devices we keep in the hood of the truck. After last years $1000 packrat fiasco, we’ve been armed with these devices and so far so good (knock on wood). It’s actually only one part of how we’re trying to keep rodents from destroying our truck. The other is to keep some solar powered blinking lights under the truck at night. Unfortunately our dogs think they are chew toys so looks like we’ll be replacing those soon, too. Hah!

Packrat Deterrent

Anyhow, back to the Ultrasonice Rat Deterrent devices. They’re super simple. Each one takes 3 AA batteries and we just zip tie them to the compartment under the hood. Make sure you have the speakers pointed towards the engine and not towards the hood. Likely your hood has some noise dampening material on it and it won’t help with the high frequency noises these devices put out.

You want the noises to bounce off the engine and all around. And make sure the light is pointed down to the ground. Not only do they put out noise, but they also flash a series of different colored lights in random patterns to help deter the pesky rats. We’ve had these for a year, and while we don’t like having to keep replacing the batteries, it’s a small price to pay to not have a significant amount damage caused by packrats.

Cleaning Up Limb Piles

Remember the fencing project we did last summer? Well, we still have piles of limbs that need chopped up for firewood and cleared from the land. It’s my mission to get this done before the snakes come back out this spring. We’ve cleaned up SO MANY PILES, but still have even more to go. 

Cleaning Up Limb Piles

It’s a simple process really. We’re just breaking off the small limbs for fire starter, chopping up the medium size limbs that we’re keeping for good campfires, and making piles close to the Airstream and fire pit for easy access. These loppers have been used so much since moving out here, and they still have so much work to do. Having a chainsaw sure speeds up the tree trimming process and is something that we use on a monthly basis out here.

Playing with Baby Goats!

After a day of working on all these random projects, it was clear we were not going to complete the list. So, we decided to end the day playing with Frankie and Figgy - our baby goats! 

Baby Nigerian Dwarf Goats

While the animals do take up a good portion of our day, they also provide so much enjoyment out here. Just today I was able to milk Fay in the morning, and we enjoyed a nice cup of goat milk chai in the afternoon. It’s a small, but significant milestone in our homesteading journey. You may just see a cup of milk, but I see a dream come true.

Friends, we’ll be back to building soon. Thanks for taking this detour with us as we get some things fixed around here. Until next time…

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https://tinyshinyhome.com/solar-shed-office-part-5-door-frames-cleats-laying-multiple-courses-above-ground Solar Shed Office Part 5: Door Frames, Cleats, & Laying Multiple Courses Above Ground 2021-01-06T01:30:00-05:00 2021-01-07T10:28:41-05:00 Ashley Longnecker https://tinyshinyhome.com/
This post may contain affiliate links or compensated reviews. Please read our disclosure for more info.

After quite a few detours including goats, a guard puppy, the holidays, and new baby goats twins, we are officially back at it on the hyperadobe solar shed office. We started by making a plan to build a strawbale rectangle building, and changed it to a combo rectangle & dome hyperadobe building. Then we dug the foundation, and started laying the first courses.

Since then we’ve been steadily adding courses, but didn’t have much to write about. I mean, you can only talk about laying bags so many times, right?

But we finally reached a height where we had to start making some decisions and changes.

Hyperadobe Earthbag Door Frame

Deciding on Windows and Doors

That’s right, we reached a level above ground that necessitated some big decisions we had been putting off. Specifically our doors. Our original plan was to have a main entry door on the rectangle, a door into the dome from the rectangle, and a secondary back entry door into the dome. The idea being that if someone were to come visit and spend time in the dome room they would have total privacy and a way to get in and out without disturbing anyone in the office.

Like most of our projects, we realized we were over-complicating things. This is a tiny > 200 square foot building. It needs to be simple and cost effective. And realistically speaking, trying to fit 3 doors that open and close in an area that small wasn't physically possible!

Solar Shed Hyperadobe Office Round 3

So the new plan is a single entry door on the rectangle. For those worried about an emergency escape from the dome, we’re going to install a 24” window with plenty of room to jump out if needed.

The entry way was also simplified to an archway without a door. We figure we can hang a curtain or something for privacy if needed.

For windows, we also seriously downsized. We are still going to splurge on a large vista window behind the computer monitors, but other than the window in the dome, any other light we let through the walls will be built with glass bottle bricks. This will give us more usable wall and floor space as well as keeping the temperature regulated more easily.

While we discussed creating custom windows and doors, we also decided that for this project we needed to - wait for it - keep things simple and buy off the shelf. We’ll have plenty of opportunities to do crazy custom stuff on other earthbag buildings on the property. But this one needs to go up as quickly as possible.

So after a quick trip to Lowe’s, we had all our rough dimensions to work from. Time to start making door frames!

Hyperadobe Earthbag Door Frame

Building the Door Frame & Dome Entryway Form

Armed with our actual dimensions, we started with the rough opening door frame. We stacked 2 2x10’s in an interlocking pattern making sure to support the top with both. We’ll add a lentil later as well. The frame was staked down into the hyperadobe bags, stabilized with some angled 2x4’s, and locked into place with cleats. More on cleats in a minute.

The dome entryway didn’t need a permanent frame, but a form that we can remove later. We used simple 2x4’s and 5/8” plywood to construct a 48”x32”x48” box that the bags can butt up to.

There’s still some discussion over here about whether we need additional buttresses on each side of this opening - we’re even considering making the circle go straight up like a cylinder instead of being a dome and putting a lentil over this entryway, and just a roof in line with the office side. What we don’t want is a doorway or nearby wall that might cave in. Still doing research, and have to decide on this very soon to keep moving forward.

Hyperadobe Earthbag Cleats

Cleats

In earthbag or hyperadobe building, cleats are a great way to mount door and window frames into your bags. You take a small piece of plywood and screw a 2x4 to it. Then you drive nails into the plywood so they come out on both sides. Butt the end of the 2x4 up to the door frame, pound it so the nails lodge in the lower bag, and screw the 2x4 into the frame. Then as you lay the next bag on top, it will also let the nails lodge into it and create a locked anchor.

We’ll add cleats every couple of layers to each side of all the door and window frames to ensure everything is nice and tight.

Hyperadobe Earthbag Construction

More bags, above ground level

With all (most) of our decisions made, we could finally start laying bags again! It was around this time that we really started to hone our process, get faster, and require fewer people to do the work. You may remember when we started, all 6 of us were going at it - sifting dirt, moving it to the mixer, mixing it with cement and water, and filling and holding the bags.

Here’s what sped things up:

  • Sifted dirt beforehand so a large pile was there and ready
  • Moved the cement mixer right next to the pile so only one person was needed to add dirt and water
  • Got up high enough past the foundation that we could remove the cement from the mixture and simplify to dirt and water
  • Got a better dual-wheeled wheelbarrow that would’t fall over when transferring from the mixer into the cart
  • Built a bucket and dolly delivery system that allowed a single person to add dirt to the bags without having to hold the bucket all the time - we’ll have a full video and article on this soon detailing how we made it.

This combined with the fact that putting the doorways in meant less bags were needed helped us really speed up each level. Currently we are 4 courses above ground. If you add in the 3 below ground, we’ve already gone up 7 courses or nearly 3 feet!

Next Steps

Even though we’re in full bag mode, we are already planning our next steps. We have to

  • Decide on where electrical outlets, lights, and switches will be, begin planning to run wires for outlets
  • Fill the interior ground up to the floor level, and decide what kind of floor we’re going to make
  • Decide if the dome will be a dome or cylinder - this will greatly affect the entryway and roof for the circle portion

Whew! We’re getting excited about our progress now that we can actually see it out the window of our Airstream. Lots more coming soon, friends!

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https://tinyshinyhome.com/baby-goat-birth-fay-has-twins Baby Goat Birth - Fay Has Twins! 2021-01-05T00:00:00-05:00 2021-01-05T10:02:55-05:00 Ashley Longnecker https://tinyshinyhome.com/
This post may contain affiliate links or compensated reviews. Please read our disclosure for more info.

When we purchased Fay in the beginning of December, we were told she was bred and would be due around February or possibly even January. It was a situation where the buck had gotten out much sooner than planned and bred her a little earlier than they would have liked.

Anyway, after the first week of having both Fay and Mable here, I started to notice how big Fay was and that her ligaments felt totally different than Mable who is not due until April. We had a sneaky suspicion that she would not be having babies in February, but much earlier.

We started noticing signs within a week. She was swollen on her back side, and her ligaments got loser with each passing day. Things were getting real. I talked to my goat mentors and ordered the supplies I needed for birthing and for milking which included udder wipes, Fight BAC Spray, Iodine, powdered colostrum, milking pail, bottle nipples, and we bought a few extra towels because I knew I didn’t want to be using the towels from inside (the only ones we have).

We got all the supplies just a week before she kidded. I’m so glad we were paying attention to her signs and got it all just in the knick of time. Now it was just a waiting game. 

We knew we it was coming and checked on her multiple times a day. We’ve been told that they typically kid at the most inconvenient times. Middle of the night and on the coldest winter night, so we that’s what we were expecting.

I got a book from one of my mentors called Raising Dairy Goats and we read up on the birthing section and felt pretty confident that we could handle this.

But wouldn’t you know, the ONE DAY that Jonathan I both needed to go to town to get some important business taken care of…that would be the day she decided to go into labor.

We were 1.5 hours away when I got a text from Adali that we better hurry back because Fay was acting weird. She sent me a short video and I knew it was going to be soon. Luckily our neighbor, friend, and goat mentor was able to be there with our kids and assisted in the birthing.

It was an incredibly quick labor. Around 1:30 the first goat was born. Zero problems, a picture perfect birth. Fay’s maternal instincts kicked right in and she was cleaning the baby off right away. Just minutes later she pushed out the second baby. Fay knew exactly what to do. Just minutes later they’re both trying to stand up and find the teats to get that first bit of colostrum.

Adali with baby goat and mama goat

Jonathan and I missed the birth by just 10 minutes, but Adali sprung into action and knew exactly what to do. I couldn’t be more proud as all the kids worked together to get the supplies ready and they even cleaned the goat shed clean for the birth, and filmed the entire thing. It’s like they are real homestead kids and it makes my momma heart so happy to see.

Fay ended up with two does born on December 31, 2020. We named them Frankie and Figgy, and we’re completely smitten by their little baby goat jumps and bleats. We’re still trying to decide if we want to keep them or not, but I can tell you this, I know exactly why most people end up with many goats. It would be extremely sad to say goodbye to them. The very first babies on our homestead, and the cutest little things you ever did see.

Both babies and momma Fay are all doing extremely well and we look forward to the day we start milking :)

Ada with Frankie and Figgy baby goats ]]>
https://tinyshinyhome.com/installing-solar-electrical-in-our-renovated-airstream-part-2 Installing Off-Grid Solar & Electrical in our Renovated Airstream: Part 2 2021-01-04T00:00:00-05:00 2021-01-26T21:49:19-05:00 Jonathan Longnecker https://tinyshinyhome.com/
This post may contain affiliate links or compensated reviews. Please read our disclosure for more info.

For us, one of the perks of renovating our vintage Airstream was that we got to design not only the interior and layout, but also the entire power system from the ground up. The first part of this series provides a high level overview on all that, so you may want to go read it first.

Back? Ok, good.

In this article we’ll look at the actual installation - from wires to connectors to switches to relays and fuses and everything in between. Hint - there are sooo many things in-between!

We’ve been using this setup for over 4 years living mostly off the grid (boondocking), but also in campgrounds, friends’ driveways, and even at farms and wineries. We get around. 

And now we’ve setup shop permanently on our off-grid desert homestead using the same system day in and day out.

Airstream on Homestead at sunset

Keep in mind we’re a family of 6 living, working, and homeschooling with this power setup full time. And I can count on one hand the number of times we’ve had to pull out the generator to top the batteries off - all of which involved lots of trees blocking our panels.

This setup has been solid as a rock, and one of the main reasons we’ve waited so long to write this is that we really wanted to make sure that we could wholeheartedly recommend the setup after real world usage. 

Shout Out to Samlex America

As you'll see below, writing, photographing, and illustrating all this information was a herculean task. We'd like to thank Samlex America for sponsoring this post, and giving us the time to really dig deep and get into the nitty gritty details.

We've been using various versions of their PST Inverters from the start, and they've been fantastic. They also have a new Evolution (EVO) series that combines your inverter, charger, transfer switcher and more into a single unit. Let's just say I could have massively simplified my setup with one of these. Or as I'll probably repeat multiple times throughout this article - "Should have gotten an EVO!"

Anyway, thanks Samlex!

Off-Grid Airstream Renovation Electrical Wiring Diagram

Airstream Renovation Electrical Wiring Diagram

Ever wondered what all the major connections look like on a 12V system like ours? As part of this deep dive, we created a very detailed replica of our wiring setup.

I know I'm a visual person, and sometimes I just need to see it all laid out no matter how many words there are to explain it.

This is as big as I can make it here on the site - if you'd like to download a vector PDF that you can zoom in on, grab a copy here:

Article Overview

  1. Planning Your Power
  2. Gauging & Running Your 12V Wiring
  3. Creating a Wiring Guide
  4. 12v Fuses and Grouping
  5. Running 120V Wiring
  6. All other wiring (radio, tanks, displays, thermostats, cable, internet, remotes
  7. Organizing Connections with DIN Rail Terminal Blocks
  8. Mounting Solar Panels
  9. Wiring Solar Panels & Charge Controller
  10. Locating & Connecting Lithium Batteries
  11. Converter
  12. Inverter
  13. Transfer Switch
  14. Wiring Tips
  15. What Would We Have Done Differently?
  16. Shopping List
Airstream with interior walls off and 12V wiring.

Planning Your Power

The hard thing about electrical - especially in a trailer - is that it’s such a circular process. You could start with 120V wiring or 12V wiring or solar panels. You could start with your batteries. Eventually they all need each other to work, but just because I’m listing things in a certain order doesn’t necessarily mean you HAVE to do them that way.

That being said, you do need a detailed plan. Why? Well, a bunch of your wires are going to be installed in the ceiling behind your interior panels. Some of them will run the length of the trailer behind cabinets. The location of your appliances, outlets, and switches all need to be known beforehand. Then there’s all the other wires you may not have thought for things like the radio, tank sensors, remote displays, thermostats, cable, internet, etc… We'll get to that in a minute.

There are a number of ways you can draw this out - from online programs like Sketchup to simple gridded paper. The key is to know what major appliances go where, and how much power they’re going to draw. Then you can start planning the best way to run each wire, and what gauge it needs to be.

Here you can see an early floorpan design where we grouped all our lighting, and began to visualize where major appliances would live.

Airstream floorpan with light groupings and appliance locations.

Gauging & Running Your 12V Wiring

The biggest downside to 12V wiring is how much length and amps affect the thickness you need to safely run what you have hooked up to it. If you were to put in an under-gauged wire, the increased power draw can cause overheating, appliance failure, and even fire.

Use this simple chart to calculate what thickness wire you need. 

Length

 

Amps

5A

10A

15A

20A

25A

30A

40A

50A

60A

70A

15ft

   

16

12

10

10

8

8

6

6

4

4

20ft

   

14

12

10

8

8

6

6

4

4

4

25ft

   

14

10

8

8

6

6

4

4

2

2

30ft

   

12

10

8

6

6

4

4

2

2

2

40ft

   

12

8

6

6

4

4

2

2

1

1/0

50ft

   

10

8

6

4

4

2

2

1

1/0

1/0

60ft

   

10

6

6

4

2

2

1

1/0

2/0

2/0

70ft

   

10

6

4

2

2

2

1/0

2/0

2/0

3/0

80ft

   

8

6

4

2

2

1

1/0

2/0

3/0

3/0

90ft

   

8

4

4

2

1

1/0

2/0

3/0

3/0

4/0

* Numbers in AWG unless otherwise noted.

Note! Wire size based on a 3% or (0.36 V) voltage drop for 12V. Always oversize wires if voltage drop is critical.

For instance, let’s say you’ve got a furnace that draws 5 amps when running. Here’s the catch though - all your power gear is up front, and the furnace is on the other side of your front door which means any wire that goes to it will have to go up into the ceiling and come back down near the batteries. So what would have just been 6 feet long is now 30 feet. Based on the chart you’d need at least a 12 AWG wire to safely run the furnace.

That’s also right on the limit of what that appliance draws - what if it fluctuates higher? What if you group that fuse circuit with a few other low power draws like lights or 12V chargers?

To give yourself maximum flexibly, we recommend a 25% buffer here. Size up a gauge or two just in case. It’s a little more expensive, but I can tell you from experience that having headroom is a huge help down the line when you find yourself switching out an appliance for something more powerful or adding a second phone charger.

Trunk Wires

You should also keep in mind your "trunk" connections - short, thick wires that will connect your batteries together and run to your inverter, converter, and charge controller. These are often in the "aught" territory - for instance our 2000w inverter should have at least 2/0 cabling - and a 3000w would need 4/0. That's huge!

Because there's such a big conversion happening from 12V all the way up to 120V, a large 120V appliance can cause dangerous voltage sags if it can't pull enough power through the wires. 

The shorter you can keep these connections, the better. Make sure to check your manual to see what wire size they recommend.

12V Wiring Guide Notepad

Creating a Wiring Guide

As you run your wires it’s super important to label everything. We used these wire marker labels, and it was such a huge help. Also a huge help - buying color coded wiring! On a 12V system, red for +, black for -, and green for ground. Then use smaller 18 AWG white for other things like switches, thermostats, etc…

We wrote much of this down in a notebook, but recently converted it to an excel spreadsheet using these columns:

  • Group/Fuse
  • Wire #
  • Polarity
  • AWG
  • Color
  • Routing Location
  • Description

Having a digital version of this wire list guide is such a huge time saver. For starters, you can make changes and not have to re-write the whole thing. You can pull it up on your phone, tablet, or computer without digging through your cabinets for the original. You can search the text, sort the columns, and find what you need instantly. We think it's pretty handy.

Run each wire you need for every appliance, switch, light, display, and more. Keep reading, we're going to cover additional wiring you might need besides power below.

Beginning 12V wire grouping and fusing.

12V Fuses and Grouping

For safety reasons, you don’t want to just jam all your individual 12V lines together in one big wire nut.

You should already have a good idea of how much electricity each wire will be using based on how you gauged them above. So then it’s just a matter of deciding which circuit things should be on. An easy solution is to put each major appliance on its own fuse.

For smaller draws like LED lights or USB chargers, you can combine or group them into a single fused circuit. The fuse size will depend on how much you expect everything to draw at its max capacity.

The fuses make sure that if an appliance or USB plug were to go bad, have a surge, or start using too much power, the fuse would pop and stop supplying electricity to everything on that line.

It doesn’t happen often, but we’ve definitely had fuses burn out for various reasons. Having that extra layer of fused protection is really important.

Fuse block example - run from battery through a circuit breaker and to individual loads.

To wire this up, you’d run a positive line off your battery through a 50A breaker switch and onto a fuse block. Then you’d connect the load lines from each group to a spot on the block and fuse them appropriately.

Shore power comes into transfer switch which goes out to breaker box, inverter, and converter.

Running 120V Wiring (Romex™)

Not everything will be 12V in your renovation! You’ll likely have appliances like an air conditioner, hot water heater, or microwave that run on regular 120V power. Not to mention household receptacles for plugging up computers, blenders, coffee makers, and more.

Most Airstreams already have shallow receptacles in the wall, but you may need to install even more Romex behind the skins if you plan to add more. Otherwise just do some planning and use cabinets to hide the lines.

Because these wires carries high voltage, you don’t have to worry as much about gauging your wire as the amperage drops very slowly over long distances. Standard Romex should work just fine for your tiny trailer.

Like your house, make sure to use breakers for each major line (likely a max of 15A each). We kept things simple, and used the original breaker box from our Airstream which only had two breakers. One for the air conditioner and one for the receptacles. If you have additional appliances that will run on 120V then add as many breakers as you need.

The breakers are a more robust version of the blade fuses you used on your 12V wiring. Should that line or appliance pull more than 15 amps, it trips the breaker to avoid causing damage.

One more thing to note - because of the high voltage, any junctions need to be self contained in a junction box, and clamped in place, just like they would be in a house. You don’t want to accidentally touch a live wire at 120 volts, trust me.

All Other Wiring

Oh, did you think you were finished running wires? Hah! No my friend, there are many other “things” in your trailer that will likely need their own proprietary cables run. 

Again, by planning ahead you won’t get stuck in a situation like we almost did - where an important display related to our solar charge controller required a cable run through the roof we weren’t planning on. Thankfully we hadn’t put the interior skins back and and were able to connect it, but we could have been out of luck.

Here are some of those “things” you don’t want to forget about.

Car radio deck installed in Airstream

Audio Deck

Before Spotify and Apple Music there was thing thing called the radio. You may even still use it in your car! Our 1972 Airstream Sovereign Land Yacht came with an 8 track and AM radio installed. So we decided to keep the speakers in their original spot (upgraded, of course) - and install a digital audio deck. This lets us jam out to the radio or connect any of our phones or tablets to stream whatever we like.

Audio Deck Cables include: 

  • Positive Wire
  • Negative Wire
  • Speaker Wires
  • Antenna Cable
Raised directional antenna on TV antenna.

TV Antenna

Speaking of antennas - we don’t have a television, but made a conscious decision to install a TV antenna for a few reasons.

The first is that we use the raise, lower, and turn functions in conjunction with our directional cellular internet antenna so we can point directly at a cell tower and get the fastest speeds.

The second is that TV antennas also boost radio frequency bands. So our audio deck antenna cable is actually plugged right into our TV antenna with this special adapter.

Turn the antenna booster on, and you’ll see a huge difference in the radio signals you can pick up.

Just in case, we also ran an extension antenna cable over to my office area should we ever install a TV there and want to get HD signal over the air. Just a bit of future proofing.

TV Antenna Cables Include:

Tank Gauge

Tank Sensors

Want to know how full your fresh, gray and black water tanks are? Tank sensors are a great way to get a quick check. Are they super accurate? Not necessarily. Once you’ve been in your trailer long enough you’ll become intimately connected to how much water you’re using and where it’s going. So while we learned to rely on these less and less - it’s a good idea to run those wires to a monitor panel.

Tank Sensor Wires Include:

  • Tank Sensor Wire Harnesses Connected to Probes Installed in Tank
  • Ground Wire.
12V Push Button Light  Switches

Switches

Want to remotely control things like lights, appliances, and more without pulling fuses? Switches are your friends! But they can bring additional complexity so use wisely.

Obviously, light switches would be the most obvious example. You probably want several groupings of lights you can control. So as you’re planning your wiring, make sure you have the necessary cables run from the lights down to the switch, and back to the power center.

Other ways we use switches: To turn our entire internet setup off and on to save power at night and preserve the batteries in our cellular hotspots (they don’t like being plugged in all the time). Also we use a switch to turn our hot water heat off and on. It didn’t come with a built-in switch, and sometimes it needs to be reset.

Switch Wires Include: - each switch will have it’s own requirements, but generally you’re just breaking the positive power line to the appliance so you’ll have one wire coming from the appliance and one back to the power center.

Dometic Thermostat

Thermostat

If you want to control the temperature in your RV by way of air conditioner or furnace, you’ll need a thermostat. Usually you can use a single thermostat, but that means it’ll have several wires connected to it from multiple sources.

Thermostat Wires Include: Thermostats are all very different, so make sure to read your manual to see what wires you’ll need to plan for.

Roof Of Airstream With Solar And Antennas

Mobile Internet

Need a reliable, robust internet setup? We’ve got you covered - you can read all about it here or grab a copy of the guide here. Since we’re talking about running wires let’s take a look at what cables you’ll want to plan for if you’re installing an internet setup.

Video display shows battery levels, current usage, and more.

BMS Display

Your BMS or Battery Management System will likely have a way to connect a display so you can see your battery capacity and usage. Ours uses a simple video cable and momentary switch wires to page results on the screen. The display is also hooked up to 12V positive and negative power.

Of course, your setup could be totally different. Be sure to check your manual for wires you'll need to run.

Solar Charge Controller Remote Display allows for complex programming.

Solar Charge Controller Display

We have a separate IPN ProRemote display for our Blue Sky Solar Charge Controllers. This not only lets us see exactly how much power our solar panels are putting out, but gave us crucial programming abilities to set up the chargers to work properly with our lithium batteries. You’ll need to refer to the specific spec of your batteries to know the best way to program. AM Solar has a great document that should get you started.

Charge Controller Display Cables Include:

  • Data Cable (telephone cable) through the roof
  • Shielded cable to connect to shunt. Check with your specific manual instructions to see what wires you need to run.
Inverter remote allows easy access for turning off and monitoring.

Inverter Display

Getting to and turning off our inverter became a pain in the butt so we added this remote switch display. It also uses a simple data cable and was super easy to install. The hardest part was finding a place for it where we could run the wire since we were finished with the renovation and living in it when we added it.

Organized 12V wiring system uses DIN Rail and Terminal Blocks

Organizing Connections with Din Rail Terminal Blocks

As you can see from this picture, we may have gone a little overboard on the organization. RV’s rarely get this detailed with connecting loads, but we’re going to make a case for why we think it’s worth it.

When looking for ways to connect our 100+ wires together, it was important that we be able to get to every junction for maintenance. It was also important that everything was clearly labeled, numbered, and safely junctioned. 

In other words, we didn’t want wire nuts and electrical tape everywhere.

After lots of research we came across the Konnect-It DIN-Rail Terminal Block System, and fell in love. It’s a modular system that allows you to mount all your screw-down terminals on a DIN-Rail, easily connect and disconnect lines, jumper circuits without extra wires, and even add marking tags for labeling.

Din rail Terminal Block example

The simplest way to explain how these work is this. Let’s say you have wires #1 & #2. They are the positive and negative wires for your furnace. The furnace wires have to run through the ceiling down to your power center and get fused and connected to the battery for power.

Instead of running one end of the wire directly into your fuse block and the other to the load line of the furnace, use terminal blocks instead. Strip the end of the wire and run it into one side of the block. Screw it down to make contact. Then run a new line out the other side to your appliance or load that’s been screwed down as well. When both are inserted and screwed, it completes the connection.

You’re probably saying at this point - "well, what’s the point? Seems like you’re just adding a few extra steps and additional expense into the mix." But here’s where it gets fun.

Disconnect version of terminal block with one flipped up.

There’s a disconnect version of the terminals with a flip up section that breaks the connection on the wires. Need to troubleshoot an appliance and don’t want to take your whole system out? Look up what number wire it is and cut its power. Of course you could also do this by pulling its blade fuse - but if you have more than one thing grouped on that circuit it could be hard to troubleshoot.

Terminal block group shows integrated jumper

There’s also the terminal block jumper. This is a copper bar with insulated screws that connect to the middle of the terminal block so you can join multiple lines together. Not only does this give you a nice visual of how you may have grouped lines, but by jumpering two blocks together all of a sudden you have four inputs instead of two. This is a great way to take a single wire and power multiple smaller loads without tape and wire nuts.

Terminal blocks with labeling.

Finally, there’s a wonderful labeling system. Small blank plastic tabs snap in, and even allow for two on top of each other in case what’s coming in one side is different than the other. For example, we used the terminal blocks to group our fuse load lines. So the individual wires come in the bottom, and we jumper them together at the terminal before running a single line out to the fuse block. That means the bottom label is the wire # and the top label is the fuse #.

The beauty of this system is that its so clean and easy to maintain - if you need to use it for some of your “other” type wires, it works great for those, too. Having the actual connections contained inside the plastic housing keeps things safe, but also stacked super tight to save space.

We even put in small DIN-Rail terminal blocks at each major area where wires came out of the ceiling or under cabinets. Making changes or fixing problems is so much easier when you can unscrew, add more blocks, and rearrange on the fly.

We’re huge fans.

Airstream roof plan for mounting solar panels.

Mounting Solar Panels

As you may have read in the first part of this installment, we went with five 100 watt Renogy Eclipse Monocrystalline solar panels. We had many things to consider - size, weight, power output - and these turned out to be the best fit for us. As you can see by the diagram, it was quite the puzzle to fit that much solar in-between 3 vents, an air conditioner and a very rounded top. Those older Airstreams don’t have near the roof space the newer ones do.

Airstream In Front of Lake at Sunset

We also wanted to be able to tilt the panels to a 45 degree angle to help on those winter days when the sun traveled at a lower angle and spent less time in the sky. As much as we loved the Renogy solar panels, their bracket mounting system left a lot to be desired, especially for a rounded roof!

Mounting bracket for tilting solar panels on a vintage Airstream rounded roof.

Turning to AM Solar, we found a much better (though seriously expensive) mounting bracket and foot. But the extra tall ones gave us room to mount on the curve and still keep the panel high enough to run the wires underneath. They also sold tilting bars, but were so outrageously expensive that we just bought their knobs and went to the hardware store and cut our own bars of aluminum and tapped them ourselves.

It’s not convenient or easy to tilt the panels, but with a collapsible ladder I can get them put up in maybe 10-15 minutes total. One of the big goals of the renovation was to stay away from unnecessarily complicated products so we weren’t interested in any sort of “automatic” tilting motor.

Tilted solar panels on a renovated vintage Airstream.

That’s just one more thing to maintain and eventually break. Our cheap aluminum bars work just fine and keep us more in tune and aware of how we’re using the Airstream. i.e. It’s much less likely that we’d drive off with the panels up since I have to climb up and put them down myself.

Once all the hardware was attached, we primed the aluminum surface with 3M tape primer and used VHB tape to stick the mounts directly to the aluminum skin of the Airstream. VHB stands for “very high bond,” and so far it has lived up to its name. Everything is still nice and sturdy, no screws required!

Wiring Solar Panels & Charge Controllers

As mentioned in the planning article, we ran our roof panels in parallel so each positive and negative wire coming from the panel go directly to a distribution block. All the negatives go together and all the positives go together. Then we run two heavy gauge wires to our Bluesky 3024DiL solar charge controller.

Wires coming through refrigerator vent.

The Airstream has a lovely refrigerator vent that we were able to run the cables down through without cutting holes in the roof. We made sure they routed down the side a bit and then back up to the vent so that water couldn’t run down the cables inside. Then we added a plastic bracket to make sure the wires wouldn’t rub through their insulation on the aluminum corner and a custom wood bracket to keep the wires nice and tidy as they run down the wall.

We may be a little OCD.

Anyhow, the 10 wires (5 positive, 5 negative) converge in that distribution block inside, and then run to a heavy duty switch in case we want to cut all solar energy coming into the batteries. Then the wires run into our Blue Sky Solar Charge Controller.

From there, the positive wire runs through a 100A circuit breaker and to the solenoid attached to our BMS. The negative wire runs to our negative battery post.

Using two Renogy 200W Solar Suitcases to power our Airstream.

A couple of years later we added two 200 watt Renogy Solar Suitcases. They’re basically the same panels on the roof, but joined to gather with hinges, legs and latches. This gets us 400 more watts (for a total of 900 watts), and allows us better sunlight gathering, especially in the winter months. These ground deploys fold up and store in handy cases when not in use.

Waterproof plug for connecting solar ground deploy.

To easily connect and disconnect these panels, we used a weatherproof 12V Plug & Receptacle and installed it in the Airstream during the renovation. In order to use the single plug for both panels, we connected them in series, and made sure to match up the positive and negative wires on both pieces. There’s a 3rd connection, but we don’t need it for this application.

Unfortunately our original solar charge controller could only handle 40A max, so we had to get a second unit and run the wires the same way. Since we can unplug the panels from the outside we did’t add a disconnect switch.

The cool thing about the Blue Sky charge controllers is that you can daisy chain them together. The first one that is connected to the IPN ProRemote (with additional programming) is the primary controller, and the secondary controller inherits the same settings. Because they are MPPT controllers, the ground deploys send through higher voltage in series, but it is converted to a higher amperage for charging.

The remote display shows the combined total of both charge controllers as if they were a single unit. High five!

Lithium batteries installed in a renovated vintage Airstream.

Locating & Connecting Lithium Batteries

We’ve already sung the praises of lithium batteries vs. lead acid batteries in our first article. Besides huge space, weight, and usability savings, they also don’t have to be vented to the outside. This opens up a lot more possibilities for storage and where you can put them in your renovation.

Being able to store them inside under cabinets also keeps them more temperature regulated, which is good because lithiums can be damaged if charged in below freezing conditions.

We ended up going with 4x 100 amp hour lithium batteries from Elite Power Solutions. At the time, they sold direct to consumers via their website, but now they only sell via authorized dealers.

Connecting sense boards to lithium batteries.

The first step was to install the sense boards on each battery and connect them together. In our case, each battery pack totaled 3.4V so wiring them in series produces a 13.6V system. The sense boards send important info back to the BMS like temperature and voltage for each cell.

The BMS (Battery Management System or EMS - Energy Management System) provides several important protections for your batteries.

  1. Checks each battery cell for under voltage or over voltage situations - if one is triggered it cuts power
  2. Checks each battery cell for temperature extremes - if too cold to charge, for example it won’t allow it
  3. Equalizes battery cells - if it sees a cell with higher voltage it will temporarily shut it off and allow the others to catch up - this elongates the life of the batteries by keeping them in sync.
Elite Power Solutions BMS or EMS wiring.

In our particular setup, the BMS uses separate OV and UV relays and a solenoid to stop power going into the battery during those situations. I can see the benefit of being able to easily replace a relay or solenoid, but as you can see from the wiring diagram the Elite BMS is mind-bendingly complicated to set up.

I’m not going to go into great detail for wiring this particular BMS because it’s old, overly complicated, and based on a few conversations with Larry from Starlight Solar - probably not connected the *best* way 😂. It works for us, though. And if you go down this path you’ll be studying your own EMS wiring guide anyway.

We’ll cover more of the “what we would do differently” down below, but just know there are other options out there like BattleBorn that have much of protections built right into the battery and aren’t as complicated to install.

Joining batteries with copper bars

The next step is to build your own "trunk" wires to connect the batteries together. We used copper bars bent at a 90 degree angle and bolts to connect the positives and negatives together.

Time for an honest review. After 4 years of using these things full-time, they are rock solid. The only issue we’ve had was the failure of two sense boards, and I’m pretty sure we caused it trying to run a 1HP shallow well pump off our inverter. Because we bought directly from Elite, they did some troubleshooting over the phone, and all we needed to do was buy new sense boards. I should also give a shoutout to Larry from Starlight Solar Power Systems who helped me diagnose a few things as well.

For us they’ve been (mostly) pretty great. However, I’ve spoken to a few folks who are using a newer version of their BMS and had some stability issues. And as I'm writing this, we've just had one of our new sense boards fail again after 6 months of use. Not to mention the first replacement they sent me was also faulty. So there may be some quality control issues there.

Progressive Dynamics 60A Lithium Converter/Charger

Converter

Your converter or charger (not to be confused with solar charge controller) takes the 120V power from your shore power connection (or generator) and converts it to 12V power while also charging your battery. This means your 12V appliances will work when connected to shore power and not get blown out by high voltage.

Getting the right converter is really important because lithium, lead acid, or AGM batteries all need to be charged and floated differently. We ended up having a lot of trouble with our converter. We started with a variable one that made horrible noises and smelled like it was burning. Returned it and ended up with a Progressive Dynamics 60A Lithium, but it still had to be sent back to the factory and have the voltage adjusted because the Elite Power Solutions batteries run a bit lower than most lithiums (14.4V vs 14.6V). Out of the box the Progressive Dynamics charger would pump too much power in, and the OV protection on the BMS would shut everything off.

I’m sure now there are more programmable converters out there, but it’s always fun to share a little behind the scenes weirdness.

For wiring, a converter is fairly easy to connect. It will likely have a normal 120V plug on it to provide power (though you’ll want to consider a transfer switch for this - see below). Then the positive and negative wiring go to your battery posts. Because it’s a 120V appliance, they also recommend a ground wire run to the chassis.

Samlex PST 2000W Inverter

Inverter

The inverter does the opposite of a converter - it allows you to run household or 120V appliances from your 12V batteries. Making sure you have a high quality, clean power inverter is important if you’re using any expensive electronics like computers, televisions, blenders, etc…

We started out with a Samlex PST 1000W Inverter and upgraded to a 2000W a few years later so we could run our new Vitamix. They have always provided rock solid power, and protected us when we did stupid stuff like try to run appliances that were too powerful or kept tripping when we wired a new 120V plug backwards.

Our only complaint was that it was hard to get to the switch to turn it off at night when we weren’t using it. But we fixed that with their remote display a few years later. Now it’s easy to shut off each night.

Wiring the inverter is also pretty straightforward. The positive and negative lines from the battery provide power, though you’ll want a large ANL fuse on the positive line for protection. A ground wire is also recommended.

Then the Romex or 120V wire then needs to connect to your other 120V wire (also with a transfer switch - see below).

Shore power comes into transfer switch which goes out to breaker box, inverter, and converter.

Shore Power, Transfer Switch, & Breaker Box

Ok, you’re probably wondering about this transfer switch. What’s the deal?

Think of it this way - when you’re plugged in to shore power, your 120V system is automatically powered, and your converter needs to take that power and convert it to 12V and charge the batteries. You won’t need your inverter, and quite frankly if your inverting and converting at the same time you’d have a serious power loop going on.

Same with not being plugged in - you don’t need the converter at all because your 12V power is coming from your batteries and powering your inverter.

So a transfer switch will turn off one or the other depending on your situation. You can see from the illustration that you shore power wires go into the transfer switch. Then out of the switch you have three additional lines. One to your breaker box, one to the inverter, and one to the converter.

Connecting this all together in a tiny metal box is tricky, but the result is a system that takes the guesswork out and turns on the right appliances depending on your power situation.

Creating custom wires with welding wire, copper lugs, and heat shrink.

Wiring Tips

You'll be making a TON of custom connections while you wire up your own trailer. Here's a few tips and tricks we learned along the way.

You'll be a pro in no time, we promise!

What Would We Do Differently?

Four years in, that’s a great question! Not only are there some core changes we’d make, but there are so many new and better products on the market. Let’s talk about each one.

Bigger Battery Bank

Always, right? 400 Ah is what we could afford, but 600 or 800 would have been amazing. It was plenty when we started traveling, but as our family and power needs have grown, we could definitely use more.

Simpler Battery Setup

Have you seen that EMS diagram? Holy smokes. It’s so complicated, man. Battleborn Batteries simplify this process a lot (the BMS is built directly into each battery), and there are even smaller and less expensive lithium batteries on the market now. There’s even a whole movement repurposing electric car batteries into 48V systems.

I’m not 100% sure which way we’d go if we had to do it again - but we’d definitely look for a way to simplify things.

Lightning Supressor Device

Now that we’ve moved to the wide open spaces of Arizona, we’ve started to hear more about indirect lightning strikes affecting gear though solar panels. Many electricians recommend adding a lightning suppressor device or SPD that will absorb any massive energy surges and protect all your electronic gear. We're doing more research, and will update if we add one.

EVO Inverter Charger Samlex EVO 2212

Should have gotten an EVO

So here’s the thing. Samlex (the makers of our inverter) graciously agreed to sponsor this deep dive post. And during our talks with them they mentioned a new product called the EVO (or Evolution) that combines most of the large disparate appliances into one single product:

  • Two separate AC inputs for shore power & generator
  • Adaptive battery converter/charger
  • Synchronized transfer switch at zero crossing
  • High surge inverter with active power boost
  • Input for solar charge controller

I know they’re the sponsor, but look at that! How much could my setup have been simplified with one of their EVO units?

FYI, these units have a max of around 50A for solar input, so you may not be able to use them to their full functionality if you have a large solar array like we do.

Shopping List

Because our setup is a bit older, I thought it would be good to include not just what we specifically have, but some other newer options that might work better for you.

Wondering how much all this is going to cost you? Head over to our Airstream Renovation Cost Breakdown article in the solar & electrical section to see what we spent.

Newer Options

Finishing Up

Whew! If you made it through this article you get a high five and a cookie. We hope that with the detailed explanations and photos, the PDF wiring diagram, and spreadsheet wire guide we've equipped you to start putting your own off-grid electrical system together in your RV. 

Here's a few more behind-the scenes photos for you!

Original electrical diagram taped to wall of Airstream Testing battery position in bay. Adding copper bars in preparation for sense boards. Temporarily hung battery and solar displays for testing. Running and connecting each wire to its circuit.

Have questions? Ask away in the comments.

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https://tinyshinyhome.com/2020-recap 2020 Recap - Looking Back At All We Did on the Homestead This Year 2020-12-29T00:00:00-05:00 2020-12-29T12:48:52-05:00 Jonathan Longnecker https://tinyshinyhome.com/
This post may contain affiliate links or compensated reviews. Please read our disclosure for more info.

I think it's safe to say that 2020 has been A YEAR. You may assume we transitioned from full-time traveling nomads to off-grid desert homesteaders because of all the craziness, but it turns out the seeds for this change happened 5 years ago.

Also, it turns out we got a TON of stuff done on the property this year. It sure didn't feel like it while we were in the middle of it, but taking some time to look back is always encouraging.

We hope you'll join us as we recap 2020 in all craziness.

Buying & Rezoning Off-Grid Property in Cochise County, AZ

After 5 years of traveling full-time, we knew it was time for a change. Our kids were getting older, and for some time we had been dreaming of a place to call home that was very different than the cookie cutter subdivision we left.

During our adventures we fell in love with boondocking or camping off-grid. The views, wide open space, solitude, and sustainability deeply spoke to us and changed us.

We also knew that we wanted to build out a beautiful, unique home using unconventional building methods - and do it as debt free as possible.

Enter Cochise County, AZ - quickly becoming known for its Owner-Builder Opt Out Program and RV friendly parking permits, it seemed like a great fit.

We already had a beautiful renovated Airstream to live in. And the Opt-Out would let us build unconventionally with little interference and inspections. 

So we spent several months in 2019 looking at property. The parcel we found was perfect. We all fell in love with it immediately - but it wasn't zoned properly. 

Thus began a 5 month re-zoning process in the middle of Covid. To say we were stressed was an understatement. It was hard to find places to stay with everything being locked down. And if the re-zoning was denied we were back to square one trying to find another property.

Thankfully, all was approved and we moved the Airstream onto the property in late April of 2020.

What did we do after that? Let's dive in to all the projects we completed on our newly purchased off-grid homestead this year.

Driveway

The first thing we had to do was cut in a driveway! Did we mention our land was completely undeveloped? No water, power, sewer, or driveway. 

We had no idea what we were doing, and spent many hours staking and re-staking where we thought it should be before hiring someone local to start moving dirt.

Thankfully it all turned out great, and we've been really happy with our official entry way.

Figuring out Water

Our first big step to being able to live on the property was water. Our Airstream had a good solar setup so power wasn't an issue. But we needed water every day! 

There were so many potential options, but we eventually settled on hauling water ourselves from a nearby wellshare and transferring it into a 2600 gallon storage tank on the property.

For a while we had to transfer water from that tank to the fresh tank in our Airstream each day, but that got old real fast.

The next step was to create pressurized water that could run to the city inlet on the trailer. After many, many missteps we ended up with a solar powered insulated pump house. Then we trenched a water line down to the Airstream, and haven't had to worry about transferring water since.

Except when the big tank gets low each month - then we have to spend and afternoon and refill it.

Shade Sails

Apparently in addition to everything else going haywire this year, the weather followed suit. Even at 5,000 feet elevation, our Summer was miserable. 

In an attempt to get some shade on the Airstream and cool things down, our first big project was to install some shade sails

Does it look cool? You bet! Did it work? Sort of. We're proud of the work we did, but it didn't make a huge difference in temperatures. Oh well, lesson learned!

Airstream Deck

Our next big project - and probably our favorite to date - was our floating Shou Sugi Ban deck. We needed a way to get up off the ground away from snakes, scorpions, and mud.

Plus it added a good amount of living and storage space to boot!

First Animal on the Homestead - A Puppy!

For years we told the kids we didn't have room for any animals, but after moving to 11 acres that excuse wasn't working anymore.

So they talked us into an adorable Bernedoodle puppy named Nine Nine (Brooklyn Nine Nine is one of our favorite shows).

He's quickly become a part of our family, and has necessitated a new building ASAP as he's grown far too large far too fast!

Fencing

Did you know Arizona is a "free range state?" That means cows have the right of way. They get to go wherever they want, and it's your job to keep them out.

It quickly became obvious that we were going to need a way to protect all these investments we had built on the property, and so our big Summer project was to build a fence.

We had absolutely no idea how to do this, but thankfully Moses from High Desert Homestead did a workshop on our homestead and taught us all we needed to know.

Plus we got an assist from our neighbors at the workshop! 

The result was a nine strand high tensile electric fence that we are so very proud of. It looks great, and I still can't believe we built it!

Deep Cleaning the Airstream

Turns out you get a little lazy once you put down roots. For so many years we kept things minimal and organized, but by mid summer we definitely had a sprawl problem.

The trailer needed some serious cleaning and organization.

So we literally took everything out, deep-cleaned, and simplified. Whew! That felt better!

Bringing Animals to the Homestead

With water and a fence in place, it was time to bring some animals to the property. Late Summer and Fall were a whirlwind of new creatures and fences/buildings to house them in.

First up were Kune Kune pigs. One to breed and one to eat (eventually).

Then we got some chickens. And didn't get a single egg for MONTHS!

Then we got some barn cats to keep our rodent population down.

Then we got rabbits to breed and sell babies.

Then we got two pregnant goats for milk once they have their babies.

Then we got another puppy - a guard dog - to protect all the animals in the paddock.

Yeah, it's a lot. We've hit pause on any new animals because they're requiring a lot of upkeep and work. And because we need to start building things!

Solar Shed Office

Speaking of buildings, our first structure on the property will be a hyperadobe solar shed office! It will house our solar and batteries, an office for Jon and Ashley, and a small hangout room with bed/couch and TV. Oh, and a deep freeze to store meat.

We spent a lot of time researching and prepping for this project, and are knee deep in the middle of it. Can't wait to share more as we make more progress.

First Christmas on the Homestead

This year was the first time in 5 years we would be on our own land at Christmas. So we took some time off, decorated, and spent lots of time together as a family.

It was a wonderful little desert Christmas :).

What's Next? Plans for 2021

Oh my friends, we have so many plans. So many dreams. And while Ashley hates writing them down, here are a few of our favorites:

  • Finish solar shed and install solar setup
  • Build an earthbag bath house
  • Create a salsa garden
  • Create stock tank pools and soak tubs for summer
  • Start catching some rain water
  • Build more earthbag or hyperadobe buildings
  • So much more!

While the rest of the world seemed to be falling apart this year, we are so thankful for the timing of our transition to off-grid homesteading. And we're so thankful for all our new friends who have started following our journey in this new season.

We love you all, and can't wait to share even more in 2021. Cheers! 

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https://tinyshinyhome.com/desert-wreaths-creating-beauty-from-the-desert Desert Wreaths - Creating Beauty In the Desert 2020-12-21T00:00:00-05:00 2020-12-21T11:38:13-05:00 Ashley Longnecker https://tinyshinyhome.com/
This post may contain affiliate links or compensated reviews. Please read our disclosure for more info.

Tis the season for making the home feel cozy and warm. But what do you do when you live in the desert with no pine trees or traditional winter foliage? You use what you got and make the best of it.

Honestly, I like these wreaths even more than the traditional pine ones. Sure, you're missing the smell, but just wait till you see what we create today.

The girls and I recently made some desert wreaths and thought it would be fun to share this little tutorial with you. Of course, all our plants are native to our area, so you can may need to adjust what you use with what grows in your neck of the woods…or desert ;)

To begin, we harvested some desert willow branches. These are very thin and flexible branches much like a traditional willow tree. You’ll need something that will bend fairly easy and be able to shape into a circle, or close to it.

Wreath Supplies

Start with two branches and twist them together, then bend into your circle and secure with some twine or string or whatever you have on hand.

You’ll want to continue weaving in these branches to give strength to the circular shape. This is the base of your wreath and what you’ll use to build upon.

Twisted Branches

Next, take a long walk and harvest plants in your area. I really need to find a book on desert plants in our area because I know there are some you don’t want to be touching. I did check with a local friend who assured me all of these plants were safe to use on our desert wreaths.

After you have plenty of plants, let’s start incorporating them into your wreath by weaving them into the branches. Make sure they’re tightly tucked in so they all stay in place and you’ll be able to create a wreath that will last the entire season.

Collecting Plants for Wreaths

I love to start with the bushy plants first so that my wreath grows quickly. Then I like to alternate patches of colors. Here in the desert we have lots of golden colored weeds, but if you search hard enough, you’ll be able to find some green around here. Lucky for us, our wash has some pretty beautiful areas with lots of different plants to choose from.

Arizona Desert Wash Plants

After you have your base of your main colors, start adding in some accents. We found some really bright red bushes that would add some great texture and a pop of color. Look for different shapes or even unique twigs that could add some interest to the wreath. These berries also add a touch of color to add some cheer and different textures.

Desert Plants

Of course you could add some ornaments or bows or other festive objects, but I like to keep ours simple with just the plants that grow on our land.

DIY Desert Wreath

There you have it. I’d love to see your wreath if you create one this season. Don’t be afraid to use plants that are not traditional, you may just come up with something better. 

Happy holidays, friends! Now go create something beautiful. 

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https://tinyshinyhome.com/preparing-for-christmas-on-the-homestead Preparing for a Tiny Shiny Christmas on the Homestead 2020-12-15T00:00:00-05:00 2020-12-15T11:53:44-05:00 Jonathan Longnecker https://tinyshinyhome.com/
This post may contain affiliate links or compensated reviews. Please read our disclosure for more info.

This is the first time in 5 years that we’ll officially have a “home for the holidays.” Can you believe that? Let’s talk about how we’re going to make this one special.

Past Christmases on the Road

But first, we thought it would be fun to look back at all the places we spent Christmas the last 5 years. We gathered the kids around, pulled up some old photos and videos on the computer, and had a great time reminiscing.

Dry Tortugas

2015 - Florida Keys & The Dry Tortugas

Oh yes friends, we started off our traveling adventure with a bang, booking this trip a full year in advance. You kind of have to since everyone heads South for the winter. While the Keys themselves were great, it was the Dry Tortugas we fell in love with. Spending the night on a mostly deserted tropical island, with a hulking brick fort and incredible starlit sky - not to mention the insane snorkeling, crystal clear water, and sea of hermit crabs that came out every night - let’s just say it’s still one of our top places we’ve ever visited. 2015 was a good year.

Jon And Jax Getting It Done

2016 - Renovating the Airstream in Indiana

We loved our first year on the road, but something was missing. Turns out that was boondocking and camping off-grid. Staying in cramped parks all the time with our huge 5th wheel was really sucking the romance factor out of the adventure. So we took a hard left, bought a vintage Airstream, and started renovating it at Ashley’s parents house in Indiana. We just happened to be there during Christmas, and we were so happy the kids got to spend this year with their Grandparents.

Christmas with the Trujillo's

2017 - Phoenix, AZ

After traveling in the Airstream for a year, we gladly traded our Florida Christmas for an Arizona one. Turns out we really loved the desert, and this was the beginning of a long tradition of desert Christmases. We also got to spend time with our dear friends the Trujillos over at beginningfromthismorning.com. So much fun!

Snow in the Sonoran Desert

2018 - Wickenburg, AZ

This year we wanted to be by ourselves for Christmas so we headed way out in to the desert outside the tiny town of Wickenburg. We hiked, baked, laughed, and even got some snow! We have really fond memories of this Christmas because the kids present was to go to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Studios Hollywood. It was a truly magical experience that they won’t forget any time soon.

Off Grid Homestead Property

2019 - Finding our Property, Back to the Trujillos & an English Christmas

This was a really special time. A year ago today we drove out with our Realtor to look at a gorgeous piece of property that we ended up spending 4 months fighting for a re-zoning so we could buy it. Our Tiny Shiny Homestead! 

But we didn’t own the land this Christmas so - well - did we mention how much we like hanging out with the Trujillos? They invited us back to their English family Christmas this year and we gladly accepted! Such a fun tradition, and we’re so thankful they let us be a part of it. This was the year we also had a series of unfortunate events - packrat damage in the truck and a blown axel - so we ended up spending more time parked in their driveway that we had planned. But they welcomed us with open arms and helped us get back on the road.

Finally, in May of 2019 we officially became owners of our Tiny Shiny Homestead. And we’ve been working hard ever since to turn it into a home. So that brings us to how we’re going to make this year special for the kids. I mean, it’s the first time in 5 years we haven’t been nomads and spent Christmas in a new place.

Decorating the Airstream and the Homestead

As you can imagine, decorating a 220 square foot area for a family of 6 has always been fairly minimal. We just never had the room to do much. This year we still don’t have a lot of room inside, but now we have an outside! A really big outside!

Christmas Lights on Awning of Airstream

First, we started with these battery powered star lights. They got attached with tiny clear Command hooks on our aluminum skins so they’ll be easy to take off later. We really like the warm glow they bring to the inside of the Airstream at night. We even hung them on our awning for some outdoor cheer.

Goat Logde Decorate for Christmas with lights and desert wreath.

Keeping with our theme of living off-grid and using the land as much as possible, we gathered plants from the property and made some desert wreaths. These ended up on the Chicken Coop and Goat Lodge along with some of the star lights. Even the animals are getting in on the Christmas spirit!

Christmas Gnome hanging from awning

Then we added Christmas Gnomes! Honestly, we’ve never had plush gnomes before, but they are pretty awesome! We hung them up front with our tiny knit stockings, and we’re hoping Nine Nine doesn’t eat them. So far so good!

Starburst Sphere Lights

Finally, we found these really cool starburst sphere lights that are solar powered! We hung them in the trees around the property and one inside for good measure. It’s really starting to feel like Christmas around here.

Delicious Food

Christmas and food go hand in hand here at the Longneckers. Like many of you, we both grew up eating special holiday treats that only get made around this time of year. And even better was the time spent with our families making those treats!

This year we’d like to share one of those with you.

Made from scratch sausage balls

Made from Scratch Sausage Balls

Have you ever had a sausage ball? It’s a warm, cheesy, meaty biscuity treat that melts in your mouth. Of course, you have to eat these right out of the oven for maximum effect. Traditionally these use something like bisquick, but Ashley wanted a more natural version so she came up with this. Guess what? It’s even better than the original!

Ingredients

  • 2 Cups Flour
  • 4 teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/2 Cup Butter Grated
  • 1 Cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese
  • 1 Cup Cooked (and cooled) Sausage
  • 1-1/4 Cup Buttermilk

Directions

Mix all the dry ingredients together. Grate in the butter and cheese and blend into the dry ingredients. Add sausage to the mixture and mix well. Pour milk into the mix and stir until no longer dry. Form your sausage balls and place onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350 degrees for around 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Then pop them directly in your mouth and enjoy!

Family at Table During Christmas

Spending Time Together for the Holidays

Other than that year renovating the Airstream, we haven’t spent Christmas with our families in a long time. And 2020 has made it nearly impossible to go home and see them anyway. So this year we’ll make sure to do lots of FaceTime calls, and spend plenty of time just hanging out with the kids.

This is our home, and we’re so excited to start making new memories here on the Homestead.

--

Thank you so much for continuing to follow our story as we’ve made this big transition into off-grid homesteaders. We couldn’t do it without you, friend! Here’s to many more Christmases on the Homestead.

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https://tinyshinyhome.com/adding-goats-and-a-guard-dog-to-the-homestead Adding Goats and a Guard Dog to the Homestead 2020-12-07T00:00:00-05:00 2020-12-08T10:29:17-05:00 Jonathan Longnecker https://tinyshinyhome.com/
This post may contain affiliate links or compensated reviews. Please read our disclosure for more info.

Just when you thought we were pushing full-tilt into that solar shed earthbag office project, here we go making a small, but significant detour again.

This weekend we added two pregnant goats and a guard puppy to our animal paddock. Oh, and a Goat Lodge!

Building a Hoop House Goat Lodge

After Ashley’s trip back home to Indiana, we knew we only had a week to get a shelter ready for the goats. Our first stab at a cattle panel hoop coop building went ok, but this time we had a much better idea of what to do.

The structure itself went up in a couple of days, and it took just a few more to get the chicken wire and roof on. The door gave us a bit of trouble, but it turned out so good!

We even made a goat feeder out of some spare cattle panel and attached it to the wall. Finally, were ready to go get them!

Ashley and Brooklyn our Great Pyreneese Guard Dog

Great Pyrenees Guard Dog

Ashley and the girls drove to Phoenix to pick up our new Great Pyrenees guard dog. Her name is Brooklyn, and she’ll be protecting the animals in the paddock when she gets older. She’s a working dog, so she won’t be staying inside with us like Nine Nine.

By the way - get it? Brooklyn and Nine Nine? One of our favorite TV shows? Noice!

There are a whole host of predators out here in the high desert (have you seen our t-shirt?), and even with our nine strand high tensile electric fence, we’re excited about the safety assist a guard dog like Brooklyn can bring.

We’ve got a long road ahead of teaching her to stay in the paddock to protect the pigs, chickens, and goats. And most importantly not to hurt the chickens!

Fey our Nigerian Dwarf Goat

Nigerian Dwarf Goats

These tiny, but tough goats are both pregnant and will be delivering early next year. We hope to get lots of milk from them and sell the babies when the time comes.

Their names are Fey and Maple - or is it Mable? We haven’t decided yet. But they are both enjoying their Goat Lodge immensely!

Introducing the new animals

As you can imagine, adding two new goats and a new dog into the mix has been interesting. So far Nine Nine has been very uneasy, and definitely did not like meeting Brooklyn for the first time.

The goats took it in stride, head butted a few times, and called it good. But the next few weeks will require us keeping an eye on everyone, and making sure each animal gets comfortable with the others.

Whew, what a week, friends! We’re excited to get back to the solar shed, and will have our hands full with all these new animals the next few weeks. See you next time!

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