Renovating a Camper - Do It Yourself vs. Paying a Professional

The Last Best Camper - A 1974 Airstream Excella

Carolyn Goddell shares her knowledge on weighing out DIY projects versus paying a professional.  She and her husband, Jackson, have renovated a 1974 Airstream together.  Their Airstream is available for lodging through Air BnB as The Last Best Camper.  This is their second Airstream renovation together.

Whether you are doing a complete renovation or just updating a few pieces in your camper, there are always moments when you have to consider whether a project is better done by yourself or left to a professional. When making this decision it is best to factor in your time frame, expected quality, your level of expertise, and, of course, budget. Based on your answer to each of these, you will have a better idea as to whether or not you should tackle your project alone or leave it to someone with more experience.

Thanks to the internet, it is fairly easy nowadays to become proficient in any area with the help of Wikihow, Youtube, and blogs. With any project, it helps to do your research. Especially with campers and Rv’s special parts may be needed (ie. inverters/converters, low wattage bulbs, wiring requirements, vibration resistant materials). Whether or not you know what you’re doing, there may be a better or easier way to complete your task. It is always better to do it right the first time and learn from someone else’s mistakes rather than making your own!

The internet has been our go-to for our Airstream renovation. It is much easier to find information now than it was ten years ago, so there are some things that we would do over if we could. This time around we had a good grasp on what we could handle ourselves and what we didn’t even want to attempt. The biggest decision that we struggled with was whether or not to do our dinette cushions ourselves. Buying foam, wrap, fabric, and zippers separately would be much less expensive than buying the cushions complete and getting them shipped ($200 versus $500) but we didn’t know if we had the time to complete the project ourselves. We ended up ordering the foam and wrap from Foam Factory and purchased the zippers and heavy cotton fabric from Joann’s. Sewing the covers seemed easy and straightforward at first, but once we looked at tutorials online, our confidence waned and we knew we wanted to hire someone to do the stitching perfectly and as quickly as possible. Finding a local seamstress was easy and her prices were reasonable (about $30). We had our completed cushions completed in about a week. If we had the money we probably would have ordered the completed cushions from a single source, just to have everything done for us, but it was nice to see our fabric in person before committing to it. Because this was a project that wasn’t necessarily a “personal touch” it was nice to have someone else do the work for us so that we could focus on other decorating aspects.

Through our renovating journey, we have come to realize that it is worth it to attempt projects to increase your knowledge and experience as well as up your confidence for future projects or problems that may come along. However, if you are in a time crunch or have a task that needs to be precisely right, it may be better left to the professionals. Keep in mind that some large items like air conditioners or water heaters may not be warrantied unless installed by a certified shop. It helps to make a spreadsheet, or even just two columns on a piece of paper that show the difference in time, cost, difficulty level, and any pros or cons that go along with doing a project yourself versus hiring out for it. With this information, you can prioritize the projects that you complete and personalize yourself.

If you are traveling to Montana in the upcoming year, consider a stop in Livington on your journey.  You can stay at the Last Best Camper and experience a true piece of Americana!