A Good Skirt will Keep the Wind Out.
Living in a travel coach full-time is a lot like a normal house. It takes some work, especially when seasons change. In 2020 we purchased a skirt kit for our 1979 Avion 34V. Skirts are a barrier installed between the bottom of the trailer and the ground. They can be made from rigid permanent materials, semi-permanent, or materials easily removed and stowed for travel. Our skirt is 18# black vinyl. We regularly travel, so a bulky rigid skirt wouldn’t be practical. We ordered a kit from IDAHOCANVASPRODUCTS.com. Measuring our coach, we knew we wanted to use two skirt sections as summer shades for the tires and wheel wells. That left a long skirt for the front section of the coach and another for the rear. I ordered the skirts six inches longer than the distance to the ground, knowing we’d often park on unlevel ground at times and knowing we would not want a gap. The skirt kits come in different mounting styles, hook and pile, or snaps. We chose the hook and loop type and decided to fortify the installation with twist snaps every 12”. After racing sailboats for a few years, I knew that twist snaps are easier to deal with than friction snaps. They don’t corrode and lock up, and you don’t have to pull hard on the vinyl to release them. I ordered black twist snaps, matching twist snap grommets, and the punch tool used to make a hole in the canvas that includes four slots for the grommet tangs to stick through. I also ordered two zippers for the wastewater access and four zippers for the two-wheel wells. The black vinyl skirt kit arrived perfectly folded in a box that weighed about 40 pounds. As I opened the shipping box, I laughed, knowing I’d never be able to get that skirt kit folded into anything that small ever again. Starting with the wheel well pieces, I cleaned and installed the 2” self-adhesive “hook” to the coach a couple of inches above the wheel well. I installed the black twist snaps in the center of the hook, every 12” with black stainless screws. It’s important to install the twist snaps, THEN install the grommets to match the spacing of the installed twist snaps. This is made clear in the kit’s instructions and makes a difference, so don’t rush in and install the grommets in the vinyl first. It will reduce the effectiveness of the whole install. I installed the first grommet and hung it on the first twist snap. Of course, being on a learning curve makes this seem slow and clumsy, but once the tools are all out and the pattern and rhythm are found, things start to move right along. Pulling the vinyl straight, but not stretched, to the next twist snap, I made a pencil mark on the center of the twist snap, used the punch tool to make the hole and slots, and installed the second grommet. Then the third, fourth, and so on. Within a short period, I had two nice skirts covering both wheel wells. The front and rear skirts were more complicated, but having warmed up on the wheel wells, I felt comfortable moving on. To prepare our coach for the front and rear skirts, a hanging point had to be chosen. Our coach has a piece of horizontal aluminum trim all the way around at the same height. It normally has a black filler in it that cover’s the screws. Most of the filler on our 40-year-old coach was damaged or missing, so I pulled it out. On Avions, it’s a good idea to add some extra screws to this section. I drilled a hole and installed 2” pan head stainless screws about three inches from the original screws around the coach. Each hole got a shot of Trempro 635 before running the screw in. With all the new screws installed, I primed the aluminum and let it dry. The kit comes with 2” hook to match the length of all the skirting ordered, so I cut the hook to 7/8” width and installed it into the trim where I had screwed, sealed, and painted. Using a plastic screen spline roller, I must have rolled the entire length of the hook all the way around the coach at least four times. Remember, most of these self-adhesive products stick at first but are only load-bearing after about 24 hours. With that done, I shot the tiniest bead of silicone along the top and bottom of the hook to help keep out water and hold the edges in place. Everyone says never to use silicone on an Avion, but it is a sparing application that makes the install complete. After giving all this a few days to cure, I started on the driver’s side, at the back of the wheel well, hanging the first 4 feet of the skirt, overlapping the wheel well skirt about 6 inches for added wind resistance. With the first 4 feet in place, I marked the position of the zipper that would connect the rear skirt to the wheel well skirt. I glued the first zipper into place using the recommended adhesive. Moving aft, I installed zippers on each side of the waste valve access, having the skirt past the access, marking the needed zipper position, taking it down, cutting it, and gluing the two zippers in. Once I reached the back corner, I had to figure out how to get under and across the bottom of the belly pan to the other side of the coach. This wasn't that hard. I used a self-adhering hook across the belly pan that matched the contact point of the pile on the skirt material.
We've lived with the skirt during quite a bit of cold weather now. It makes a big difference. The floor is warmer and quieter, especially when the wind blows. We stake the skirt down every 5 feet, and when it snows, the skirt ends up sealed to the ground. I'm surprised at how quickly it goes after putting the skirt up and then taking it down two or three times. Even if we are only staying one or two nights, I put the skirt on if it's below forty degrees. The skirt was an investment for sure, it took some time to install, but it has proven to add to the comfort of our little home in cold weather.