Whether you’re considering buying a used RV or simply dealing with the consequences of water damage in a rig you bought new and have put through its paces, travel trailer floor repair is no laughing matter. Rotted floorboards can spell trouble quickly, not to mention the extreme expense of getting the problem dealt with professionally.
Fortunately, it is possible to take on your camper floor repair yourself, which can be a great way to minimize your RV floor repair cost. In this post, we’ll walk you through the basics of how to fix a rotted camper floor so you can get back on the road in a jiffy… without having to spend an arm and a leg at the repair shop.
Travel Trailer Floor Repair
What are the basics you need to know about travel trailer floor repair? How can you tell you need it — and why does it matter?
Well, one surefire way to learn that your travel trailer’s floor needs a little love is to walk on it and discover it isn’t exactly structurally stable. A spongy RV floor signals that there’s damage that has led to rotting, which may be due to a water leak or other mechanical failure.
Your RV’s floor quite literally holds you up while you walk around inside the rig, not to mention all those heavy pieces of furniture and appliances. Thus, a floor with structural integrity isn’t just a luxury: it’s a requirement.
If you’ve discovered a not-so-stable RV floor while you’re still in the market for your next rig, you may want to go ahead and throw in the towel while you’re ahead. Unless you’ve got a really good deal on your hands, it’s likely going to be more work to fix the floor than it’s worth.
But if you’re the super thrifty DIY type — or you’re dealing with floor rot in a rig you’ve already got — fixing the floor yourself may be your best option. In the next section, let’s look into what you need to do to tackle travel trailer floor repair on your own.
How to Replace Rotted Wood Flooring in a Travel Trailer: 6 Steps
To learn more about how to repair a rotted wood RV floor, let’s take Doug Klassen and his 1991 Jayco 220 travel trailer for example.
When Doug bought his used trailer, he made sure to look it over with a fine toothed comb. He’d had experience with older vehicles before, so he knew to be on his toes. He was still lulled into a false sense of security by the clean appearance, both inside and out, of the Jayco. He even tested it out to make sure that everything worked. The price was right so Doug put down the money and bought his prize, or so he thought.
Unfortunately, the Jayco that Doug bought had a huge problem. A problem that he only discovered after he was getting ready to take his second trip with the trailer. He noticed a spot on the vinyl flooring. Curious, he peeled back the vinyl for a closer inspection and he didn’t like what he saw. Although there was no evidence of moisture, the plywood floor was completely rotted.
To solve this problem Doug did some research on the popular RV forum, RV.net. The information he got there, as well as other sites, led him to determine that he could replace the rotted wood flooring in his travel trailer in six steps.
1. Discover the full extent of the damage
Doug used an awl to check out the scope of the damage. Much to his relief, he realized that the damage was limited to the storage area under the dinette.
However, in your own trailer, you’ll want to take this step to its logical conclusion and ensure you know the full extent of the damage before you go about replacing the floor. You don’t want to replace the living room floor only to discover you also still need to do the bathroom, for instance.
2. Remove the areas that are badly damaged
Once he knew where the damage was, Doug removed the vinyl floor covering and all the rotted wood. You may need to put your RV up on jacks to perform this step and ensure that all the old, rotted flooring is completely removed, both internally and externally.
3. Dry out the wood framing
Once Doug has ripped out the old flooring, he let the now exposed wood framing dry out for a week. This helped to ensure he wouldn’t encounter the exact same problem once he reinstalled dry flooring.
4. Apply a product that kills mold
The next step was to kill any lingering mold caused by the water damage. Doug chose to use antifreeze to kill any mold that might still be around. This was accomplished with a sprayer that he used to apply the antifreeze to the surface of the wood. He then let the disinfectant solution dry for a week or two.
Another option that could be used to kill the mold is a borax solution. It works just as well, but it’s more expensive.
*** It’s important to note that antifreeze is poisonous. It can be harmful, and even fatal, to animals or humans if consumed. Thus, you must use extreme caution while using this product!
5. Seal the wood with diluted epoxy resin
To create a strong, waterproof bond, epoxy resin is combined with a hardener. This allows the epoxy to seal the area against water and to strengthen the rotted wood. It also discourages mold from growing on the surface of the wood.
*** Before we delve deeper into this subject, it is important to note that the fumes from epoxy can be harsh. You should only mix it if you are in a well-ventilated area. Also, it is important that you wear disposable gloves and a respirator while you are working with it. This also holds true for xylene.
You can buy epoxy resins that are specifically designed for fixing rotted wood flooring. But, you probably won’t need it for a camper. They are generally used for boat repairs where wood is constantly exposed to moisture.
If you are not using this type of epoxy, you will need a thinning agent, hardener, and the standard epoxy resin. Depending on the hardener and epoxy that you buy, you will have anywhere from a few minutes to an hour to work with it.
The first thing that you will have to do is combine the hardener and the epoxy resin. After this is completed, you can start stirring in the thinning agent. For his repair, Doug thinned the epoxy by 50% using the xylene.
He used a cheap sprayer to apply the mixture to all the sub-floor surfaces. For this part, you should only need about a quart of resin. Initially, Doug bought a gallon but it was too much for this particular job. Since resin isn’t cheap you should only buy what you need. Remember that a little goes a long way. As Doug says, “If you need a whole gallon, you probably need a new trailer.”
6. Add or replace the wood frame and flooring
The resin took a couple of days to cure. While he was waiting, Doug added new wood to make the sub-floor sturdier. Since he had to cut out the damaged areas, he also added new cross supports.
Doug soon found out that the floor joists weren’t the normal 2×4 framing. So he had to cut down a couple of 2 x 6s and 2 x 3s to make the dimensions match. He used cut outs and simple notching techniques to create a stable support for the new sub-floor. After this was completed, he sprayed another layer of epoxy onto the new wood and let it cure again.
After the epoxy dried, Doug added some insulation to the floor. He covered the insulation with a new sheet of plywood, added more epoxy, and let it dry once again.
He did everything in his power to seal as much of the exposed wood as he could. Thankfully, there wasn’t any water damage from the roof of the storage compartment. This was a little odd, seeing how badly the floor was rotted. He concluded that the previous owner stored his hose in the compartment improperly.
Doug used vinyl pieces with self adhesive to cover the sub-floor. He also added it to the storage compartment. After the epoxy cured and the wood dried, he reinstalled the dinette and added reclaimed carpet to the area.
When all was said and done, the entire repair cost Doug less than $200. Not too shabby!
RV Floor Repair Tips
As you can see from the steps above, repairing an RV floor is by no means a super-simple task… but it’s not unachievable, either. That said, it’s important to follow a few tips to ensure you get the job done as well and affordably as possible.
Be sure to double check all areas of the RV for damage before you go about replacing the floor. We’ve mentioned this above, but it bears repeating, because if one section of your flooring still has damage, it might infect the new flooring you’ve just put down. When in doubt, replace more flooring than you think you need to.
When mixing harsh chemicals, always be sure to take the proper precautions. Dealing with serious repair issues means dealing with serious chemicals, and serious chemicals come with serious health risks. Always take your safety seriously by ensuring you’re in a well-ventilated area and utilizing gloves, respirators, and protective clothing to keep yourself out of contact with these solutions.
Along those same lines, exercise caution with tools. You’ll need to utilize tools like a crowbar to rip out the existing flooring and a hammer to nail in the new flooring, among others — perhaps even a nail gun. All of these tools have the potential to be dangerous and hazardous, especially if used haphazardly.
Finally, if in doubt… consider hiring a professional. While it’s true that you can save a boatload of money by DIYing serious RV repairs, not everybody has the skills (or energy! or time!) to deal with so much work. If you don’t, it might really be the better move to hire a professional, who can ensure every last bit of damage is taken care of safely and effectively. We’re not saying it’s not going to cost you… but there are steps you can take toward finding a trustworthy RV repair service.
What type of flooring is best for an RV?
Replacing your RV’s flooring can be a great opportunity to upgrade to a different material. But which type of flooring is best?
There’s no easy, one-size-fits-all answer. That said, different types of flooring are probably most appropriate in different sections of the rig.
For instance, in areas that are prone to spills and wetness, like the bathroom and kitchen, you’ll probably want a vinyl tile flooring, or even regular tile (though this is heavy and can add a lot of weight to travel trailers). On the other hand, areas like the bedroom and living room can be made cozier and inviting by utilizing carpet instead of harder materials.
Many modern RVers are opting for laminate planking, which looks like hardwood floors, and is adaptable to be used throughout the RV. You can add throw rugs to this style of flooring in areas like the bedroom and living room, but still maintain a single, stylish, easy-to-clean material throughout the RV. Of course, hardwood laminate is just one option; laminate flooring comes in all manner of styles, including stone patterns and tiling. In any scenario, when it comes to RV flooring, you’re looking for durability, ease of cleaning, and lightness of weight… all of which laminates offer!
Why do campers get soft spots in the floor?
A spongy RV floor indicates rot in the subflooring — usually the plywood underneath the laminate, tile, or carpet. This is most often caused by water damage, which may be only one small part of larger damages caused by water. Thus, if you discover rotted floorboards, you’re likely going to want to inspect the rest of your RV for water damage as well.
While water damage is a reality for most RVs at some point along the way, it can also be a truly catastrophic occurrence — and has put more than one RV out of commission entirely. The best way to get ahead of water damage is to inspect early and often, so as to catch it while it’s still a small problem. Here are some of our best tips for looking for water damage in your RV.
How much does it cost to replace RV flooring?
As you can tell from Doug’s story above, replacing your RV flooring can be a relatively cheap endeavor… or it can be downright expensive. It all depends on the extent of your damage, the quality of your materials, and how much of the project you do yourself.
Although it’s possible to replace your RV flooring for a few hundred dollars, like Doug did, if you have the project done professionally, it’s likely to run you significantly more — easily upwards of a thousand dollars. That’s why it’s important to think seriously about water damage before you purchase a used RV, as the amount of energy and resources it takes to fix the issue may eclipse the savings you get by buying used.
How to Install RV Flooring
We hope this post has helped you understand more fully the dos and don’ts of replacing rotten travel trailer or motorhome flooring. (For instance: do be sure you know the full extent of the damage before you start, but don’t mix harsh chemicals in an enclosed space!)
If you still have questions about the process of RV floor repair, we recommend checking out one of the many great tutorials available on YouTube, like the one below. For many of us, it’s easiest to learn by watching and doing!
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