Replacing Rotted Wood Flooring in a Travel Trailer: What You Need to Know

Have you ever had to deal with rotted wood flooring in your RV? It can be a real pain in the you know where. Thankfully, I’ve learned a couple of things during my years of full-time RVing. You can count on me to provide you with the wisdom I’ve gained in that time. (Insert laughter here.)

Seriously though, if you want to learn how to fix this problem, this article will help.  You can also save yourself some money in the process.

While it’s true that you can save a lot of money by purchasing a used RV, that doesn’t mean that your rig is worry-free. Take Doug Klassen and his 1991 Jayco 220 travel trailer, for example.

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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.

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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 how the scope of the damage. Much to his relief, he realized that the damage was limited to the storage area under the dinette.

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.

3. Dry out the wood framing

He let the now exposed wood framing dry out for a week.

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 may 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.

To make the epoxy cover a bigger area, you can thin it by using a thinning agent such as XyleneDenatured alcohol, or Acetone.

*** 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. Dependent 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.

The Bottom Line

As you can see, you don’t need a lot of money or expert help to repair the rotted wood flooring in your RV. If you have a small area that needs to be replaced, simply use the above steps to fix the problem by yourself. Happy RVing!

Source: Do It Yourself RV and CorgiFan.com

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