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How to Replace the Floor and Restore the Roof of an RV, Camper, or Trailer

The author is an amateur automotive, marine, and RV detailer. He has 30+ years of experience with washing, detailing and waxing vehicles.

How to Restore Your RV Roof and Floor Yourself

How to Restore Your RV Roof and Floor Yourself

My First RV and It's a Fixer-Upper

Purchasing a used or previously owned camper or RV can be challenging. Especially if your new purchase requires extensive repairs or renovations. I purchased my new camper for $500 and it was definitely in need of some TLC. I documented the repair and renovation with photos and relevant information because I thought it could be useful for others in a similar situation. This was my first camper/RV/travel trailer floor and roof repair project. It began with a 2002 Palomino Stampede S-17, a 17' hybrid travel trailer. A hybrid camper is basically a camper with soft sided tent sections that pop out of the front and rear, these sections provide extra sleeping space and are able to be heated and cooled with the on board HVAC system. The previous owner used it to attend dog shows and I believe they brought the animals into the the camper with them. (You can imagine—once the floor is complete, I have my work cut out for me in the cleaning department.)

Here, I document the restoration process and share it with you. I am not sure how right or wrong everything is, but this is a learning experience. I have included many before and after photos to document the process as I made these repairs by myself.

A grinder, a cut off wheel, and lots of time later, I finally removed it.

A grinder, a cut off wheel, and lots of time later, I finally removed it.

What a Way to Start: A Bent Trailer Tongue Jack

When I first got the camper, I noticed that the tongue jack was bent. I figured, no problem, it has three bolts, so I can just take it off.

Wrong! The jack was bent so badly that it could not be straightened, so I tried with a Sawzall or reciprocating saw, and after using and destroying three blades without even a decent cut, I gave up and used a grinder and a cut-off blade. Success! Whew!

Finally removed tongue jack.

Finally removed tongue jack.

Next: Floor and Roof Repairs

When I purchased the camper, the RV dealers story was that it had a roof leak and the floor had warped from the water laying on it, but all the appliances, plumbing, and electrical systems work properly. So I offered a ridiculously low price and they agreed.

So there I was with a floor to tear out and replace along with a roof to patch up and seal. Having little experience with RV floor and roof repair and replacement, these repairs were going to be attempted by me, a first-time RV owner. It was less than three months after a heart attack and this project really helped keep me busy until I got back to work.

The leak that caused the damage.

The leak that caused the damage.

Leak in the area of the lap joint and possibly the area of the awning-mounting screws.

Leak in the area of the lap joint and possibly the area of the awning-mounting screws.

First: The Floor and Roof

At first glance this project looked pretty simple, but my first cut revealed that this floor was not your everyday floor. The floor was comprised of styrofoam sandwiched between two layers of 1/8" luan underlayment covered with linoleum. This, in turn, was adhered to a waterproof membrane that runs under the trailer.

  1. To save time and money, I cut the floor out flush with the cabinets with an oscillating multi tool and a flush cutting blade. Then I ripped the floor out up to the cabinets and dinette seats and started framing underneath the camper (see photos). I attached 1x3 wooden studs to the steel frame to give the new subfloor something to screw into. I then removed the old sub floor framing and installed a 1/2" foam insulation sheet along with 1/2" marine grade plywood for the subfloor with stick on vinyl tile on top of that.
  2. My friend and I formulated a plan to fabricate metal brackets to aid in supporting the door area that was sagging. We also discovered a crack in the frame near the front door that we sistered up and welded together with a piece of 3/16" x 4" flat steel. Someone left the steps extended and nearly ripped them off. Removing the tire and wheel was unbelievably hard and I snapped off one of the studs.
  3. Once the steel frame work was complete, I installed a new tongue jack, insulation, and subfloor. I headed to Lowe's for vinyl stick-on tiles and quarter round trim moulding. I had to clean the roof real well with a pressure washer and Dicor EPDM cleaner activator. Once the roof surface was clean and dry, I coated all the seams and flashed areas with Dicor EPDM rubber roof sealer and self leveling lap sealant.

Removal of the Subfloor

Okay, the pictures show the floor with the linoleum removed, with the subfloor removed, and how I left the weatherproof membrane intact.

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Looking towards front of camper: What a mess. I took before pictures so I know where everything goes when finished.

Looking towards front of camper: What a mess. I took before pictures so I know where everything goes when finished.

Living / dining room floor with the linoleum removed.

Living / dining room floor with the linoleum removed.

Fresh water tank area under dinette bench seat.

Fresh water tank area under dinette bench seat.

Front view of subfloor removal in progress.

Front view of subfloor removal in progress.

Rear view of subfloor and cabinet end removed. The old framing members are going, too.

Rear view of subfloor and cabinet end removed. The old framing members are going, too.

The Roof

I cleaned the roof according to the instructions on the Dicor EPDM rubber roofing coating system and applied the EPDM coating (two coats!). The roof looks brand new and is watertight! I used Dicor self leveling lap sealant on the flashing areas and to fill any cracks or gaps I could see. The Dicor lap sealant comes in a tube and can easily be applied with an inexpensive caulk gun.

Floor completed.

Floor completed.

Completed floor.

Completed floor.

Rear of camper complete.

Rear of camper complete.

Rear Floor

Rear Floor

Front seating area complete.

Front seating area complete.

Restoring the Roof

Restoring the Roof

Before and after.

Before and after.

Dicor EPDM rubber roofing coating system.

Dicor EPDM rubber roofing coating system.

Before and after roof treatment.

Before and after roof treatment.

Setting Up at the Campround

Setting Up at the Campround

Dicor EPDM Roof Sealant Kit

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: I have a 2000 Palomino, Model Stampede-15. My whole floor has to be replaced. Do you think I can replace the floors in my RV in the same way as you described in this article?

Answer: I don't see why not. They are very similar in construction. Since it is 15', there will be less floor to replace!

Question: We have a 1975 holiday gambler, would there be any asbestos materials in the camper?

Answer: I would say there would be a high probability that asbestos could be present. A partial ban on asbestos didn't actually come into play until 1987. If left undisturbed, it is less of an issue. Of the asbestos is cracked or crumbling. (Friable). It's best to have a professional remove it properly.

Question: I have exactly the same problem with my S-17 Palamino, but no roof damage though. Something else caused the floor to discolor and weaken. I am always afraid I will walk right through the door area. Did you find others with this similar problem?

Answer: I have seen similar problems with these floors which leads me to believe it is a common issue. The floor construction is really poor as you can see in my article. The best bet is to remove as much of the weak floor as possible and replace it with plywood.

Question: How do I fix the sagging roof on a trailer that leaks badly?

Answer: I would start by thoroughly inspecting the roof membrane for punctures or tears. Inspect all joints, penetrations and seams. Use the Dicor products I recommend to patch potential leaks and coat the entire roof surface and flashings. Once the roof is watertight, it's time to head inside, remove the ceiling and replace and water damaged roofing members. Remember to support the roof inside while making these repairs.

Question: I am a new owner of a 2001 Palomino S17 how many layers of the floor were there? Do you know what the walls are made up of?

Answer: There was a single flooring panel made of foam sandwiched between two thin pieces of plywood probably close to an inch think if memory serves me right. The walls were metal studs with fiberglass insulation. Fiberglass outer and RV paneling interior.

© 2011 Charles Kikas

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