I am an RV enthusiast with more than 50 years of experience owning, driving, traveling and living in recreational vehicles.
The number of RV floor coverings that are available on today's market make it difficult for people to know which one will be the best to use. This is an important decision because updating RV flooring is expensive, even if you do the work yourself, and once you make your choice, for better or for worse, you are stuck with it!
The purpose of this article is to discuss the pros and cons of the most popular types of floor coverings so that you will be able to make an informed decision.
Which Flooring Covering Is Best for RVs?
Having just gone through months of researching RV floor coverings, my husband and I finally decided that, in the end, putting carpet back into our gas-engine motorhome was our best option. However, we chose to have the work done professionally and used a product called “Commercial Plush.” This type of carpet
- is a step above indoor/outdoor carpet,
- will not unravel,
- is very heavy,
- is closely looped,
- is very durable,
- comes in many beautiful colors,
- muffles road noise,
- is relatively easy to clean and maintain,
- protects against engine heat, and
- is very comfortable to walk on because it sits on an 8 pound foam base.
The caveats are that it is very tricky to install and will show seams and staples in certain areas.
We purchased it at a wholesale carpet outlet, and had a very-high-end RV dealership do the install. They also provided the padding and updated the stair coverings with a very fancy material used only in airplanes. The total cost for our 35-foot gas-engine coach was $1739 including tax, materials and labor. We did not plan on spending quite that much, but the truth is that it was worth every penny. It saved my husband a ton of work and looks fantastic.
When we started this project, we swore we would never put carpet in our motorhome again, but after learning all of the facts that I just shared with you, we realized this would be our best option.
You may find that it will be yours as well, but below, you'll find a full analysis of all the other types of flooring you might consider.
Your Current RV Floor Covering
No matter what type of material has been used to cover your coach's floors, within five to ten years you will have to replace it. The timing will depend on quality, usage, and care. This is because RV traveling is a dirty business. Your floors are subjected to all sorts of soil types, sand, and mud as well as water, spills, and pet filth. No matter the type, all of these floors are difficult to maintain, so when you choose your favorite, make sure you understand that there will not be one perfect solution.
It will be up to you to decide on the option that you think will work best in your situation.
A Manufacturer’s View of RV Flooring Materials
The great majority of recreational vehicles come with a combination of soft and hard flooring. In most coaches, the hard flooring is located in the kitchen and bath areas. In some it is installed in part or all of the main living area as well. The remainder, if any, is usually carpeted.
It is important to understand that these choices are made for several reasons. Certain floor coverings may be easier to install, cost less, or look better. However, very little thought is generally given to durability or ease of consumer use because it is not the manufacturer that must deal with these issues. Their first goal is always to save money and provide a visually aesthetic pleasing product. Once you understand this, you will view your recreational vehicle’s floors in a whole new light!
Should I Put Vinyl Floors in My RV?
The three types of vinyl flooring that manufacturers put on recreational vehicle floors are sheet, plank, and tile squares. All have both good and bad points. For instance, if properly installed, they
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- repel water,
- are easy to clean and maintain,
- do not retain odors,
- are less costly than other types of floor coverings, and
- are very durable.
On the other hand, they
- can only be installed over a smooth, lightweight subfloor covering,
- are difficult to install and/or remove,
- give RVs a more hollow sound,
- can only be properly installed in areas that are totally flat, and
- installing them in recreational vehicles voids their warranties.
Vinyl Planks Have Additional Problems
Recently, many RV owners have warmed to the idea of replacing their carpets with vinyl planks because they are beautiful and look like real wood, but few realize the problems they will be facing if they try to do so.
- Planks, especially those that float, expand and contract when the weather warms or cools. Thus, they need to be placed loosely in the RV for two or three days to adapt to its internal climate prior to installation. Since coaches are not well insulated, it is almost impossible to do this successfully. This issue can lead to buckling or separation due to road vibrations and fast climate changes.
- Some people have reported problems with something called "off-gassing." This occurs when the product has not been certified to US standards and noxious chemicals get trapped inside of the planks. Once they are open to the air, the internal gasses are released. Sometimes they dissipate after several days or months, but sometimes they remain permanently.
- Installing this product in the front cabin of most motorhomes, especially the gas engine models, is impossible due to the fact that it is not flexible. Thus, many people simply leave the old flooring in place in that area, and install the new floor behind the captain's chairs. This looks horrible and downgrades the value of the coach.
Is Laminate Flooring Good in an RV?
Laminate planks are another type of flooring that should never be used for RVs due to the fact that they cannot tolerate water and have all of the same problems as vinyl. These floors are beautiful in homes, but will not hold up well in motorhomes and campers.
Can I Have Wood Floors in My RV?
Some manufacturers place wood in their bathrooms and kitchens, and while this type of flooring looks nice, it requires a great deal of care and is heavy. It is also a product that does not hold up against water. Those who want to place it on their RV floors should think carefully before doing so, because this material does not offer the type of durability that recreational vehicles require.
What About Ceramic Tile?
Many of the higher-end coach manufacturers install ceramic or other similar types of flooring in their bathrooms and galleys but save carpet for their living and sleeping areas. These products make beautiful floors, but they are heavy, inflexible, crack easily, and must have the grout cleaned and renewed regularly. They are very easy to clean but can be a safety hazard if they get wet. They clearly are a luxury item, not very practical.
Should I Put Carpet in My RV?
Most RV manufacturers place carpet in all areas except the kitchen and bathrooms of because it is attractive, less costly, and helps to muffle road and engine noise. In many cases, they use light colors because these make coaches look bigger and use plush materials because they give people the feel of luxury.
However, carpet can be a nightmare for RV owners because it is almost impossible to keep clean, mildews, needs constant upkeep, and holds odors. Because of issues such as these, owners spend a great deal of time and money trying to protect and clean their carpets, but it is a thankless job. Eventually, the underlying padding crumbles, bare spots appear, and stains become impossible to remove.
These all are reasons why people want to replace their RV carpets with a type of floor covering that is easier to clean and maintain.
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: Who could help me install new hardwood floors in my RV?
Answer: This type of installation is not something you should try to do yourself. Contact a local RV dealer to see if they do this type of work or if they can refer you to someone who does.
© 2015 Sondra Rochelle