How to Repair or Replace RV & Camper Trailer Floors
Soft Spots on the Floor?
A soft spot in the floor of your RV— whether it's a motorhome, pop-up, or camper trailer— is something you simply cannot ignore. The soft spot usually means a leaking roof or perhaps plumbing problems, either now or at some time in the past. Either way, a repair project is in your near future.
But can a DIY owner handle an RV floor repair job? Of course you can, and I'll show you how, from start to finish.
Assessing the Damage
This Dutchman camper trailer had at least two previous owners and has been in the hands of the present owners for two years. Shortly after the purchase, soft spots were noticed in the kitchen area floor. These spots have gotten worse and have spread almost into the carpeted sitting area. The table base was screwed to the floor which was so soft the table was barely supported.
At some time in the past, there was a plumbing leak. It is suspected a waterline supplying the sink or water heater had ruptured and soaked the floor. This was probably due to freezing temperatures while the camper trailer was left with the water hooked up. Whatever the reason, it thoroughly soaked the particleboard used as a base for the floor covering. A look inside of the base cabinet revealed the original vinyl floor covering which had been replaced by vinyl stick-on tile.
This quick fix might have been satisfactory on some models, but not in this case. Particle board is notorious for falling apart if exposed to water. In fact, it can swell just from the moisture in the air over a long period of time.
Removing the Bad Flooring
How to Replace the Floor
Before the floor could be removed, the table and booth had to be dismantled and stored elsewhere. The position of each bench was carefully marked and measured to ensure proper position when replaced.
The bench with the back to the bar top contained electrical wires for the running light wires which were cut and would be spliced after the repair job was completed. The tiles pulled up easily, as the glue had deteriorated on the damp particleboard. After removing a section of particleboard with the reciprocating saw, it was easy to see what had occurred.
The only support in the floor consisted of a few 1 ½ inch square wood beams with Styrofoam in between them. Beneath this was only thin metal over a few sparsely-spaced steel support bracing. There was a steel beam under the booth/table area which had not been used for a wood beam floor joist. Very poor management of floor support in this design.
A reciprocating saw was used to cut the particleboard away from the walls and cabinets. Care is needed to keep from cutting through the outer sheet metal on the bottom. A floor heating ventran the length of the unit and was flattened by the weight of those walking on the soft floor. It was almost impossible to keep from cutting this aluminum vent during the floor removal but this is easy to repair.
Tip: Cutting a straight line into the area separating the sound wood from the bad will make matching the new wood edge easier.
The removal of the Styrofoam was the worst part of the job as it was glued to the metal covering and to the particleboard. A small scraper was used to remove the remnants and the whole area was vacuumed clean.
The stick-on tile had sealed the moisture into the floor and had slowly deteriorated the particleboard. There was no place for the moisture to go. This moisture had been trapped inside for years and finally the damage became noticeable.
Finishing the Job
- After the cleanup, the rebuilding process begins. Extra wood floor joists were added over the steel beams beneath the floor. Joists were also added beneath the cabinets and along the line of the remaining floor at the sitting area. It is important to support every edge of the new plywood for greater strength and stability.
- Extra joists were screwed along the walls into the old, but still solid, wood beams. Cross beams were also added to further strengthen the floor support. The old heating vent was straightened and reinforced with sheet aluminum and self tapping sheet metal screws.
- Aluminum adhesive duct repair tape was used to seal all repairs and to repair the cuts made during floor removal. An extra wood joist was added along the side of the vent to prevent the damage happening again.
- Roofingfelt was used to cover the aluminum heating vent because the treated plywood used for the floor replacement will corrode aluminum over a period of time. The Styrofoam insulation was replaced by ordinary thick fiberglass insulation. Any rusted spots on the floor was treated with a good quality paint to prevent further corrosion.
- Coated deck screws were utilized to attach the ¾ inch plywood to the beams and to match up with the remaining ¾ inch particleboard. The screws were countersunk and filled with putty so as not to show beneath the new floor covering. It may be necessary to sand or otherwise flatten out uneven areas, as these floors are hard to get completely smooth.
- Because of the many different angles and protrusions, stick-on tile was the easiest and most mistake-free covering to use. Unless you have a very square and angle-free area, it is hard to cut solid vinyl flooring without making a mistake. If you desire this type of flooring, it would be best to hire a professional to do the job for you.
- Ceramic tile is not recommended because of the flexing of the unit while in transport and because of the excess weight involved. Other coverings, including carpet and wood, may be used if desired. If vinyl tile is used, be sure to plan the edges carefully to avoid having to cut tiny slivers of tile along the walls. The molding will only cover about ½ inch when put down.
- A carpet bar or wooden threshold may be used to cover the joint between the new wood and the old. Often, this joint is uneven because of the swelling of the old floor but the aforementioned products will hide the difference. It only remains to replace the booth and table and cover the cracks around the floor and walls with quarter round molding to dress up the new floor.
- The floor in your particular model may be constructed differently, but the method of replacement is basically the same. Use as much support as you can to support your new floor and you can enjoy the fruit of your labors for many years to come.
Installing the Tile and Other Finishing Touches
More RV Repair Articles
- RV and Camper Rooftop Air Conditioner Maintenance, Troubleshooting, and Repairs
- RV and Camper Trailer: Plumbing Repairs and Maintenance
- How to Troubleshoot, Service, and Repair a Rooftop RV Air Conditioner
- RV Electrical System Troubleshooting and Repair
- Basic RV and Camper Trailer Maintenance
- Trailer Roof Maintenance and Repair
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