I’m a full-time RV resident, spending much of my time in my Vibe by Forest River M-313BHS. So, to make my RV life more pleasant, I’ve come to learn some of the handy DIY travel trailer fixes to keep me going, especially when I’m off-grid or don’t have money for a replacement.
For example, here’s a step-by-step guide of how I do my repair and replace rotted wood flooring in my camper:
1) Identify the cause of soft floor
2) Determine the extent of damage
3) Removing the badly damaged sections
4) Drying the wood framing
5) Killing mold
6) Strengthening/replacing the frame
7) Replacing the flooring
Now, I understand some RVers don’t take soft camper floors with all the seriousness it requires.
But that’s a big mistake and probably one of the goofs you could ever make.
See, a soft spot is more than a minor indentation but may also indicate a much larger problem, including structural damage.
I learned this the hard way when I first got my trailer.
The previous owner had done a great job of maintaining the rig but failed to point out the existence of a damaged floor on the door.
I came to notice it later, but I didn’t give much thought to it. Just like most campers I know would.
But it was after a couple of months that we realized the sub floor had disintegrated the more we walked on it.
It was a big nightmare since the damage had already gone under the walls, cabinets, and other places of structures, so we had to do a complete overhaul.
The good news is it doesn’t need to be that way for you, and you don’t have to go through such an experience.
In the guide below, I’ll expound more on the steps I usually take once I realize my camper floor has begun to soften.
Identifying a Rotted Wood Flooring in your Camper
Before we get into the basics of camper RV floor repair, it would be prudent to learn how to spot a soft spot.
The good news is that there’re several tell-tale signs and a few things that will help diagnose a damaged floor.
Some of the major signs include:
- Spongy Floor
A key indicator of a damaged floor is the sponginess of soft spots.
A good way to check whether water has accessed your floor is by feeling the floor with your feet or hands for softness.
Along with the floor, consider checking other areas such as the walls and the ceiling.
Another important spot you shouldn’t ignore is the RV slide-out.
If you’re still not satisfied with your diagnosis, you can process it to the next step.
- Check for mold and mildew.
In most cases, mildew on an RV is caused by long-time storage in a non-ventilated spot.
But other times, it can be an indicator of water damage.
So, start by checking the presence of mold and discoloration of the plumbing locations and nearby spots.
The presence of leaks is quite a straightforward sign of identifying a damaged floor.
While leaks won’t cause immediate water damage, long-term leaks may suggest otherwise.
Why Does Fixing a Soft RV Floor Matter?
Your motorhome floor is probably one of the most critical elements of your RV.
It’s simply because it literally holds you and all the other items in your RV.
But more importantly, the floor is a crucial part of your RV’s solid wood frame, so a compromise on it ultimately results in the loss of your RV’s structural integrity. It may even result in the entire floor caving in.
Another reason you may want to repair your RV’s floor is because of health issues. Mildew and mold are indicative of a soft spot.
Long-term exposure to these elements can lead to several respiratory conditions such as wheezing, nasal irritation, and sinus congestion.
Now, assuming you discover your camper has a damaged floor, you’ve two options.
You can call a professional to do it, but it’s more expensive.
Alternatively, you can glove on and repair the damage.
The latter option is nice, especially if you’re on a budget and prefer fixing your stuff.
In the coming section, I’ll break down the camper restoration process and share the tips and tricks I use to repair my camper.
How to Replace Rotted Wood Flooring; Step-by-Step Guide
1) Identify the Source of the Damage
There’re plenty of causes of a broken floor, but one of the prominent ones is water leakage.
So, a critical step before repairing the damaged floor is identifying the cause of the water leak. In particular, pay special attention to the plumbing system.
The problem with ignoring this critical step is you’ll put on the work to replace RV flooring, only the same leak to ruin it again.
2) Determine the extent of damage
After fixing the water leak, the next step is identifying the full extent of the damage.
Usually, the damages on an RV floor are localized, and if you catch the minor damage early, it should be easy and less expensive to fix.
Sometimes, however, the leak might have gone unnoticed for quite a period and even turned the floor to mush. In this case, the repair will be more involving and expensive.
When determining the extent of damage, you don’t want to miss any spot because it’ll later compromise the whole situation.
Personally, I like pulling the existing floor all up to expose the paneling and everything. It gives me an idea of how much I need to put in.
3) Removing the damaged sections
Assuming you’ve identified the damaged sections, removing them is next. This might include the rotted wood flooring, floor joists, or even the rotted wood structure if the damage was extensive.
In most cases, you’ll require cutting machines to cut. I need to reiterate that you should remove the damaged sections completely.
Of course, you’ll start with the plywood floor, which takes a huge part of the upper floor section.
After the plywood/particle board is cut, it exposes the rotted plywood and the frame depending on the location. If the wood isn’t rotted, you can salvage it.
But it has already started to rot; you’ll also need to get rid of it.
Again, depending on the location of the damaged section, you might be required to use jacks to raise your RV.
4) Drying the wood framing
After ripping the old RV Floor, you need to give it time to dry.
I usually give my floor a resting period of one week.
The drying period is necessary for bolstering the strength of the remaining wood, eliminating any existing wetness, and preventing further structural damage.
5) Kill mold
If there was presence of mold on your camper floor, then this would be the appropriate time to eliminate it.
Numerous substances help eliminate mold, but I prefer hydrogen peroxide. It’s an effective solution that works on various materials from fabric, floors, soft spots, fixtures, walls to appliances.
Whatever method you use, understand that most mold killers are hazardous, so it’s a good idea to mask up.
Meanwhile, along with eliminating the mold, I’d also suggest you go the extra mile of hardening the floor with epoxy resin, construction adhesive, and hardener.
This combination works well to ward off the water while bolstering the wood.
Depending on the epoxy you got, you can extend its usage or rather coverage by mixing it with a thinning substance.
6) Strengthening/replacing the frame
While you wait for the epoxy and hardener to cure the floor, you can consider replacing the rotted wood frame.
Of course, replacement may not be necessary, but if the rot had already gotten into the frame, it’s a critical step to take.
Remember, the frame plays a vital role in providing your entire camper’s structural integrity and support.
Also, as you did with the other parts of the spongy RV floor, you can add some epoxy resin and mold killer on the frame to extend its lifespan.
7) Replacing the flooring
The final step of repairing your broken floor in a camper is replacing the old and damaged sections with a new floor.
Use a tape measure to make cutouts and notches while adding a new subfloor to fix the broken parts and add to your existing flooring.
RV Floor Repair Tips
As you can clearly see, fixing a spongy RV floor in your camper is a mean feat but still achievable, especially with the know-how knowledge and tools.
It’s important, however, you keep in mind several handy tips during the RV floor repair process. These tips will ensure or at least have helped me perform my floor repair efficiently and safely.
1) Double-check all the damaged area
It’s critical to double-check your spongy RV floor and all the water damages before making changes or anything.
Personally, I consider this the most critical step in the repairing process before it saves you from the headaches that come with leaving some sections unaddressed.
2) Be safe
Safety is paramount, especially when mixing harsh chemicals.
Hydrogen peroxide and other hardeners, for example, are toxic, especially when inhaled or when they come into contact with the skin.
So, to save you from all that risk, wear gloves or even masks when handling these substances.
3) Be careful with the tools
Along the same substance safety lines, I’d also suggest you take proper precautions when dealing with power tools such as cutters, jigsaw, circular saw, shop vac, and other fixtures such as nails and flooring screws.
I’ve a set of protective clothing I use when working on the damaged floor area.
4) Consider a professional
Finally, if you’re in doubt and are not sure whether you’ll manage to fix the broken floor, you can consider the services of a professional.
It’s particularly true if you’ve a large area to cover and the water damage on the frame is immense.
Replacement Flooring Options for RVs
Replacing your spongy RV floor isn’t only a good way to do some repairs but also to recreate your living space.
Now, whether you’re fixing an old RV or simply upgrading the whole floor, there’re several RV floorings options available.
Understand there’s not really a one-size-fits-all, as all the available materials have distinct pros and cons.
The suitability of a replacement wood/new wood will depend on the damaged location and, to some extent, your preferences.
Personally, I’m a big fan of Vinyl flooring material, especially in sections prone to wetness and water spills such as the sink, toilet, and bathroom.
The vinyl floor is more long-lasting and can withstand water and wetness. It’s such a handy option, especially in high-traffic areas.
Another incredible replace material is carpet.
It may not be the most durable flooring option, but it feels plush and makes the bedroom space cozier.
Plus, it has incredible sound-absorbing properties, so it might be great if you’re camping in a park.
The only markdown with the carpet is that it’s a little more involved in maintenance since it requires regular cleaning.
Some of the motorhomes also come with laminate material. It’s good wood, especially if you’re on a budget and still want a luxurious look of the vinyl flooring. I’ve laminate material on my RV storage area.
Unfortunately, the cost cut measures on the laminate flooring mean they’ve a limited shelf-life and are prone to water damage.
The last material is the hardwood flooring. It has a rustic feel but requires greater maintenance. Plus, it is bulky, and like tiles, it adds the overall camper weight, ultimately sacrificing fuel efficiency.
What Causes a Spongy Floor?
Generally, the main cause of sponginess on your RV new flooring boils down to the water, moisture, or wetness of some form.
However, it can also be caused by other factors such as rot in the wood.
Damage from water is the main cause of a spongy RV floor.
Water damage on your RV floor may come in different forms, including a leak in the plumbing system, drips from your sinks and bathroom, floods, or even rainwater.
The effects of water on your RV are usually not instant.
They typically take some time, and the first implication is the rotting of woods on the old floor.
Rotten woods and plywood usually lose their integrity and become soft and flaky.
Besides wetness and moisture, pests and rodents can also greatly harm the wood and cause its rotting.
Cost of Replacing an RV Floor
I can’t quantify the overall cost of replacing or repairing an RV floor. It depends on the levels of damages and the circumstances surrounding the damage.
For example, repairing should be quick, effortless, and inexpensive if your water damage is only localized to the stairs.
However, if it’s major damage that has already worked its way and eaten the mainframe of your truck, then the repairing process can get outright involving and expensive, too.
You may also consider hiring a professional to repair your subfloor, but this will even cost you more.
The good thing is to always be on the lookout during maintenance. Have a keen eye on the state of your RV.
And once you notice any signs of a soft spot, don’t wait until it’s too late.
There you’ve it; I’ve just shared a step-by-step guide that I usually follow when repairing the floor in my camper.
Unless the extent of the water damage is big, the RV floor repair process should be easy and quite straightforward.
As I mentioned early, start your fixing by paying attention to the most prone areas such as the toilet, cabinets, sink, bathroom, and covered plumbing system.
Of course, depending on the effort and resources required, it’s sometimes better if you hire a professional.
Assess the damages, and if you think you can perform the repairs, our guide will be quite helpful.
While at it, exercise caution, and if you think you can’t replace the plywood floor, consider a professional.