RV: Fixing The Floor

We bought this RV planning for repairs and upgrades. Mostly, we’d planned to do them slowly, as needed. We were really excited to get everything hooked up and start traveling! But one thing that definitely had to be looked at before going anywhere was the floor. We had a soft spot in the floor next to the kitchen. Because of the vinyl floor covering, we didn’t know exactly what was going on under there. The day Kent cut and pulled up the vinyl, it was like opening Pandora’s box…

I could also title this post, “Why we probably won’t be going anywhere any time soon.”

Here’s what was waiting for us under that vinyl:

That’s what damp moldy OSB flooring looks like. We have no idea how it got wet in the first place (nothing seems to be leaking there now), but whatever caused it, it never dried out completely.

If you read that article, OSB sounds like the most amazing building material ever invented. It’s lighter than plywood, it’s cheaper, it’s stronger, it’s bug-resistant (if you don’t mind chemicals in your wood products), it just has a bad habit of dissolving when it gets wet. Most RVs are made with the stuff, and it’s commonly used in houses these days as well. (Kent said he knows contractors who have gone out of business for refusing to use OSB.) So those of you in newer houses… just try not to get them wet.

We knew the floor was OSB when we bought the RV, and Kent had planned to replace it with plywood anyway, so this seemed like the perfect first project.

He decided to do it in two stages, front and back, so that we didn’t have to move ourselves and the cats back into the house. (Unfortunately, for the next phase of interior work that we discovered needs to be done, we probably will have to move *sniffle* so really it would have been easier if we’d just done it then. Ah, hindsight…)

I won’t bore you with technical details (unless you’re a flooring geek, in which case feel free to ask in the comments), but first, he ripped up the OSB, the stairs into the bedroom, and the wheel well covers.

Next was removing the fluffy pink insulation, reinforcing the floor beams (a few of which had started to rot under the damp spot) by screwing additional beams on to either side, adding much higher-quality foam insulation, and taping the edges with Gorilla Tape (“toughest tape on the planet”) for further insulation and water-proofing.

The black you see in the first photo is the fabric vapor barrier that runs under the RV meant to keep moisture out. Luckily it’s also strong enough to withstand the weight of cats between eight and twelve pounds because they both insisted on walking all over it, and that was the only thing between them and the ground.

For the final step, he cut 3/4-inch plywood, and screwed it into place.

Adding the extra wood braces and plywood did add weight to the RV, which is something we do have to watch out for. But we’ve heard horror stories about things falling through rotted RV floors to the ground below, so if having a truly solid floor means traveling a bit lighter, so be it. Although I doubt it’s a concern. Toy haulers are meant for hauling heavy things like ATVs and motorcycles. Given that we’re not really planning on traveling with that much stuff, we could probably haul an elephant around and be fine. (Actually, the RV is rated for 15,000 pounds. We COULD haul an elephant in here, African or Asian… Although we’d probably want to upgrade to a bit more steel first.)

So next, we moved everything as far up toward the front of the RV as possible, and he repeated the process in the back.

And there we have it, new floor! And don’t I make this sound so easy. The most difficult thing I had to do was move my office from one end of the RV to the other. We are so incredibly lucky that Kent has all of the construction experience he has. He could pretty much build a house from the ground up, and he also has a lot of experience working on trailers (mobile homes), which translates pretty directly to working on an RV. He is turning a crappy, cheaply-built RV (no knocking our manufacturer, they’re pretty much all crappy and cheaply built, even when you get up to ones 3-4x the retail price of this one) and turning it into a sturdy, beautiful home for us.

Back to the floor, no, we don’t plan to leave it plywood, although it is a rather interesting look. The delay is because of what Kent found when he pulled off part of a wall panel.

What he found there was more rotted wood, and that’s not even the side with the water damage. (The water damage was from a window leak. The previous owner did fix the leak, but we snatched it up before he fixed the damaged wall. RVs leak. NEW RVs leak. You just try to keep them sealed, fix any leaks that happen, and try to minimize the water damage.) Also, the walls are filled with the same pink fluffy insulation as the floor, which isn’t ideal when you’re living in a place where summer temperatures can easily reach 110F and you’re trying to keep your place cool with one small RV air conditioner.

But insulating the walls is the third project. First we want to actually finish the floor, and that requires dealing with the rotted wood at the bottom of the walls. Rather than fixing that from the inside (which would require taking apart all the walls), he decided to remove the “skirting” panels along the bottom of the exterior and replace it from that direction. In doing so, the second project was born.

The OSB inside was only slightly damaged in comparison. The OSB in the exterior compartments was completely destroyed in some places. When he removed the skirting, Kent discovered that the vinyl and vapor barrier were pretty much the only things keeping our water heater from crashing to the ground. Wouldn’t that have been a nice surprise on a freeway somewhere?

I do want to end by saying that even with all this, we’re still very happy with our purchase. I’ve seen this exact model for sale for thousands more than we paid, and I’m pretty sure many of those would have similar issues. Besides, much of this we were planning to upgrade anyway, just not quite this soon… We’ll be getting on the road later than we wanted to, but when we finally do, this RV is going to be an incredible place to live!

Catetory: Locations, Remodeling

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