Archive for June, 2008

New Sub-floor Installed

Thursday, June 12th, 2008

Physically, this has been a tough job for me. I’ve spent too many days down on my knees working on the floor replacement and sometimes I’ve come home totally exhausted. But it really is nearly done. The new sub-floor is in and now I only need to lay down a floor covering, re-attach the inner wall panels, bed and cabinets. Then I get to install the new water heater.

The floor where the water heater sits was iffy – not quite bad enough to remove, but requiring attention for sure. I drilled and poked small holes in the softer areas and poured nearly a bottle of wood hardener onto the area. The hardener soaked into the OSB immediately. It was almost like pouring water onto sand. That is how quickly it was absorbed. And while it made the wood harder it also seemed to dissolve some of the epoxy that holds it all together. And that’s a concern. So, yesterday, I applied the first coating of fiberglass epoxy, working that down into the area. Today I’ll apply another second and maybe even a third coat. I don’t think it will require any matting though.

Street side corner after removal of rotten and moldy flooring.
Same street side corner afterward.

Although I’m having some anxiety about finishing it all in the remaining one and a half weeks (we need to leave for International by the 24th), it is exciting. I’m pretty happy with the results. The floor feels very solid and I have a lot of confidence in it now. I seem to always work faster and more productively when I’m faced with a deadline. Otherwise I imagine this project would have lasted for several months instead of several weeks.

A Composite Wood Floor

Monday, June 9th, 2008

I’ve removed the moldy sub-floor and uncovered a previous attempt by someone to reinforce the rotted floor. I can only call it a patch job at best, because to me it’s like putting a Band-Aid on skin cancer. The goal, I suppose, was to shore up the sagging floor by putting another floor below it. The “repair” used corner braces and two pieces of scrap plywood. Of course the mold spread to it too.

A patch job.

I love my digital camera. I dropped it through a small hole and took a snap shot of the chassis below the patch job but above the pan. It clearly shows what was done.

Angle iron and scrap plywood are a Band Aid, not a repair.

All of this has been removed. It has been an ugly dirty job, but the area has now been wire brushed, the chassis sprayed with a Rustoleum Rust Reformer (a rust conversion formula), and I am now in the process of installing a new floor. Along the way I’ve made other minor rivet repairs and rerouted some wiring for a more efficient layout.

I’m replacing the floor without dropping the pan, yet I’ll be able to assemble the floor using elevator bolts. I’m doing this by not going with sheet plywood or OSB. Instead, I’m being adventurous. I’m using Trex decking lumber – or more precisely Trex deck trim board. Initially, I did consider plywood. I don’t know how it is in your area of the country, but here in the Denver area neither plywood nor OSB can be had in true 5/8” thickness. Instead, both Lowes and Home Depot display 23/32” as being the equivalent.

The original flooring in the Excella is 5/8” though, and that is what the perimeter aluminum floor channel is sized for. 23/32” will not go into a 5/8” space! I would say “Duh,” but I had to find out the hard way by trying in vain to do it.

The deck trim board though is exactly 5/8”. It slides into the floor channel perfectly – not loosely, but snug. Trex is a composite product made of wood and plastic fibers. Trex gets its plastic and wood fibers from reclaimed or recycled resources, including sawdust and used pallets from woodworking operations, and recycled plastic grocery bags. According to the Trex web site, 5/8” can be obtained in 4’ wide panels ranging in length from 4’ to 12’. A panel would make this rehab more difficult and involved though. But panels would work well for any frame-off restoration or new trailer assembly at the Airstream factory (hint, hint).

There are at least a couple of negatives to using this material though. One, it is pricy; about $33 for a 12’ x 9.05” x 5/8” board. Two, it is considerably heavier than either of the other wood products. But I feel the positives outweigh the negatives. Trex does not splinter, warp, delaminate, rot, or swell. It is impervious to water and insects. It has excellent crush resistance. It does not require painting, staining or priming. It cuts as easily as wood and is much more flexible.

Its flexibility I initially thought of as a negative, but it makes the rehab installation much easier. To keep the floor from feeling soft though I do have to reinforce some areas to give it more support. The boards also use more fasteners and other hardware to install it. But I have most of that already left over from previous projects. The boards also will have a small gap between each to allow for expansion. But since Trex is to be the sub-floor I’m not too concerned about that. Most of the bedroom floor area is storage and I’ll recover those areas with the aluminum diamond plate that Airstream installed. The living area of the bedroom floor will get Tom’s floating floor back. All of this will cover the gaps.

The end result will be a floor that might outlast the rest of the trailer – of course we may have to wait anywhere from 20 to 40 years to find that out! Still, this is an experiment, so wish me luck!

About the Author

Hi, my name is Forrest McClure. I've been writing for the magazine since its inception. My wife and I travel with our 1966 20' Globe Trotter or our 1986 32' Excella. So, my primary interest is vintage travel trailers.