Carve a New Wood Floor for Your Rig

I’m kidding, of course, but that’s what it felt like when we started our project to replace the old, mismatched wood floor in our fifth wheel. In the “Before” pictures you can see that the old floor only covered the main kitchen/dining area, and had aluminum strips screwed down over the transitions to the original vinyl floor in the bedroom and commode. You can also see, under the cats, where we had previously patched the old floor to get rid of the nasty carpet section next to the dining area (we have a separate blog about replacing all that old carpet). The old wood planking was a “floating” floor, and the planks had begun to separate at their ends, allowing all kinds of dirt, dust, and cat litter to collect. It had to go.

Before

The mismatched flooring (between the cats)

The old wood floor, which had been installed in the new unit at the factory, was put in before the cabinetry in the kitchen, and I wasn’t about to remove the cabinets to get the floor out.

Many layers of old flooring, under the cabinets

We had to devise a way, actually several, to cut the old floor even with the edge of the cabinet base so we could install the new floor. We started with a flush-cut hand saw, but that didn’t cut through the composite layers of the old floor very well. We then tried some sharp chisels and a hammer, but that didn’t work so well either, and it was taking forever, and the neighbor was complaining about all the strange “banging”.

Literally carving out the old floor

I tried drilling a line of holes and then chiseling, but that also took forever, and it wasn’t going to work in a few areas that were recessed.

We tried drilling a perforation line

We finally settled on purchasing a new Rockwell SoniCrafter oscillating saw, a tool made for this type of flush cutting. This tool went through the old floor like butter.

Finally! The right tool (wrong manufacturer)

It really performed well right up to the time where I needed to change the blade angle to get at the remaining spots. I discovered the flaw in the saw when the soft allen wrench they supplied to change the lock screw on the blade quickly rounded off at the same time it stripped out the hex cavity on the locking screw, which was also too soft for the job (c’mon Rockwell, get it right!). Luckily, we had finished most of the job, and the few remaining spots weren’t too tough to tackle. The saw went back to Lowe’s for a full refund. Needless to say, I won’t be buying any more Rockwell power tools.

The old flooring also ran under our stairs to the upper level, but rather than cut around them we just disassembled the steps and moved them out of the way (much easier!).

Step dis-assembly was pretty easy

For the new floor we chose Armstrong Exquisite® vinyl plank flooring for a couple of reasons. First, although it only comes in one wood-grain color, it was a good match for the rest of our woodwork. Second, it is very reasonably priced at around $1.80 per sq. ft. at Lowe’s or Home Depot. (Note to travelers: we actually saw this flooring at a Lowe’s in Portland Oregon at $0.99/ft, but unfortunately didn’t buy it at the time, especially with no sales tax!). Third, it is a breeze to install. Since the new floor is also a “floating” one (no glue!) the only prep you need for the existing floor is to clean it of any loose or “bumpy” stuff; smooth is what you want under your vinyl. It comes in 6” x 36” planks that can be trimmed by scoring the top side with a razor knife and “cracking” it from the back. They stick to each other at the ends and the edges, forming a fully sealed vinyl sheet when you are done. The sticky strips have a good work time, so it’s easy to make adjustments while you are installing. If you want other colors or grain patterns, there is a higher end version of this flooring, Velo®, available in 38 other patterns and colors, but the cost goes up to about $3/ft.

Score with a knife, and crack from the back

For the tricky areas Wendy, who is a seamstress and pattern maker, cut out paper patterns to get the fit right before we cut flooring material. The results were well worth the extra few minutes it takes to make the patterns.

Take a few minutes to make paper patterns for those tricky spots

The demolition part of the project took by far the most time, almost 2 days by the time we tried all of our removal solutions. With the proper tools (and good quality ones at that) it would have gone much faster, perhaps 4-6 hours. The installation, which still took us 12 hours, could have gone faster except we were taking our time and trying to stay cooled off in the 95 degree weather. We finished off the flooring with some baseboard. We used a pre-finished synthetic product (Lowe’s or Home Depot) that is a rigid, dense foam covered with a vinyl wood-grain material. It’s easy to work with, cuts like a dream, and installs easily with an electric brad nailer (Arrow ET501 using 5/8” BN1810 brad nails).

Add a baseboard to cover the edges

We are thrilled with the finished project. It gives us one smooth floor from rear to front, so it’s much easier to sweep and clean. It makes the rig look newer and cleaner, and it makes the inside feel longer and more spacious. It’s not a DIY project for the timid, but if you follow the detailed instructions on the new flooring it’s a pretty straightforward thing to do.

The finished product

Oh yeah, here’s Tippy with some advice on buying new tools (something I neglected to do!)

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About W&W Mudd

Once retired from high tech and education, Wendy and Warren now retired from fulltime RV-ing and have taken the leap to boating. Oh yeah, and then there's that un-retired and managing Peoples Storage in Kenmore WA thing.
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2 Responses to Carve a New Wood Floor for Your Rig

  1. Elaine Lasnik-Broida says:

    beautiful floor and happy cats!

  2. Rena Rothstein says:

    Wow! Fabulous job and wonderful improvement. You guys are really pros!

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