Did you buy a used mobile home with worn carpet or flooring that you did not like because the price was right? Have you had the same mobile home for several years and the flooring is worn and you no longer like it? Do you want to replace the flooring in your RV and are looking for a change?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you’ll want to check out this guide where we will go over the essentials of installing new flooring in your RV. We will also cover some of the shortcuts that RV manufacturers routinely use when building your rig, and what’s best when correcting their design flaws.
Understand the manufacturing process of your RV.
The first thing I look for in a guide to repairing or replacing any part of your RV’s original plan is that you thoroughly understand the design and manufacturing of your RV. RVs are generally built from the outside in. This means that after the subfloor is laid, the finished floor is laid immediately and the interior walls or cabinetry is laid on top of the finished floor.
While this saves time and labor costs for the builder, it is problematic if the original flooring is to be replaced. For example, cabinets in kitchens, bathrooms, bedrooms and living areas are usually installed after the flooring has been installed. This means that the flooring in the common space of the moving area will have to be neatly cut and removed, or you will have to clear out the flooring from under the cabinets or wall framing. Honestly, I would recommend the latter of the two options for proper execution of this job.
Why should the flooring under the cabinets or interior walls be removed?
The answer is obvious: if it is a fiber product like carpet, it will not last long, especially if it is cut to a much smaller size than it was originally intended. However, with floor coverings like vinyl or linoleum that do not wear out as quickly over time, it’s perfectly acceptable to leave them in place under cabinets and wall frames, and it would be a better solution than damaging interior walls and cabinets when you try to remove them. It’s unusual for manufacturers to put the frames above the carpet, but I have seen it done, especially on older motorhomes.
Carpet vs. other flooring, which is the best choice?
This is a difficult question to answer, as every camper has different tastes and preferences. I myself ain’t a big fan of carpeted RVs. Sure, they look nice when they’re new at RV shows and dealerships, but if you’ve e’er bought a new RV, you’ve probably noticed that a protective sheet has been temporarily placed over the carpet to protect it during the sales process.
In my opinion, carpet doesn’t last long, and it gets dirty too quickly depending on where you camp. Unless you’re willing to take preventative measures, like banning shoes in the house or putting out temporary door mats, you’ll probably spend a lot of time keeping your carpet clean. When my mother and her husband were alive and traveling the country in their Class A carpeted mobile home, they’d plastic mats that were about an eighth of an inch thick and had little pointy plastic clips on the bottom to hold them to the carpet. I understood why they used these mats, but they were cold, hard, and uncomfortable to walk on.
Plus, these plastic mats needed to be cleaned regularly. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to have a hard floor covering that took less time to clean and maintain, rather than a protective plastic covering that also had to be cleaned regularly by taking it outside, hosing it down, and scrubbing it occasionally? Also, they traveled with two cats, so every time they took the plastic mats out of their home, they’d to vacuum the carpet to remove the pet hair that got caught in the carpet along the edges of the walls and cabinets.
Since I always travel with a dog, a carpeted RV is out of the question for me. Instead, I prefer an interplay of carpet, hard flooring such as wood, vinyl, linoleum, and in some cases even ceramic tile to create a cohesive flow and design for my RV when I remodel it.
What do I mean by an interactive design?
When I bought my mobile home, I purchased it from a widow who’d lived in it for 16 years. She and her husband had bought it new from a dealer less than a mile from the campground where they were spending their retirement. In short, they’d taken great care of the vehicle, protecting the tyres and undercarriage by protecting those areas and components from the elements. Over time, however, the carpeting inside the vehicle had deteriorated.
As conscientious and permanent full-time residents, they replaced the interior carpeting when they owned the vehicle. Unfortunately, in doing so, they hired a carpet installer who installed the carpet on the floor and then pulled it over the slide outs. While this worked well for them when they lived there full-time during the colder months of Northern Michigan, it presented a major problem for me when I decided to move the RV to another location after I purchased the vehicle.
The first thing I did when I tried to move my newly purchased RV was, of course, to pull in the slide out. This took about 12 seconds, then I heard the slide out motor start to drag and bounce. I immediately stopped retracting the slide because I didn’t want the motor to lose its smoke. According to my high school shop teacher, a motor that’s emitting smoke is usually broken.
As it turned out, the people I bought my fifth wheel from had bought it from a dealer less than a mile from the campground where they lived full time for the next 18 years. At some point they’d replaced the carpet, and while it was in good shape, there was a major mistake in the installation.
I lived in it for a year before deciding to leave, and the night before I left I decided to test the move-out to see if it worked properly. It didn’t. Instead, it retracted about five inches and then stopped. The electric motor started humming loudly, so I immediately stopped the retraction to look for the problem.
Naturally, I looked under the slide for something that might be preventing it from retracting. Next I examined the rails and found no problem there either. The motor was working because I could extend it all the way, but it would only retract a few inches, then stop.
Puzzled, I went into the house to figure out what the problem could be, and that’s when I discovered what was causing the pullout not to retract. Quite simply, the person who installed the new carpet didn’t cut it to fit the move-out separately.
My slide-out has a four-inch high riser, and the carpet installers simply went over the riser without cutting the carpet to fit separately on the riser. This, of course, prevented the pullout from retracting, and I was able to solve the problem very quickly with a box cutter. However, the knob of the carpet was thicker than the original factory installation, and it still wouldn’t retract all the way. Instead, it stayed about an inch away from being fully pulled inside my RV. This didn’t stop me from heading out that day, as I was on my way to a work campground and needed to be there per our contractual agreement. It did, however, get me thinking about how to fix the problem, which I did later that summer.
My solution to my flooring problems and getting started in the bathroom area.
I have given a lot of thought to the angles I need to consider when installing new flooring in my mobile home.
Since I was initially refinishing my bathroom with vinyl tile, I bought this handy contour measuring tool. They work well when you need to make special cuts in the tiles to compensate for corners around vanities, cabinets, and especially around the toilet, which always has a rounded shape, making it harder to accurately cut the tiles around it.
Normally you would remove the toilet for this task, but that can sometimes be a messy job, and since I had already replaced the toilet once, I did not want to repeat the process.
For my bathroom flooring, I chose a gray, 12″ x 12″ self-adhesive vinyl tile manufactured by Achim Home Furnishings and available online or in many larger stores. The medium tone and wood grain of this tile went well with the semi-white and gray colors for the walls, the darker gray color for the trim, and the neutral lighter shade of gray for the bedding.
Overall, I was very pleased with this tile, and I was also glad that I had decided to start with the bathroom because it gave me some time to learn how to properly use the tile, knife, and contour measuring tool before moving on to the larger living spaces in my RV.
To cut my vinyl tile, I used a BIBURY knife. This knife comes with ten extra blades, is foldable, and has a belt clip to keep you from misplacing it on your projects. It is also very functional for other projects, has a good warranty, and is ergonomically designed for ease of use.
For my living room floor, I chose this vinyl floor from Amerlife. I really liked that it was longer and less wide than the tiles I’d used in my bathroom. The grain pattern was very consistent with each tile, and I was able to mix and match the tiles very well in the areas where I installed them.
Since I’m an artist and designer, I didn’t want this type of flooring to take over my entire living area. Instead, I decided to remove the carpet in my living area by fully extending my slide-out, pulling the carpet up, and throwing it out the door. As I said earlier, my slide-out has a four inch high riser that’s carpeted and in good condition.
The aftermarket carpet in the area where the slide-out normally retracts was interfering with this process. After I replaced it with the vinyl tile alternative, the slide-out worked fine and still does.
As an artist and designer, as opposed to installing vinyl tile in its entirety throughout the kitchen and living areas, I left the carpet in the slide-out and used ceramic tile for the kitchen floor. This was actually one of my favorite parts of this design, because it allowed me to create a tile design using broken ceramic pieces from a Mexican tile dealer who specializes in making backsplashes and floor tiles. When these tiles are broken during the manufacturing process, they’re more than happy to sell them for next to nothing. If you’re a good artist or designer, you can make them work for you.
Designing a good floor covering can be complicated. However, it shouldn’t be. Once you know what color or tones to choose, what pattern to select, and how best to install the components, you’ll be well on your way to making your RV a showpiece.
Thank you again, my friends. As always, I hope to see you on the road.