How to Replace RV Flooring
As you may already know, we are in the midst of transforming our (new to us) RV into a rustic modern motorhome before we hit the open road in July. For those that are curious we have a 2008 Tiffin Allegro Openroad 32LA. When we purchased our coach we knew one of the first projects we would tackle would be to replace the boring beige carpet and tiles. Besides, traveling in an RV with carpet and fur babies just sounds like a disaster waiting to happen.
After doing tons of research online and in the RV forums Eric and I decided that vinyl plank-style flooring was going to be our best option. Hardwoods can be heavy, and laminate and water don’t mix well so when it comes to our house on wheels we opted for waterproof flooring that would provide the rustic style we prefer, with the durability we need. Most importantly, we wanted something that looked and felt like wood.
We recently teamed up with Floor & Decor for this project and you may recall our previous trip to a local store where we looked at various options, and even put our 2 favorites up for a vote. The winner was Nucore Handscraped Ashen Oak. Isn’t it dreamy with its warm tones and the subtle hint of gray?
It’s new technology only available at Floor & Decor, and although it’s not exactly vinyl it’s an engineered flooring with a layer of luxury vinyl adhered to a waterproof core. It also has a hyper-allergenic cork backing that is soft underfoot and resistant to mold and mildew.
It checked every box so we knew it would be perfect. Of course right before we began to replace the RV flooring we ran into a pretty big issue, we had a really bad ceiling leak in the RV that spanned from the bathroom into part of the kitchen. Bleh.
That certainly set things back a bit but we are super excited to finally share our new flooring with you. Now keep in mind that we still have a laundry list of projects to finish but we wanted to share the progress that has been made so far. We will share additional photos of the flooring once the renovation is complete.
A couple of our big concerns with replacing the carpet in our RV with new flooring was how we would address the slide-out and the area around the “doghouse” aka engine cover.
Although I assisted Eric throughout the process, he did the majority of the work so I’ll let him give you all the details on how we replaced the RV flooring, along with some tips we learned along the way. Even though we installed this flooring in our RV, it’s technically made for a sticks and bricks home, so if you don’t have an RV I hope you find this post helpful as well.
How to Replace RV Flooring
As Katie mentioned, we recently discovered a water leak in the RV. We made the decision to remove the bathroom walls and fixtures in order to remove the damaged ceiling panel. We planned to make updates to many of these items anyway so it wasn’t a big deal, but this isn’t necessary if your only objective is to replace the RV flooring. If you want to remove some of your furniture first you can see how we removed our sofa here and our dinette set here.
The style in our RV wasn’t awful, but it didn’t feel like home to us. The new flooring has made a huge impact on the overall feel of the RV, despite so many unfinished projects surrounding it.
Drill/Forstner Bit (if you need to make holes for any wires)
The NuCore flooring we used is essentially a “floating floor” so it can be placed over most existing flooring, with the exception of carpet. Technically we could have placed it over the tiled areas of our RV, but as many of you may know, weight is of utmost importance in the RV and we wanted to ensure everything was level. For this reason, we figured it would be best to remove the old flooring in order to eliminate as much weight as possible. The other great thing about this flooring is that it doesn’t need to acclimate before installation. It’s ready to go out of the box.
First Thing’s First, Remove the Old RV Flooring
We started by removing the peel and stick vinyl tiles we had throughout most of our unit. These were relatively easy to remove with a miniature crowbar. What was surprising was the weight of the tiles. When you hold just one it didn’t seem that bad, but once you had 3 or 4 in your hand the overall weight will blow your mind.
After we had all of the tiles removed we turned our attention to the carpet. For those that don’t know, the flooring is generally installed inside the RV before the walls are put up, which can make it a bit trickier to remove. Wearing gloves is highly recommended during this process.
I wish I could tell you that the carpet removal process was as easy as the tile, but I can’t. Due to the number of staples used, it may take a bit of time to get all of the carpet removed from your RV. After seeing the number of staples used in the carpet of other motorhomes, I actually think we were pretty lucky. Even so, it was still a bit rough.
I used several different tools in an attempt to gain any advantage I could, but the most useful was the utility knife and a pair of square-headed pliers.
You may get frustrated and exhausted while pulling up the carpet, but know that the outcome will be well worth it. You just may never want to see another staple. Ever. Again.
Once the old flooring was removed we vacuumed the subfloor and made sure it was clean and smooth.
How to Cut the Flooring
You can cut the flooring planks by using a utility knife and a leftover piece of flooring, or a square. I opted for the square when cutting straight lines, however, as you progress through your RV you will notice many detailed cuts you need to make. For those cuts, I used our jigsaw.
There were a few pieces we needed cut down pretty narrow and I used our table saw for this. Although this isn’t necessary it certainly sped the process up a bit. When cutting the vinyl plank flooring with a jigsaw or any other saw it is important to wear both safety goggles and a face mask as there will be A LOT of debris flying about.
How to Install Flooring in the RV
When installing the flooring in your RV you will want to start with the planks against the longest wall in the unit.
Once you have your flooring in hand you will see that it has different connectors on each side that interlock. You will want to have the female connector of the plank facing away from the wall, as the male connector comes down on top to connect.
Ok, so now you are ready to lay your first piece on the LONGEST WALL. Make sure to use your spacers to create space for the flooring to expand and contract with the climate changes.
Side Note: In a rush to replace the RV flooring after all of the obstacles we hit, I ended up starting our flooring against the passenger side wall (which is not our longest wall). Once past the kitchen cabinets, we had to start a brand new section from the back left corner of the RV and start coming back toward the front. We had measured the distance from side to side in our RV at three different locations and they all lined up so we knew that it would all come together, at least we hoped it would. Luckily it did and we didn’t need to use a transition strip. As long as you follow the included instructions you should be good to go.
Line the female connector from the first piece up with the male connector of the second piece and give it a slight tap with the mallet to secure it. Continue this process down the length of the wall.
In the photo below you can see that the female connector faces away from the wall.
Once you arrive at the end you may need to cut the last piece to finish the row (when doing this, do not cut off the side of the plank with the connector you need).
Use the leftover piece from your cut to start your next row, this is an easy way to ensure your joints are staggered.
The angle-tap installation makes this process pretty easy. Just make sure to attach your next piece at a 45-degree angle then push down to ensure they snap together. Then securely attach the end with a few taps from your rubber mallet.
Here’s a photo of the flooring after we finished up a few rows:
It’s important to remember that you do not want to have any pieces that are less than 12 inches long. If you do not have to cut one to fit in the end you will still want to cut a piece to start your next row. I say this because you do not want the seams of side by side rows to match, in fact, the seams should be staggered at least 12 inches apart.
The only area that we didn’t follow this was the small 3-inch gap between the stairwell and our kitchen cabinets.
At one point we considered completely removing the kitchen cabinets, but due to the water heater being secured underneath them we decided it wasn’t necessary. I will say this, make sure you keep your vents inside the cabinets unlike we did. Of course, removing them from the floor is a good idea.
Cutting Holes for Electrical Wires and Chair Bolts
We didn’t want to leave any of the carpet upfront so we removed our Captain’s Chairs, which also allowed us to run the flooring throughout. This, in turn, left the four bolts for each chair that we had to operate around. We measured out the exact location of the bolts on the planks and then drilled the holes with our Forstner Bit.
Our bit size was 1 1/2 but with every RV being different you should find the size that is right for your situation. If you don’t have a way to drill the holes I would suggest a Forstner Bit, it made this job extremely easy.
Installing Flooring Around the RV Doghouse
The framing around the doghouse gave me a bit of anxiety in the beginning. I mean I was just getting started on the install and I had already drilled out the holes for the bolts of the captain’s chair and now I would have to make the flooring hug around the doghouse.
It wasn’t nearly as bad as I had anticipated. I used cardboard from one of the leftover boxes from the flooring to create a template.
As you continue throughout the RV you will need to make other precise cuts, so I would suggest keeping the cardboard boxes in order to make your templates.
Do I need to replace the RV flooring under the bed?
For us, the answer to this question was no. We have seen where other people completely removed their bed frame in order to get the flooring underneath. However, the mechanical system for our bedroom slide-out is actually located under our bed. (This is also the reason we had to nix the murphy bed idea.)
For this reason, we decided it would be best to cut out as much carpet as possible before installing the flooring around it.
We removed the panel at the foot of the bed in order to make this process a little easier.
On the sides of the bed, I ran the planks about 8 inches underneath it. With the 8 inches under the bed, I was still able to lock in the joints of the flooring while also creating the appearance that the flooring was running all the way beneath. It was a lot easier than I expected and I think it turned out pretty good.
Installing Flooring on the RV Slide-Out
This is another section of the RV that had me a bit in knots. Although there is some information out there, there isn’t much and every RV is different. So, unfortunately, there’s no cookie-cutter way to replace the RV flooring in a slide-out. So we did what anyone would do, and attacked it head-on.
Installing the flooring in the slide-out was as easy as installing it everywhere else in the RV. However, you may need to install a level subfloor first if your slide has rollers that make it uneven.
Check out Our Video on Replacing the Flooring on an RV Slide Out Below:
We had removed the black plastic trim from the edge of the slide-out and also removed the “female connector” from the last edge of the flooring.
If you’re looking for ways to finish the edge of your slide-out, you may want to consider using Stair Nose Moulding. This is what we originally planned to use, but couldn’t find any that matched our specific flooring at the local Floor and Decor stores. That’s when we decided to use pine outside corner moulding, which is essentially a piece of wood at a 90-degree angle, that we could stain to match our flooring. We found it with the other wood trim options at Home Depot.
We cut both ends to a 45-degree angle to create a finished look on the corners, gave it a coat of stain and then nailed them into place with our nail gun. I’ve heard of other people using contact cement to attach a trim piece but we opted to use the nail gun instead.
(Update: Should have listened to Katie and used the contact cement because we’ve since had to randomly hammer back the nails that pop out. It hasn’t happened a ton, but it has happened over the years. You can read about it in our RV flops post/video.)
Here’s a photo showing a close up of where the slide-out meets the rest of the flooring:
Adding Quarter Round Trim
We added quarter round trim around some areas of the RV using our nail gun. Use caution whenever screwing in or nailing items inside the RV. We used smaller nails along the edge of the walls and it seemed to work just fine. You may want to consider using something else, maybe even contact cement or carpet tape to attach it to the walls.
We have custom furniture plans in the works so we didn’t add trim everywhere as you can see in some of the photos. We figure we will wait until all of the furniture (and walls) are back in before finishing up the rest of the trim.
When I first thought about replacing the RV flooring I have to admit I was a little nervous. I had never installed flooring before, let alone inside a moving vehicle. Sure, I had my moments when I had to make some crazy cuts (like around the toilet), but overall the jointing system on the NuCore flooring made it literally and figuratively a snap. After you make a few cuts you get the hang of it allowing the process to speed up.
It may not be perfect, but we are both excited about how it turned out. It’s certainly the first step in transforming our RV into our rustic modern motorhome.
Well, that about wraps it up for how we replaced the RV flooring. So what do you think so far?
I hope this post was helpful for you or guides you in the right direction.
Do you have any tips when it comes to installing flooring inside an RV? If so we would love to hear about them in the comments. And if you plan to update your flooring be sure to stop by Floor & Decor for beautiful yet affordable options that are easy to install.
Thank you so much to Floor & Decor for providing us with such beautiful flooring! As always, all opinions are 100% our own.