How to Replace RV Flooring
This post was written in 2016, but updated in 2023
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When we purchased our RV, we were excited to replace the dirty beige carpet and tiles. Not only was it dingy and dated, but traveling in an RV with carpet and fur babies seemed like a disaster waiting to happen.
After countless hours researching options online, Eric and I decided on a floating floor made of luxury vinyl planks. We chose luxury vinyl planks because we wanted something lightweight, flexible, and waterproof that would be stylish and durable.
A floating floor doesn’t require nails or adhesive for installation and instead uses a locking system. Since it floats above the subfloor or existing flooring, it can contract or expand as the temperature and humidity fluctuate, which can be both beneficial and a burden. Beneficial because humidity and temperatures often change when you travel in an RV, but there is the potential of buckling over time.
It’s 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.
With that said, there are several flooring options available, each with its own set of pros and cons. Do your research, consider your budget, skills, resources, and lifestyle, then choose the best-suited option for you. While eco-friendly flooring was limited and expensive during our renovation, more options have become available at various price points.
In my opinion, it’s best to look for something waterproof (or at least water-resistant), lightweight, durable, and easy to clean. And according to most RV renovators, it’s also best to stick to flooring under 5mm thick, especially if you have a slide-out, though ours was slightly thicker and we never had an issue.
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. We have created separate posts for those areas, which you can check out here and here.
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
I’d first like to mention that Katie and I recently discovered a water leak in the RV, so 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.
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.
The NuCore flooring we used is essentially a “floating floor” so it can be placed over most existing flooring, with the exception of carpet. The other great thing about this LVP flooring is that it doesn’t need to acclimate before installation. It’s ready to go straight out of the box.
- NuCore Flooring
- Quarter Round
- Baseboard (optional)
- Rubber Mallet
- Tape Measure
- Utility Knife
- Jigsaw/table saw (optional but can speed things along)
- Drill/Forstner Bit (if you need to make holes for any wires)
- Oscillating Multi-tool or staple lifter to remove all the staples in old carpet
Remove the Old RV Flooring
We started by removing the peel and stick vinyl tiles we had throughout most of our unit. 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 remove any unnecessary weight and ensure everything was level.
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 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.
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.
Once the old flooring was removed we vacuumed the subfloor and made sure it was clean and smooth.
How to Cut Luxury Vinyl Plank 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. And while a table saw may not be necessary (depending on your flooring thickness), it sped things along and made the process even easier. Especially for a few pieces that we needed to cut down pretty narrow.
How to Install LVP Flooring in a 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.
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.
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.
It’s important to remember that you don’t 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 do recommend keeping 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.
Installing LVP Flooring Around the RV Doghouse aka Engine CoVer
If you don’t have a motorhome, you won’t need to worry about this. The framing around the engine cover 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/engine cover.
Thankfully, 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 suggest keeping the cardboard boxes in order to make your templates.
Installing LVP Flooring on the RV Slide-Out
Every RV is different. So, unfortunately, there’s no cookie-cutter way to replace the RV flooring in a slide-out. We wrote a separate post on how to update the flooring in a RV slide out here, or you can watch the video below.
Adding Quarter Round Trim
We added quarter-round trim around some areas of the RV using our nail gun (you may choose to add a baseboard instead of or in addition to quarter round trim). 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, though you may want to consider other options like construction adhesive.
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.
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.
Here are some updated photos:
Well, that about wraps it up for how we replaced the RV flooring. I hope this post was helpful for you or guides you in the right direction. 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.
What I (Katie) would do differently
Our floors are pretty dark, much darker than I anticipated. Looking back, I wish we would have chosen a lighter floor color.
In my experience, most people fall into one of two categories:
- You want to see dirt so you can clean it.
- You want to hide or camouflage dirt, so you don’t need to clean it as often.
I fall into the first category, at least in this season of life. While it can be annoying to see dirt or pet fur tumbleweeds, I’d rather know they are there. I can decide if I want to clean them up right away or not, but either way, I want to see the dirt rather than have it camouflaged into our dark flooring.
After traveling around in an RV, I can also tell you that different locations have different bug issues. When spiders, ants, or the dreaded Asian beetles make their way in, I want to know about it. If you fall into this category, you too may want to consider going with a light or medium colored flooring, and the same goes for the paint colors you choose. Lighter flooring will also brighten up the RV interior.
Whether you see it or not, the dirt is there, but I can understand the desire to make it less noticeable. If you prefer an interior that hides dirt more than showcasing it, you may want to consider darker colors. Once you understand your personal preference, it’s easier to make a decision based on your lifestyle and needs.
If you’re still on the fence, there are several websites with a flooring visualizer where you can upload a photo of your RV to get an idea of how different flooring options will look in the space. To find one of these websites, do a quick google search for “Floor Visualizer,” and multiple options will pop up. Regardless of the flooring you choose, I highly recommend ordering samples first so you can get a true sense of how the color and texture will feel. Not to mention how it feels underfoot – not all flooring is created equal and that extra cushion some offer, can make a world of a difference!
Check out The Nomad’s Guide to Decorating ebook for more RV interior tips and inspiration.