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Old 01-18-2014, 12:51 PM   #1
3 Rivet Member
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cincinnati , Ohio
Join Date: Jan 2014
Posts: 116
Help me understand when a floor repair is necessary

I am on the bottom end of my learning curve and have been lurking for a while and reading posts. There is an awful lot to learn yet and I imagine I'm asking basic questions, but I have not seen the answers in what I have read so far.

I'm looking at a variety of 24 foot and under Argosys and Airstreams from the 70s. they seem to have the right mix of space, weight and cost. I've read quite a bit on inspection, and realize that this is a slippery slope of a few hundred here and there adding up to many thousands quickly.

I have a goal of finding a trailer and having it ready for a weekend shakedown trip in early August, then a 10 day or so long drive and boondocking in the desert. I know I'll likely need new axles/brakes/shocks/tires, likely will need a new umbilical cords, upgrade the electric from the univolt and a new batter and misc repairs to the A/C along with possible work to the water lines/holding tanks, propane set up and of course the soft goods like bedding and gouchos. That already seems like a fair bit of work.

Reading through many of the threads on this forum, many folks seem to like to do a frame off restoration. That's not in the cards for me due to time. If I have soft spots or rotted in my floor, I'd like to fix those without removing the frame and move on. I've got a workshop full of woodworking tools, along with a wood/metal bandsaw. My questions on the flooring are as follow:

1) When does a flooring repair have to be made - are small soft spots, of say 10x10 or less a safety issue? What are my risks if I don't repair and go on a long trip?
2) At what point does one need to cut the soft spot out, rather than using say a thin marine grade epoxy to stabilize?
3) How is the plywood attached to the frame - are there screws or is this done with rivets?
4) to repair the floor, I assume that I would need to repair whatever section there is between two cross bars in the floor, correct?
5) why type of plywood needs to be used? Can I use some high quality American/Canadian made cabinet ply - if so, does it need to be painted/sealed?
6) beyond the doors, windows and bathroom, are there any other areas that typically have soft floors? Are any of these areas particularly difficult to repair without a frame off restoration?

Thanks all in advance for your comments. They will really help to guide me on my ongoing search for a reasonably priced unit that will be able to function as intended and will be durable enough to be driven a distance without major issues.

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Old 01-18-2014, 01:37 PM   #2
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2001 30' Excella
Somerset , New Jersey
Join Date: Jan 2009
Posts: 2,209
I've only had to so a small floor repair. You will probably hear from people here that have much more experience but I will try and share what I've found. My repair was in the forward compartment of a 30' Airstream. It was inside the door and to the right and was soft enough to flake and pull up by hand. It had been saturated for awhile due to a bad seal at the non-opening window to the right of the door. Previous owner had installed a floating cork floor. Since I was able to still match the floor material I was able to pull up the floor in the forward compartment cut out the rotten floor from roughly the center of the door opening to the main frame rail and forward to sound wood AND a crossmember. Most of the flooring I removed was not re-usable. Some that had been over the good wood was. The factory had, for a few years in the mid-80's, used a flake board and it did not hold up well at all with moisture. Plywood is more forgiving. If the floor is plywood and has not deteriorated there are some products that may work to saturate and stabilize the plywood. I've never tried it but they are common products used in the boat industry. The plywood is held down by screws with big heads. It think they are called elevator bolts. I found them almost impossible to remove. Using a multi-tool I ate the wood around them and cut them off. The floor is pushed into a "C" channel along the outside rim. It was difficult to get the rotten floor out but using a multitude of tools and methods it will eventually all come out. There are also bolts that come through from below the "C" channel. My repair was a small section so I left them in place and cut a notch in my new plywood and pressed it into the "C" channel rather than remove the belly pan to access the bottom. Matching the thickness of new floor to the old I cut a patch making sure it lapped onto frame members for the new bolts to grab. Using a router bit I tapered the edge of the new plywood so it would be easier to push into the "C" channel. This was only 1/16" or so. I got some new elevator bolts and found I needed to drill a hole into the frame then using a power driver they held nicely. They are self drilling but I found that if I used the driver they didn't hold in the metal frame well. I had removed the lower wall panels so I left everything exposed for a couple of weeks to fully dry and to make sure I had the leak sealed.

To answer one of your questions I think that ANY soft spots need to be addressed. Fortunately for me mine was in the front and accessible without needing to remove any appliances or walls. All are not so lucky. I only needed to remove the front couch and folding tables.

Sorry to be so long winded but I was just trying to fully cover what I've done.
Good luck and if you have any more questions just ask.

Roger in NJ

" Democracy is the worst form of government. Except for all the rest"
Winston Churchill 1948

TAC - NJ 18

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Old 01-18-2014, 06:03 PM   #3
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1981 31' Excella II
New Market , Alabama
Join Date: Sep 2011
Posts: 5,706
The places that require structural repairs are where you need to worry. These would be at the very front and especially the very back. The back end is usually where the problems are since the plate that goes under the back of the trailer funnels water under the rear of the trailer and rots the floor and frame out. The shell is attached at the back by a plate that attaches to the rear cross member and the frame rails on each side of that cross member. If this connection is weak or not there at all you have major problems. Any floor sections not in those areas can be patched with exterior glue plywood or marine plywood not treated plywood. Small areas can be treated with epoxy. Usually you put a small piece of wood under the existing floor then use that to attached the new piece. The same type of problems can occur at the front in the same area. Sections close to the walls require removal of the interior skin so you can put the new sections under the C-channel and fasten by putting screws through the C-channel into the new floor section. The C-channel is the U shaped piece at the bottom of the wall that fastens to the floor and in some places the frame or outriggers.

I would seal new wood with urethane or similar.

Virtually all trailers that have been outside in the eastern US are going to require major structural repairs after 30-40yrs. Unless you find one that has been kept dry you are most likely in for a major rebuild. On the west coast you might find some that don't need much work.

Plan on paying $5k for a $500 trailer and spending the next two years and $10k to $15k fixing it up.

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Old 01-26-2014, 05:28 AM   #4
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1972 27' Overlander
Denver , North Carolina
Join Date: Aug 2004
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As always an inciteful well thought out answer. I am at the point with my 72 Overlander where today I will cut the plywood out of the rear end. The plate has disintegrated the plywood is rotten and the c channel is shot. I know when I put it back together I will flash it. What if would like is a diagram or photo of what that area should look like when assembled correctly. I am photo documenting my work and will post it on this site when I finish.


Lucky Dave, Denver NC
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Old 01-26-2014, 06:17 AM   #5
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1973 27' Overlander
Portsmouth , Virginia
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Check my blog for pix on doing the rear floor in a 73 overlander. <points down>

Ongoing adventures at:
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Old 01-26-2014, 08:34 AM   #6
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1978 Argosy Minuet 6.0 Metre
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Help me understand when a floor repair is necessary

Greetings RhinoWW!

Since you are in the search mode for an Airstream or Argosy trailer, there is one way that you can side-step the plywood sub-floor rot issue since you are considering first generation Argosy travel trailers 24 feet or less. The Argosy Minuets from 1977-1979 offer composite aluminum floors that are not subject to significant rot issues. The composite aluminum floors can be found in a rather large percentage of the 6.0 Metre Minuets and some of the 6.7 Metre Minuets. The biggest downfall to the composite aluminum floors is that you are limited to either carpeting or floating floor coverings. The composite aluminum floors can also develop depressions in high foot traffic areas and in some cases, owners have added additional cross-members to the frame to provide additional support in areas where the depressions occur.

Good luck with your investigation and search!

Kevin D. Allen
WBCCI (Lifetime Member)/VAC/Free Wheelers #6359
AIR #827
1964 Overlander International/1999 GMC K2500 Suburban (7400 VORTEC/4.11 Differentials)
1978 Argosy Minuet 6.0 Metre/1975 Cadillac Eldorado Convertible (8.2 Liter V8/2.70 Final Drive)
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Old 01-27-2014, 06:37 AM   #7
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cincinnati , Ohio
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Thanks. I just missed out on a 6 meter version. Emailed within two hours of the cl posting but was too slow. I still looking and hoping. Cost and condition are my current drivers.
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Old 01-27-2014, 06:53 AM   #8
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1981 31' Excella II
New Market , Alabama
Join Date: Sep 2011
Posts: 5,706
That bumper leak can still kill the frame in the back even if you get the aluminum floors. Let the buyer beware.

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Old 01-27-2014, 06:18 PM   #9
4 Rivet Member
1964 22' Safari
1962 28' Ambassador
enosburg , Vermont
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 313
Sounds like you have a very good handle on things, not blinded by shiny aluminum! As far as getting a summer run with the floor as is depends on the condition of the perimeter plywood. With the exception of a couple frame out riggers & front holddown plate that 2 inch perimeter is the only thing securing the body to the frame. You can get by with a weak middle area but not the edges. Do a visual around the interior where the wall meets the floor, give the wall a little push, try to punch through w/ a screw driver. If it seems reasonably ok I'd give it a run. bear in mind unless you have an exception to the rule floors in older A streams need replacement. All you do now will be undone in the future to replace that floor. Your plans for this summer were exactly mine years back with my 1st one. 4000 miles round trip. We made it no problem. replaced the floor that winter!!! Good luck.
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Old 01-28-2014, 10:24 AM   #10
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1976 27' Overlander
Tampa , Florida
Join Date: Oct 2012
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Originally Posted by perryg114 View Post
Plan on paying $5k for a $500 trailer and spending the next two years and $10k to $15k fixing it up.

Hilarious.... Well said.

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