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Old 06-08-2012, 10:57 AM   #1
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Upgrading floor material in new Airstreams

Rotting floors have been an issue in some late model Airstream trailers. Improved sealing can help, but my thought is leaks will open up regardless, and sooner or later the floor will get wet.

I thought I'd start a discussion about what other materials could be used for the floor which would retard or eliminate rot. And at what cost?

Camplite makes an all aluminum trailer ( CampLite All Aluminum Travel Trailer Overview by LivinLite ). I would assume an Airstream with steel frame would require some kind of galvanic barrier between the frame and an aluminum floor. Didn't an older Argossy use aluminum floor? How have they stood up?

Plastics or composites are available. Anything suitable?

Encapsulating the plywood in fiberglass is used at times. Upsides or downsides to that?

I'd like to think this is possible at a reasonable cost.
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Old 06-08-2012, 11:32 AM   #2
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I did some exploration into using an aluminum extruded plank for the flooring in my 20' Caravelle like the one used in the LivinLite trailers. I got a preliminary quote that was more than $100 per 6" x 7' x 1" plank and it would have taken more than 30 of them. The material is stronger than 5/8" plywood (from a deflection per span perspective) at about the same weight. I don't have $3000 extra and I am not an engineer but it seemed like it would work if you had a lot of money.
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Old 06-08-2012, 11:39 AM   #3
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Well some have talked about NyloSheet, sounds good and would cost less then $2000 more for a 30' Airstream and I would pay $3000 for the option.

Fiberglass over plywood would have the problem of letting in water at every hole and crack and holding the water in the wood.
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Old 06-08-2012, 01:31 PM   #4
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Encapsulating the plywood in fiberglass is used at times. Upsides or downsides to that?
Rather than fiberglass, vacuum-bag the plywood and inject polyurethane. Vacuum-bagging puts the woodgrain under negative pressure, so the polyurethane liquid is drawn into the wood. Once the wood is completely saturated in polyurethane and allowed to cure/dry, water can never get into it; there's no place for the water to go that isn't already filled with the polyurethane.

If done properly, you could even drill holes in the plywood after treatment without affecting its watertightness. If not done properly, then when you drill holes in it you'd have to brush on more polyurethane where new woodgrain is exposed by cutting or drilling.
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Old 06-08-2012, 01:49 PM   #5
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The exterior plywood used in the Airstream can stand up to getting wet without rotting. Rot comes from prolonged exposure (undetected or neglected leak). So, catching it before it rots is another route because leaks can do more damage than to the floor.

I have already started pulling up the carpet (under the beds) and the vinyl under the other drawers, cabinets, seating and outside compartments, exposing the plywood where it is not normally seen. This makes a quick visual check for wet plywood easy. btw this has already led me to a slow leak in the toilet fill valve which was getting the floor under the front bunk damp.

When I eventually upgrade the visible vinyl and carpet, I plan to treat the entire floor (visible and hidden) with borate to resist rot should a hidden leak soak it. I cannot get it all (like under the shower) but I can get most of it.
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Old 06-08-2012, 01:59 PM   #6
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Why not just treat the plywood with wood preservative?
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Old 06-08-2012, 02:33 PM   #7
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I agree with Bob. Why not use something like Thompson's Water Seal.
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Old 06-08-2012, 03:08 PM   #8
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I agree with Bob. Why not use something like Thompson's Water Seal.
Most treatments like that are surface treatments that work to repel moisture. If the wood gets soaked the rot/fungus simply grows below it.

Coppertox-like products work extremely well, penetrate deep into the wood, do not repel moisture, but will keep wet wood from rotting. Copper and aluminum may not be a good mix. Coppertox may not the best choice inside, although wooden boat owners use it.

Borates (Borax) work the same way penetrating into the plywood and glue to prevent rot, and they are non-toxic.
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Old 06-08-2012, 03:21 PM   #9
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Different treatments for putting in a new floor and for sealing an old one—

For many years contractors told me Thompson's was a terrible product, but CR recently rated it very highly. But I think you get a more impervious surface with an exterior urethane (spar urethane).

When I removed the sheet vinyl, I also got as much as I could out of the cabinets so I could coat the subfloor there too and be able to catch leaks. I used 2 coats of spar urethane. I used the exterior stuff because of the temp extremes in a trailer. Using a flooring that can easily be looked under allows you to check for leaks.

Eventually I'll get to the carpeting in the bedroom. I'd have to remove the bed frame to get it all out and this is not something I really want to do. We like the carpeting on bare feet, but it does look dull, so someday we'll look for a replacement. It must be really cheap stuff because they don't just carpet around the outside of the bed, but in the whole room. Most of it is hidden. I think carpet tiles would be the best solution for the bedroom after treating the subfloor.

I wish I could find a way to treat the edges of the subfloor without removing it.

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Old 06-08-2012, 03:30 PM   #10
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I'm going to roll on bed liner on the bottom and sides of my new floor, Or spay. On the top I am just using an exterior paint. Daughter picked out the color. you will only see it under the cabinets. Kind of a aqua blue.. (well at least it wasn't purple or Pink)

Mythbusters did a thing where they painted plywood with bed liner and used c-4 on it. well without it it blow apart with it it stayed in together. I'm putting it on my wheel fenders to, in case of a blow out. Will keep the fenders for getting torn up.


My dad always said. THE STINKER IT IS THE BETTER IT MUST WORK...
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Old 06-08-2012, 03:35 PM   #11
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I'm going to roll on bed liner on the bottom and sides of my new floor, Or spay.
Jason, when you "spay" your trailer, do you take it to a vet, or can an MD do it?

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Old 06-08-2012, 03:40 PM   #12
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Jason, when you "spay" your trailer, do you take it to a vet, or can an MD do it?

Gene
No I do it myself "spray" See what 2 1/2 year old twins do to your mind. It just doesn't work right anymore...
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Old 06-08-2012, 03:53 PM   #13
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I couldn't help myself, Jason. Wait 'til those twins get older and can gang up on you.

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Old 06-08-2012, 04:22 PM   #14
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For what it's worth, about 8 years ago, I heavily saturated the floor plywood in my trailer with Olympic Stain Wood Preservative prior to installing new flooring. I flooded it until it wouldn't absorb any more.
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