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Old 11-21-2008, 09:14 AM   #1
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Question Plywood alternative

Hello. Has anyone used a steel, aluminum or composite material instead of plywood as the floor? The meatal decking I have looked at is thicker than the original ply, but I think it would fit with a band on the outside?
I have looked at a few web site and was hoping someone had some experience in this area. Trex or one of its cousins would be easy to cut to size?

LockDry Watertight Aluminum Decking and Railings
Last-Deck Aluminum Decking and Railing Systems
Metal Deck, Purlins, Metal Roofing and Metal Siding in Stock.
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Old 11-21-2008, 09:41 AM   #2
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Good morning up in Vernal, Ut.
Hope you haven't had too much winter yet.
Rumors are our winter will start about Thanksgiving.
I believe you would be adding a significant amount of weight if you went to a metal decking. I know you would if you added Trex. I've used some of the Trex 4x4's and they are significantly heavier than a wooden product.
Trex products cut well with band saws, jig saws, etc. so I don't think cutting would be your obstacle.
Good luck in what you decide.

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Old 11-21-2008, 09:42 AM   #3
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I recently did a partial floor replacement using Trex trim board (5/8" exact thickness). Look for an article about how it was done in the soon to be delivered Vintage Advantage newsletter.
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Old 11-21-2008, 09:53 AM   #4
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Airstream tried an aluminum floor in some of the Argosy Minuet's in the 70's. They stopped after a year or two because of sagging that developed between the frame members.
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Old 11-21-2008, 10:10 AM   #5
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More ideas?

Durability not weight is my primary concern. Most of my AS use will be dirt/mountain roads close to home. I would be fine with adding some frame members to strengthen to floor or trailer.
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Old 11-21-2008, 11:05 AM   #6
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I used a product called nyloboard. I have a thread on this forum about nyloboard and where you can buy it. I have had it in my trailer since mid spring and it has worked great. I left a piece out in the sun and elements all summer and it is just as good today as when I bought it. I have pulled my camper and it has not warped, rotted, cracked or anything negative. I am very pleased. Somebody said it would melt in heat. Mine sat out in the sun and camper through the Georgia hot summers. It has been holding up so far. It will not rot and it does not give off toxic gasses. It is supposed to be fire resistant. Check out the site Nyloboard. Just type in Nyloboard in your search engine.

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Old 12-02-2008, 07:27 PM   #7
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I've handled a lot of Trex in my day. If you carry a 20' 5/4 deck board on your shoulder, both ends touch the ground, it's like a wet noodle. It is also very heavy. Also, the 1x's, 2x's and 4x4's are not intended to be used for structural use.

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Old 12-02-2008, 09:44 PM   #8
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I went to the nyloboard website, very interesting, but I couldn't bring up specs on the material itself. Is it rigid like plywood or flexible like Trex? Is it as heavy as Trex or as light as plywood?

A good question isn't if Trex is too flexible to use as a subfloor, but how does the subfloor add to the structuraly integrity of an Airstream. I've seen Airstreams with subfloors that are almost completely rotted out, but the Airstream can be towed, even a great distance, without falling apart. Structurally, I believe the subfloor adds structural stability primarily around the perimeter of the floor where the shell is bolted to the chassis through the floor channel. As such, the subfloor fills the space between the shell and the chassis. As long as it remains intact around the perimether the semi-monoque shell stays tight with the chassis. The shell provides rigidity, not the chassis or the subfloor.

Early Airstreams relied on the subfloor for structural strength to a greater degree than the ones built since the early Eighties because in the Eighties the chassis was beefed up and made stronger (and heavier).
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Old 12-02-2008, 10:19 PM   #9
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A long time ago, I had read in a thread that someone had used some type of marine fiberglass type of flooring...This flooring looked like what people use as a cutting board--white---, but the flooring did not warp, bend, buckle, or shrink....I am sure it has to be pretty expensive though...does anyone else remember this information???
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Old 12-03-2008, 07:29 AM   #10
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Another option

The TrailManor that I had before I went Airstream had a floor composed of 4 bonded layers that was light and rock solid.

The layers top to bottom were: 1/8" plywood, aluminum, foam, aluminum. The plywood prevented damage to the top aluminum layer. Wood strips were placed around the periphery for attachment and wood blocks were placed at strategic locations to attach partitions and the like.

The foam in the TrailManor was 3" thick which made a very rigid floor and permitted a much lighter frame. On an Airstream, much thinner foam could be used.

I believe that this approach could be used on a vintage Airstream with appropriate thickness of foam.
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Old 12-03-2008, 07:43 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Forrest View Post
I went to the nyloboard website, very interesting, but I couldn't bring up specs on the material itself. Is it rigid like plywood or flexible like Trex? Is it as heavy as Trex or as light as plywood?

Forrest,

I have samples of the material at Area63. It is much like plywood, perhaps even a similar weight. It supposedly cuts and machines like a high quality plywood. I wanted to use it for the subfloor in my 1958 Flying Cloud, but the shipping charges from Georgia to California far exceed the price of the material. Especially since I wanted a one piece floor. I might still do it, depending on how business turns out in 2009.
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Old 12-03-2008, 07:57 AM   #12
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I looked at some of these alternatives to plywood (the floor in a Silver Streak is important, but not crucial, to structural integrity as it is in an A/S), and finally decided that ADVANTECH would be my choice. It is worth a look:

Advantech Flooring - Huber Engineered Woods
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Old 12-03-2008, 11:26 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by REDNAX View Post
I looked at some of these alternatives to plywood (the floor in a Silver Streak is important, but not crucial, to structural integrity as it is in an A/S), and finally decided that ADVANTECH would be my choice. It is worth a look:

Advantech Flooring - Huber Engineered Woods
Advantech appears to be a high-quality OSB product. The website says:

"AdvanTech Flooring and Sheathing panels are bonded with an advanced resin technology system. Wood strands are mixed with resin and wax and pressed under heat....AdvanTech, like most other wood products, is susceptible to decay if exposed to long term high moisture conditions."

I, personally, think there are many advantages to plywood or OSB floors in an Airstream, but all wood products can rot. A good quality marine plywood, which is easily obtained in most locations, is a very good wood product to replace an Airstream's floor.
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Old 12-03-2008, 11:53 AM   #14
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I think the challenge is finding a material that meets a number of different criteria, durability, stiffness, weight, moisture resistance, tensile strength, etc. It is my impression that the subfloor on an Airstream is not unlike plywood sheathing on a stud-framed wall. When you fasten the plywood into the studs, it makes the entire wall more stiff. It's also my impression that the Airstream was designed to "flex" a bit. While it's tempting to go with the "if a little is good, more is better" school of thought, there might be a downside to using a subfloor that has less flex than plywood. While I'm a proponent of using newer, better materials and technologies in travel trailers, I'm pleasantly surprised by how well the plywood floor in our Overlander has held up after 41 years. Yes, the floor has rotted but in areas with water leakage problems, i.e., the rear bathroom and near the entry door. The choice of carpet with pad held moisture against the wood creating a suboptimal environment for durabilty.

My sense is that using a top grade plywood (marine or otherwise), treating it with an appropriate coating system, avoiding carpet and preventing any leaks would allow a person to get 40 or 50 years of good use. As with any engineering question, there is always a cost benefit analysis component. There's no question that one could buy a new composite material... but what are the specific gains over plywood. If the trailer is properly maintained, I'm not sure rot is a major issue.

Since we're talking subfloors, what do you think of this idea. Rather than using heavier plywood with butt joints, why not build a subfloor from two layers of thinner, overlapping plywood. Using industrial adhesive and fasteners, what you would have is a single, unified floor. Just curious.
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Old 12-03-2008, 02:24 PM   #15
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These Nyloboard specs are all greek to me but they may help you.
Nyloboard-Technical

I think you should go with ever you feel will best fit your needs. I am happy with nyloboard so far. It is tight holds the weight and feels and works like plywood. I still have some in the backyard and I will use for something. It just lays out in the grass and stays perfect.

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Old 12-03-2008, 05:55 PM   #16
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I'd prefer to use plywood and have done so in my 1966 projects. Plywood still represents the best overall choice when considering price, durability, strength, etc. My problem was replacing the last 4 to 5 feet of sub-floor in the rear of my 1985 Excella. The perimeter floor channel is significantly different in design from the simpler one used in 1966. Floor replacement in older Airstreams is easier.

The '85 floor used 5/8" OSB and the floor channel was designed to accept only 5/8". A thinner material would fit loosely and move around. A thicker material cannot be installed. Because of the floor channel design, large single pieces of plywood or OSB, even if you could find them in 5/8", cannot be slid, pounded, or coerced into place. At least I wasn't able to do so cause I tried.

So, the flexibility of Trex was actually helpful because it could be bowed. That allowed insertion of the end of the board into the floor channel. All the other materials mentioned in this thread likely would not have worked for me because they are all rigid, and not flexible. Likewise they come in sheets, whereas Trex comes in boards and that too assisted in reconstruction. I can report that after towing for several thousand miles I've not had any structural problems using the Trex board subfloor.

All of the characteristics of Trex are moot points though if you are doing a frame off restoration, or even just a section of flooring in an older Airstream because then the subfloor can be replaced with sheet materials or in a frame off, using thicker materials. Older Airstream design provides more 'wiggle' room, because the new subfloor goes under the floor channel, but in the later design the subfloor goes "into" the floor channel.
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Old 12-03-2008, 06:03 PM   #17
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Floor channel design

Here's a drawing I made that goes with the article that will be in the Vintage Advantage (should arrive in mailboxes around Christmas). It shows the difference between the floor channel used in older Airstreams versus later (early Eighties to present day I think - I've not yet been able to nail down specific years).
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Old 12-03-2008, 07:33 PM   #18
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It will not work! Is's not made for the strength needed and way to many joints but we at Vinstream "DO USE ALUMINUM INTERLOCKING FLOORING!!!) http://www.vinstream.com/aluminum-chassis.html

We also replace the all steel frame with aluminum!

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Old 12-03-2008, 08:28 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by imeynstein View Post
A long time ago, I had read in a thread that someone had used some type of marine fiberglass type of flooring...This flooring looked like what people use as a cutting board--white---, but the flooring did not warp, bend, buckle, or shrink....I am sure it has to be pretty expensive though...does anyone else remember this information???
I have used Starboard in several marine projects. It is not fiberglass, it is a polymer. There are other similar products now on the market I believe.

King Plastic Corporation

You are right, it is not cheap. You can find it at West Marine.

West Marine: Starboard Poly-Sheets Building Material Product Display
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Old 12-03-2008, 08:37 PM   #20
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Vin,

It's been my experience that there are almost always a dozen different approaches to solving problems. Some are better than others no doubt, but as the old saying goes, "there's more than one way to skin a cat." Your way is expensive, likely beyond the means of many, if not most, Airstream owners. To quote your web site, "All of [your] restoration work begins with a full body off frame restoration." Your all aluminum chassis appears to be your main selling point. The cost, not stated, but likely more than the cost of a new trailer. Right? And that's fine, I wish you well and success in your endeavor.

The method I described is for hobbyists and DIY'ers on limited budgets. My repair can be done in a driveway without having to drop the pan. Dismantling the Airstream is kept to a minimum. Total cost for materials was about $300. What would you charge? A small fortune, and no doubt that motivates you to condemn other's efforts.
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