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kmayer 10-08-2011 11:16 AM

Ongoing Flooring Problems
We had our carpet replaced in a 1995 Excella with laminate. The floor is now doing what I think is called “peaking” where it has risen at the seam. The planks go the long way down the coach, and the peaking is along the long sides of the planks. From what I’ve read here, the proper way to install a floor in an Airstream is floating. I just called the folks that did our floor, and they said it is not floating, and has been glued down with Polyurethane adhesive. Is this just plain wrong, or is it an acceptable way to go as well? What do you suggest we do?
Thanks for your help.

c_lewis77 10-08-2011 11:27 AM

Because of the temp/humidity swings in the airstream, the expansion and contraction of materials will be more dynamic. The floating floor allows the floor materials to expand independent of the subfloor. Gluing the materials hinders this movement, especially between dissimilar materials. Gluing works better in a house that has more consistant temp/humidity levels. The expansion and contraction is typically seasonal.
If you choose to replace the flooring at some point, be carefull that the subfloor does not get damaged from the adhesive. (i have had this happen in a condo)

kmayer 10-08-2011 11:35 AM

Thanks for your help. The place that did the work (that specializes in RV interiors) said that all the manufacturers say you need to glue the floor down. They are adamant that they did this correctly. Are they just plain wrong? This was only done a few months ago, and cost us a great deal of money. So, we are terrified right now

c_lewis77 10-08-2011 11:49 AM

I have done quite a bit of this in commercial/residential (non rv) applications. I would think that if they insist they have installed correctly they should warrant the work. It sounds like an expansion problem

Gene 10-08-2011 12:56 PM

Temp swings here in the southwest inside the trailer range from well over 120˚ to subzero. Depending where you are in Washington, it could be as much or less, but it still is substantial.

If the floor was installed right up to the walls, partitions and cabinets, there is no room for expansion of either the floor or the walls, etc. If it was installed under these things, that's just as bad. Some laminates expand more than others, but the subfloor may expand at a different rates. Even ceramic tile can expand. The standard is to leave a 3/8" space around the floor and cover that space with trim such as quarter round or baseboard. It can be difficult to do this in Airstreams because the interiors have curves and the furniture may not be amenable to trim. For curves, flexible rubber moulding may work, but it is typically black and not very attractive. Bending quarter round around curves may be nearly impossible though a very experienced carpenter may be able to do it. It would be very difficult and even more expensive.

Our vinyl floor gets hills in it in the winter and during the heat of the summer it tends to flatten out. This problem has been reported on the Forum especially from people in very cold climates such as in Canada. Airstream runs the vinyl under all the walls, etc., thus the vinyl problem is to be expected. At the service center they do install laminates, but I don't know whether they do it correctly. They may assume that the small areas mean expansion may not occur, but they are wrong. The RV place you went to probably makes the same assumption and it appears they can't believe they made a mistake.

Expansion is very powerful and the glue bond can break. The glue may not be rated for extremes of temperature. It may be a product for residential use. If you store furniture in an unheated and uncooled storage facility, the glue bonds can eventually break in the furniture too.

Good quality laminates can be very attractive, but the expansion issue plus the added weight are drawbacks. Some people use cork or other tiles, but expansion is still an issue. Carpet is forgiving but has many drawbacks too.

I think the only solution is to cut the laminate about 1/4" to 3/8" from all walls, etc., and remove that strip and cover the void with trim. The laminate will expand and contact under the trim and no one can see that. If the bulge in the laminate will not flatten, you may have to pull it up (very carefully) and re-glue it and put weight on it until the glue bonds. You will have to scrape the old glue off the laminate and the subfloor. If the laminate has a locking system between panels, those systems are fragile and break easily when removed and reapplied (don't ask how I know). This is job for a floor professional. RV shops sometimes bring a floor guy to do floors, or take it to a flooring store. The shop should pay for this because the installation did not meet the legal standard that the product as installed has not performed for the purpose intended. That they used polyurethane glue—which is a very strong glue—is not the issue. The real issue it seems to me is whether room was left for expansion. If the floor was screwed down every 2 inches, this could still be a problem (plus pretty ugly).

Because I don't want to go through all the work of removing our vinyl and putting in a new floor of some kind and then figuring out the trim, I have learned to live with the bulges. My wife is less able to adapt, but she's coming along with time. One bulge runs along the front of the stove and kitchen counter and that would be easier to fix, but the one in the middle of the floor that runs under the dinette table would be very difficult. We had one in the bathroom early on and the service center fixed it just as I explained—cutting out some of the vinyl in front of the cabinets, putting some glue under the new edge (don't get glue under quarter round) and installing quarter round at the bottom of the bathroom cabinet. Hasn't bulged since.

So, your recourse is with the people who did the installation. If they gave you a warranty, read it. You are probably covered. This is poor workmanship. If they didn't give you anything about a warranty, you have a statutory warranty which is probably better than a written one. Since it is only a few months, you are probably within the time limits of a written one and should be within the time limits of a statutory one.

If the shop refuses to fix it or pay for a fix, or does a bad fix, you may have to sue them in small claims court or see a lawyer—many will give you a free consultation. I don't know how expensive this was, but money isn't the only issue. This is something you see all the time and you should not have to look at a bad job.


kmayer 10-08-2011 01:46 PM

Thank you very much Gene for your detailed explanation. Thank you too to C Lewis. This whole thing has been a bit of a nightmare. This is actually the second floor these folks have put in after the original floor warped due to a leak they did not fix (more specifially the subcontractor they hired to fix the leak did not fix). I agreed to pay for the parts of this second floor and they covered the labor. I felt this was more than generous of me. Now here I am again. I do feel pretty confident that this is not a moisture issue again as i had the floor out for 3 months before having the new one installed to make sure i did not see any moisture. They are implying that they think it is a moisture problem again. To make matters worse, this shop is about 3 hours from my home, and i have been very dismayed with the quality of their work. Things were very banged up when i pickup up the coach, and extreamly dirty and they had not even filled the finishing nail holes on the outside trim with putty. To be honest, the last thing i want to do is put it back in there hands.

Gene 10-08-2011 02:10 PM

kmayer, after reading of your experience, I understand more of your problems. At this point the only thing may be to contact a lawyer or try small claims court for your damages. You have to prove damages with photos, receipts and such. You generally have to sue in the court where the company you have dealt with is located—I don't know whether it is an Airstream dealer or some other company. It may be in Oregon, Washington, BC or elsewhere.

You may have to have this solved at another RV shop, Airstream's service center or another Airstream dealer. If this was done at an Airstream dealer, the Airstream consumer relations dep't may be able to help (check their website for p[hone number) and work out something for you. You will not be able to recover for the cost of putting in a new floor—which may be less than you paid. You can recover for extra costs and that can include extra trips (gas, lodging, etc.). If you can show the original floor was badly done you may get the entire amount back, but you do have to pay for a new floor. If you have photos of the bad work done that helps. That they did this twice helps prove their poor work.

You have to figure your costs in pursuing legal action vs. what it would cost you to start over with another installer. Sometimes a phone call from a lawyer can solve it, but more often it takes a letter, phone calls, and sometimes more. As I said, a free consultation with a lawyer can help and you may get an idea of the economic reality of pursuing legal action. Your goal would be to get a floor installed properly by someone close to home and recover any money you have paid to date including travel and lost income. Most disputes are settled by a compromise, but you start asking for everything.

The hassles involved with having work done by others is that sometimes you pick the wrong people. The dealer we bought ours from was incompetent with repairs. We learned from experience. I try to do as much as I can myself, but not everyone can figure it out or has the time.

Good luck.

kmayer 10-08-2011 02:33 PM

Thanks Again Gene. This was not an Airsteam dealer, but a shop in Washington State that bills itself as "the nations premier RV romodeling center". They specialize in "RV Furniture, RV Flooring, and complete RV Interior Remodeling". They seemed competent enough when i first spoke with them, and it was not until after floor one that we saw how sloppy their work was. I have picutres of how the counter was literally ripped out of the wall instead of properly removing the fridge and unsrcewing.

I like to buy nice things, and take care of them. Seems more sensbile than buying cheap disposable products. Hence, the Airstream. It has been our pride and joy in many ways, and we spend a couple months a year in it. This has really been heartbreaking to us. I do think the next step is to talk to a lawyer to see what our alternatives are. At this point, i have no faith in their ability to do it correctly.

Thanks again for your time and thoughts.

Gene 10-08-2011 03:05 PM

I agree—well made things save money in the long run. Sorry to hear you have had such a bad experience.

Let us know how this goes.


Splitrock 10-08-2011 06:00 PM

My trailer has a frame flex. More weight on one axle will change the "set". High summer heat seems to move everything. Leveling the trailer flexes the frame as well. The laminate floors I've installed float. I didn't do laminate in the Airstream because laminate doesn't do well in wet areas and in my experience, Airstreams are wet areas. I'd guess boat floors are better suited to Airstreams.

Hansom-Man 10-08-2011 07:10 PM

Any kind of fooring (vinyl, wood, laminate) should be installed as a floating floor if there is any kind of potential for moisture (leak or humidity). Here in Houston, good residential installers go so far as to test the moisture levels in the slab foundations. If there is any moisture present, they will only install glue down after they paint an epoxy vapor barrier onto the sub floor.

We've had both floating, and glue down in our homes. Floating has always been better regarding expansion as long as there is sufficient expansion at the edges (coverd by quarter round). This is basic installers knowledge, and you can find it on nearly any flooring site (, etc...). From my limited experience, an RV is second only to a boat when it comes to moisture susceptibility

Do your homework and make them fix it. I would also ask them for references of satisfied customers who have had the same work done if they say that it's the norm. If they are confident in their work, they'll have no problems finding a proud owner.

Good Luck

c_lewis77 10-08-2011 08:05 PM

I have some industry/ trade standard manuals I will try and put my hands on to see if they address this condition specifically. These are the industry standards for installation. I will PM you when I find them.

Cantrell 10-08-2011 08:09 PM

It may just be a moisture/humidity issue within the camper. The moisture causes the rigidly attached wood flooring to absorb moisture and with nowhere to go, it exerts pressure on the seams causing them to 'peak' as you call it.
The flooring may have been installed correctly but Airstreams are humid places if not kept in check. I would suggest you put a dehimidifier in there for a month or so and get the unit really dried out and see if the flooring lays back down.
We run a dehumidifier 24/7 in ours when not on the road and it is incredible the amount of moisture it pulls from inside the camper. It also prevents that musty smell that a sitting camper can get with no real air flow.
We put the floating floor in ours a few years back and I am not altogether pleased with it. We have a big dog and if we've been at the beach, the big wet dog will lay on the floor. Those areas have puckered at the seems from absorbing the moisture from a DOG!! A camper needs something for flooring that can take wet dogs and such without failing. It was laid with quarter round around the edges and the expanison and contraction has not been a problem. We are definitely looking for a better solution in flooring when we rip that floor out at some point.
The dehimidifier will solve a world of problems and is not expensive to run. Worth a try. Good luck.

c_lewis77 10-08-2011 08:26 PM

I agree with Cantrell on the dehumidifier. I run one in mine 24/7 when parked as well. Mine has a humidistat set at 55% with an auto pump.
Regulating humidity has many benifits. I am on the south georgia coast, we have high heat and humidity for a good portion of the year, the dehumidifier really helps

kmayer 10-09-2011 11:41 AM

Thanks for the continued input. I do indeed have a dehumidifier that i run 24/7 when we're not in the trailer.

Gene 10-09-2011 11:44 AM

Humidity is almost always very low in the southwest, so bad installation is usually the problem here. In Washington, humidity could be the answer and easily solved, but it could be both.


kmayer 10-10-2011 04:26 PM

Interesting. I spoke to Airstream Service today (at the factory), and they said they too glue laminate flooring down. If it's glued, it's not floating correct?

c_lewis77 10-10-2011 05:16 PM

I would try asking the flooring mfg. They should know their product better than anyone else.

Gene 10-10-2011 05:18 PM


Originally Posted by kmayer (Post 1057258)
Interesting. I spoke to Airstream Service today (at the factory), and they said they too glue laminate flooring down. If it's glued, it's not floating correct?


How much glue and what type may be important. From what I understand, the vinyl floors only have some dabs of glue rather than gluing the whole thing.


kmayer 03-31-2012 04:36 PM

The RV repair place is offering the solution of nailing the laminate down to the sub floor to remove the buckling. This sounds like a terrible idea to me. Can't imagine it staing nailed with all the flexing. What do you guys think?

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