by Jim Bessey
|Porcelain tile fixes rotten floor in our 1980 Shasta camp trailer|
When we bought our 1980 Shasta camper about 6 years ago, the floor just inside our door and into the bathroom had a "soft spot." I fixed that by doing some plywood patching, by adding floating laminate flooring in the main area, and by overlaying linoleum in the bathroom. Until last month, that was good enough.
When Lin and I went camping earlier in June, we discovered that the "soft spot" had returned with a vengeance. Afterward, I parked the camper in our driveway turn-around and set up shop. We had another camping trip coming right up, so I had to hustle. First I had to fix the steel fold-out step, which was very springy (that was a clue for me for what was to follow).
The extent of the rot made me sick
The floor problems began right inside the door, the single highest-traffic part of our camper. I knew some serious fixing was in order, so I put a new blade in my cordless sawz-all and started what I'd hoped would be a strategic surgery. No such luck.
The damage was horrendous: wet-rotted frame members, plywood so soft I could crush it in my hands. The extent of the rot made me sick. It went under the entry closet, over to the oven cabinet, and all the way to the bathtub. In all, I had to remove everything down to the protective metal under-skin for a total of over 15 square feet.
Even the wooden 2 by 2 framing was ruined, and that's what held everything together.
Talk about needing a Plan B! I had to search my shop for suitable materials and start improvising right away. Had to cut out the bottoms of the closet and the vanity, just to get access. I laid in strips of 5/8" floor decking to span the dead space over the black water tank. Had to locate the metal cross-members and screw that down to firm it up.
The right trim and finish fixes everything
Next came a layer of 1 by 6 pine at right angles to the floor plywood, to tie things together and gain some strength (since I couldn't plywood the whole floor in one shot). Trouble was, the 1 by 6 material was too thick to go under the existing floor plywood--the old and new floors had to "interlock." So I had to switch to 7/16" plywood, slip it under the old floor where it was still good, then infill with 1/4" lauan plywood.
Doesn't that sound like fun? Took me an entire Saturday to do all that.
I used up all my 'scrap' material, two tubes of Liquid Nails, and had to make another run to Lowe's for more plywood. Ran out of screws; ran out of underlayment staples. Ran out of daylight, too.
It all worked out in the end, though. The floor was oddly-built and ugly, but felt really solid underfoot. With another full day available to me, I set-up for tile cutting, grabbed two boxes of left-overs from the garage, and spent a few hours cutting and laying new 12 by 12 porcelain tiles. Trust me, there were some tricky cuts!
The right trim and finish fixes everything. I scrounged through all of my left-over shoe moldings, some newly-acquired scribe moldings that matched perfectly, and caulked all the grout joints with tile-industry caulk that would stay permanently flexible. I figured grout would just crumble and fall out once I got back on the road.
You be the judge. Take a close look at the picture above. It's nothing fancy, really; but I'm hoping this floor will last until we're ready to give up on our 30-year-old camping trailer. It survived our week-long camping trip very nicely.
How about you? Have you ever had to do some emergency surgery on your camper? It's not fun, is it?