The goal is to be light. Too much weight means that certain tow vehicles are disqualified from towing some very nice travel trailers. Or you spend too much on fuel. RV manufacturers try to keep the weight down and one area that takes place is in the flooring material. it is not always plywood you are walking on.
What are RV floors made of? Some RVs come with tongue and groove plywood flooring, while other models will have marine vacuum laminate. Still, others are made with thin plywood sheets with Styrofoam attached. Then many models are made with OSB or oriented strand board, a very inexpensive alternative.
To learn more about what RV floors are made from, just continue to read our article. It has the information you want to know about so you can see if it is the right flooring for you. Some RV floors do come with hidden risks though.
There are several options that RV manufacturers use. The one that brings them the highest profit margin is OSB. This material is cheap as it is a synthetic wood product using real wood chips that are pressed together.
Another option would be a laminate style floor because it is lightweight. Keeping the weight off without sacrificing flooring integrity or strength. One brand of this material would be called Tuffshell and it is a vacuum laminated flooring material that may get soft on you.
Finally, real plywood is used in some cases. This plywood is a 5/8 inch tongue & groove which is more than up to the task of handling all your activities inside the RV. Other companies combine Styrofoam and thin sheets of plywood helping to keep the strength up while losing the excess weight.
The brochures on the models you buy should mention what material that specific model’s flooring is made from. If it doesn’t just ask the dealer and make sure they give you a proper answer.
We cannot peak for every RV manufacturer and it has been said by Jayco that different models get different floor treatments. This is different from Grand Design who does not mention what material they use when they build their floors. They mention everything else but omit the flooring construction details.
In Jayco’s case, they start with the frame which is said to be a core wooden frame. What that is and what it entails, Jayco does not say. However, they do say that they place tongue & groove plywood on top of this core wood frame.
Keystone says it uses fiberglass-reinforced polypropylene layers to make its floors stronger and more water-resistant. Keep in mind that when are talking about this flooring material, we are talking about what is called sub-flooring.
We are not talking about the layer of material that you walk on. That layer can be vinyl, carpeting, or some other top flooring material you like to look at. What you see is not always what you are getting and to learn what flooring material you have underneath the carpet, you need to find a hidden spot and make a hole.
The basic floor construction plan will vary slightly, depending on if the manufacturer is putting insulation under the flooring material or not. They start with the metal frame that is common on all RVs and trailers.
Then if they are going to add insulation they build a nice wood frame to attach to that metal one. The insulation is installed and the next step will be to add the sub-flooring. That sub-flooring can be tongue & groove plywood or one of the many options listed above.
Since RV makers like to keep costs down they often opt for the OSB flooring material. That way they can maximize their profits. On top of the sub-flooring, you will find vinyl, carpeting or whatever material the maker thinks will look good.
That top layer is only for aesthetic purposes and does not add any real strength to the sub-flooring material. There is going to be a difference in flooring materials between the towables and the self-drive RVs. Do not assume they are all the same.
Tongue & groove plywood is probably the best sub-flooring material you can buy or have in your RV or trailer. It is strong, thick and with the right protections will last a very long time. Usually, this plywood is 5/8 of an inch thick so you know you have a solid floor underneath you.
Unfortunately, weight and profits are a big concern to the RV makers and you will not always find that sub-flooring material on your floors. RV makers will find substitute materials like OSB which is not as good as plywood but it saves them money. They may also use OSB on the sidewalls to make even more profit.
Laminate materials have been popular as well but if water gets down through to the layers, these floors can delaminate and you will have to replace your floor. Trying to cut a piece out and replace it with a similar smaller piece, doe snot always work.
Finally, some RV makers use thin regular plywood covered with Styrofoam. It may help deaden the noise inside the RV but it is not as strong as a good T & G plywood floor.
There is this type of flooring material available. it is said to have the color go all the way through so you do not lose the look if any accidents happen and the flooring gets damaged. Also, there is no surface laminate to worry about ruining.
It is said to resist heat, cold, sunlight and UV radiation, ozone, and chemicals better than any other flooring material you can have in an RV or trailer. There are a couple of drawbacks to this flooring material, though.
The first one is that no one is quoting a price. They just say it is sold per linear foot and you have to contact the different sellers to get a quote. The second drawback is that this flooring material is usually used on SUVs and pontoon boats.
If you want to apply it to your RV or trailer it should be a good floor to have but be prepared to spend a lot of money.
If you are renovating or building your own RV, you are free to use any flooring material you want to have under your feet. If you want the best flooring possible, then go with the 5/8 inch tongue and groove. It is solid, strong, and should last you a very long time.
The key to having that flooring material last is to make sure you coat it well with a water-resistant protective coating. The second choice may be MDF wood or the OSB materials as those are cheaper and can last a while as well.
Both options are easy to install and cut to the size and design you need. Laminates are okay but once the water seeps into the cracks and seams, you can expect some damage to come soon.
These types of flooring are okay but not the best choice. They look good but do not have the staying power that plywood has. One thing you do not want is thin plywood flooring. Those are not strong enough to handle the weight and activities that are in your RV or trailer.
As we have just mentioned, we think that the best flooring material you can have in your RV or trailer is 5/8 inch T & G plywood. The grooves and tongues go together very well, leaving you with an interlocking floor that should hold up for many years.
This flooring material may be a bit costly but then you are getting a very strong floor that can endure a lot of weight and different activities without complaint. Some people may disagree and think that OSB is the best because it costs less and helps keep the weight off your RV.
It is a good flooring material but it is not the best you can buy. This flooring material will save you money but OSB may not have the strength to last as long as T & G plywood.
Everyone will have their own idea as to what is the best flooring and your living situation will also influence the type of flooring you put in your RV or trailer.
When you are talking size, you are not necessarily talking about thickness. That aspect of plywood will be discussed in the next section. The last we heard, plywood is now sold in a variety of widths and lengths to meet construction needs where designs call for materials that are easier to handle.
When you get to those tough corners you may want to buy plywood that comes in 2 by 4-foot pieces or 4 by 4-foot pieces instead of the traditional 4 by 8-foot sizes. This latter size is perfect for larger floor areas but not for those tight corners and angles.
It is easier to cut smaller-sized pieces than larger sizes. Plus, they are far easier to handle and maneuver to get them into the spots where they need to go. In the end, it will be up to you which size you buy as 4 by 8-foot pieces saves you a lot of work when you are building from scratch.
The major concern you are going to have to be concerned about when making this decision is the weight of the cabinets, furniture, supplies, and other items you place inside. The plywood thickness should be such that it can handle just about anything you put in your RV.
The next concern will be the weight of the people who are using that floor. Their weight plus their movement needs a solid flooring material so that it will not break. The thicker it is the easier it is for the plywood to resist water damage.
To put a number to all of this, any plywood sheet that is 3/4 to 1 1/2 inches thick would be the ideal thicknesses to use. While 1/2 inch can be solid, it just may not be up to the task when you put it in a large RV that has lots of contents in it. It may work for smaller pop-up campers and trailers but not larger ones.
A lot of RV makers and DIY renovators like to use adhesives that work on wood. The wood flooring is usually placed on a wood frame. These adhesives are easy to put in place and all you have to worry about is lowering the plywood or other flooring into place.
To have a solid floor you should use adhesives but you should also anchor those plywood pieces or other flooring material with screws or nails. The adhesive helps keep the squeaking floor out of your RV and the screws and nails provide the security you need.
If you use screws, make sure to countersink them so the heads will not ruin the top flooring layer you place over the top of the plywood.
Weight and cost are going to be the major factor when you or the RV maker builds their flooring. OSB is popular but it is not the best flooring material you can have under your feet. But its lower cost helps raise RV makers’ profits.
It will save your budget as well. If you can afford it, go with a thick plywood floor. Those floors are solid and can last a very long time under normal use.