Our fifth wheel is going on eight years old and, like most RV's, wasn't built for full-time living. That wasn't more evident than with the living room carpet. We researched our options but no matter what we chose to do, we couldn't get an installer to work in the rig. We had two alternatives- go to an RV repair shop along our route and plan on leaving the fifth wheel for a couple of weeks or do the job ourselves.
We watched several Youtube videos and chose to install vinyl plank flooring from the Home Decorator Collection at Home Depot. The Stony Oak Smoke style comes in cases of 8"x 48" planks for a total of 18.22 square feet in each and a cost of around $40 per case. We bought 7 cases and used 5.5 cases for the living room/kitchen (we'll use the remaining planks in the hall and bathroom).
We decided against replacing the slide carpets at this time. The Stony Oak color scheme is mostly gray with a hint of brown, which is what we are converting our main space to over time. We had already bought furnishings and curtains in the gray/brown/white scheme.
We also purchased an installation kit that has plank interlock tools, which I found absolutely necessary, a razor knife and some matching replacement trim. All told, this project cost us around $400 in materials and took two days.
We decided to place the planks on top of existing linoleum in the kitchen but we did have to pull up the living room carpet. Like many videos showed, there were a great many staples but the only real problem we had was rear side walls, which apparently were installed right on top of the carpeting. I used the razor knife to cut it as close to the wall as I could. Fortunately, trim would hide the leftover.
Rather than having to cut planks lengthwise along both slide frames, which extend the length of the slide on both sides of the main space, I decided to make one side the baseline, placing the left edges of that line of planks along the frame and tack them down like they were along a wall.. You would think the frame would be installed in a straight line, right? I ended up moving the baseline row out from the slide frame about a half-inch to avoid its bulges and crooked edges.
The vinyl planks are made to snap together and tapped tight. It looked easy and even the videos made it look simple. For some reason, they didn't exactly line up all that snugly. I finally did get the hang of it after nearly half the floor was laid and I just couldn't bear to leave the furrows showing. I tore about 2/3 of the flooring out and re-laid the panels, this time with my newly-learned plank-installation skill. The result was much, much cleaner.
The one thing that did live up to its hype was the ease in cutting the planks. I set up my Workmate bench just outside on our patio mat and used a combination of t-squares, clamps and a razor knife to score, bend and snap the flooring pieces apart for installation. The sheer number of cuts was time-consuming but simple to perform.
The process includes starting on one corner and working down and across until you reach the opposite corner. Planks are cut down to stagger seams, just as with regular wood flooring and the unused ends are saved to cut to size on the opposite end of the floor. I made sure that none of the planks joined right above the linoleum edge, but otherwise, it all went as laid out.
From start to finish this project took most of two days. I still have a few pieces of trim to tack down in the kitchen, but we're pretty pleased with the final outcome. The bathroom doesn't seen as daunting now, even though nearly every plank will have to be cut to fit.
Jack Huber is a novelist with 6 mysteries published, along with several books of poetry and photography. Now retired, he and his wife, Nadyne, are free to travel the country in their 32' 5th wheel and 1-ton Ford pickup.