Home About The Autens Vintage Vinyl? I’m Floored

Vintage Vinyl? I’m Floored

written by Fred Flintstone August 28, 2016

This process sucked donkey-wang.


The original floor was a dull, pocked, fake-stone headache that would have been more suited to a college dorm than the cozy little palace we envisioned for ourselves.  Not that long ago, flooring options were rather limited. Vinyl, tile, and hardwood were pretty much the only affordable choices. Now there are all sorts of easy-to-install composites that look like anything from real oak to real terrazzo.

And yet, for us, the major determining factor was weight. Our Class C motorhome already has a razor-thin carrying capacity and adding a new fancy floor would have added a few hundred pounds of weight that would be essentially underfoot. That left us with sheet vinyl which was cheap, lightweight, (fairly) easy to install, and (quite) ugly as hell.

We spent months looking at one horrible, unworkable option after another at every flooring and home-improvement store from Austin to Houston to San Antonio to hell and back. Just when we were beginning to investigate other options such as paint or Astro-Turf or actual grass, we found a remnant of thin, cheap and not-terrible vinyl flooring sheet at a Lowes in north Austin.

This process sucked donkey-wang.


Nothing helped. Well, the wine helped a little. It helped a lot… Also, where is my wine?


The vinyl wasn’t great but it was better than the bare utility plywood that we found once we undertook the quite unpleasant process of removing the existing floor treatment.

At first we just went at the existing floor with utility knives and pliers.  It took hours just to remove a square foot of floor.  We tried toxic, flammable, noxious solvents from Goo-Gone, Goof-Off, denatured alcohol, Brake-Kleen, Windex, even gasoline and California wine.  Nothing helped. Well, the wine helped a little. It helped a lot.

Also, where is my wine?

The only thing that worked was a heavy chisel and a Harbor Freight heat gun. The process was still slow and difficult but the result was a clean, smooth sub-floor that would be suitable for whatever treatment we ultimately used, except for actual grass which was vetoed because I couldn’t think of a good place to store a lawn-mover other than the passenger seat, which is where Christine usually sits.


We had to get it right… I think we did.


There are a lot of on-line tutorials and videos that will show you how in cut and install vinyl flooring, and they’re all useful if and only if you already have years of experience installing floors. We handicapped our installation by making a floor template with a roll of brown craft paper, a hot-glue gun, and a utility knife. With this method I was able to use some of the vinyl-cutting techniques I learned online on cheap, replaceable paper. Once the floor was all neatly done in paper, we carefully removed it from the RV and rolled it out on the vinyl.

The template was taped to the new flooring and traced out with wet-erase marker. The vinyl cut easily enough with a crappy box-cutter, but we sweated it anyway – if this got fucked up, we’d be in Dutch because this was the one and only bit of flooring we’d found after month of searching. We had to get it right.

I think we did.


The paper template proved to be very accurate and the floor fit just about perfectly.


Gluing the floor down was tricky and I think I’d do it better if I had another shot at it. But it mostly out came our pretty good.  The paper template proved to be very accurate and the floor fit just about perfectly.


Yeah, we’d rather have a whoop-dee-doo cork or bamboo hipster floor (or a lush, green lawn) but our compromise was cheap, light, and technically feasible.


The only additional work was a carpet insert between the main living area and the bathroom. We did this for two reasons.  First is because our clearance-sale bit of flooring wasn’t big enough to do the entire RV in one, uninterrupted piece.  Secondly, we wanted the small space to have visual divisions that would suggest, psychologically if not physically, different living spaces. The carpet section was further delineated with aluminum floor-edging.

Yeah, we’d rather have a whoop-dee-doo cork or bamboo hipster floor (or a lush, green lawn) but our compromise was cheap, light, and technically feasible.

You may also like