As a mobile home owner, I often find home-improvement articles in books and on the internet that sound perfectly feasible, but just don’t apply to manufactured homes. With the economy what it is though, more and more people are turning to options like pre-owned mobile homes. Unfortunately, with pre-owned manufactured housing, you have a whole new set of problems.
Today, we will tackle one of the most common problems found in mobile homes – the dissolving floor.
Squishy Floors and Mobile Homes – The Love Story
If you ever plan on purchasing a manufactured home, be sure to check the floors. Then, once you’ve signed the papers and made a payment or two on the place, start preparing to have to replace your floors. Why? Because most mobile homes are built with cheap particle board floors and, before long, that particle board starts to break down. If you live somewhere that’s hot and humid, if you have a leak somewhere or if you have a dog that does rude things on the rugs when you leave him alone, chances are that the floor will break down in no time.
To give you an idea of why particle board breaks down so fast, you need to realize that it was created as a cheap replacement for plywood. To manufacture it, they take wood particles – shavings from the saw mill, sawdust, or wood chips – and mix it with a resin to glue it together. The end result is a very inexpensive and dense form of plywood alternative.
But if you’ve ever poured water on sawdust, then you’ve probably noticed how it absorbs the water and expands. This absorbency is why sawdust and wood shavings are popular forms of bedding for animals. This is also why particle board is notorious for soaking up the wetness, rotting and breaking down under normal traffic.
As a personal victim of squishy floor syndrome, I can attest to the fact that particle board flooring does not last long in rooms with running water, such as the bathroom or kitchen, particularly if you have kids that like to get water all over. One of the biggest problem areas is the floor around the toilet. The condensation gathers on the bowl and then seeps into the floor, eventually causing it to warp and rot. If you’ve ever wondered why your toilet is leaning – now you know.
Tools You Need For Replacing the Floor
Since you’re probably looking to fix your own floor (seeing as how you’re reading my article) and you’d probably feel cheated if I suddenly ended it right here and said, “call someone to fix it,” we’re going to walk you through a step-by-step on how to fix your mobile home floors. Don’t worry – it’s not as complicated as it sounds. If I can do it, so can you!
For starters, let’s figure out what we need for you to complete this task. The tools are relatively simple:
– Safety goggles
– Claw hammer
– Pry bar
– Circular saw
– Screwdriver (electric is best)
– Measuring tape
– Marking pencil
– Wood screws (you want them to be at least 1 inch longer than the thickness of the plywood you intend to use)
– Enough 1/2 or 3/4 inch plywood to replace the floors you want to fix
Prepping Your Work Area
The first step in repairing or replacing the floors in your mobile home is to take a moment and decide how much you intend to replace. Before you can do this, you’ll need to expose the floor, which will mean pulling up your existing carpeting. If you have linoleum or tiles in the area, you’re probably going to need to replace them – in most cases, they are usually glued down to the wood. You can worry about that later, but it’s always good to know what you’re getting into, prior to taking on any home improvement project.
Once you’ve exposed the floor, you will then be able to see the extent of damage that will need to be replaced and, from there, you can go on to choose the best course of action. If there is only one small weak area, it is possible to simply replace the damaged wood and call it quits though, if you discover you have a particle board floor, I highly recommend putting the extra into it and replacing that whole room with plywood – It will save you having to replace more small damage areas in the upcoming months. Since you’ve already gone to the trouble of taking up your carpeting, you may decide that you might as well do the whole thing.
Once you’ve gotten the floor exposed, visually follow the damaged sheet of wood to its edges and look for any nails or screws. This will tell you where the support beams cross beneath the floor. It’s important to know this, because you need them to fasten your new wood down. Once you’ve figured out where those are, you can take your circular saw and (wearing your goggles), cut out the damaged section of wood. If you’re not doing your entire floor, also be sure to match up your new sheets of plywood with the depth of your particle board – Using 3/4 inch plywood with 1/2 inch particle board will create an uneven floor surface, resulting in future stubbed toes and lots of unexpected trips.
Cut It Out! (Not You…the Wood)
Now when cutting along the crossbeams, you want to cut along them without cutting into them and weakening them. Some people can carefully cut around the nails and remove the damaged wood that way but, if you aren’t all that handy with the saw (like me), it’s best to just cut up -to- the crossbeam and then either pull out the nails or tap the particle board apart from around the nails and then pull them out. You’ll find that the particle board will break apart fairly easily with your hammer. The main thing to keep in mind is to avoid letting anything heavy or sharp drop in between the cross support beams, like the piece of wood you’ve cut out, for instance. If you do, there is a chance that you could tear the liner underneath your mobile home and, well…that’s another topic for another day.
One thing that’s important to remember, whether you’re replacing one section or your entire floor, is that you have to expose the cross beams on all 4 sides of the area that you’re going to replace, if you want maximum support. Failing to screw the board down firmly enough, onto more than one cross beam, could result in the old broken diving board effect where the nails pull up underneath your weight. Removing the whole section and then screwing the new piece of plywood in on all four sides will give you added stability for a floor that will survive years of traffic.
Once you’ve cut out the old particle board, be sure to clean it up thoroughly and remove it from the area to reduce the risk of splinters or sharp edges. Now it’s time to remove the nails!
Removing the nails from the crossbeams is a pretty simple and self-explanatory process. The main thing to keep in mind here is that, when at all possible, you want to pull the nails out. Leaving the nails in and just pounding them down may seem like the easier option, but it provides less surface area for you, for when go to screw the new plywood sheet in place. Removing the nails will protect you from bent screws and broken screwdrivers in the future.
Laying Down Your New Mobile Home Floor
If you’ve removed the entire sheet of particle board, your job may be as simple as laying down the new sheet of plywood and easing it into position but, if your repair section is more narrow, you may have to measure out the width and length that you need, then cut your sheet of plywood using the circular saw. Always ensure that you follow standard operating directions for circular saws and always wear your safety goggles, using your saw in a safe manner. You will want the new wood to fit into the hole fairly snugly, but you don’t want to have to force it and risk damaging the other sheets of wood.
Once your new sheet of wood is in position, use your screwdriver to secure the plywood to the crossbeams. Ideally, you want to work the screws straight down into the wood at intervals of roughly 1-2 inches apart along the crossbeam. This will give your plywood a good firm grip on the crossbeams, making it stronger and preventing it from pulling up. Make sure the screws are flush with the plywood and that’s it! All that’s left to do is replace your pad and carpeting or, if you’re looking to lay down new linoleum or tile, it’s time to go pick out your color and patterns. Congratulations, you have a new floor!
Personal experience, as a mobile home owner and 2x floor repairer