Camper Project: Super cheap flooring

Hey, there folks!! This is going to be a long one, you might want a cup of coffee and some snacks. Get me some while you’re up! One cream, no sugar, please!

I’ll start with what I used, so that you’ll know what I am talking about…or rambling about…or ranting about, depending on the thing.

My flooring materials:

Special note: Stain rags are combustible. Like, crazy combustible. A few years ago, my ex had a fire in his truck because one ignited on it’s own. Notice guys, I said…on. it’s. own. Just the rag with stain on it. Don’t play around with this. Read and follow the stain instructions closely and carefully. Follow the directions for disposal to the letter.

My flooring tools:

Brad nailer (remember, I am using really thin flooring material, I don’t need a standard sized flooring nailer, it would destroy the flooring)

circular saw:

orbital sander:

jig saw:


3/8” brads, paint brush, sand paper, pencils (several), hammer, construction adhesive ( Note: yes, I could have gone way cheaper on this, but, I wanted to find something that fit my needs. After extensive research regarding strength, longevity, adhesion, and a company that stands behind it’s product, I was happy to spend a little more to get what I wanted. Latex gloves (for working with stain), T-Square ruler, tape measure, 6 inch paint roller, clean terry rags, clamps, and paint tray round out my supply list.

Slightly less special note: I prepped the floor ahead of time. I could tell from the cuts I was making on the wood that some edges would be a little wonky, which would expose the awful floor underneath. So I decided to paint the floor to help it blend somewhat better. After repeating the paint selection method from a prior post, I settled on Color Place: Black Bread from Walmart. One coat was all I really needed since it appears to be a Kilz product according to the paint chip at the store.

On to the meat and potatoes of the post

I had decided the look for my floor was going to be some sort of mash up of reclaimed, repurposed, kind of wonky, not quite perfect, minimally controlled disaster. I wanted it to look like it’s been there all along and that it was very worn.

Again, after Pinterest-ing (I think I might need to get myself into a program. Not even kidding) I decided I would tackle a DIY floor using plywood. Search “plywood flooring” there or on Google and you’ll find a bunch of floors using this technique. Plywood is readily available, easy to handle, and pretty cheap, so, there ya go.

For reference, here’s before. The weak-stomached among us should turn away now. Cover the childrens’ eyes. You’ve been warned.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Ummm, yeah. (shudder) Not so awesome. But, we’re going to fix that. As soon as humanly possible.

Off to Home Depot I went where I picked up two sheets of plywood. I had them cut each one in half from 4×8 into 4×4 sheets. That makes them way easier for me to manhandle into the back of my mini van. Not the most or worst of what this vehicle has hauled around. I also grabbed a gallon of polyurethane and the stain I wanted. Next, I ran to the local Walmart and picked up a new package of sanding sheets for my orbital sander and a new plywood blade for the circular saw.

A random note about those two Hyper Tough brand tools (my orbital sander and my circular saw). I got them at Walmart. I have heard and read reviews suggesting that they aren’t of the highest quality or that they don’t hold up. I beg to differ. I have added them to my tool collection after my divorce, as mine went with the ex. I needed something manageable and at a price point I could squeeze into my budget. These fit into my hands because they aren’t super bulky. They help me to get the job done. I am not paying for the bigger name on the tool, but, it’s getting value for the cost of the tool…if that makes sense. Now, many of my tools are those bright red Hyper Tough tools. I am happy with the selection that I have. I will still enjoy my Rigid, Ryobi, and Stanley, but, these really are great. I won’t hesitate to add more to my tool closet. And no, this isn’t sponsored.

Back to the post

I got these sheets home and couldn’t get cutting fast enough. I marked out the plywood into six inch by four foot planks using my T-Square ruler. It’s gigantic. Love that thing. I went WITH the grain of the plywood.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

I did one sheet at a time and lost my pencil each time I moved to the next. I have no idea how it happened. I suspect there is a rather academic squirrel who has snatched them to write his thesis up in his tree somewhere. But I have no proof. And I have no pencils anymore.

Using my clamps (also Hyper Tough, btw), I secured my plywood sheets down and used the circular saw to cut them into planks. I got the first sheet done and my arms were shaking. I was really going to do this! Really, really!! I had my stack of eight planks done and three uncut sheets to go. But, for now, I focused on these eight planks.

I pulled out the orbital sander and put 80 grit onto it. I sanded my edges and made sure to be as nonuniform as possible. I wanted wear on the edges, corners and long sides. I gouged at it with the sander and didn’t mind if I went too far. When choosing what side would be the top of the board, I looked for imperfections; knots, uneven color, and … well, character.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Last for this step, I stained the boards. I donned the latex gloves and used an old terry rag that I would be disposing of afterwards. There is a big difference with the stain and I love the color now.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Again, I can’t stress this enough. Pay attention to the warnings that are on the stain can. It’s important.

By now, my arms were shaking for another reason. I was exhausted. I did eight boards, Cut, sanded and stained. Great. But, c’mon Missy! Eight??! There’s twenty-four more to go. Thankfully, J was willing to cut the rest for me and those were done the following day. I took the eight I did to the camper to get a visual as to how I wanted them to lay out. Since the supports for the camper go lengthwise to the camper, I was definitely going to go across the floor. It would be more stable. At least that was what I’d learned when it came to flooring houses; go across the joists, not with them. I could be wrong, but, that’s what I was taught.

I was attempting to get my visual, when I remembered this. I needed to get this up and gone before I could do anything. There were two in the camper. This one was destined to go to the recycling center. I used my ratcheting screwdriver (again..Hyper Tough) to get them out. They came out way easier than I was preparing myself for. One will go, one will be returned to it’s spot.


That one had to go. The other one, for the dinette, will be spray painted copper before it gets put back. Now I could see at what the flooring was going to look like:

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Now, of course I am going to stagger the boards. But, can we talk a minute about how awful this floor is? You might be able to zoom in and see that these have a wood print on the vinyl. The design is ultra old. And yet somehow very familiar. Probably something form childhood. Unfortunately, because of the wonky edges to my boards, that was going to show through in between. Um, that’s gonna be a firm “no” from me. I sat looking at this for a little while and decided I would paint the floor with something cheap.

Off to Walmart, again. I grabbed the cheapest paint possible, in a flat finish and painted the floor a dark brown color. I grabbed another package of foam rollers to put onto my paint roller as well.  Here’s that:


Not perfect at first glance, but, you won’t notice once the flooring is down (I tested that theory by laying out the flooring on top of it again). Not sure why the color is so washed out. But, there you have it.

On the next day, I sanded and stained  eight more boards. I repeated that for the next two days following and I had all my boards stained and ready to go.

Now was the time to get serious about laying out the floor. My long pieces were just whole pieces and then I cut long boards down to fill the gap between the whole board and wall. Easy peasy. Each cut I made I sanded and stained to match the rest of the board. Some cuts had to be thought out more. Like to fit around the built in seating and such. But, after hunting down more pencils (danged imaginary squirrel!), I marked the boards on the back and cut accordingly. I only messed up eleventy hundred boards. Good times.

When setting the boards, I used the construction adhesive; applied in a zig-zag pattern on the back of the board. I placed the board and squished it in place. I nailed the corners with the brad nailer and kept going. Some of the brads didn’t quite go in far enough, but they were easy enough to tap into place with the hammer. This took me three days to do because of all the miscuts and retries. But, finally, yesterday morning, I got it done. I am not sure what’s up with the color and the boards in this photo, it doesn’t seem an accurate representation . Maybe the flash messed with it a little.


After sweeping and carefully wiping the dust away the next and final step is the polyurethane step. It’s a three part step. The first of which was to use a brush to “cut in” the poly around the edges of the floor and into the hard to reach areas and then to use the roller to spread the polyurethane all over the floor. Let dry completely, according to package directions. The second part of this step is to sand (I used 220 grit) any imperfections and spread out more poly with the roller after wiping dust away. And again, let dry completely. Last part is to repeat step two (as many times as necessary).

And lo, here’s the finished product. Behold!! Are you beholding??

All it needs now is trim added. That’s pretty straight forward, so I am not going to photo and describe it. I used quarter round painted dark brown along all the edges to finish it off. You’ll probably notice that in a photo later on in another blog post. Keep an eye out for that. Kind of a dollar store version of “Where’s Waldo?”.

Now my camper has a better looking floor than my house does.

And I STILL need to take care of all the cushions

Until later,


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