Non-toxic replacement flooring for an Airstream or travel trailer

When it came time to decide on flooring for our Airstream, we had no idea what to do. I read good arguments for every type. Hardwood aged nicely but was heavy, laminate was durable but not waterproof, bamboo was lightweight but susceptible to water damage, vinyl was ideal but pretty toxic. And we learned first-hand how toxic vinyl flooring can be. We first settled on a 2mm vinyl flooring from Lumber Liquidators. It was a beautiful distressed plank wood style. We loaded it up in our car and headed for home. Almost immediately we were overtaken with an overpowering chemical smell. Both of us had a headache and our sinuses were burning within minutes. No joke. We turned the car around and returned the flooring. Later, I learned that Lumber Liquidators is one of the worst, if not the worst for chemical laden flooring. It was back to the drawing board. Believe it or not, finding vinyl flooring guaranteed to not be made of toxic materials proved to be a near impossible job. But we knew we needed a thin, lightweight, waterproof (dog!) flooring that didn’t add unwanted weight. This was back during a time where we thought our FJ Cruiser could pull Mavis. (I know, I know.)

We decided vinyl was about the only way to go so I began researching which of the vinyl floorings were the least toxic. FloorScore is a voluntary, independent certification program that tests and certifies hard surface flooring and the materials they’re made with are in compliance with stringent indoor air quality emissions. We found that NuCore, which is carried at Floor & Decor, is FloorScore verified. We settled on a 4mm Saddle Oak floating click-lock plank style (about 180 square feet for our 27′ trailer). And on the drive home, we didn’t smell a thing! Even after we laid the flooring, there was no odor. We put our flooring down last and around all of the cabinetry. I wouldn’t recommend this – if I had to do it over we would have put the flooring down first. It’s very difficult to lay flooring in a small space with curved walls and lots of cut-outs for cabinetry. The 4mm thickness is lightweight but heavy enough to lay flat. Every blue moon when the sun shines just right inside the trailer, the floor will buckle ever so slightly in the small area where the sun is hitting. You can only tell when you walk on that particular spot. After it cools off, it’s back to normal. That’s the only funny thing we’ve found so far with this flooring. Besides that it’s very durable and awesome against liquid spills and dog claws. No peeling or scratches anywhere to be found. This thickness was easy to score and break with a utility knife and a speed square. Anything beyond 4mm I can imagine would be much more difficult to work with. I (Sheena) laid much of the flooring myself with the help of my dad. Overall we are thrilled with the flooring and have no regrets

Sheena is a free-spirited adventurer who designed and renovated a 1975 Airstream in 2016 and travels the US with her husband and mohawk-sportin’ poodle. She’s a business owner, self-taught carpenter, blogger, yogi, professional photographer and a lover of the outdoors and healthy living.

7 Comment

  1. Thanks for the great information! Looks amazing!

  2. SO helpful! Thank you!

  3. Hello, Have you considered Kardean flooring?

    It’s not the cheapest but great flooring and warranties.

  4. Did you guys take everything out of the Airstream first and then lay down the flooring? We just got a 2002 19′ Bambi and everything is a blue carpet! Even under the beds. So will we basically have to gut the whole Airstream? Its overall in really great shape and just needs some updating with paint, fabric and new floors.

    1. We put in the flooring last, around the furniture. I’ve seen people do it both ways though but adding flooring everywhere will just make for unwanted added weight. Surprised there’s carpeting under your beds! Fortunately, ours stopped at the beds. I would definitely put the flooring down around the furniture. A lot of the built-ins in here would probably be very hard to take out and put back in again.

  5. Hi Sheena!! I am so inspired by your blog and Mavis. My husband and I (also met in HS) are in the early phases of an Airstream journey. My question in regards to floors: Did you have to replace the sub-floor or was it already redone? Also, you make an excellent point about extra weight of the flooring. For most renovations, laying the flooring throughout would probably be easier in the long run…what did you use to make your cuts in the vinyl? 🚎❤️🐶

    1. Hello! Congrats on joining the Airstream club. 😉 Our subfloor was in really good shape. It did have some water staining here and there and some very minimal rot around the door but overall, it was very strong. We actually just cut out the rot (probably only a 8″ section) and replaced with a fresh patch of plywood. The Airstreams my dad has worked on all needed total subfloor replacements as they were pretty far gone and too soft. Since we used 4mm flooring, it was able to be simply be scored with a utility knife and snapped. Anything beyond 4mm and I assume you’d have to use a saw. That was another reason I wanted flooring that was thin enough to be easily installed. We were able to do all of the cuts in the trailer rather than carrying in and out to a saw. 🙂

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