Removing Our RV’s Ancient Cork Floor



It was an annoying job.

It was a daunting job.

And it was a low-gratification job.

Let me properly explain so you can join in on our pain — Andy and I were bent over our hands and knees struggling to remove our 1965 Clark Cortez motorhome’s cork flooring.

This decision came after starting our RV build: We had gutted our steal beast, removed the ceiling and wall insulation, then pulled out all the last components.

After that, we were looking at our RV’s bare metal and, therefore, felt confident that we were days from removing the underseal, treating the metal, then painting it before re-insulating.

“But,” I told Andy, “I wouldn’t want to get our RV dirty again when we pull up the floorboards and the all-who-knows-what disgust underneath when we plan to re-insulate the floor later.”

This brought up a good point so we figured we would remove all, clean all, and re-insulate all, which is how Andy and I came to be hunched over our next supposedly-easy task of removing our cork flooring.

The only issue was that after five laborious minutes, we had barely chipped away any cork because it kept breaking in thin layers whenever our scrapers got under it: Layer One was the top part, which was only cork; Layer Two was the middle part, which was the cork-to-sticky backing; and Layer Three was the actual hardened glue.

“This sucks,” Andy exhaled.

“I don’t see past cork,” I complained with wide eyes looking at all the cork that was looking back at me.

Our five minutes felt more like five hours, and it was then we determined — for the first time — that we needed reinforcements. Those reinforcements came in the form of my family.

“Do you think they will save us?” I asked Andy.

“Nah,” he shook his head the same time I shook mine. “I wouldn’t come save me.”

Having one set of extra hands was worth a shot though so I picked up my phone and called my sister … and just so you know how convincing I was and how helpful my sister was, here’s our conversation:

Me: “We didn’t know if you and your sweet husband were looking for something to do … for the foreseeable future.”

Her: “What are you working on now?” I could tell immediately that she was half invested in our conversation, which surely would mean she was less than half invested in Andy’s and my motorhome restoration. Not that I could blame her — She was not the one who chose to place an online-auction bid for a 55-year-old vehicle.

To answer her question though, I went into accurately describing our next task — and this is where I may have said the cork removal was a “horrible job” … that required fighting with cork that refused to be removed from our floor … so “it is taking forever” and “a nightmare” because of that … which is why we wanted “a massive amount of people to help.”

Clearly — based on this fabulous once-in-a-lifetime opportunity — there is no wonder how she responded: She politely told me to rethink my life choices by saying, “If you really need me, I can but … “

And that was it. I told her I’d talk to her at some distant point in our lifetime when we removed the cork, and then Andy and I were left alone once more.

Listen, I know it sounds like we are complaining (and — I get it — we are), but talk to me after you have over 12 feet of cork that is eternally sealed to floorboards.

“We aren’t making enough progress for my liking,” Andy told me and off he disappeared to the garage, leaving me to drown in a sea of cork.

Minutes went by slow chip-chip-chipping away at cork using a hammer to gentle tap a scraper under the cork glue, and then Andy re-appeared with both power and authority in his hand: an angel grinder.

If hope had a sound know now it sounds like the ear-blasting screech of an angel grinder going back and forth over 55-year-old cork glue on a wood floor. And it sounds beautiful.

After about 20 passes up and down, an inch-by-two-inch piece of golden and perfect wood floor was uncovered. Though tiny, it was mighty because that area symbolized our victory, and it was clear Andy agreed based on his smile and shout about more progress in three seconds than our work that day.

From there, we switched roles as cork remover and glue angel-grinder until we began to notice a dent in our work, until we began to feel instant gratification and move faster, until our cork was pulled up.

In the end, the morning and afternoon passed, but we (finally) saw all of our wood floor — and it’s not just any wood floor. Our award was a truly stunning wood floor.

Andy likes to remind me that this is a simple plywood, but uncovering this hidden beauty makes me think of alternate plans for our build — Originally we had envisioned putting in linoleum flooring but now, I am leaning towards staining and sealing our marbled wood. (Leave a comment and let us know what flooring ideas you have that we should consider!)

“That was way harder than it needed to be,” Andy exhaled, and I knew his facial expression matched mine. It was time for a heart-to-heart conversation.

“I think that that’s the hardest job yet — ” I began.

“Ever,” Andy agreed, interrupting. “I don’t think I’m ever going to do a harder job than that.”

Then we looked around at our walls, which were covered in underseal …

That will have to wait though because our next job will require removing our wood floor to pull the insulation underneath, but wait until you hear what a flooring debacle that was …

That, though, is our next story.

Author: L

Hi there! I am the impulsive do-er, the jumper, the one tugging to move past comfort zones to embrace a life of sheer surprise. I am a writer -- a pursuer of stories -- because I believe in the destination over the journey. I am a chaser of sunrises and sunsets and cherisher of the moments between. I have an overwhelming curiosity, an insatiable desire travel, and an obsessive yearn to turn dreams into realities. For all of these reasons, the word that best summarizes who I am is "seeker" -- I am forever a seeker.

4 thoughts

  1. This is going to sound wild, but I’d almost recommend a 2 part epoxy to just cost the entire floor. It would be a huge undertaking to pour that much epoxy. But I think it would look awesome with that marbling.

    1. Hi Justin,
      I’m SO happy you wrote this because my first thought that I told Andy was resin — He loves to use resin so I figured we could pour it across the floor for amazing shiny finish. Hearing you say this makes me feel it would be amazing and different.
      Loving your comment and appreciate that you like the marbling too — Thanks so much for your thoughts!
      L (and Andy)

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