Horse Trailer Repair: Floor Boards
Rotten Floor Boards
There is nothing, that I can think of, that could be more horrifying then when rotten floor boards give way under the weight of a horse and the horse falls through.
I've been hauling horses for thirty years and never had a floor buckle under a horse, but I have heard about it. Every situation I've heard about involved rotten floor boards. Dry rot will rob wood of its integrity while the wood appears stable.
Horses weigh anywhere from 800 to 3,000 pounds. That is a lot of weight; weight that doesn't stand still when it's traveling. There's stomping and jostling the entire ride. The floor must be strong to avoid a break through. Once a horse breaks through, whether it be one hoof or a section of his body, he will have to be put down at the scene.
I will not be posting any pictures of horses that have fallen through. If you are curious here is a link to a website that offers such picture(s). Warning: Graphic Photo: http://cs.thehorse.com/blogs/horse-911-whats-your-emergency/archive/2012/05/05/ensuring-trailer-floors-don-t-fail.aspx
Lift the Rubber Mats Regularly
Very Rotten With Grass Growing!!
Acceptable and Unacceptable Flooring
There is a huge variety of products that a floor can be constructed with. Some are safe, others are down right unacceptable for a trailer that will transport horses or any livestock.
Acceptable: Steel, Aluminum, Treated Wood
UN-Acceptable: Plywood, Pressed wood, Untreated Wood
More on preserved wood here.
This hub will provide detailed instructions on replacing floor boards. The trailer we are replacing the floor boards on his a goose neck or sometimes called a stock trailer.
Replacing the boards is a straightforward task. It does take some muscle; the boards are heavy, removal of the old ones can be somewhat difficult, placing the new ones is not as difficult as removing the old ones.
Difficulty Rating: Easy
Gather Your Tools and Equipment
Part and Tools List
Drill with a bit the size of screws.
Cutting Device (Skillsaw, hand saw, etc.)
Replace the Old Wood
The old floor needs to be pulled out. If the wood is completely rotted like the one in the photo's above, then you can simply rip them up by hand. I was able to rip up the majority of the boards in this trailer with a gloved hand. Towards the forward section the boards had less rotting and I had to use my skill saw.
- First check underneath to locate the steel floor joists. Then using your saw, make sure you don't cut through the steel support beams (joists) under the wood, and cut the boards one at a time. After they are cut, remove the screw securing it to the steel joists. If you can unscrew the screw, great! If they are rusted to the steel, you will need to grind the top off to get the board out (Then grind off the rest of the screw after the board is out). Don't damage the steel joist when grinding off the screw! Now you should be able to pry the board up with a crowbar, hammer or large screw driver. Move on to the next board and repeat until all the boards are removed.
- Now that all the boards are out; inspect the steel floor joists thoroughly for signs of rotting or rust. If either is found you need to remove it with a wire wheel before doing anything else. Inspect and remove all rot spots or rust then apply a coat of rust resistant paint. Allow it to dry for a few minutes and apply another two or three coats.
- After the paint has dried you are ready to lay the flooring. Measure the length of the area that each board covered. Measuring the boards removed will not give you an accurate measurement. Wood shrinks as it ages, it won't measure the same as it did when it was new. If there is a lip the wood slide into on each side subtract 1/2 inch or so from the total length or you won't be able to get the wood back in. Take your measurement and apply it to your chosen flooring and cut to length. (Remember: Measure twice; cut once). If your flooring is treated wood, wear a mask to protect yourself from the airborne pesticides produced by the sawing.
The following photo's walk you step by step how to put the boards back in.
Placing Flooring & Special Cuts
- Place your cut wood, steel or aluminum as shown.
- Tap on one side until the board is square with the trailer.
- Tap evenly on the board as you move it along the rails to the forward edge of the trailer.
- Tap the board securely into place.
- Do the same with the next board leaving a nail width gap between the boards.
Follow along with the next set of photos.
Step by StepClick thumbnail to view full-size
At this time go to the opposite end and install the boards exactly as you did for the forward section working your way to the center. At the wheel wells:
- Measure and cut the pieces between the wheel wells.
- Cut your two special cut boards for the ends of the wheel wells.
- Place the first special cut board and follow with the rest of the shorter boards between the wheel wells.
- After the second special cut board is set then place the boards left out earlier.
- The last board will need to be filed on the ends. Then lay one side into the lip and hammer firmly until it is fully seated under the lip. Then wedge the other end under the lip. This can prove to be challenging. File off more length if needed to get the board under the lip.
You're almost done. Set the gap between the boards. I used nails, one at each end of the boards, to set the gap. The nails were the perfect width and the head stopped them from falling through while I screwed in the screws. Take the new screws and, if possible, locate the old hole and screw the new screw into it. If it is not possible then drill new holes and screw in the new screws, two per board.
Now you are done! You may have saved a horses life, good job!