Horse Trailer Repair: Floor Boards

Updated on January 8, 2018
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Horse Trailer Repair: Floor Boards

The floor in a stock/horse trailer does not last forever. It must be replaced BEFORE it rots. When the wood floor rots it can break through anytime when weight is applied to it. Tragedies like a floor giving out can easily be avoided. With a few tools and instruction, you can replace that rotten floor!

Rotten Wood

Very bad rot.
Very bad rot. | Source

Rotten Floor Boards

There is nothing, that I can think of, that could be more horrifying than 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.

If a horses hoof does break through a rotten floor, the damage is unbelievable to the horse. This is a huge tragedy that can be totally avoided by replacing the floor periodically.

Lift the Rubber Mats Regularly

Check under the mats periodically. This wood is unacceptable to transport anything!
Check under the mats periodically. This wood is unacceptable to transport anything! | Source

Very Rotten With Grass Growing!!

Source

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

Stock Trailer Floor Difficulty Rating

You will find detailed instructions on replacing the floorboards, also referred to as planks. The trailer we are replacing the floorboards on his an old, steel, gooseneck, with a wood/plank floor. This type of trailer is also 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, but they do take some adjusting which may include a sledge, or other heavy hammer.

  • Process Difficulty Rating: Easy.
  • Physical Labor Difficulty Rating: Medium.

Gather Your Tools and Equipment

 
PARTS/TOOLS LIST
 
1. Flooring Material (Treated Wood, Steel, etc)
5. Grinder
9. Drill with a bit the size of screws.
2. Measuring Tape
6. New Screws
10. Sledge, or heavy hammer.
3. Straightedge
7. Screw Driver
 
4. Cutting Device (Skillsaw, hand saw, etc.)
8. File
 
Trailer floor support (joists).
Trailer floor support (joists).

Replace the Old Wood

The old floor needs to be pulled out. If the wood is completely rotted like the planks in the photos, 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 to cut the plank into sections. Once a plank was cut into sections, I was able to pull them out. Before making any cuts, read through the following steps, then proceed.

  1. First check underneath to locate the steel floor joists. Then using your saw, make sure you don't cut through the steel support 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!
  2. Now you should be able to pry the board up with a crowbar, or use your sledge hammer to tap it out of its slot. A large screwdriver can prove handy at this point to wedge between the boards.
  3. 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 to three coats. If any of the floor joists have rust that is pitting the steel, take the trailer to a welder to reinforce that joist, or all the joists.

After the paint has dried you are ready to lay the planks.

  1. Measure the length of the area that each board covered. Measuring the old boards you 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 flooring slid into, or under, on each side subtract 1/2 inch or so from the total length or you won't be able to get the floor sections 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 and Special Cuts

  1. Place your cut wood, steel or aluminum as shown.
  2. Tap on one side until the board is square with the trailer.
  3. Tap evenly on the board as you move it along the rails to the forward edge of the trailer.
  4. Tap the board securely into place.
  5. 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 Step

Click thumbnail to view full-size
1st - Here's the trailer with all the boards out exposing the painted steel joists.2nd - Lay the board cock-eyed and hammer one end until it is square to the trailer.3rd - Continue hammering evenly on each side.5th - This is the 1st board pressed to the wall.
1st - Here's the trailer with all the boards out exposing the painted steel joists.
1st - Here's the trailer with all the boards out exposing the painted steel joists.
2nd - Lay the board cock-eyed and hammer one end until it is square to the trailer.
2nd - Lay the board cock-eyed and hammer one end until it is square to the trailer.
3rd - Continue hammering evenly on each side.
3rd - Continue hammering evenly on each side.
5th - This is the 1st board pressed to the wall.
5th - This is the 1st board pressed to the wall.

Special Cut

A special cut, for a horse trailer, doesn't involve much. The wheel wells are where you may need to cut a stagger formation, or a notch. Below explains special cuts at the wheel well. 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:

  1. Measure and cut the pieces between the wheel wells.
  2. Cut your two special cut boards for the ends of the wheel wells.
  3. Place the first special cut board and follow with the rest of the shorter boards between the wheel wells.
  4. After the second special cut board is set then place the boards left out earlier.
  5. 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.

Special Cut

Click thumbnail to view full-size
5th - Move to the opposite end at this point.6th - Place the boards exactly as you did for the front section.7th - Cut the special cut board and place it.  Then place the shorter boards between the wheel wells.8th -Set the last boards in place and you're almost done!
5th - Move to the opposite end at this point.
5th - Move to the opposite end at this point.
6th - Place the boards exactly as you did for the front section.
6th - Place the boards exactly as you did for the front section.
7th - Cut the special cut board and place it.  Then place the shorter boards between the wheel wells.
7th - Cut the special cut board and place it. Then place the shorter boards between the wheel wells.
8th -Set the last boards in place and you're almost done!
8th -Set the last boards in place and you're almost done!

You Did It!

Now you are done! You may have saved a life with this task, good job!

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