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flooring material preferences?

9189 Views 26 Replies 13 Participants Last post by  Don B.
I'm about done building my trailer. I'm ready to "floor" it; which would be better? I was originally gonna go with "deck boards"; but I'm thinking now of going with expanded metal; which do you guys prefer?
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Pressure treated 5/4" decking all the way. Two layers thick if a really strong deck is required.

In my experience, the expanded metal will stretch and sag under a large enough point load, or wheel load if you prefer. Also, when it starts rusting, the welds holding it to the frame tend to break and that makes for a really nasty limb cutter when your trying to tie down a load.

Again, this is just my experience and I am sure that there are plenty of people out there that have had great luck and really like the expanded metal.
IMO, it all depends on what you're going to haul in it. I would consider expanded metal for only a very lightweight use deck. Another guy and built an 18' deck trailer and used diamond plate several years back...Never again. My current trailer has a 7x18' deck of 2x6" PT wood. The trailer is five years old and I just 'flipped' all the deck boards to get a new surface and replace a couple broken screws.
I've had trailers with all kinds of decking. I much prefer pressure treated lumber. It's easy to replace, oil doesn't puddle as bad & get slippery, I often use deck screws to hold things down. All this week I've been replacing the soffits & facia on my house. My 20' flatbed makes an awesome workbench, I don't need to worry if a skillsaw blade contacts it & I screw down the chopsaw etc.
I don't like expanded metal for the reasons already stated plus if your towing on wet, salted or sanded roads all the muck comes up thru the deck and saturates the load.

Deck lumber is good and is an affordable alternative. Some trailers it's, IMO, the best choice.

I also like two layers of 1/2" or 5/8" treated plywood. Stagger the joints and glue the two layers as you put them down. One really good thing about this kind of deck is the ease with which gouges and dings may be repaired. Just router out the bad area down to the dividing layer between the two plywood panels, cut a piece to fit then glue and screw it in place.

I like diamond plate sheeting or white oak, yard rough though...

As other have said, personal preference prevails.
The trailer I bought this spring had flooring made out of 2x8s painted. 2 of them were gone and the rest were almost rotted away. I replaced the floor with treated 2x8s. Haven't had time to put linseed oil on yet.
I used southern yellow pine, 1 1/4" thick. Brushed on linseed oil and sprinkled sand onto it when wet to provide a non-slip surface.
2" Rough Cut White Oak !! Not much lasts longer or is as strong .. unless you go with metals
If I could get it, I would have used red elm 2x8s. That is as tough as white oak, but would be cheaper. All of the red elms are gone around here due to Dutch elm disease. They used to make wagon floors with red elm and I know it lasted 20 years on them.
well since the guys that claimed to be able to "hook me up" with expanded metal for free from their work now won't call me back; must have been blowing smoke; so I guess I;m back to my orig plan of 5/4" treated deck boards like I did on mu last one.
I built a custom flat bed about 20 years ago for one of the many old Dodge pickups I have owned (that was my 79 shortbed) and used fresh from the mill, rough sawn oak; that when teh mill said they were "2 by 10"; that was not "nominal" they were actually 2" thick and 10" wide!
I want this thing to last for sure; but when I go to order plates being a single axle I'm gonna go with the lowest (cheapest) plate classification; which IIRC is 3000#; fine for about 98% of what I will be using it for; but I don't want the trailer to weigh that amount "empty" or I won't be able to carry anything and still be legal!
that 3000# rating would be the total weight of the trailer and load; not just the weight of what's being carried! if oak weren't so heavy (I know that's alot of why it lasts so long) I'd like to go that route; may have to see if that mill is still in business and see if they could get me some "5/4 board" as they used to cut-to-order you could get any thickness you wanted; when I did my truck bed I called them at 8AM and they had them ready for me when I went out there on my lunch hour!

Seeing as white oak weighs about 4# / bf, and yellow pine weighs about 3.3#/ bf, I would think there is a pretty negligible difference. 17% might mean something if you are on the edge though.

Too bad your expanded metal guy fell flat..

Seeing as white oak weighs about 4# / bf, and yellow pine weighs about 3.3#/ bf, I would think there is a pretty negligible difference. 17% might mean something if you are on the edge though.

Too bad your expanded metal guy fell flat..
no that isn't much difference btw the oak and pine; I thought it was more; though the treated pine boards sure seem heavier than non treated.

and I guess I have time now to wait on the guys on teh expanded metal; with how this crap getting license and title for it is going I have a 6-8 week wait between submitting pix and forms and my appt for the inspection I gotta go thru to get licensed on this thing; though within the forms I have to fill out it asks pretty pointed questions about construction and materials and being that I have to submit pix of it "done" if I tell them on the form taht I will have a wooden floor, show pix with an empty deck and show up w/ expanded metal, they will probably have a hissy. I'm about to let my teenage son "practice" his acetylene torch skills and scrap the **** thing as it stands now; details in my thread about IL legal issues pertaining to licensing a home made trailer. .

I read your post on titling your trailer. What a pain .:sorry1:

Just assuming your trailer is around 5' x10', the oak at about 1 1/4 thick would weigh 250#, the pressure treated ( southern yellow pine ) would be 206#.

The treated wood feels really heavy when you buy it because of the high moisture content.. It get lighter as it dries out with time.... Same thing with yard rough white oak, at least where I get mine.

What does the expanded metal you are looking at weigh?
my trailer will be 77" wide, X 13 feet not incl the tongue; single axle the "usable" bed space will be 73"X 11'6" because I have put an 18" dovetail on the back, and the 2X2" square tube "uprights" for the rail around the front and sides. the main frame is 2X4 steel tubing, and I "dropped" that last 18" 3-1/2" over the span of that 18". 6-lug axles w/brakes (wasnt sure whether I was gonna hook them up because I am looking to license it at the lightest weight rating IL licenses trailers for which is "up to" 3,000 lbs.
But since I have to go thru all this BS to get a license plate to be able to use the **** thing, I guess I gotta hook them up and hope for the best as far as whether they are functional; and once they see trailer brakes that are hooked up they may put me in the next weight rating class as far as plates go which I think allows a total weight of 5,000lbs. there are no tags on the axle to indicate a weight rating (the sec of state said that they usually go by the axle rating to determine this) the up to 3000# rating plates are $18/year; the next ones (I think; my buddy with that rating on a trailer didn't remember for sure) are like $38/yr. I see alot of stuff online that says the trailer brakes need a break a way thing to activate them if it comes loose from the coupler; though the only way I can do that means I would have to add a battery of some kind to the trailer since if it becomes un done from my truck there would be no power to activate them; I see alot of trailers equipped with brakes (mostly bigger trailers) and none have any kind of break a way doohickey on them. I just don't want to take this thing 200 mi (100 each way) for the inspection to be turned down. Am I making "too much" of that line of thinking?
as far as lights go, I don't care; I can put plenty on there; but for all of them it appears I need, it will be lit up brighter than those low riders with the neon tubes that they outlawed being lit up while rolling down the road; just a lil more soldering and heat shrinking.
as far as how much the expanded metal weighs, I'm not sure; it depends on which "gauge" i got for it; all I know is that I want a heavier gauge than what the local metal dealer is selling at $28 per 4X8 sheet; they have a stack "on special"; I guess they have or can get other stuff but at a higher cost; the $28 stuff is all they showed me when I went and asked; I was hoping that my guy at the warehouse that opened his mouth and gave me the idea to use exp metal as my flooring in the 1st place came through; as he was saying that they have it in 6'X10' sheets which means I would only need 2 sheets w/alot less waste; at 4X8 i would need 4 sheets with alot of waste.
but whatever gauge I get, I am not thinking it would be 200# worth of material, almost certainly less. but as so many "manufactured" trailers have an expanded metal floor now a days I'm thinking that a wood deck, especially if I go with oak, would have a more home made look; they say that if "they can tell" that this thing started out as a trailer that I would have to go as a "reconstructed" trailer not a home made.
a couple other thoughts; how bout those artificial wood ("plastic") "deck boards"? any thoughts there? I like the look of real wood better than the expanded metal for sure; and if I have to sit on or kneel on it (as in having to fix a piece of equipment while still on the trailer) wood planking would be "kinder on the knees" than expanded metal digging in.

also; should I butt the wood planks "tight" to each other as I have done in the past? or should I leave a 1/4-1/2" gap lengthwise between them? I'm thinking for "drainage" etc., and expansion/contraction goes; on my former trailer I replace dteh deck twice over the 12 years I had it (teh original floor and 1 replacement floor)
as far as quantity of material I think I'd only be talking the difference of 1 board, which compared to the overall amount of work and money going in, as well as the weight of the whole wooden deck, ain't enough to notice a difference.

but on the original floor on my old trailer that I'd put on, it lasted 11 years, and though I originally stacked em tight when I installed them, as the years went by, they shrunk up. and I had ~1/4" gaps between them; and after 11 years, they were "brittle" and started cracking and falling out easily which was why I had to re-deck it in '09 just to sell it this year (I didnt know I'd be selling it at the time I re floored it)

Seeing as white oak weighs about 4# / bf, and yellow pine weighs about 3.3#/ bf, I would think there is a pretty negligible difference. 17% might mean something if you are on the edge though.

Too bad your expanded metal guy fell flat..
are you comparing pine and oak at the same nominal thickness?
there was talk by someone else above about using "2-by" oak, I was looking at 5/4" deck boards.
For a light weight trailer 5/4 pressure treated deck boards work well, they last a long time and they are relatively inexpensive. That's what I used for my homemade utility trailer, I retreat the deck every few years with Thompson's water seal.


Yes , I am comparing the same nominal thickness, 1 1/4 inches.

I am suspicious of a single axle being rated for 5000#, without brakes, and the inspection will flag that immediately. The brakes will need to work ( for inspection) , and for 20 bucks a year, is it that much to avoid a possible inspection/ ticket on the road?

As to butting the boards together, set 'em as tight as you can. They shrink. My 18' carhauler, redecked with 8/4 x 10 white oak 9 years ago, opened up to 3/8" gaps.... still looks good though, and still hauls a lot 'o equipment. Penofin is a good sealer, no matter what you choose.

I have built a trailer or two with expanded metal decks, fairly heavy gauge, and was never happy with them. Too much crap from the road, the metal eventually sagging, rust, etc.....

As to the breakaway doohickey, if you have electrics, a battery is required. The one's you have seen without a breakaway activation device, i.e. cable actuator and switch, are in violation of the law and common sense.

Surge brakes are also supposed to have them too, but I still see some that don't and it makes me cringe.

Here is a link to a good trailer parts supplier, good information inside as well.

Wayne- nice looking trailer, really like the hoops you put around the lights. I would have mounted the lights further back though , for better visibilty to others....
I never said my axle would have ever been rated for 5000# by itself; but if I "call it" 3001lbs, the next weight class for license and title purposes is 3001-5000 range. my thoughts were somewhere between 3000-3500. I'd call it 2999 so stay at the cheapest yearly license fee but I said what I did thinking that the state would have other ideas when they saw this thing has its own brakes.
When it comes to linseed oil or Thompsons type products; do they work the same with treated wood as they do with plain untreated stock?
I remember the 1st product my Dad ever did using treated wood; the rear staircase on his house; before "treated" wood the thing to do was to coat wood with creosote to preserve it; as a teen it was "my" job to slop that messy crap onto the staircase; that staircase rotted out in record time. come to find out the creosote worked counter to the treatment chemicals and combined instead to speed up the deterioration process; so we built another staircase, again from treated wood; this time we did nothing (coating wise) and 20 years later it's still fine.
I'm putting together a 12' x 6' trailer made from an old Viking pop-up. I considered both 5/4 decking boards and 3/4 CDX plywood, both pressure treated. I've decided to go with the CDX, both because it is less expensive and because it will add more strength to the relatively light trailer frame.

My other trailer is a late '60s or early '70s vintage Cox tent trailer. I kept the original 1/2" plywood decking - it's still in good shape. If I do redeck it at some point in the future I might consider the 5/4 planks since the frame on this one is really strong. The limiting factor as far as weight is concerend is the load range C 5.30x8 tires.

I wouldn't consider expanded metal - too flimsy, road slop coming up through it, and stuff can fall through!
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