There are a lot of reasons RV slides have carpet, including as an area for the kids to play inside. Carpet is cheap, holds up relatively well, is simple to install, and provides a certain aesthetic, depending on the kind of carpet and color.
While all of those things sound pretty good, recent innovations and customer reporting has convinced manufacturers that the idea of RV slides that have carpet is no longer a good idea. If you haven’t kept up with the latest trends in the RV World, that may sound absurd, but virtually all new motorhomes and travel trailers simply don’t have it.
Instead, the industry is turning to vinyl flooring and various weather-proof materials. Many RV owners are replacing their carpet with vinyl plank flooring that resembles residential wood flooring, which is now trending in the industry.
The Rationale Behind Slides Having Carpet
RV slides have carpet for many of the same reasons homes have carpet. While some people just prefer the feel of carpet, there are more fundamental reasons for using it.
There’s a level of comfort when it comes to carpet, not because you’re laying on it, but because carpet creates an additional layer of impact resistance. Anything you put on it absorbs shock better, offering more comfort.
Carpets provide several different looks and styles, so there’s no doubting their aesthetic value. It rarely matters what the interior decor theme of the RV is when there is always a carpet to match it.
3. Moisture Barrier
Most carpet padding serves as an adequate moisture barrier because they are designed that way. The carpet of today has to compete with the various flooring options out there, all of which typically come with moisture resistance.
4. Sound Absorption
Clomping across a hard floor in a home is one thing, but it’s much louder in an RV. Homes sit on concrete foundations, while travel trailers and motorhomes are a lot like mobile homes. They lack the immense weight of concrete directly beneath them.
5. Prevents Slips and Falls
This is probably one of the more underappreciated aspects of carpet. Out of most of the flooring options, it’s one of the best when it comes to traction and keeping your feet securely on the floor.
6. Cost Effective
Carpet is affordable. First, it’s one of the older flooring options available out there. Second, the materials that go into manufacturing carpet are cheaper, passing more affordable costs on to RV buyers.
Why Wouldn’t You Want Carpet in Your RV Slides?
Honestly, some people just don’t like carpet, Period. Not because of any intrinsic problems with it (those do exist) but because it’s just not their personal vibe. However, for those on the fence, it’s a good idea to know the negative effects of carpet because some of them can be quite drastic.
1. Traps Allergens
One of the more drastic reasons people struggle with carpet is that it traps allergens. Carpet is an excellent allergen magnet, and if there is something in the air that will send you into a watery-eyed sneezing fit, you bet the carpet will pick it up.
2. Gets Dirty
Besides allergens, carpet draws in the dirt quickly if you don’t stay on top of it, especially if you have dogs. A good sweep and mop take care of tile and vinyl but not so with carpet. Which, of course, leads us to the next negative.
3. Not Easy to Clean
RV slides have carpet for a lot of good reasons, but cleaning them is not something most people think of when they’re “oohing and ahhing” over the luxurious aesthetics. Carpet is a pain to clean, especially if you let it go for too long.
4. Not Super Durable
Have you ever seen those astroturf placemats that have been in use for a couple of years? They’re always bald in the middle. Carpet can be like that, too, specifically in high-traffic spots. Outside of normal wear and tear, it’s a lot like cloth and doesn’t handle abrasive movements well.
5. Protecting the Bottom Slide Border
The most important reason RV slides have carpet is to cover the border where the slide-out floor meets the main RV floor. If you lift up that edge of the carpet, you’ll see that there’s a strip of rubber weatherproofing between the main RV floor and the slide-out floor.
Carpet is the easiest way to protect that edge from foot traffic, and it won’t fall into the gap disrupting the seal the weather strip creates to seal the two floors.
Can You Replace the Carpet in Your RV Slides?
Yes, you can replace the carpet in your RV slides, and it’s not as difficult as you might think. Most people replace it with vinyl flooring and plank flooring. If you’ve reached the part in your RV ownership where you’re considering replacing the slide-out carpet with vinyl, you need to come up with a plan.
There’s more that goes into installing hard flooring of any kind in a slide-out because this is a moving floor. It’s not some stationary bedroom floor where it will reside unmoved and unchanged for the next ten years.
Measure everything precisely and carefully consider how your slide-out, well, for lack of better words, slides out. Not all of them operate the same way and have the same clearance and movement. Mostly, you need to know how many planks you will need and how much cutting the installation will involve.
When Should You Replace the Carpet in Your RV Slides?
Just because your RV slides have carpet doesn’t mean you have to keep it that way forever. Your RV is yours, after all. You should replace your RV carpet whenever you want to and can afford to do so. Of course, that’s just a personal excuse.
There are other reasons you might want to replace the carpet on your RV slides.
- When you’re looking to trade or sell
- When the carpet is worn out
- If you prefer laminate over carpeting
- If you or one of your family members has allergies
- You simply want a creative style change
Fortunately, the task isn’t too difficult, at least in general. Most of the time, you’ll find that carpet in an RV slide-out is stapled down to an underlying plywood plank. That makes removal fairly simple, especially once you get the first corner or edge up.
What Type of Carpet is Best for RV Slides?
Now, there are a hundred different “types” of carpet; however, to understand what’s best for an RV slide-out, there are non-woven and woven versions. Woven is the best type for slides because it is usually short-cropped and manageable.
Non-woven features loose strands and longer strands, both of which aren’t good for an RV slide for a variety of reasons. You’ll find non-woven from time to time, but it’s nowhere near as prevalent as woven carpet.
Woven carpet generally holds up better, is easier to work with, and is easier to find. You’ll want a carpet that can hold up to the RV lifestyle. That’s why woven is always the best choice.
What Kind of Flooring is Suitable for RV Slides?
Starting with the most obvious, carpet is a kind of flooring suitable for RV slides. However, carpeting, for some of the reasons listed here, as well as some others, is on the way out. As RVers transition to floor types more suitable for the modern RV and popular aesthetics, it opened the door to several possibilities.
You’ll find that rubber is more common than you think, especially in toy haulers but will work fine for a slide. It’s very effective in terms of anti-slip, it comes in a variety of colors, features several textures, is easy to install, and is highly versatile. It also happens to be one of the most affordable options out there.
2. Vinyl Flooring Tiles
One of the more popular options for slides, vinyl plank flooring, is a fantastic option. It comes in every color and pattern you can imagine and is fairly easy to install. Vinyl comes with a lot of the benefits carpet offers as well, including a moisture barrier, anti-microbial properties, and an incredible aesthetic.
3. Linoleum Floor Tiles
A clean, smooth subflooring makes linoleum tiles a breeze to install. They come with many of the benefits of vinyl tile though they are easier to break if you aren’t careful. They’re also the slickest option with the lowest anti-slip properties of anything else out there.
4. Stone Floor Tile
An easy-to-clean and install option is stone tile. Like linoleum and vinyl, the variety in styles and colors is incredible. It doesn’t take much more than a general wipe-down to keep them clean, either.
You will find stone tiles in the luxury Class A motorhomes. It is expensive and adds a lot of weight to the RV. That is why you will not see it in any other class of RV.
Avoid using ceramic tiles. This type of tile will not handle road vibration or the RV lifestyle well.
Can You Put Laminate Flooring in a Camper with a Slide Out?
Laminate flooring is certainly a replacement option for RV slides that have carpet. It’s a lot like vinyl flooring, but the material is obviously different, and laminate flooring has an inner core board. Though you can replace carpet with laminate without any issues, there’s one thing that holds laminate back.
Laminate is nowhere near as moisture-resistant as vinyl flooring. Couple that with the fact that leaking is a common issue with slides (mostly with slides that are aged, worn out, or not very well maintained), and it creates the potential for a serious problem.
If you were to run a side-by-side comparison of vinyl versus laminate (an article all by itself), vinyl wins out in almost every category, including ease of maintenance, appearance, water resistance, durability, and resale value. That last one will make a difference if you’re thinking of selling or trading in your RV.
Laminate is a little easier to install, less expensive, and is considered to be better for the environment in the short and long term.
Can You Use Peel and Stick Flooring for RV Slides?
While you probably could, you would probably need to use a serious adhesive for peel-and-stick flooring in RV slides. The problems with this type of flooring aren’t numerous but are substantial. For one, peel and stick expand and contract in a big way.
Humidity and temperature changes create visible changes in peel-and-stick flooring. Adhesives are a concern as well. You don’t want the tiles to move around and loosen due to the significant temperature changes your RV goes through.
Last but not least, most peel-and-stick options don’t handle abrasions very well. You could certainly use it, but it’s probably not the best option for your RV. Fortunately, there are some solid uses for peel-and-stick tile that don’t involve a slide-out.
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Final Thoughts on Carpeted RV Slides
Carpet is certainly capable of bringing a high degree of aesthetic appeal to any RV. However, the RV industry is moving away from it. The driving force behind this change is customer preference. If customers preferred carpet in their slide-outs, there wouldn’t be a change.
Most travel trailers with slide-outs are taking other routes, with non-carpet options for the slide-outs that match the flooring throughout the RV. Nothing lasts forever, though, and you can always change the floor type in your RV any time you want.
This is especially true if you see an advantage. The good news is the options out there are nearly limitless. And ultimately, if you like carpet, you can always pull out that brand-new linoleum and put some lush carpet in its place.
About the Author:
Thomas Godwin is a full-time freelance writer with a BFA in Creative Writing, a U.S. Marine, and an avid outdoorsman.
When he’s not writing, he’s raising chickens and Appleyard ducks. Thomas also constructs teardrop campers (attempting to anyway) and kayaks the Blackwater River with his wife, two daughters, and his Dobermans.