Horse Trailer Floorboard Safety Check

Restore, Repair or Replace? This process won’t protect floorboards that have already begun to rot from deterioration, nor will it restore rotten wood. If your trailer’s floorboards look or feel spongy, are pitted, or sag when you load your horse, you probably need a new floor. Call your trailer dealer for repair guidelines, or buy a new trailer altogether.

Here’s What You’ll Need

  • Steamed distilled turpentine
  • Boiled linseed oil
  • 4″ polyester paintbrush
  • 64-oz. glass measuring cup
  • 16-oz. can of paint thinner
  • Hammer
  • Broom
  • Wire brush
  • Garden hose with spray nozzle
  • Putty knife
  • Whisk broom
  • Dustpan
  • Flashlight
  • Screwdriver
  • 1-gal. plastic milk jug with lid
  • 3-lb. coffee can
  • Funnel
  • Towel

Step 1. Prop open your trailer door and windows for ventilation. Pull out the mats. (If the mats are tacked down, pull out the tacks with a hammer, or lift straight up at the front corners.) Briskly sweep the floorboards with the broom. Then, with the wire brush, scrub manure stains and areas where water and dirt tend to collect-usually along edges and doors. With the hose’s spray nozzle, rinse out the remaining dirt and debris.

Step 2. Remove from your tack compartment any carpeting or other covering to expose the wood flooring. Use the putty knife or wire brush to remove debris and mildew, then clean up the residue with the whisk broom and dustpan. Pan the flashlight down walls to check for leaks. If you spot one, make a note to get it fixed.

Step 3. With the screwdriver, probe into the floorboards. If you can easily insert the screwdriver into the wood, you’ve found wood rot. Pay special attention to any areas where water remains as a result of your rinsing efforts; places where water collects tend to rot more quickly. Be sure to carefully check around knot holes, dented or warped areas, and weathered spots. In your tack compartment, pay particular attention to areas where water may have collected from leaks.

If the soft spots are quarter-size or smaller, you’ll be able to clean out the rot and save the board. (See Step 5.) Make note of larger soft spots, so you’ll know which boards to replace.

Step 4. Slide the putty knife’s thin blade into any gaps between metal and wood; metal and rust corrode wood. Carefully check around screws, bolts, and nails. Check door thresholds and places where walls, partitions, and feed bunks are attached to the floor.

Step 5. Stull using the putty knife, go back to any small soft spots you found, and dig out the rot or any soft wood particles. Use the wire brush to remove any remaining wood particles. If the soft spots don’t dig out easily, leave them; the wood is still sound.

Step 6. Prepare the wood conditioning mixture. You’ll need the milk jug, measuring cup, coffee can, funnel, linseed oil, and turpentine. In the milk jug, mix 2 parts linseed oil to 1 part turpentine; use the funnel for ease of pouring. Most two-horse trailers take about 3 quarts of mix for two coats of treatment. For this amount, mix 2 quarts (8 cups) linseed oil with 1 quart (4 cups) turpentine. Put on the lid and shake. Pour the mixture into the coffee can.

Step 7. If any standing pools of water remain on the floorboards from rinsing, dry them with a towel. With the paintbrush, apply a generous coat of the wood-conditioning mixture. Start at the front of the trailer, and work your way to the back. Give special attention to dents, knots, screws, bolts, nails, and areas along the walls and near the door. Treat the tack compartment’s floorboards similarly. Allow the floorboards to absorb the moisture, then apply another coat. Repeat until the wood no longer absorbs the mixture.

Step 8. Allow the floorboards to dry completely, leaving the trailer doors open and the mats out. When the floor is dry, put the mats back in, and close up the trailer. (If you plan to store your trailer outside until spring, leave the mats out; otherwise, moisture will condense under them, hastening wood rot.)

Step 9. Clean the paintbrush and coffee can with paint thinner. If you have leftover wood-conditioning mixture, label the milk jug, then store it in a cool, dry place. (To dispose of the mixture, check your local ordinances for hazardous-material disposal guidelines.) Repeat this project every 6 months.

For how to prevent seven trailer tragedies, see “Trailer Terror!” Horse&Rider, December 2001 (call 301-977-3900 to order the back issue).

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