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How to Redeck A Trailer

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Do you need to redeck your trailer before hauling your next load of gravel, mulch or wood for a future backyard project?

Utility trailers are so versatile for so many tasks. Hauling a golf cart, lawn equipment, lumber, laying mulch in your backyard, demolition materials, you name it. I’ve hauled all the above in this 5×10 trailer multiple times.

After a while your trailer decking starts to look pretty bad and you’ll need to replace the boards. If you wait too long and your boards start to rot, then you’re in danger of compromising your trailer deck strength.

In this article, we’ll walk you through the process on how to redeck your trailer.

Our trailer is a 2006 5×10 single axle open trailer. The pressure treated lumber from 2006 was starting to rot considerably. There were no through holes yet, but I didn’t want to push it any longer so I decided to redeck it.

trailer before

Tools and Materials Needed

First step is to figure out what size lumber will fit in your trailer and how you will attach the lumber to the metal trailer frame.

The easiest method to figure out the size of the boards is to measure the current boards if they’re still intact. Measure the (width and length) and how many there are on the deck and do a one for one swap.

In our case, we had (8) 2x8x10 floor boards, (4) 1x8x10 side boards and (2) 1x8x5 end boards. The nominal measurement for the floor boards are 1.5 inches x 7.5 inches x 120 inches. The nominal side boards thickness is .75 but otherwise the same.

You might get lucky like us that yo don’t have to cut or rip any boards down to fit your trailer.

Second step is determining how to connect the new lumber to the metal frame. The easiest method is using a self tapping screw that is meant to go through wood to metal.

self tapping screws

The side boards were connected via through bolts with washers and nuts. I used stainless steel since the previous ones were badly rusted.

The size was ¼ thick, hex head 1 ½ long bolts. Now that you know what you need, pick everything up from the local lumber store.

This video showcases how we redecked our utility trailer.

Old Flooring Demo

Now that you have the lumber and hardware, you’re ready to demo the old boards off your trailer. Depending on how weathered they are will determine how much work it will be to get them separated from the metal frame.

Our boards were so badly damaged that I could barely see the screw heads that connected them to the metal frame.

The side boards came off easy with two wrenches. If yours is rusted, spray it with PB Blaster. It seems to work better than WD-40 in my opinion.

removing side boards from trailer

If you can see any of the screw heads from the wood floor boards, you can try to unscrew them. I was able to unscrew a few but most were really stuck even though I was using a dewalt impact driver to have enough torque to get them to budge.

I ended up using my dewalt cordless circular saw to make three passes across the boards. Look underneath first to verify the metal bars location before cutting. Chalk a line if that works better for you to mark the metal bar location.

using a cordless circular saw to remove boards

You won’t be able to cut through the entire first and last board with the circular saw but we’ll demo those last once we get the other boards out.

Now that I had 6 of the 8 boards cut through, I was able to pull the pieces off pretty easily. I used a large pry bar with a hammer to get underneath each small piece to pry the wood off the screw.

The pry bar gives you ample leverage to pull the wood off, even with the screw still attached to the metal rail.

Our trailer wood was so rotten around most of the screws that the wood boards pulled right up. I did have two pieces that would not budge so I used a drill bit to drill around the screw head making the hole bigger to loosen the wood.

For the last two boards that weren’t cut through, I pried on the inside of the board all around and they both finally came free.

drilling around difficult screws to remove boards

Metal Prep Before New Boards

Now that you have all the wood off the trailer, you need to knock down the screw heads still embedded into the metal frame.

At first I used the angle grinder but it took too long so I grabbed my hammer and hit the side of each screw several times and they broke at the same height of the metal frame. Easy Peasy

using angle grinder to remove nails from frame

If any of them broke with a little bit sticking up, I hammered it down flush with the metal.

You’re now ready to clean up your bottom metal frame before you put the new boards back on.

I used a metal wire brush attached to my drill to clean up all around the bottom metal paying attention to any rust. My metal frame was in good condition other than some surface rust and dirt and debris.

using wire brush and drill to remove surface rust

Once I was done with the wire brush, I used my blow gun sprayer attached to my compressor to blow out any remaining debris or dust.

Next, I used a flat black Rustoleum spray to paint over any of the exposed metal. The metal frame looked almost new after the Rustoleum application. Let it dry completely before installing the deck boards.

adding rustoleum to trailer frame

Installing New Trailer Decking

Next step is to install the deck boards. My trailer had an angle iron lip on the front and back of the trailer and measured a little over 120”.

Meaning, I didn’t have to cut any of my 120” long floor boards. The top lip was over an inch on each end which keeps the boards securely on the trailer but, it makes it extremely difficult to get the last three boards installed.

The first five boards were easily slid underneath the lip by angeling them and then tapping them with a rubber mallet since I didn’t want to mar the brand new boards.

adding board at an angle

Once I realized I couldn’t angle the boards anymore to get under the lip, I called a friend with a hydraulic jack. Essentially we had to bow the boards up enough to get each end under the metal lip, which is tricky if you’ve never done this, like us!

getting hydraulic jack ready

The safest way to do this is jack up the board from underneath the trailer. The problem is that most small hydraulic jacks that the average homeowner has don’t go that high by themselves.

So you get resourceful and figure out that adding wood blocks to the jack will lift the board high enough to bend it under the lip.

Note: Be careful when bending the decking to get under the metal lip. As you can see from pic below I stood on the end of the board to weigh it down under the lip. If you’re not careful, you can fall off the trailer injuring yourself.

stepping on board to bow it under trailer lip

Once the board is under the lip on each end, release the jack and the board will come down. On the last board, make sure whatever board you use on top of the jack is less than 7” wide so that it doesn’t get stuck in between the jack and the trailer deck.

Once that last board goes down, stand back and admire the new floor boards on your trailer.

If you have side and end boards on your trailer, install the end boards first. Start with the bottom, verify the diameter of the hole in the metal frame then use the same drill bit to go through the wood board.

adding side boards with bolts

I actually installed the bottom side boards with my through bolts, washer on each side and nut. You want to place a washer on each side so that your bolt head or nut doesn’t crush through the wood fibers. Repeat this step for each side board.

Screwing the Wood Decking to Metal

Last step is to screw through the deck boards to the metal frame below. This was the most difficult part of the whole job, minus the hydraulic jacking the last three boards.

I actually let my pressure treated wood dry for a few weeks since I knew they would shrink quite a bit before I screwed the boards to the metal frame.

If there is any spacing between your boards, try to get the spacing even all the way across by using shims to hold the boards in place.

Once they’re set,, install the self tapping screw through the wood and into the metal frame. I used my impact driver to give me more torque to get through the metal.

The screw will go through the wood easily and you can tell when it hits the metal. I had to put my full weight behind the driver to get the screw to go through the metal.

Unfortunately the screw head is phillips, so if you’re not holding it tight, your bit will slip and strip the head. After about 30 minutes and only getting in three screws, I started pre-drilling a pilot hole for the metal so that my screw had something to catch on.

I used a slightly smaller than screw head titanium drill bit to go through the metal. I had to buy several bits since they dulled out quickly but with the predrilled hole, the screw went in much faster and easier.

Predrilling all the holes took about a half hour and all the screws were installed in less than 15 minutes. Pre-drilling is definitely the way to go.

In hindsight, and having to drill through metal in different projects afterwards, I discovered cobalt drill bits. They are much better for metal and will last longer than the titanium bits but they are more expensive.

Conclusion

This was a very satisfying project. In all I believe this took 5-6 hours total time and cost me approximately $100 for the lumber, hardware and bits for pre-drilling the metal. Not sure what a hydraulic jack costs to rent but a small 2 ton from Home Depot is less than $50.

This is definitely a doable project for anybody that owns a trailer and wants to save some money. Let us know how your trail re-decking project came out.

redecked trailer and how it looks
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Jena Slocum Co-Founder

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3 Comments

  1. Your tutorial helped me to understand how I have to fix my trailer, when the time comes to replace the boards. You said the boards fit lengthwise, so I’m curious why you needed the saw. You said you didn’t have to cut any of the boards.

    1. Great question. We used the saw to cut out the old boards. It was easier to cut them out since the old bolts were rusted in place.

  2. I have done my deck on a 16+2 dove tail equipment trailer (2 decks in20 years) when I started.
    I cut a 10 inch piece, out of the center towards the front, of the angle iron that holds the deck down.
    I then took a 12 inch piece of angle iron and bolted to it. Last time I used sawmill red oak 2×8 and had to angle both ends to slide under the hold down. Made changing out boards a lot easier.

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