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How to Protect Your RV From Water Damage

Updated on January 28, 2017
TIMETRAVELER2 profile image

I am an avid RV enthusiast who has traveled, lived, workcamped and volunteered nationwide for more than 50 years and am still going strong!

Water is the number one enemy of recreational vehicles.

Leaks, moisture issues and flooding all lead to problems such as:

  • delamination,
  • mildew,
  • mold and
  • wood rot

any one of which can permanently damage the basic structure of a coach over time.

This is why it's so important for you to be able to find the sources of moisture problems early.

Doing so will allow you to prevent and deal with flooding problems effectively.

The best ways to protect your RV from water damage due to leaks, moisture and flooding.
The best ways to protect your RV from water damage due to leaks, moisture and flooding. | Source

How Water Gets Into Recreational Vehicles

  • Leaks,
  • condensation,
  • high humidity, and
  • improper use and storage

are the main causes of moisture and dampness that damage an RV.

In most cases, regular inspections and normal maintenance will help you to avoid problems.

However, you will have little or no control over issues such as delamination that are the result of a manufacturer's use of lower quality products and their failure to properly seal the sidewalls and roofing.

Delamination

Delamination generally occurs when the materials in sidewalls and roofing of a travel unit have been installed in such a way as to allow water to enter the spaces between them and slowly cause them to separate from the foundation of the coach.

It can take five years or more for the problem to visibly appear, but the damage is always ongoing and permanent.

If your coach shows signs of delamination due to water intrusion, you had best save your money and get rid of it before the problem ruins it.

The best way to protect against this type of problem is to buy older coaches that you inspect carefully for delamination issues.

To do otherwise is a guessing game at best.

Mildew, Mold, and Wood Rot

Leaks and water intrusion of any kind can cause mildew, mold and wood rot.

You can eliminate mildew simply by learning how to keep your coach dry and spraying affected areas with Professional Lysol or a mixture of Clorox and water.

However, once black mold appears, you’ve got a serious and health-damaging problem.

Call a pro to deal with it as soon as you find it, and stay out of your coach until he does.

  • If you catch black mold early, the fix will be simple.
  • If not, it could destroy your RV.

Water Leak Sources

Water leaks inside of a coach can come from sources such as loose plumbing, cracks in external attachments or improperly sealed roofs.

The source can be very difficult to find because a leak can visually appear in one spot but actually be coming from another. However, it’s important to find it so that you can make repairs before any real damage takes place.

Repairs can be something as simple as caulking a crack in a tail light or as complicated as removing and rebuilding part of your coach's structure.

This is an example of how water corrodes.
This is an example of how water corrodes. | Source

What to Look For

Inside of a coach, you should look for

  • metal items that have rusted,
  • damp areas on carpets,
  • discolored areas on ceilings,
  • moldings that have come loose and
  • rust colored stains around windows and skylights.

Externally you should look for

  • spongy areas on roofs,
  • random indentations on side walls and
  • any type of discoloration or bubbling.

Most of these issues can be repaired, but once water that has seeped into roofs and sidewalls and has caused delamination (discoloration and bubbling, indentations and discoloration) it is highly unlikely that anything you can do will fix this problem.

Condensation

Condensation is what happens when water changes from vapor to liquid.

It is caused by

  • excess moisture in the air due to temperature,
  • humidity,
  • the amount of liquid in the air or
  • other similar issues that are the result of normal daily living.

Condensation can cause health problems, corrosion and other problems so it's important to keep your coach dry by lowering the humidity or increasing air ventilation.

Eva-dry Edv-1100 Electric Petite Dehumidifier, White
Eva-dry Edv-1100 Electric Petite Dehumidifier, White

Using a dehumidifier like this one can work wonders with keeping your RV dry. My husband and I keep one on board and have had to use it several times. We like this one due to its small size and reasonable price.

 

Humidity

Humidity can cause serious problems, but is easy to deal with if you

  1. use a small dehumidifier when your travel unit is in storage or when you have flooding problems,
  2. place charcoal briquettes in small containers in several areas of your coach when storing it or
  3. leave the window over your kitchen sink cracked open and one roof vent partially opened to allow for ventilation.

These actions will maintain air flow while at the same time sucking dampness out of the air.

A dry RV is a comfortable and safe RV.
A dry RV is a comfortable and safe RV. | Source

Protection Advice

Improper storage or use of your recreational vehicle can cause water damage.

To protect it from this problem, do these things:

  • keep the air moving in your coach by opening windows slightly and using fans, or using your air conditioner,
  • run exhaust fans or open windows when cooking or showering,
  • wipe excess moisture from showers, sinks, and windows immediately after use,
  • use an electric coffee pot to provide boiling water when cooking,
  • hang wet clothes and towels in the shower, open the ceiling vent above it, and turn on the exhaust fan,
  • insulate single-pane windows during extreme weather to reduce condensation,
  • keep awnings open so that rain water does not blow into your coach,
  • store your coach on gravel, rather than dirt and
  • park in the sun rather than in the shade whenever possible.

Causes of RV Flooding

  • Excessive amounts of rain over a short period,
  • a faucet that has been left on,
  • failure to use a water regulator when setting up camp,
  • a broken hose or plumbing fixture,
  • an overloaded fresh water tank,
  • a toilet flush pedal that sticks,
  • a malfunctioning hot water heater,
  • back washing a sewer tank when it is in the closed position and
  • and similar problems

are all things that can cause flooding.

Prevention Is Your First Defense

Flooding is common in recreational vehicles and can happen quickly.

Performing preventive maintenance, inspecting your coach regularly, and using good techniques when dealing with tanks and hoses will all go a long way towards eliminating problems.

It is also a good idea to make it a point to pay attention to what you are doing when working on your unit or traveling in it. For example, forgetting to turn off a faucet will produce a flood in no time!

Dealing With Flood Damage

The best way to deal with flooding is to act quickly once you discover that there is a problem..

For example,

If a heavy rain has caused a roof leak that is flooding your coach, cover that area with a tarp immediately so that you can prevent further damage until the rain stops.

If the water has not reached carpeted areas:

  1. Mop up the mess with a sponge or shop vac.
  2. Turn on a dehumidifier and your AC
  3. Allow all wet surfaces to dry.

However, if the water has gone further, you will also need to

  1. Sop up as much of the damp as possible with sponges and towels.
  2. Lift the edges of the carpet where possible to allow air to circulate.

If the carpet is soaked through, you will also have to dry out the underlying pad and sub floor.

If the weather is hot enough, you can do this simply by driving around for several hours because the heat from the hot road will do most of the job for you!

If these methods don't work, you will have to remove the carpet, dry out the coach and install new flooring.

A dry RV is one that the entire family can comfortably enjoy.
A dry RV is one that the entire family can comfortably enjoy. | Source

Always Use a Water Regulator

Overly high water pressure is one of the main reasons that travel units flood.

Because this type of pressure will burst pipes and hoses, you need to protect your coach by always attaching a water regulator to your hose when setting up camp.

If you forget to do this and cause flooding, you deal with it in the same way as noted above, except that you also must

  1. turn off the water in the entire coach,
  2. find the source of the problem
  3. and correct it

before cleaning up the mess.

Until you are certain that you have dealt with the problem completely, do not turn your water on again,.

Dealing With Back Washing Accidents

Back washing accidents rarely happens, but when they do, they create a problem much worse than simple flooding because both the water and toxic waste from your sewer tank flood into your coach.

The water may appear to be clear, but it won't be.

Once particles of waste flood into your unit, especially if it gets into carpet or onto upholstery, there is no way for you to eliminate it.

This will mean replacing the furniture and carpet. You really will have no choice. What comes out of your septic tank will remain on fabric surfaces, start smelling, and eventually sicken travelers.

This is a serious situation that you will not be able to deal with by yourself, so pay what you must and let a pro do the removal and repairs.

A Dry RV Is a Happy RV!

As you can see from what has been written here, it's important to do whatever you can to protect your travel unit from water intrusion and the damage it can cause..

The effort it takes will make your coach more comfortable and more enjoyable for vacations and will also help it to maintain its value.

Now you know what you need to do, but it is up to you to take action.

Good Luck!

Do you now see why it is important to take steps to protect your RV from water damage and flooding?

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© 2016 TIMETRAVELER2

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  • TIMETRAVELER2 profile image
    Author

    TIMETRAVELER2 14 months ago

    billybuc: Check the molding on your windows. We also had this problem and found one very, very small crack in the RV's window molding that was causing it.

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 14 months ago from Olympia, WA

    I'm actually having this problem with my old pickup truck right now. I don't see a single leak but moisture is getting in somewhere...so thanks for the tips.

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