Water leaking into your RV is sneaky, silent and has brutal consequences.
I purchased a used RV with an existing water leak and previous water damage without knowing about either. To my surprise the RV dealership didn’t tell me about any of these issues, SURPRISE! Salesmen are such saints. (another topic entirely)
I am sharing my experience fixing this mess with hope to:
1) inspire you to go check your roof for leaks and take preventative measures to ensure they don’t occur.
2) let you know that if you do have a leak and damage to your RV all is not lost. I am not the handiest guy around and I found this project to be very doable.
After about a month of full-time RV life we were hit by the edge of HURRICANE HERMINE in Central Florida. The wind and storms were tolerable but we got lots of rain! After the storm I identified a section of wet carpet inside one of our cabinets:
Excerpt from our Journal 9/5/2016
“Opening a cabinet door at the rear of the RV and noticed a slight odor of mildew/mold. This is the cabinet where we store our printer and paper. After pulling things out I found that the carpet was damp and there was moisture / mildew on the paper stored there. Closer examination revealed the carpet was wet.
I cleared out the cabinet to find the rear wall of the RV was spongy on the interior at the floor. Following the wall up to the next cabinet I found more soft wall. Continuing up above the counter….more soft wall. The bad wall extends about 5’ up from the floor. Not good.”
The day to day tear-down and repairs are chronicled here in our JOURNAL starting on 9/11/2016
The short version of the wall repair is this:
- We identified that there was a leak and immediately went after stopping any further damage
- Once the exterior was sealed with EternaBond tape we assessed the interior damage and came up with a plan
- The initial intent was to “spot fix” the damage but we learned that water does what it wants and the water damage had spread to to infect several areas. Water is like cancer to an RV.
- I started tearing into the wall with the intent of ripping things apart until I found where the rot stopped and the good wood began.
- I tore out the entire rear wall of the RV.
- With all of the damage exposed we aired out the damp wood and floor and hit it with fans to allow it dry fully. We also added canisters of damprid to the area to help collect moisture.
This is the point where I discovered that RV’s are pretty simple contraptions. Our fifth wheel is less sturdy than some tree houses that I played in as a kid. 2x2 construction made up the rear wall of our rig with a thin skin protecting us from the elements. On the interior of the 2x2 framing was thin wallboard. There is not much there!
I ripped out 80% of the framing than has been affected by the moisture and reconstructed the it with 2x2 pine. We also replaced the heavier boards that provide mounting areas for the ladder hardware outside the RV with 2x10 pine.
Once the framing was done I attempted to repair the delamination of the exterior. I went at it from the inside and cut large sections of plywood to provide solid backing to the exterior sheeting. I adhered the wall to the plywood with “hard as nails” providing pressure from the exterior and interior to sandwich them together. It worked well.
Time to insulate. Initially the plan was to seal the wall to provide maximum R-value. As I progressed I realised that going overboard was not necessary. The rest of the RV has minimal insulation and there was no great benefit to getting carried away on one wall. I used ¾” insulated foam board where it could be cut to fit.
The wall is secure, dry and insulated. Time to finish the interior.
I chose wallboard from Lowes for this part. I can’t give a good reason why other than it was priced well and I knew i could cut and mount it with the tools I had available.
After lots of measuring and cursing i got the interior covered with 2 pieces. It came out great. I removed the interior window frame to allow mounting over the new skin and the fit was perfect. TIP: I kept the section of old wall board with the corner radius so I could transfer the shape to my new cuts. It made for nice clean corners.
The skin is on, the wiring is sticking out where it should be and everything is secure.
A few additional hours of cursing later the cabinets are back in place and I have a clean, dry, secure rear wall on our home with wheels! The labor wasn’t that bad, material costs were minimal and I’m very happy with the finished product.
To finish the project completely I needed to make it look good. The boss chose rough cut cedar plank as the wall finish. I like her choice! The boards were cut to fit, glued in place with hard as nails and make for a much nicer finished product than what we started with.
The only tools I had for this job were:
Corded hand drill
Small pry bar
I added this list to let you know that RV repair is pretty straightforward and uncomplicated. It’s amazing that RV dealers get away with $100 an hour and more for interior repairs.
The boss is happy with the finished project and confidant that we have a safe and dry home once again. I am grateful to know much more about the construction of RV and have an increased confidence in my ability to renovate and keep our home in a state of good working order and repair.
I’m calling it a win! Now go out and check your RV seals and avoid this mess all-together!