One of the most insidious problems in RVs is water damage. Not only are water leaks annoying to deal with, but they can cause some serious problems in your rig.
Damage from water in an RV can cause mold to grow, walls to become flimsy, floors to become soft, and- perhaps worst of all- destroy the integrity of an RV’s roof. Repairs can get costly- if they can be done at all; So, to keep problems and high bills at bay, it’s vital to avoid leaks, and quickly repair any that arise.
What Causes Water Damage in an RV?
Water damage is caused by a number of culprits. Here are a few of the most common ways water can sneak in and cause serious damage to your RV:
- Water leaks from internal pipes: Without proper maintenance, old pipes in the kitchen or bathroom can cause problems
- A leaky toilet (this happened to us, which was one reason why we removed the toilet and replaced it with a Thetford Porta Potti!)
- Improper storage of your RV can cause water damage from excessive moisture
- High humidity and moisture can lead to warped wood
- Keeping the RV parked in a flooded area will damage different parts of your RV
RV owners should be able to identify signs of water damage and be equipped enough to do some minor repairs. Hopefully, with consistent maintenance, you’ll avoid big problems that require a professional.
How to Check for Water Damage in Your RV
Whether you’re buying a used RV, have your RV in storage, or are a full-timer, you’ll need to regularly examine your vehicle for signs of water damage, checking for anything needs to be fixed or replaced. The following are the most common “problem areas” that will need your attention:
- Check all the seals. Run your hand across every door and window seal to detect any soft or wet spots. Sometimes the sealant is old, cracks, and flakes. If you notice any of these tell-tale signs, you’ll need to re-seal these areas
- Open the cabinets and closets. The smell can tell you if there is water damage present, as moisture causes mold growth, even if you can’t see it
- Look for any discoloration in the walls, wood cabinets, and ceiling. Pay attention to the areas around windows and doors as the paint will change color if water damage is present
- Check the outer walls. If you see any warped portion or bubbles in the paint, this can be a sign that there’s a leak
- Move the carpets and check the underside if they’re not glued down. If it’s cold or moist, there’s a water leak present. Run your hands across the glued carpets to check for any cold or wet spots
- Metal items can get rusty, and molded parts can become loose if affected by water damage
- Check windows and doors for rusted areas
- Examine the roof and ceiling of your RV: You can use a stick to test for any weak or soft spots. (*Roof leaks are serious problems. If left untreated- even with a small leak- the entire roof may need to be removed and replaced. This costs thousands of dollars, so make sure you keep your RV’s roof in good shape)
RV Water Damage Repair Costs
When it comes to repairing water damage in an RV, costs vary wildly depending on the severity of the damage, and whether or not you’re able to do the repairs yourself. Here’s a few examples of what you might confront when dealing with water damage:
- Minor window leak: Cheap, easy to repair, and just requires more coats of sealant. This fix should be under $20. We use Gorilla Clear caulking for our windows, keeping water leaks at bay. $20 now can save a lot of money down the road.
- If you’ve been storing your RV somewhere with flooding or high humidity, purchasing a small dehumidifier to absorb surrounding moisture is a good investment- These can run anywhere from $30 to over $100 and will keep your RV dry.
- In some cases, the damage might be caused by a faulty fridge. If you’re handy with tools and have the know-how, you can often fix a fridge problem cheaply, however, if it needs to be replaced, RV fridges are notoriously expensive: $200 on the low end, to over $1,000
- If your toilet is the culprit, they are easily replaced and are affordable. The average cost is around $130, but can go over $1,000. The $130 options are the more traditional RV toilets, and are easily replaced with a couple tools most RVers have on-hand. And like everything in an RV, if you can fix this kind of problem yourself without the need for a repairman, it will save you a good chunk of change
- RV floors that are damaged can vary in cost, depending on what kind of floor you have, and if you can repair it yourself. Laminate flooring is popular because it’s so resilient and affordable. Pricing for laminate can start as low as $15 per sheet! Similarly, vinyl flooring is affordable and self-adhesive, so it’s easy to install. Pricing for vinyl flooring can start at around $12.
How to Fix Water Damage in an RV
Any time you spot any water damage, you need to act promptly to fix the leak and prevent the problem from spreading.
- If you have a leaky roof, check for areas where the water is entering. Apply roof sealant that reflects UV rays and repels water, so you can prevent further damage. (Our RV roof cost $2,800 to repair after a massive leak destroyed the passenger-side corner… so, take good care of your RV’s roof. It’s not a problem you want to deal with!)
- In some cases, water damage is caused by flooding or rain. Remove rugs and allow them to dry. Mop the floor, and use a dehumidifier to dry the air. Mold is a major problem in RVs, so make sure to dry moisture asap
Preventing Water Damage
- Always carry the right tools in your RV. A full tool kit and some sealant are two essentials every RVer needs to have onboard.
- Check the weather forecast: If rain or snow are coming your way, make sure to examine your windows, doors, and roof for any areas that need caulking before a storm. Remember that caulking is simple to do, but requires time to dry. Don’t leave this as a last-minute job; If the rain falls before the sealant has time to dry, it will just wipe away the sealant, and you’ll have leaks. With RVs, consistent upkeep is the key!
- If possible (and you’re not relying on rooftop solar panels for energy), park your RV in shady areas, away from the sun’s powerful rays. Sun damage is possible and can lead to cracks and damage on even a sealant-protected roof
- Use insulation on single-pane windows to reduce moisture inside your RV
- Check the paint on your RV. The paint is for more than mere aesthetics: it protects your rig’s surface, too. Repair can nicks and scratches when you see them.
- Seal all the windows and door trim with caulk
- Pay attention to airflow. If you’re in a humid area, keep a fan running and/or windows open to allow for good air circulation
- Hang up DampRid in closets, the RV bathroom, or any other area that gathers moisture. These little bags trap excess moisture and helps keep your RV dry.
Most water damage in an RV is avoidable. So long as you commit to consistent maintenance, big problems should be kept at bay.
Make sure to seal all windows, doors, and cracks, as well as examine your RV’s roof frequently, keep your kitchen and bathroom pipes in good condition, and check for toilet leaks. Repair any problem areas as soon as you see them.
By keeping water damage at a minimum, and fixing any leaks as they come up, you’re sure to have plenty more adventures in your RV for many years to come!