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How to Catch and Treat Water Damage

Some RVs leak for years without visible signs of water damage, and by the time water infiltration makes itself known to you, the internal damage can already be extensive. While your RV is designed to take the brunt of rough weather, every seam on your RV has the potential to leak water. It is important to be aware of how to catch and treat water damage before it becomes too costly or complex to repair, to ensure that your future RV adventures are never thwarted by a disastrous water leak.

Signs of Water Damage

The quicker you identify a possible water leak, the quicker you can address the problem before it worsens. To minimize the cost of repairs and the extent of the damage to your RV, know what to look for when inspecting your unit by keeping an eye out for these common indicators:

  • Stains and discoloration

  • Swollen walls and saggy ceilings

  • Soft or squishy carpeted areas

  • Warped flooring

  • Deteriorating paneling

  • Wrinkles or ripples in wallpaper

  • Exterior delamination

  • Damp or moldy smell

Proper Inspection

You should regularly inspect your RV at least twice a year, preferably once in the fall before winterizing and once in the spring before starting up a new season of RVing. During these routine inspections, you should make a special note of investigating for leaks and signs of water damage. Don’t just go through the motions; a leak is not going to jump out at you. Examine your seams thoroughly and closely, paying special attention to common problem areas like your roof, windows, lights, and storage compartments. Open up your overhead cabinets and take a look at the seams along the roofline for indications of possible leaking. Feel for soft spots on your walls, floors, and ceiling, and check for cracks or tears in all of your seams. Examine the exterior of your RV for bubbling, as this is an indication of delamination. Without being aware of what to look for when inspecting your RV, entire walls can decay and rot away without your knowledge, so protect your investment by checking meticulously for water problems.

Preventing Water Damage

While you may not be able to identify a leak before it forms, you can protect your RV against leaks before they occur! New RVs are sealed with a type of flexible putty that can weaken and falter over time, making your RV vulnerable to water infiltration with age. If you are questioning the integrity of your seams and seals, a few precautionary measures can save you a lot of time, money, and hassle in the long run! To reinforce your joints and seams, wash your RV's exterior, scraping off all the dirt and grime, before drying it completely. For your roof, cover every seam with a tar-like sealant such as Leak Stopper, including any screw holes, trim strips, and roof vents. For larger tears or rips, use the sealant along with a fiberglass repair tape for a stronger waterproof barrier. Along your side walls, run a bead of silicone around the seams of anything that protrudes from your RV, like the windows, doors, and lights. With gloves on, run your finger along the areas you’ve just sealed to spread it evenly and deeply into the cracks.

Repairing Water Damage

In order to repair water damage, you’ll need to pinpoint where the water is entering from. Once you’ve addressed the leak, you can then begin to address the damage it caused. Make sure your RV is relatively dried out before making any significant repairs. First, you’ll need to remove and dispose of any soggy or damaged materials such as paneling, insulation, or flooring. Removing these items will allow you to more accurately asses the damage to your RV’s structural components. If the structure's wood displays signs of excessive rot and decay, it is best to replace it with new wood. If the wood is salvageable, apply a coat of epoxy or hardener and let it dry before adding wood putty to the more heavily damaged parts. To complete your repair, install new insulation, paneling, or flooring over your newly repaired wood.

If there is a leak in your RV, water is going to do everything it can to find it, but that doesn’t mean you need to RV in fear of every rain cloud that appears on the horizon! Being proactive is the first and most important step to preventing water damage, so take precautionary measures to protect against leaks. It could end up saving you a lot of money, time, and hassle in the end!

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