Repairing RV Water Damage

by Michael Gibson
(West branch, MI)

Repairing RV Water Damage

Repairing RV Water Damage

Hello, I have a 1984 Fleetwood Wilderness travel trailer that my parents recently gave me. They inherited it from my grandparents several years ago but never used it due to some water damage to the interior. I was hoping to fix this damage and eventually use it. However, most of the damage is to the front ceiling and part of the wall and I don't know how I should go about repairing it.

There is a leak somewhere, around the roof vent. This trailer sat at my grandparent's for over 10 years without being used. About 4 feet of the ceiling interior has fallen around the vent and the wall in that area is soft. The wood frame appears to be ok, just the interior ceiling paneling and wall paneling would need to be replaced.

I can't afford to take it somewhere for repair and it doesn't need to look perfect. I would just hate to get rid of an otherwise beautiful 30-foot travel trailer. I'm sure I can find and fix the leak, but the interior is beyond my experience. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Mike Gibson

ANSWER Hi Michael I am afraid that I am going to be the bearer of bad news. The most important thing you need to do before you attempt to repair the leak or damage to your travel trailer is to confirm that the structural integrity of the travel trailer has not been compromised. If the structural integrity has been compromised, it has to be repaired.

You state that "the wood frame appears to be OK". The problem is that you are only looking at the portion of the wood frame that you can see. When water enters the structure of any RV it can travel to different parts of the RV that are not visible to you and compromise the frame of the RV. Any wood rot in the frame itself must be repaired before you should even consider repairing anything else.

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Since the interior of the travel trailer has been exposed to moisture for over 10 years, I can almost guarantee that there has been some damage to the structural integrity of the trailer. I am afraid that you have to spend some money to get your travel
trailer inspected by a qualified RV Technician to see exactly what damage has occurred.

I will forewarn you that this inspection may involve pulling down some more walls or ceiling sections or at least pulling off smaller sections of the walls or ceiling to inspect it for frame damage.

Since this travel trailer has been leaking for 10 years, there is also a very good possibility that portions of the trailer's 12 volt and 120-volt electrical system has been damaged and could cause a fire or shock hazard if used prior to repair.

Because of the moisture that the travel trailer has been exposed to, there is also a very good possibility that harmful mold has grown in non-visible portions of the walls or the ceiling of your RV.

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The bottom line is that you are going to have to spend some money to get your travel trailer inspected; how much it will cost I do not know; it all depends on how much work goes into getting the frame inspected. What you want from this inspection is an estimate of how much it would cost to repair all the current water damage to your travel trailer.

You may find that the repair costs may be more than the actual value of your trailer. Right now, the same year, make and model travel trailers (depending on length) in good condition are being sold in the $2,300.00 to $2,800.00 price range.

If you cannot get this inspection done due to money concerns, then I suggest that you get a waterproof tarp big enough to cover the whole travel trailer and seal it up to prevent further water damage and hold off on doing anything else to the travel trailer until you can afford to get it done properly.

I know that this is not the answer you wanted, but you must remember that you cannot put a price on safety, so you are going to have to spend the money to get the travel trailer inspected or make the decision that it is not worth the money and sell it to a salvage yard. It is not an easy decision, but it is one that you and you can make.

Sorry, you are going through this.

RVing Al

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All good comments
by: Paul Larsen

I do agree with the others on this. From my own experience, i found water leaks from the clearance lights on mine, but by the time i found them, the damage was already done, I ended up replacing the back , front and roof of the trailer. Fortunately I could do the work myself. I do like the older vintage trailers and hate to see them go to the scrapyard. Be careful if you have to remove any cupboards for repairs, as in some trailers they are part of the structural integrity.If you are super careful removing the roof cladding ( aluminum ) you may be able to reuse it. and if aluminum on the sides, it has to be removed from the bottom up., unlike house siding .

For less than $600.00
by: Anonymous

I had major water damage over the bathroom area and had to raid Lowes. I replace the roof from the bathroom forward. I replaced the cealing with PVC wall paneling. A-frame I used 2x2x8 cross members with wood strapping for the arch. A simple roll insulation. Plywood roof, and epdm pond liner (NOT PVC). Contact cement will hold it down. Standard camper liners is 60 mil thick. Pond liner is 45 mil. It took me aprox 2 weeks for proper deconstruction and repair as I had considerable wood rot. Make sure that you remove or loosen the gutters to fit the liner to prevent leaks.

He's right
by: Anonymous

He is right. Since the roof is sagging you can guarantee the wood structure from roof to wall has let go. The roof can only be sealed and re-coated if it doesn't pool water. Right now I am re-doing an old '76 play-mor 21foot 2 axle travel trailer. I have to re-frame two walls but it'll be worth it. The biggest hurdle is to remove the inside paneling to see whats going on. Then don't do the interior until you are sure the roof holds and is waterproof. Generally if a screw on the trim isn't holding any pull - it's got water underneath it.

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