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Avoid this Costly RV Mistake

 

Thinking of buying a RV or travel trailer or do you already own one? Make sure you avoid this costly RV mistake! MountainModernLife.com

Avoid this Costly RV Mistake

Things may seem quiet over here on the blog, but that’s only because we’ve been spending the majority of our time dealing with a costly RV mistake we could have avoided, ceiling water damage. And as it turns out, it’s not covered by our warranty or insurance company.

For those that are new here you can read more about us and our RV adventure here, or view our most recent RV tour

Water damage is one ugly beast when it comes to motorhomes, and sadly it happens more often than you would think.

For this reason we spent countless hours reading articles and watching videos on how to avoid buying an RV with water damage. We even had checklists printed out that we brought along with us when we were narrowing down our selection.

Despite checking the ceiling and walls for soft spots, feeling around the inside of every cabinet, inspecting every corner, and double-checking the roof, we ended up with an RV that had a water leak. Go figure.

Yes we are kicking ourselves for making such a dumb mistake. We still don’t know if the damage existed when we purchased the coach, or if it happened during one of our trips, but either way it’s been both a nightmare and a blessing.

However, we will say that with the amount of damage and rust, we honestly believe there was an issue before we bought the coach.

Dealing with RV Water Leak Damage due to Cracks in Skylight of 2008 Tiffin Allegro OpenRoad 32LA | MountainModernLife.com

What caused the RV Water Leak?

As it turns out there were a couple cracks at the bottom of the bathroom skylight that were missed when we inspected the roof. These were not visible from inside the shower due to the inner skylight blocking the view, but were discovered once we removed all of the vents and the inner skylight to clean them and make painting the ceiling easier. The sagging ceiling panel and rust was a pretty good indicator as well.  

Thinking of buying a RV or travel trailer or do you already own one? Make sure you avoid this costly RV mistake! MountainModernLife.com

Here’s a photo with the inner skylight removed from the bathroom:

Dealing with RV Water Leak Damage due to Cracks in Skylight of 2008 Tiffin Allegro OpenRoad 32LA | MountainModernLife.com

Eric has been on the roof a few times since we purchased the RV and even re-caulked it, but the skylight damage went undetected. Now that we know they are there it seems obvious, but they were so thin that I can also see how we missed them. It doesn’t help that it’s rained an INSANE amount since we purchased the RV. There were some weeks where I forgot what it was like to not have rain.

Be sure to Avoid this Costly RV Mistake!

The moral of the story? If you currently own an RV or camper, or you are planning to buy one, double-check the skylight for any damage especially around the base!

With that being said, I honestly do believe that this situation has proved to be a blessing for us. Sure it’s been stressful, costly and time-consuming, but it’s also given us the opportunity to learn more about our coach before we hit the road.

It’s crazy to think that this is what our RV kitchen progress looked like just a couple weeks ago….

RV-painted-kitchen-cabinets-update-mountainmodernlife.com

And this is what it looks like today…

Thinking of buying a RV or travel trailer or do you already own one? Make sure you avoid this costly RV mistake! MountainModernLife.com

Yikes!!!!!!

Kinda looks like I have the before and after switched up, eh? Haha.

We didn’t originally plan to move the kitchen cabinets, but once we realized the costly water leak had traveled into the kitchen area and found water behind a false wall in the upper cabinets, we knew it would be best to remove them. I’m not sure how long the water was there but we checked behind that false wall a couple months ago when trying to locate the hot water heater bypass and there was no water there at that time.

Although we were lucky in the sense that there was no black mold in the ceiling, we did find some mold in between a few of the cabinets which we were able to clean up with some tea tree oil (I’ll share more on that in a later post).

Be sure to use all safety precautions when dealing with water damage as you never know what may be lurking behind that wall or ceiling. We had our safety goggles, gloves and respirators handy.

Things can look pretty perfect on the outside, but what’s underneath may surprise you. And since motorhomes don’t stay stationary, it’s easy for water to spread into other areas.

Since we have plans to update a lot of other details in the RV, we figured it wouldn’t hurt to remove some cabinets and walls now. This way we could double-check for any additional damage while we still have a warm bed and non-construction looking home to go back to.

Thinking of buying a RV or travel trailer or do you already own one? Make sure you avoid this costly RV mistake! MountainModernLife.com

We are moving slow to make sure we avoid creating more damage than good, and it doesn’t help that there are 435987394583974653745 staples and screws in every single thing. I can’t complain too much because at least that keeps everything in place while you move and bob down the road.

There are some great articles, videos and RV forums out there which have helped immensely, but at the same time it can still be really difficult to find the right solution when every RV make, model and year can vary greatly. We want to be self-reliant when possible and are trying to learn as much as we can in order to avoid another costly RV mistake in the future.

Have an RV or Camper? Don’t forget to buy a Dehumidifier!

When we originally called Tiffin (the manufacturer) about the ceiling damage they recommended we run a dehumidifier for a couple days and then cut around the ceiling panel to create a template for the new panel. We had planned to eventually purchase a portable dehumidifier for the RV since we had read they are handy to have due to moisture issues, but opted to rent a professional dehumidifier for the time being. We figured renting a commercial one for a couple days may help speed up the process over using a residential one.

It did help by removing A LOT of the moisture, but we now realize what we should have attempted to remove the vinyl padding FIRST, leaving the plywood exposed while we ran the dehumidifier. Although running it beforehand helped, the areas where the vinyl was still covering the ceiling were still pretty damp a couple days later when we went to remove the vinyl. Duh. So really we should have just splurged on a nicer dehumidifier rather than renting one. (We later bought this Danby Dehumidifier – affiliate link).

This is also why we freaked out a bit when we saw the plywood under the vinyl because it looked black and was pretty scary. However, the next day we saw how much it dried just from being exposed to air and realized it was only that dark because it was wet, not because it was covered with mold. Whew!

It basically looked worse than it was because it was still wet.

Thinking of buying a RV or travel trailer or do you already own one? Make sure you avoid this costly RV mistake! MountainModernLife.com

Here’s a photo showing some of the plywood the next day after it had dried up a little bit more:

Thinking of buying a RV or travel trailer or do you already own one? Make sure you avoid this costly RV mistake! MountainModernLife.com

Ordering the RV Ceiling Panel and Replacement Skylight

We received our new skylight from Tiffin and should have the new ceiling panel within the next 2 days, yay! We still need to do some cleaning, including taking care of the rust on the metal and I have some “green” recipes I’m going to test out.

The price for the inner and upper skylight replacement from Tiffin were $42 each and the single ceiling panel was $60. Not too shabby. We were told they wouldn’t know the shipping because it was based on freight charges. I had looked up ceiling panels at other online vendors and they all pretty much said the same thing about shipping costs, so we didn’t think much of it. In all honesty, we didn’t think it would be more than $50.

WRONG.

We were charged $150 for the shipping since the ceiling panel is so large. Yes, the shipping cost was more than the items!

The price for the products was super reasonable based on what I had researched but the shipping was definitely more than I had expected. I did call the parts department back to ask if it’s possible to be notified in the future about shipping before an order is placed so that I could pass that information along to anyone else, and they said yes.

Just be sure to tell the tech that you want to know the cost of shipping BEFORE they put your order through and they will have either someone from the service department, or from shipping contact you to let you know the total cost, which varies by size and weight. They will then wait to get your approval before pushing the order through. Just something you may want to know if you decide to order parts and want to do some shopping comparisons. Overall, we are very happy with the service Tiffin has provided 🙂

So this is the current state of the bathroom after the costly RV mistake:

Thinking of buying a RV or travel trailer or do you already own one? Make sure you avoid this costly RV mistake! MountainModernLife.com

We also poked around to make sure none of the water leaked into the side walls, and luckily it didn’t.

We will be sharing more on how we are actually repairing the water leak in a later post, but here’s an updated video of Eric talking about some of the damage and what we have done thus far.

A good point to note is that while we are experiencing this costly RV mistake, it still hasn’t been nearly as bad as it could have been. We stayed positive and are pushing through it.

Have you experienced any costly mistakes in your RV or camper and have any advice you want to pass along to others?  We’d love to hear about it in the comments.

You may also want to check out:

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You can find all of our RV-related posts here.

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36 Comments
  • Kel
    Reply

    I occasionally peek in on your blog and today I thought I would offer some input on the purchasing of RV wall/ceiling panels for other readers. I completely understand why you would want to order directly from the manufacturer in order to get a matching pattern but if the pattern does not matter or if you plan to paint over it anyways, you can get the panels MUCH cheaper if you have a local RV Surplus store or at Menards/Home Depot. We redid all the walls/ceiling in our camper and used 1/4″ plywood stained for the ceiling ($19 a sheet from Menards) and picked up ugly patterned panels from an RV Surplus store a couple hours away ($8-11 a sheet) and painted over them. Menards/Home Depot have some nice patterned panels for around $25 a sheet as well. We have several surplus stores within a few hours because Elkhart, IN is the rv capital of the US, not everybody is that lucky 🙁

    January 21, 2016 at 7:49 am
    • Deb Rojas
      Reply

      We inherited a 1998 34′ fleetwood coach and haven’t used yet but noticed water damage right above the drivers seat and I to a few of the cabinets…we know nothing about RV repair and I’m really stumped on the ceiling because it’s almost like carpet..the coaches interior is in great shape other than the leak I mentioned….I think (hope)!! Any ideas??

      July 19, 2016 at 3:47 pm
      • Hey Deb, for us it was really a learn by experience approach. The problem with water damage in RVs is that you can never really tell how far it goes because it can travel. When we first found our leak we started taking things out to see where the damage went, I think depending on the amount of work you want to do in the RV this could be a good approach. But as always use caution and research as much as you possibly can. Sometimes the best approach is to look for a good service department near you.

        August 12, 2016 at 1:05 pm
    • Mary
      Reply

      We are researching RVs now for full time living so I am very thankful for the info. Thank and good luck with your RV

      November 6, 2016 at 11:13 pm
  • c d rushing
    Reply

    After having to replace the roof on a 34′ ft 1995 Bounder (we were lucky insurance covered). We have got a full cover for the motorhome we went with the deluxe cover due to the warranty ordered from manufacture might have been able to use the next smaller size but not don’t have to worry about water leaks from the top or around windows. Wish we had got the cover a long time ago because part of the damage was due to hail braking the skylight and vent covers if we had had the cover at least water would not have gotten in. We live in centeral Oklahoma and have had a lot of very high winds in the last 6 mos. or so and have not had a problem with the cover trying to come off it has a lot of straps holding it on and covered air vents near the top. The cover was less than $500. and covers all the way around and to the ground. They are not very hard to install and company sent full instructions.

    March 20, 2016 at 11:50 am
    • Wow, hail and wind can be such a headache. We will definitely check out cover options, and thank you so much for sharing this so others can see it if they run into the same issue.

      March 29, 2016 at 11:52 am
  • roy
    Reply

    Just for your future reference . Flexible pipe has resistance to air flow that equals approx. 10feet of straight pipe for every 90 degree corner ……. your kitchen duct looks to be the equivalent of 50-60ft of pipe….. you could easily have reduced this to a fraction of that length by getting rid of all those twists …… also flex is the same as 1″ smaller solid pipe…… so 4′ FLEX = 3″Solid …. remember the straighter the run the more efficient the flow……good luck on your project

    March 20, 2016 at 12:02 pm
    • Thanks Roy, I am going to take this into account and put it on the project list. Anything we can do to make things more efficient is a great idea! Thanks again.

      August 12, 2016 at 1:24 pm
  • Denise Fisher
    Reply

    I am curious as to what steps you did to refinish your cabinets, and what kind of paint did you use. We have a park model trailer and want to get rid of all the old honey oak look cabinets and trim. I love the grey you used, what is it.

    March 29, 2016 at 8:35 am
  • Sangye H
    Reply

    Gosh, that was painful to see. I hope everything is finally restored and you’re able to enjoy your RV. So sorry you had to go through that!

    April 16, 2016 at 1:19 am
    • Thanks Sangye! It was really tough to deal with, but once we accepted it for what it was we attacked it head on. We have the leak fixed, with the new ceiling panel up and new skylight in place. Now we are pushing forward with the renovation, and getting excited to hit the road in early July.

      May 16, 2016 at 8:55 am
  • Mallory
    Reply

    We are going through something similar at the moment but a lot worse. The person who previously owned the rv ended up doing some renovations. They put in new flooring, curtains, reupholstered the furniture, put in wainscoting, wallpaper trim, etc. It looked great. Turns out the whole pop out frame (walls and ceiling) are rotten as well as the rest of the ceiling. We discovered this after noticing a watermark in the cupboard. They did a cheap fix to make it look great to sell at a high price. The thing that bothers me the most is that these people are foster parents.

    May 7, 2016 at 2:19 pm
    • Hey Mallory, I am so sorry to hear that. It just stinks when you make a purchase thinking everything is fully ready to go then you find out there are huge issues. Have you figured out how you guys will address the problem?

      May 16, 2016 at 8:58 am
  • Donna Christen
    Reply

    Yep, water in our RV . Ugh, was fine when we put it into storage (2016 is 2nd year owning it) and now this. I am going to try the dehumidifier , we have had it serviced and they told us we would have to drive it out (ever corner, we get a shower) but seems to be backing off… really upsetting though.

    May 10, 2016 at 2:17 pm
    • Hey Donna, I hope you guys have made steps to getting the problem resolved. When we were trying to dry ours out the dehumidifier had a great impact, but time was also a big help. Have you guys made any progress with getting the water out?

      May 16, 2016 at 9:01 am
  • Eileen Gerrish
    Reply

    You mentioned you used tea tree oil to combat mold. We have used a great product called Mold Monster that contains tea tree oil. No RVer should be without it. Handy spray bottles. http://Www.moldmonsterproducts.com

    May 19, 2016 at 11:29 am
    • We definitely agree with you there! Thanks for sharing the link, we’ll have to check it out 🙂

      May 19, 2016 at 8:36 pm
  • Yikes! Is there anything more horrifying that a potential leak? We’ve only been RVing now for a week (our blog is here: http://www.fulltimecanada.ca) and every time it rains we wonder, “is this the time the RV leaks?” hopefully it never does but everyone says they all do at some point or another. Just hoping its a long time from now.

    May 22, 2016 at 10:01 pm
    • It’s funny you say that! Even though we have fixed the leak we still find ourselves doing a check throughout the RV after every rain. Hopefully you never have to deal with one in your RV, it is a pain for sure.

      May 24, 2016 at 9:19 am
  • Velma Neary
    Reply

    Just so you know, these campers are all made of cardboard. We had water damage and had to gut our trailer as well. Initially we thought the water was coming in from the roof, we were wrong $2000 later. It was actually coming in from the front of the trailer so if we were traveling in the rain it was seeping in and going down the sides traveling to the back. Well she’s been gutted and we were shocked at what they build these things with. Cardboard! Of course we used plywood in our Reno and real insulation, as well we didn’t use caulking on anything, it’s not meant for these trailers, you need to use butyl tape around your windows and use it around the edges before you add the trim on the exterior as well as around all skylights. It’s been a heck of a job but we are almost done! Can’t wait to enjoy the rewards!

    July 12, 2016 at 3:40 pm
    • The hardest part with these leaks is finding where they are coming from, so many times it seems like it is obvious but it’s not. Then like you said they are not generally constructed with the best materials. Thank you for sharing, and I am excited to hear you guys are close to enjoying the rewards 🙂 Best Wishes!

      August 12, 2016 at 1:14 pm
  • Jeremy
    Reply

    Really appreciate you sharing this! We purchased a small Fibreglass trillium camper a week ago, was told no leaks, but of course there was. Mold, rotten wood, the whole nine yards. I took everything out and stripped it to the Fibreglass, I’m close to fixing the leaks, the tough part I feel will be putting up new vinyl because of the round shape. Any tips in that regard?

    July 19, 2016 at 9:34 am
    • No problem Jeremy, I hope it was helpful! In regards to tips on the vinyl, I have to say it was a total learning experience. We tried our best to measure perfectly (sometimes measuring 10 times haha), but we didn’t have much in regards to a round shape. We have found when working with other fabrics in the past that creating a cardboard template of the area can help in cutting a more accurate line for final placement. Hope this helps!

      August 12, 2016 at 1:10 pm
  • mary werner
    Reply

    We had a problem with the skylight too. Only our skylight cracked where we couldn’t see it and didn’t realize it was leaking because we weren’t in it enough and it leaked into the shower. We have a King of the Road RV and a local repair place charged us over $450 just for the skylight not including the cost of replacing it. Skylight and have the roof recoated ended up costing us $1200. If that didn’t hurt enough, now we are having trouble with our slide outs for some reason they go out but leave about a 2 inch gap at the top. Have you had any experience with that kind of problem. The local rv repair shop wouldn’t even attempt it since they are busy with easy fixes and also have the stupidest people on earth working for them. Any suggestions as to what our problem is would be appreciated.

    July 21, 2016 at 8:01 am
    • Hey Mary, I am sorry to hear about your skylight issue, I know first hand how rough they can be as well as how difficult they can be to spot! I can’t say that I have had experience with the slide out opening a gap when it is out, can you tell if you sealing strips are still in good condition? If we came across this problem we would probably look for easy fixes like the sealing but if that wasn’t the problem we would try to get it into a service department. Sorry I don’t have any suggestions, but when you find out the cause I would love to know what the problem was.

      August 12, 2016 at 12:56 pm
  • Tammie Scheetz
    Reply

    We purchased a 2000 wildwood 5th wheel. When we looked at it we noticed some of the wall covering was wrinkled at the bottm of the kitchen window.And was told by the salesman the window had been left open and it rained. When we got it home.We discovered the whole back wall was rotted .The roof had been leaking and so we had to replace the wall and roof and a wall panel above the slide had gotten wet and was rotted and moldy. The water heater had ruptured prior to us buying it and the wiring was burnt up. Now we are having to replace the converter so the batteries will charged. This has been a very expense lesson. $6000.00 purchase price and another $6000.00 in repairs. Needless to say we will be very cautious if we ever can afford an upgrade.

    July 28, 2016 at 12:08 am
    • Just awful!! It is so hard to know a lot of times, and hard to find the problems without being able to look behind the walls. Like you said though, in the future we will both know to be very cautious!!

      August 11, 2016 at 5:57 pm
  • Thomas DeHart
    Reply

    Hi my name is Tom I was a rv tech for 20 years. The skylight has always been a problem because there is no flex in the material. You can put a new one in today take a road trip and come home with stress cracks that you can’t see because of the trim. Before you install the exterior trim put a 1 inch wide layer of an elastomeric sealant around the edge if it cracks the sealant will keep it from leaking.

    September 9, 2016 at 9:09 am
    • Sandra Lee
      Reply

      We have a 1978 travel trailer that had black mold in the bathroom (i don’t know if it was the toxic kind). Painted with a mold sealer but I’m wondering if this is enough? I’m almost terrified to use the trailer because of the spore issue. We don’t have the money to renovate. Ideas?

      September 15, 2016 at 11:12 am
      • I am sorry to hear about your mold issue. I am no mold expert, but from what I have researched the mold sealer is designed to kill and stop mold from re-growing (mold sealer is not the same as mold resistant paint). However I think it will depend on the severity of the mold and if you were able to get it all covered with the sealer. For example, was the mold you covered with the sealer on the walls you could see? If so were you able to look behind the wall and see if there was more behind it that you couldn’t see?

        Mold is a tricky beast to tackle, we used a tea tree oil mixture to kill the mold in our ceiling and then covered with a mold sealer which has taken care of our issue, though it wasn’t that bad.

        One other thing I was reading up on is that most mold removal companies will offer a free estimate, it may be a good idea to have an expert come out and give you an estimate. At the very least you could pick their brain why they were there and hopefully feel more comfortable in a solution moving forward. If going this route though I would make sure the company you bring out does offer a free estimate. I really hope this helps and that you are able to get your 1978 travel trailer out on the road.

        best wishes eric

        September 15, 2016 at 11:42 am
    • Hey Tom, thank you so much for your tip. I was wondering what it was that cause the cracks in our skylight because they were so small. I replaced the skylight a while back but if I run into this problem again I will most certainly use the elastomeric sealant around the edge beforehand. Thanks again for your tip, nothing beats experience in the field!

      September 15, 2016 at 11:48 am
  • Janie Freitas
    Reply

    I ran across this when I gogled RV Ceiling panel repair. We had an ongoing leak in our MH that we fixed (or thought we did) many times. We finally have the leaks fixed and it is time to repair the interior damage. We will be replacing 6 panels in our MH mainly because we want the whole front portion and hallway to be the same.

    It appears that our ceilings are similar, 4×8 panels held up with a track system. I am planning on removing and replacing the tracks and using the old panels as a template for the cutouts for lights vents, etc.

    Other than knowing I will not know how extensive the job will be until I remove the panels and see the full damage. Do you have videos of installing the actual ceiling tiles?

    My Hubs is having lots of health issues so he will be my instructor but I am doing the work myself and I am of course a little stressed and worried about it. I only have two banks of upper cabinets to remove, and we also have an L-Shaped wall on the back end of the kitchen/bathroom. I am so hoping I do not have to remove that wall and I can trim the ceiling panels. If that plan works the Living room area of our MH has crown molding I am planning on replacing so I would trim that out also.

    I have not been able to find any information on how to actually install the new ceiling panels. I am assuming that they screw in to tracks on the edges and the trim pieces go over that to cover the screws/staples.

    I am curious if that is how your panels went in and you have any hard earned suggestions for installation.

    Any information would be so appreciated.

    September 30, 2016 at 1:30 pm
    • Hey Janie, I am sorry to hear about your water leak, but am glad you got the water to stop coming in. Unfortunately we do not have videos of the actual replacement as we were figuring out a lot along the way. We do have a post though that talks about how we fixed it, which you can view here:

      https://mountainmodernlife.com/how-we-replaced-the-ceiling-panel-in-our-rv/

      We didn’t end up moving our kitchen wall because there was a bit of plumbing going through it, so we talked to our manufacturer Tiffin and they gave us another option, which was to cut the panel to fit.

      Our ceiling panels weren’t actually screwed into the ceiling, we used 90 grade spray adhesive (which you can find a link for in the post above, or pick up at any home depot or lowes). It is a combination of the adhesive and the tracks that hold the ceiling panels up I believe.

      I hope this helps, and please do not hesitate to reach out again if you have any other questions, I’ll do my best to help. Best of luck!!

      October 3, 2016 at 1:06 pm
  • Cheryl Procissi
    Reply

    Thanks for all of the advice! We have a 1993 Bounder that we just finished repairing. We had to replace the skylight, wish it was on $42, Bounder charged us $440 for a replacement. My husband and his friend scrubbed the entire roof with scotchgard green pads, cleaned it with roof cleaner, put Eturnabond on the cracks on the roof and 3 coats of DICOR EPDM sealer on the entire roof. In the spring we will take out at least 1 wall in the bathroom and replace it. I haven’t been able to convince my hubby that we need to remove and replace ceiling panels yet but will work on that over the winter.
    Do need to express that our local RV store/repair shop, Palco Trailer, showed us what kind of damage is done to a roof when a tarp is used. Previous owners must have done that, we will never put a cover on the motor home.
    Next project after that will be removing all carpet and putting down a nice vinyl tile floor.

    December 28, 2016 at 9:33 pm

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