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Old 03-18-2014, 10:11 AM   #1
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Water Leak Soaked Insulation

I recently traced a water leak in a 2003 or so travel trailer. Brand doesn't matter in this case because from what I've found the designs are all basically similar manufacturer to manufacturer.

The pumpout guy took the time to notice and mention that he saw water dripping from the trailer in the area of the dump valves. He deserves, and was given proper reward for that information. Fortunately the owner didn't dismiss his input.

A bit of investigation traced the water drip to a TV cable which was bushed out in a PVC tube through the bottom. It was near the outside wall. It had been raining the previous 2 days so a leak from above was the first guess. I cut some access holes in the belly cloth to find some of the fiberglass insulation completely soaked. I opened up a few more holes to remove more wet insulation. The first things inspected were the floors and water lines in the general area. Fortunately much of the flooring and piping was accessible from the under bed storage and other storage areas. Nothing looked bad. I went up to inspect the roof and the outside walls above. There were a couple areas which looked suspicious, but none of them jumped out as a real problem.

After a time I went back under the trailer expecting to find that the dripping had slowed down. It hadn't. Further access holes in the belly cloth led back over to the opposite side of the trailer in the general area of the bathroom. Inspecting the bath plumbing and opening some access panels showed nothing. Sticking my head into a small access under the sink and using a flashlight finally showed a small drip from a pressure PEX Tee fitting. As luck would have it, it was dripping right down into the hole drilled for the PEX to come up from underneath. The water was going right down and not following the vinyl floor cover out from under the cabinet.

At least it appeared that the problem had been identified. The water feed was shut off and the pressure bled down. Further inspection showed that a braided flex hose to the toilet had been fit to the PEX Tee. Normally that may have been OK, but the braided hose was at least a size too big. The CLIC clamp applied apparently had allowed the oversized hose to work loose and to begin dripping.

I went back below to open more belly cloth access and tear out more soaked insulation. The water had been contained by the belly cloth and had been soaking into the fiberglass insulation. It was a real mess, but fortunately there wasn't much indication of wood rot or mold (as yet).

A tip for belly cloth access.
I have learned to feel for the floor joists or stringers before cutting access in the belly cloth. Once the stringer is identified, I cut along the approximate center of the stringer and then cut out from there to open a rectangular shape flap. This sets me up to pull the flap back over and staple it to the stringer when I want to reseal the belly cloth access holes. There may be better methods, but that one works for me.

The leak at the tee was definitely the problem. To save being more wordy, let me just say that I cut off the hose and properly repaired the plumbing using a too small under counter access hole. Access is so often a problem in trailer repairs. I used some tinfoil to provide a catch tray to divert water onto the flooring in case it ever leaks again. That is preferable to me to have the water come out on the flooring as opposed to any possible future leak dripping down underneath unnoticed (again).

Now for the wet insulation/drying problem. The trailer lives in the Florida Keys and is in storage from March January between uses. The owner was closing up and leaving in two days. I couldn't remove all the wet insulation because tanks and other stuff prevented that. I was worried that if I just resealed the belly cloth then mold and rot would be a big problem. The trailer is a condo on wheels. It is stored within the campground. My decision was to not seal the many belly cloth access openings. I wanted things to stay open and breathe.

This was my solution. I'm not looking for approval or criticism. I'm just trying to pass on some ideas.

From Home Depot we acquired insect screen fabric, 1 x 2 slat boards, 1/4" steel mesh screen, Gorilla Tape, and some #8 Spax screws (less wood splitting). My method was to first roll all the cut out access flaps up to above the belly cloth to leave air openings. I next Gorilla taped a doubled layer of insect screen over the entire sections between floor stringers. Those areas were then covered with the 1/4" steel mesh. Some 1 x 2 wood battens and Spax screws hold everything up into place against the stringers. It took more time than I thought than it would to seal/secure everything up into place, but the finished job looks pretty good.

The theory is that the screened openings will allow the areas to dry enough that mold will not be a problem. The metal mesh should stop any interested critters because there really isn't much to attract them. At least there isn't anything more attractive than would be under the belly cloth, and belly cloth is much easier for them to penetrate.

Will it work? I hope so. I'm next to positive that sealing the wetness in without drying would not work at all. Being that the trailer is a condo on wheels I don't see any real issues. I've already told the owner that if the trailer ever needs to travel over the road the screened areas will need to be dealt with. As long as everything looks OK next year, the air openings will likely be left as is. A bit of air circulation may be a good thing in general.

Discussion with a camp neighbor revealed that a brand new RV pusher across the way had a similar leak problem. In that case the builder had someone try to squash the next larger size PEX tube onto an undersized fitting. When the PEX completely let go it flooded the entire RV. If that unit stays in the Keys I have no idea how that would ever be properly dried out.

It might be worth double checking for tubing/hose size compatibility anytime you are looking around at your trailer plumbing. (Especially with barbed fittings or hose to PEX brass fitting situations.)

FWIW. vic

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Old 03-11-2015, 10:46 AM   #2
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Repair update


Leaving the belly cloth open by using insect screen and wire mesh worked as I had intended. The trailer was opened in January with no signs of mold. The floors remained solid and produce no squeaks.

Inspection under the trailer through the screens shows no sign of molding on the under structure.

As a stored condo the trailer never sees the road. The screen and mesh repair still looks great. We left the repairs as is. Should the trailer ever see road travel the opened belly cloth can fairly easily be replaced as needed.

FWIW. vic

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Old 03-11-2015, 12:56 PM   #3
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Hope the owner appreciates your diligence and hard work. An excellent piece of experience you've passed on.

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