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Old 04-23-2013, 03:04 PM   #1
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moisture under vinyl flooring

I purchased a 2002 hybrid in Portland OR and brought it home to southern CA last month. Yesterday while looking in a storgage compartment I discovered that the vinyl flooring was just stapled down. I lifted the vinyl and found moisture between the vinyl and the plywood floor. I then checked other places inside the trailer and found the same thing. I looked this trailer over very well before I bought it for leaks at the ceiling and all pluming fixtures and found none or any repairs. On the way home we drove thru a rain storm near mount shasta, after the rain I went into the trailer and checked for leaks and found none. I don't know how the moisture got there because we have had no rain in the three weeks I have had it home and there has been no moisture on top of the vinyl flooring. The underside of the trailer is sealed tight with no rips or tears. Could the moisture have gotten there from the damp air that this trailer has spent its life in up in Portland? I am looking for any advice on this matter.

Sawdust
Kiwi 21c
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Old 04-23-2013, 08:05 PM   #2
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Re. Moisture Under Vinyl Flooring

My first post and I may as well jump in with both feet.

We just purchased a 2001 Kiwi 23b with known water damage. It is our first travel trailer. I have learned quite a bit already, but I know there is much more to discover.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sawdust View Post
...Yesterday while looking in a storage compartment I discovered that the vinyl flooring was just stapled down. I lifted the vinyl and found moisture between the vinyl and the plywood floor. ...
When they build most travel trailers early in the process the frame is provided with a "belly cloth"/plywood/composite floor and then that floor is covered with vinyl. (There are videos of the process.) The rest of the trailer (walls, cabinets, etc.) are installed upon that flooring.

The wooden floor is sealed between two layers of fairly impermeable material (the belly cloth and vinyl). Any water that gets between those layers basically gets sucked in and then has no place to evaporate out of the floor.

What that means to you is that once the moisture is there, it doesn't readily go away, but distributes in the flooring layers. Once it is wet enough the moisture will condense under the vinyl and lay on the belly cloth. That moist environment creates a bad environment for the floor structure.
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Originally Posted by sawdust View Post
...Could the moisture have gotten there from the damp air that this trailer has spent its life in up in Portland? I am looking for any advice on this matter.

Sawdust
Kiwi 21c
In my limited experience it is unlikely that the floor has absorbed moisture from the air. The belly cloth creates a lower barrier. The vinyl floor creates the upper barrier.

Our 2001 Kiwi 23b had obvious roof issues in the front right corner. It also had floor issues in the back which were less obvious. The floor seemed basically solid, but the vinyl floor covering had obvious stains. That meant that there was more water damage. Unfortunately I was inexperienced and didn't recognize how bad it could be.

One of the things I have done is to open up every cabinet and storage space to cut out the vinyl flooring. I have even peeled back the tub lower paneling cover to cut the floor vinyl out and help moisture migrate out of the floor. My idea for removing the vinyl floor covering is that water can get between the vinyl and belly cloth unnoticed. For my lifestyle, the storage areas don't need fancy impermeable covering to hide water problems. By leaving the plywood floor exposed it will allow things to dry and also show any future leaks more readily. I'm certain that my 2001 will have future leaks.

I found that much of my rear area floor damage was because the well wells weren't properly fitted and sealed. Another area was the water hose inlets and the electrical cord cover. Outside lights have some history also. Remember that any leak, no matter how small, has basically no place to go once it is trapped between the belly cloth and vinyl. As the water enters it just continues to migrate to drier areas until it reaches saturation.

For my personal situation I am hoping that the moisture will leave my floor in the top vinyl removed openings I have provided before any more damage happens. Sorry I can't offer more. Good luck. vic
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Old 04-24-2013, 01:24 PM   #3
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Re: moisture under vinyl

Copied from a PM with permission from Sawdust.

Quote:
Hi Vic

Thanks for your reply. I was thinking that I would have to remove all of the vinyl to dry the floor out and put new plywood on top of the excisting floor. Not sure how to replace the vinyl. As for the leak you have in the front right corner this seems to be a common problem with the kiwi. I was lucky and don't have a leak there. The previous owner told me that they had the A/C resealed. My moisture problems are in the front under the dinette ( mine is like yours) and the rear storage compartment. I think that the previous owner may have been putting the water hose in the trailer without draining it because I can not fine any place that has leaked.

sawdust
My answer.

Sawdust,
My preferred method of communication is to use the open forums so that the information is there for future people who may search or stumble onto the thread. Private communications kinda stop the flow of information.

If you have no objection I will copy and paste this PM text to the thread with my reply in an attempt to keep the thread information flowing. We can then continue in that thread.

"My moisture problems are in the front under the dinette ( mine is like yours) and the rear storage compartment."

By rear storage compartment do you mean in the cabinet under the hanging locker? If yes, I found issue there also. Mine traced to the wheel well arch. Once I removed the outer plastic trim I found that the outer wall skin didn't overlap the plastic wheel well to shed water off. There did appear to be a half hearted attempt by the factory to caulk the area, but certainly not a good seal.

In my case the water in the hanging locker floor didn't appear to come from high above. A careful inspection shows the roof to be sound. There is no water damage to the ceiling or walls in the area of the cabinets in my 23b. For ours it appears that the water followed the wheel arch down and then penetrated and soaked into the exposed wood floor layers.

Some people depend upon a caulk seal on the plastic arch trim to keep the water out. I used roof repair mesh and polyurethane sealant to apply an overlapping seal on the entire wheel arch joint. That reapir seal is covered by the trim pieces for appearance, and then that trim piece is also sealed.

as to your water hose comment. I think that even if a fairly full water hose would leak, the resulting water would mostly lay on the vinyl floor covering to eventually evaporate. You may have other water intrusion problems. I hope that I'm wrong.

I recommend cutting all the storage area vinyl out to encourage the water to migrate out of the floor. I'm considering using the lock together plastic commercial shower tiles in my storage compartments. That will cover the wood flooring, but allow the floor to breathe.

Good luck. vic

I attempted to attach some pictures of the wheel well repair seal.

Before

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After using sealant and mesh over the edge.

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Old 04-24-2013, 10:09 PM   #4
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Sawdust,
I realized after posting that you show a 21c model so your layout probably doesn't have the hanging closet that I mentioned. Sorry for any confusion. The wheel well area could still be suspect as could any attachment or penetration on the outside.

The flooring is pretty much even with the bottom of the exterior wall covering. I plan to seal the bottom trim mold all the way around the bottom of the walls just in case water is getting in from there somehow.

I removed the plywood cover over the dinette drawer. When I cut the vinyl there I found it not bone dry, but not wet. The floor was not affected, but I'm glad that I cut the vinyl out to promote drying. Nobody ever sees under there anyway.

Earlier I mentioned the interlocking plastic tile to cover my storage area floors where I removed the vinyl for drying. Those tiles are heavier and more expensive than I thought they would be.

I am now considering stapling or otherwise fastening plastic mesh over the exposed wood. That should allow ventilation, protect the floor, and keep stored materials up a bit off the wood. I really don't want to cover it with something that will stop the drying process.

This mesh looks promising. Not too expensive.

http://www.walmart.com/ip/Tenax-Corp...ndingMethod=rr

Sorry for a lack of detail. I am working my way through this. I'm confident it will work out eventually.

I trust that your repairs will go well. vic
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Old 04-25-2013, 05:09 AM   #5
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Won't you get a buildup of mold under the vinyl if you don't remove all of the vinyl and dry out everything?
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Old 04-25-2013, 08:07 AM   #6
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Won't you get a buildup of mold under the vinyl if you don't remove all of the vinyl and dry out everything?
That is a very good question. I don't know if the mold or mildew will halt or not. If I can dry things out then it should.

There is mold or mildew evidence under much of the vinyl floor covering which I have removed, so it's already there. The vinyl flooring above and belly cloth below doesn't lend itself to the floor drying out once it is wet. I suspect that most anyone who has an older camper is living with some degree of mold or mildew. Most of it is trapped under flooring or otherwise not a problem with the normal air changes which will happen when the camper is in use.

While trying to figure this out I have read many threads about wet and rotted floors in campers. Some of those who reply casually mention that a camper like mine is scrap, the entire floor needs replacing, and other expensive options. I bought the 23b knowing there was some water damage in areas above which I know that I can repair. As I'm getting into it I'm finding more water damage than I anticipated. I'm inexperienced with campers. I'm certain that my story is not unusual. I can't afford to scrap the camper or replace the entire flooring so I'm working on repairs. We want to camp this year with the new to us camper. If the repairs work... I win. If they don't, then I'll need to rethink my situation.

I have been using multiple applications of vinegar and some commercial mold killer wherever I have pulled up the vinyl. I have found a number of potential leak areas which I have been repairing. I've been running fans inside the camper constantly and using the propane furnace to keep it at 65F. Once the weather here improves I'm probably going to skirt the entire camper and run an electric heater underneath to help drive the moisture out. All those efforts are to encourage the moisture to leave.

Will I be able to dry things out to the point that the camper is OK to use? I think so. Am I certain it will work? I have no way of knowing. Time will tell. vic
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Old 04-25-2013, 11:06 AM   #7
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moisture under vinyl

Vic

I checked my wheel wells yesterday and found them to be dry. I also removed all the vinyl from the storage areas and cut the vinyl along the dinette under the table and pulled it back. When the floor dries out in this area I plan on putting it back. This area should dry quickly because it is not very damp here. As for the storage areas that will take much longer. The rear storage area goes all across the back and is accessable from both inside and outside. I think the outside access door may have leaked there. My dinette is the same lay out as the 23b and this is where the most damage is. It will take a long time for the storage area under the seats in the dinette to dry out. I can not find any leaks from above so the outside doors must be how the water got in. I have aready put new weather stripping around all of my outside access doors. I have also resealed the complete trailer. The chance of rain between now and December is very low here in southern CA, so it will be a long time before I will know if I have stopped the leaks. I plan on trying bleach on the mold that is on the floor to remove it. Like you I plan on useing a grid system or raised floor to allow the floor to air out.

Like you I am retired and can only repair what I have. Once I get past the moisture issue I think the trailer will be ok and am looking foreward to useing it.

sawdust
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Old 04-25-2013, 12:44 PM   #8
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Sawdust,
Sounds like your trailer is in better shape than mine is, and that you have a plan.
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Vic

... I plan on trying bleach on the mold that is on the floor to remove it. Like you I plan on useing a grid system or raised floor to allow the floor to air out.

Like you I am retired and can only repair what I have. Once I get past the moisture issue I think the trailer will be ok and am looking foreward to useing it.

sawdust
Not that you asked...
Bleach is very good at killing things off, but it can also be very corrosive. Using it in closed areas can cause problems with electrical connections, electronic circuit boards (the copper parts turn green), and it can accelerate the corrosion of iron/steel. Vinegar (acetic acid) is an effective mold killer and is a bit less aggressive. I bought vinegar at a dollar store and put it in a spray bottle to make it easier to apply.

I found the floor plan of your 21c. It looks like a very nice rig. Good luck with your camper. vic
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Old 04-25-2013, 07:42 PM   #9
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Vic

Thanks for the information about the bleach, I will try the vinegar also. I have fans running blowing air thru the trailer at the storage doors today and it is drying out nicely. Our weather is warming up now to the low 80's so that will help to speed up the drying. I also talked with the wife and will remove all of the old vinyl in the walking areas and replace it with new vinyl. The storage areas will still get a removeable raised floor so I can continue to check for moisture.

We also looked at the 23b but decided that it would max out our parking space to much so we went with the much less common 21c. Our 21c came with the optional bunks in place of the second dinette. Good luck with your repairs.

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Old 03-21-2014, 11:32 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VicS1950 View Post
That is a very good question. I don't know if the mold or mildew will halt or not. If I can dry things out then it should.

There is mold or mildew evidence under much of the vinyl floor covering which I have removed, so it's already there. The vinyl flooring above and belly cloth below doesn't lend itself to the floor drying out once it is wet. I suspect that most anyone who has an older camper is living with some degree of mold or mildew. Most of it is trapped under flooring or otherwise not a problem with the normal air changes which will happen when the camper is in use.

While trying to figure this out I have read many threads about wet and rotted floors in campers. Some of those who reply casually mention that a camper like mine is scrap, the entire floor needs replacing, and other expensive options. I bought the 23b knowing there was some water damage in areas above which I know that I can repair. As I'm getting into it I'm finding more water damage than I anticipated. I'm inexperienced with campers. I'm certain that my story is not unusual. I can't afford to scrap the camper or replace the entire flooring so I'm working on repairs. We want to camp this year with the new to us camper. If the repairs work... I win. If they don't, then I'll need to rethink my situation.

I have been using multiple applications of vinegar and some commercial mold killer wherever I have pulled up the vinyl. I have found a number of potential leak areas which I have been repairing. I've been running fans inside the camper constantly and using the propane furnace to keep it at 65F. Once the weather here improves I'm probably going to skirt the entire camper and run an electric heater underneath to help drive the moisture out. All those efforts are to encourage the moisture to leave.

Will I be able to dry things out to the point that the camper is OK to use? I think so. Am I certain it will work? I have no way of knowing. Time will tell. vic
A follow-up.

My 23B had a bunch of water damage which included sections of the flooring.

I was able to repair and dry out my camper enough to be perfectly usable for us. I removed any vinyl in the storage areas and other normally hidden spots wherever it appeared to be wet. I never did replace the vinyl in those areas because I didn't want to hide any future leaks. I did use some slightly watered down exterior glue as you would use Git Rot to soak in and seal the exposed plywood in any areas after they were dried out. My thought was that it would stabilize the material somewhat, and seal in any possible mold. It did what I needed.

I used a bunch of vinegar and some commercial products to try to eliminate all the mold that I could. I did skirt the trailer and heat underneath for a time.

We ended up removing the vinyl flooring in the main area that was exposed and easily replaced. We did that mostly for cosmetic reasons because the OEM vinyl was discolored in many places from the water. We used a relatively inexpensive vinyl remnant for replacement.

So we used the camper last summer. There was no smell or indication of mold then and so far there is no smell while closed up in storage.

I wasn't in a position to completely replace damaged walls and floors in a 2001 trailer. I don't think that would have been worth the money and effort on an older trailer anyway.

Based upon my single experience, it is possible to repair a water damaged trailer without completely replacing the structural sheet goods.

An advanced search using my member name should reveal more details as to my repairs should anyone be interested. vic

P.S. - All the leaks are now sealed. "No", I have not tested for mold at this time, nor do I intend to.
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