Flooded in Indiana

Ok, since Mary had to show off and figure out how to put photos on here, I guess I have to learn how to do it too.  I took quite a few the last few days, and I wanted to share the story behind them.  Let’s see how this goes:

The beginning of the problem

For those that don’t know, if we’re not hooked to city water, then we have a holding tank for our fresh water supply.  This can be filled many different ways, and we’ll discuss that later, but the manner in which we get it to our faucet is always the same as far as the camper is concerned.  What you’re looking at is the cover for the fill port for our fresh water tanks.

When we showed up to Lake Fairfax in Virginia, we stopped at the fresh water fill station.  It’s more fuel economical to pull the trailer with empty tanks.  With 46 gallons of fresh water capacity, and water weighing just about 8.35 pounds per gallon, by towing empty, we’re saving pulling just about 385 pounds.  As I was filling the fresh water tank, Grace was leaning out the window and watching, and shouted back to me (she had to shout, she was hanging out the window to watch me!) “Dad, I think you’re leaking water!”

So, the investigation begins.

Looks innocent enough so far.

Under the lid, the inconspicuous looking fill cap.  Nothing too sinister yet.

Staring down the throat of the beast

You can’t tell from the photo, because the flash didn’t work right, but about three inches into this hole, there was another hole.  And that second hole is what started all the trouble.

If you look back a post or two, at leaks, weed, and poop sprinklers, I talked about that second hole a lot more, so we’ll move past the re-telling of that story.

More problems??

Skipping around, I’ve seen this problem getting worse since we first got the trailer.  I’ve been a bit lazy about looking into it.  At first, I thought it was just a weak support bracket on the underside of the trailer that needed to be replaced.

A little closer to the end

I only took the pictures on this side, but both sides were looking like this: grim.

The long view

This angle really gives you a good view of where this trim is supposed to be, and where it’s headed!

Moving in to the concerning part

This is what really got my attention.

Getting the plastic out of the way

If you click on the picture, it should load a full sized image where you can really see the way the wood has rotted.

So, now I’m thinking that the hole in the hose has been there for a looonnnggg time.  And, since I’m not very well versed on trailers, I’m beginning to brace myself for the worst.  Mary and I sat down and talked about what our options are.  We just recently added the trailer to our insurance, and even though we didn’t design it to be this way, we’re pretty sure that as far as the insurance company would be concerned, if we turned this in as a claim, it’d look like we were setting the whole thing up.  I mean, really?  We get insurance and then a month later we file a claim for water damage that could be years old?  I doubt that would fly.  So, the next thing that crosses our mind is: how much would this cost to repair?  Keep in mind, we’re both aware that the “skeleton” of the trailer is wood, but we don’t know how to tell how bad the damage is, and even if we did we have no experience in dealing with major repairs in an RV.

obviously, I'm not a photographer

Even though this pic is a bit blurry, it really shows how the wood is just falling apart back there.

So, even though I have no idea what I’m doing, I do realize that we need to make some forward progress to find out how serious this problem is.  I crawled under the trailer with a razor blade, and cut a couple of “x’s” into the liner that runs the length of the trailer.  Suspicions confirmed: water started leaking out.  Now I KNOW there’s a problem.  And now we’re really starting to get worried.  There’s a leak in the front of the trailer, and rotten wood in the back.  Rotten wood means there’s been a problem for a while, and the only source for it is on the other side of the trailer.  To me, that screams: all the wood between what I’ve seen, and where the leak is, is going to need to be replaced.

We both knew that it was time to start bringing in people with more experience.  The first thing we tried was calling a local insurance office (not ours!) and asking some “innocent” questions.  The conversation went well… but not in our favor.  The lady that Mary talked to said that RV insurance was pretty decent if we had a pipe freeze.  Or a tree fall on our house.  Or if someone ran into our trailer while we were off on a day trip.  But, maintenance issues?  Yea, not so much.  She said that a split hose that was left, and caused damage over a long period of time would probably not be covered, as it suggested we weren’t keeping up on our housekeeping.  (like “housekeeping” means that you’re supposed to crawl under  your house and take everything apart to make sure none of your pipes arbitrarily started leaking)

No matter how ridiculous her idea of housekeeping is defined, her answer didn’t reassure us.  Because now, whatever the cost is to fix this, is going to be our burden to bear.

As far as we could come up with, our remaining two options are 1) pay for the repairs ourselves, or 2) scrap the trailer, and start over.  Neither one of those are very good options for us.  It isn’t exactly raining money.

We went and talked to two RV dealers local to where we are.  The second group we talked to had just about the perfect response.  We had all the mechanics in the office w/us, and the guy that seemed to have the seniority listened to our story, and said “Man, that shit sucks.”  Yep.  That shit sucks.

Then we found out we were talking to the wrong people.  The service manager hangs out in a different building.  We talked to him, and although he expressed how serious the situation was, he wouldn’t be able to look at it until the end of the week.

Meanwhile, the first dealer we went to had a guy out to the campground a few hours later.

He cut a few of his own holes.  Did some poking around, and gave us the the best news we’d had surrounding this issue so far.  He said that the rotten wood in the back and the standing water in the front were separate issues.  He said that in the back, it was caused by poor rainwater drainage, caused by the manufacturing process.  (basically, the bloke on the rivet gun the day MY trailer came down the assembly line wasn’t paying attention to his job that day)  Apparently, the 2×4 that is rotting out is pretty much just there for cosmetic purposes.  It’s there to hold the trim together.  (the same trim that destroyed it!)

So, we focused our attention on the problem up front.  He said that we likely caught the problem before it caused any serious damage.  The only thing we had to do, was not wait.  Which brings us to the next group of pictures:

That ain't lawn clippings!
throwin away my R value!

I crawled under the trailer with a razor blade and a trash bag and made two long cuts on either side of the metal crossbar.  Once I cut the liner from port to starboard, and let the water stop running out, I started pulling the insulation out.  Very wet, but the good part is that I didn’t see any water marks on the wood above it.

got a little extra back!

I got a little scared when this stuff started falling out on top of me while I was pulling insulation!  I guess at some point, someone ran some new wires, and just didn’t get all the parts and pieces back!

Not a bad introduction, I suppose

Ok, so this isn’t exactly how I wanted to document our vehicles, but it’s not a terrible way to do it I suppose.  This is The A(5) Vehicle. (The A’s are: Awesome Amazing Adventure Across America)  (vehicle). (had to have five, since there’s five of us!). She’s a 2011 Dodge 2500HD Mega-cab, 4×4.  The only thing we’ve changed is in the back.  We’re a junk in the trunk kind of family, so we needed some way to keep it dry.  We had the stock bed liner taken out and had a Rhino lining sprayed in.  We also had an A.R.E. truck cap installed.

Not exactly as big as my last garage

It looks a bit messy, I admit, but in my defense: I WAS in the middle of a project!  Not only that, but half the bed is full of firewood, too!

She thinks she's sooo funny

Here’s Mary, in the midst of my project, stealing my garage.  (and laughing all the way)  I talked her into letting me snap a few more pictures for the blog before she left…

Cannibalizing the kids' beds

This is just about the last piece of the kids’ beds that we have left.  It was untreated pine, so for the most part I was using it for kindling.  I’m glad I didn’t use it all though, because I had to cut some pieces to use for this project.

Camp saw
Not a camp saw

After trying to cut these 2×10’s with the camp saw, I have to wonder – why does anyone buy these things?  What a pain.  The tenon saw cut the lumber a lot faster and easier than the more aggressive looking camp saw.  I knew there were going to be uses for this thing… I’m really glad I brought it.

The reason I needed to choose a saw

After I cut the liner, I had to rent a fan to make sure that I could get air moving across the wood to make sure it was dry.  I wasn’t exactly sure how I was going to direct the air into the bottom of the trailer.  At first I was thinking of those confined spaces fans… the ones you see the guys using going into the sewers (the fan’s on the street, a hose runs into the sewer)… anyway… renting one of those in Terre Haute, IN is pretty much impossible.  I got this squirrel cage fan for $100/week, and after putting my saw and bedrails to good use, it seems to work just fine.

The fan stuffed into the front cut
Where the air comes out

It didn’t show up very well in the picture, but when I got up under there, and opened those cuts, I can see the wood pretty clearly, and it looks like it never saw any of the water.  So, to bring a long paranoid story to an end, it’s looking like all I’m going to have to do is pick up some new insulation, figure out how to stuff it back in the holes in some sort of organized manner, and then tape the cuts closed.  I don’t know if I’m going to want to mess with trying to get the insulation back in there by myself, or if I’m just going to have the guys at the RV place put this thing back together.  It’d certainly be easier to have someone else do the work, I suppose.  (but, then, it’d be nice to say I did it myself!)  Something to go into the DIM(WIT) Pages, for sure!

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