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Sealing Caulk Failure

Originally Published in Trailer Life Magazine

Q: We opened our Forest River travel trailer after it had been covered all winter and everything looked fine. Then the spring rain came and apparently the caulking had failed around the access panel for the water heater. Now our subfloor is soft. We lifted part of the vinyl floor tiles in this area and used a fan to dry it, but the floor still seems soft in this area. What would be your advice to fix the subfloor at this point before we lay the vinyl floor back down? And this goes without saying, we will fix the area around the access panel with new caulk so we don’t have a repeat leak.
Eileen, via email

A: If indeed what you are seeing is the subfloor material that was saturated with water and it has started to break down, there’s no repairing it. The bonding glue in the chipboard, Structurwood or plywood will have been damaged, which leaves the remaining wood a spongy, crumbly mess. First, have it inspected by an RV service center. If the subfloor has been soaked, you may be able to dry it out, but it’s still ruined. All you can do is remove it and replace it with new flooring. The vinyl flooring must be peeled back, cutting out all of the bad subfloor to where the material is still good, and the new subflooring reinstalled. This can be quite a job due to cabinets and wall partitions above, holding tanks or storage bays underneath and so on, and other wood structural members may also be damaged by the moisture. This is specialized work that calls for an experienced hand at this kind of repair. Unless you’re ready to take on a big project, I’d recommend you go with a professional RV repair facility to do the work.
– Jeff Johnston

Two men - Ken Freund and Jeff Johnston - standing near truck To send your questions to RV Clinic, write to 2575 Vista Del Mar, Ventura, Calif., 93001; or email [email protected]. Also, check out TrailerLife.TV for our expert RV how-to videos.

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