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RV Floods: 5 Common Causes and How to Dry Out Your RV Afterward

RV Floods: 5 Common Causes and How to Dry Out Your RV Afterward

RV floods are almost every camper owner’s worst nightmare. Unfortunately, they’re much more common than you might think.  RVs carry their own water and sewer supply, which is great, until its not!

If you’re not careful, your home on wheels could become a mobile swimming pool. We want to help you avoid experiencing this horror.

Today, we’re sharing some common causes and how you can dry out your RV after it floods.

Let’s dive in!

Worst Floods in an RV | One Mistake RV Life Taught Us

Are RV Floods Common?

Yes, RV floods are very common. Every RV we’ve ever owned has leaked at some point or another, and we have seen some major rv floods in our travels. One was so bad there were a few inches of water in the basement bays! We experienced issues with loose plumbing connections, freezing temperatures, and several others. They’re common enough that we strongly suggest you prepare for them.

It’s best to arm yourself with the tools and knowledge to address the most common situations. Luckily, we have experienced many of these situations firsthand during our adventures. We’re here to help you prepare to face them when they happen to you. 

Keep In Mind: RV water damage is the biggest killer of campers. Don’t let yours succumb to this awful fate.

Broken drain line in rv causing a flood
This broken drain line caused us quite the headache and a flood

5 Common Causes of RV Floods And How To Avoid Them

While most people think weather is the only one responsible for floods, that’s not exactly true. In our experience, the most common causes of RV floods have nothing to do with the weather or extreme amounts of rain. Here are five situations you should watch out for while traveling.

1. Accidental Overflows

The most common cause of RV floods is accidental overflows. This happens when someone leaves the water pump on, forgets to shut off a faucet, or the toilet flush sticks. Because RVs use waste tanks, they can only hold so much.

It becomes a problem when these tanks fill up and the water needs somewhere to go. If you don’t catch it in time, the water will spill out of the sink or toilet and onto the floor. From there, it’s anyone’s guess where it will travel inside your camper. The longer the issue goes undetected, the more extensive the damage will be.

We’ve heard of RVers returning to their rig to see water pouring out of their camper. As you can imagine, this isn’t the welcome you want to receive. It’s one reason we suggest always turning off your water source when you’re away from your RV. Whether you’re using a city connection or your water pump, shut it down. Also never walk away from a filling water tank or flushing black tank; its easy to forget that its filling.

2. Sewer Backup

Sewer backups usually happen when the tank gets full or plugged in an RV. A flush will overflow into the RV. We have seen this happen both with tanked RV’s and cassette toilets that fail to open the cassette properly.

However, sewer backups can also happen when hooked up. When a park’s sewer system backs up, it’ll take the path of least resistance. If you are in the wrong campsite at the wrong time, the sewer can back up into your rig. While the odds of this happening are slim, they’re not zero. We have seen this once in our travels and it was not pretty.

leaking toilet in RV
This was not a sewer backup per say but the floor damage did occur from our toilet leaking in our truck camper.

3. Faulty Plumbing Connections

Be it the fault of the manufacturer or the jostling of going down the road; plumbing problems often happen with RVs.

These issues can result in slow leaks or complete failures. Depending on their location, it could take some time for you to discover the leak. The longer it continues, the more damage you’ll likely experience.

Parts and components can fail over time. The only way for you to guard against these situations is to inspect your plumbing regularly. Hearing your water pump cycle when you’re not actively using water indicates a faulty plumbing connection.

While you cannot always prevent a plumbing connection problem, you can put water detectors in areas prone to leaks. Water bays, under showers, sinks etc. These are simple devices that sound an alarm to alert you of water present.

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4. Burst Pipes

RV manufacturers typically use half-inch PEX for water lines and ABS for sewer lines. Extreme cold weather can wreak havoc on these and cause RV floods. If you have yet to drain your lines or winterize your rig, the water can expand and cause them to burst.

Since these lines run throughout the underbelly and structure of your RV, you could end up pumping water almost anywhere. You may have to drop the underbelly of your camper to access and repair the damaged pipe.

rv dishwasher drainage pipe
Faulty pipes can cause little leaks or major flood disasters!

5. Heavy Rains/ Leaking Roof

While Mother Nature may not always be to blame, she’s not innocent. Heavy rains can cause nearby rivers and other bodies of water to expand. These floodwaters won’t care if your RV is in their way.

However, it doesn’t have to flood for water to enter your rig. Leaks and water damage are one of the most common causes damage to RV’s and we have written about this in detail. If your roof has damage to the rubber material or you haven’t checked your seals lately, water can sneak in. One of the most significant issues with this is that it can be weeks, months, and even years before you notice it. By the time you do, the damage is already there, and there’s a good chance you have mold.

To avoid these damages, be aware of flood risks when parking your camper. Inspect your seals several times yearly. Look for signs of peeling and cracking. Take the time to clean them and make repairs as soon as possible.

Pro Tip: Leaky roof? Use our guide on How to Repair and Replace a Damaged RV Roof to prevent water damage.

If your RV pipes freeze, you run the risk of a pipe bursting and causing a major flood.

How to Dry Out an RV After It Floods:

After your RV floods, you must dry it. This may not help any items the water has already damaged, but it can help prevent long-term issues. You could have a more severe situation if you don’t let it dry out.

Increase Ventilation

If your RV floods, one of the first things you need to do is increase ventilation. It prevents moisture and humidity, which can quickly lead to mold, odors, and further damage. Open as many doors, windows, and vents as possible to start circulating air throughout the space.

Unfortunately, this situation is a marathon and not a sprint. Once you have air flowing throughout the space, take your time to evaluate the situation.

Remove Water: Use a Wet Vac to Suck Up As Much As Possible

With all the windows open and air flowing, it’s time to remove water. A wet vac is the best tool for picking up water as efficiently as possible. Just be sure you’re monitoring how much water you extract, so you don’t fill up the reservoir.

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Use the wet vac on carpets and in spaces where you think there could be water. Get into the nooks and crannies like cabinets, under flooring, or where the wall and flooring meet. You want to do all you can to remove every trace of water.

Remove Damaged Items

The next step in recovering from RV floods is to start removing any damaged items. This could be furniture, cabinetry, or personal belongings. Unfortunately, you may need to rip up and remove carpets. If you’ve been looking for an opportunity to replace it with vinyl, this is a good time.

Depending on the severity of the situation, you may be tossing a truckload of items into a dumpster. Hopefully, none of the things you have to throw away have sentimental value or are costly to replace.

Water damage
Properly cleaning up water damage is essential to ensure no mold forms or further damage occurs.

Clean and Disinfect

With the water and damaged items out, it’s time to start cleaning and disinfecting the space. Thoroughly wipe down walls, floors, countertops, and cabinets. You want a cleaning agent that kills bacteria but is safe on the surfaces throughout your camper.

While you’ll still have the windows open and air circulating, wearing gloves and a mask is a good idea. Give plenty of attention to hard-to-reach areas.

Use Fans and Dehumidifiers

Once you’ve finished cleaning all the surfaces after the RV floods, it’s time to let everything dry out again. Use fans and dehumidifiers throughout your camper. It’s best to position them so they get as much air circulating as possible. You want to replace any moist air inside your space with drier air to reduce the chances of mold.

Dehumidifiers are incredibly effective ways to pull moisture out of a space. This job doesn’t require a massive unit since even larger RVs are relatively small and open. Keep the water collection container empty and let it do its job. Let it run nonstop for 12 to 24 hours and evaluate the situation.

Pro Tip: One of these 6 Best RV Dehumidifiers will help remove moisture from your rig.

Thoroughly Inspect Your Rig

After you’ve sanitized and removed moisture from your RV, the next step is to inspect it thoroughly. This will require you to inspect every inch of your rig. Examine items like the walls, insulation, electrical system, appliances, and flooring. Water can negatively impact these and may require your attention.

Unfortunately, you may need a professional to inspect your electrical system or appliances. These can be extremely dangerous and aren’t something you should poke your fingers into if you don’t know what you’re doing. You could be in a difficult or even deadly situation if you bite off more than you can chew.

rv dehumidifiers
Use a dehumidifier to remove any excess moisture from your rig.

Monitor Humidity Levels

We encourage every owner to monitor humidity levels, especially after their RV floods. If you have high humidity levels, you could have mold and mildew growth, structural damage, and a generally uncomfortable living environment.

You’ll need a hygrometer to get started monitoring humidity levels. These devices are incredibly accurate at measuring the humidity of a space. The hygrometer will help you know whether you’re progressing with removing humidity and moisture. You typically want it between 30 and 50%. 

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Seek Professional Help (If Needed)

Unfortunately, some projects will be too much for even the most experienced RVer to handle independently. It may require professional assistance if you want to get your rig back on the road again soon. 

While they may not be cheap, professionals often have the tools and knowledge to locate problems. They can spot issues behind walls or in spaces you overlooked. Hiring them could be one of the best decisions you could have made.

Loud RV Water Pump Problems Solved and More! Testing RV Upgrades On The Truck Camper Shakedown Trip

RV Floods Can Ruin Future Camping Plans

It can be devastating when your RV floods. Not only do you have to deal with the loss of damaged goods, but it could throw a wrench in your future travel plans. However, procrastinating or putting off repairs doesn’t do you or your RV any favors. You could make an already bad situation much worse. So, don’t delay and take action immediately!

Has your RV ever flooded? Tell us about your experience in the comments!

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About Mortons on the Move

Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
Now, they are Discovery Channel & PBS TV Co-stars of “Go North” on Amazon Prime Video, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for and an Arizona travel guide.

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