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The Biggest Downfall to RVs: Water Damage

The Biggest Downfall to RVs: Water Damage

When it rains, it pours, but hopefully not through the roof of your RV. RV water damage can be an absolute nightmare for owners since the repercussions often extend beyond fixing a leak. Anytime you’re dealing with water issues, it’s imperative to make repairs promptly and thoroughly. Let’s look at some of the steps in identifying water damage, its causes, and its solutions. 

What Is RV Water Damage?

A water leak doesn’t necessarily mean there’s water damage. If you catch a leak early enough, you can repair it before any real harm occurs. Damage happens over a long period. Water can find its way into places it doesn’t belong, and then it stays there. When normally dry areas become wet and can’t dry out, the affected areas slowly rot away. 

How Does RV Water Damage Happen? 

Water damage can be tricky to spot, as it often happens internally and out of plain sight. This allows the water to go undetected and ultimately un-fixed. 

The most common reason water damage occurs is RV owners don’t know how to spot the first signs of water filtering into dry areas. If you can spot and repair the leak before it’s allowed to sit, you can avoid significant damage. 

RVs might also sustain damage in a storm with high winds, hail, and other elements. If you underestimate the height of a tree branch and drive into it, you might have a scratch or puncture that causes a leak. 

The first steps in potential water damage are varied and often have to do with the nature of the RV or human error. 

RV 101® - How to Inspect your RV for Water Damage

Which RVs Are Susceptible to Water Damage? 

Unfortunately, no RV is impervious to potential water damage. Any area of your RV that contains a seal or a seam is susceptible. Basically, if your RV has windows and doors, they can leak. 

The quality of your make and model plays a role, but the biggest factor is age and care. It’s the nature of RVs to jumble and jostle as you drive them. The more miles you have on your RV, the bumpier those bumps become, and they may eventually split a seal. 

As mentioned previously, human error or the RV’s design can all contribute to a potential leak down the road – no matter how much you paid for your rig! 

Does RV Insurance Cover Water Damage?

The simple answer, as with most insurance questions, is that it depends on your coverage. If you only have collision or liability coverage, water damage won’t be covered. 

Most commonly, if you have comprehensive coverage, it includes water damage coverage. But there are rarely guarantees when speaking broadly about insurance coverage, so look into the specifics of your insurance plan to verify your policy. 

Hidden Dangers of RV Water Damage

Aside from the potential structural damage to your RV, water damage can be pretty dangerous. Water that doesn’t dry out can turn into mold within a few days. 

According to the EPA, “Molds can thrive on any organic matter, including clothing, leather, paper, and the ceilings, walls and floors of homes with moisture management problems.”  Mold can pose serious health risks to anyone exposed. 

How Mold Can Affect Human and Animal Health

Mold affects each person differently. Some feel no symptoms at all. Other people and animals often have mold allergy triggers and exhibit common allergic reactions, like watery eyes and runny nose.

The most concerning reactions are respiratory. Those with asthma should take extra precautions, as mold can lead to respiratory infection or pneumonia. 

How to Look for Water Damage in an RV

Inspect your RV regularly for water damage. A good rule of thumb is to give your RV a thorough examination twice a year–once at the beginning of your active RV season and then again at the end. Here are a few common areas of inspection to keep in mind.


Arguably the most obvious place to spot water damage is on the exterior aluminum or fiberglass. If you see obvious or even subtle delamination, it likely indicates there’s water damage behind the bubbled areas. 

Soft Spots in Walls, Floor, Ceiling, Roof

Check for soft spots around the inside and outside of your RV. Don’t be afraid to apply heavy pressure when checking for soft spots. A solid RV can take a lot and shouldn’t give when you press on it. 

Check in areas where you’d expect to find water, like the bathrooms, sinks, windows, and roof vents. And be thorough. Inspect inside cabinets and around seams and lights. When checking areas with plumbing, look at the floor around the toilet, sinks, and shower. When checking the seams around doors and windows, check the floor underneath. 

RV Roof water damage

Mold or Mildew Smell

Often our nose is the first to alert us to a problem with mold or mildew growth. There’s a distinct musty smell that accompanies these kinds of fungi growth. So, when in doubt, follow your nose! 

Look for Discoloration

Check your walls and floor for discoloration. Surfaces with wood, wallpaper, or paint are all likely to stain from water exposure. This can look like a descending trail of discoloration down the wall or rust-colored seepage from windows or doors.

Another discoloration that indicates water damage is the distinct black or brown speckles of mold. 

How to Prevent RV Water Damage

Inspect, seal, seal, and reseal. As an RV goes down the road everything flexes and moves. This eventually will separate even the best seals. When using an RV it’s a good idea to inspect the roof and windows every month or even more often. Even a small tear from a branch can cause major problems so when on the road regular roof inspections are critical. Also, check over the whole RV after heavy rains. Any water ingress should be investigated immediately.

Water damage is not necessarily an inevitability. Much like a tooth with plaque doesn’t necessarily mean a cavity, if you catch a water leak early enough, you can prevent lasting damage. 

You might consider scheduling RV maintenance every six months, just as you would a dental cleaning. It’s also good practice to inspect your RV for potential leaks before each major trip. Keep a few tools on hand, as well as sealant gels, as a precaution. 

Overall, remember that if there’s a space for water to get through, it’ll find a way. But that shouldn’t dissuade you from your RV adventures. Understanding the risks and management of owning an RV, just like a home, includes knowing how to handle water. Prevention will be your best friend, so keep a sharp eye for signs of cracks or leaks. 

But if you do find yourself with RV water damage, know that you’re in good company. It happens to the best of us! 

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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 The RVers, producers of “Go North” on Amazon Prime, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for and an Arizona travel guide.

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