Repairing a damp caravan
As we all know there are very few things that are worse than having damp. It causes plenty of issues and can end up being expensive to fix.
Simply spotting the damp and locating its origins can be a nightmare. Water travels easily along horizontal beams, therefore the source of the damp can be far away from where it is visible.
One of the main causes of damp in caravans is due to the bonding coming apart. Due to how lightweight they are, caravans tend to be made out of fibreglass and plastics which are bonded together where they meet. One of the main causes of damp in caravans is due to this bonding coming apart and water making its way in.
In this guide, we’re going to help you to spot the damp and repair it efficiently.
How to check if your caravan is damp
One easy way of spotting that you have damp in your caravan is noticing the smell. This will be a musty and stale scent, similar to that of a wet towel.
Also look out for black spots or residue around the doors, windows and roof lights, as well as pinkish or blue staining on the walls. If your walls are damp, it can cause them to feel soft. This is usually an indicator of a serious damp problem.
Similarly, if floors are creaky or spongey, this can highlight delamination which is caused as a result of damp and can be expensive to fix.
Whilst checking for moisture you will also want to keep an eye out for structural damage and also for general wear and tear that could possibly lead to water getting in. If need be, you could get these checks carried out by professionals.
Here are the most common places where damp could be found - meaning these are the places we recommend you check thoroughly - along the joints, around awning fixings, around grab handles, around lights, around vents, beneath the trim, around the doors, around the windows and around the wheel arches. It is also common in the corners of your caravan.
If you’re inspecting a caravan for damp before you buy it, look out for alterations previous owners may have made such as mismatched wall boards. This can be a sign that there have been previous damp problems.
Do remember however that some damp issues may not be easily spotted, so we suggest buying a damp meter. This will help you to track the moisture in the air, helping you to understand if you have a problem. These are relatively cheap to buy online and will save you lots of money further down the line when it helps you to detect a problem early!
We recommend: Brennenstuhl Moisture Detector >> Check the price on Amazon
Taking it to a dealer
If, now that you know the severity of your damp problem, you don’t feel comfortable attempting this work yourself, then you should take your caravan or motorhome to a registered dealer who will be able to carry out the work for you.
If your model is under warranty then you’re in luck, as it shouldn't cost you anything to have these repairs carried out. But, if it’s an older model that’s no longer under warranty, then you will have to pay. And, depending on the state of the damp, this job can end up being relatively expensive. If you have not caught the problem early enough, this could mean that sections of your caravan have to be cut out and replaced.
We’d suggest shopping around and getting quotes from a few dealerships first to make sure you’re not over-spending.
Fixing the damp yourself
So, if you are willing to carry it out yourself in order to save a bit of money, then check out these tips and advice to help you along the way.
Dry out your caravan
The first thing that you will want to do, before you begin with your repairs, is ensure that the caravan is completely dry. Household dehumidifiers are relatively cheap and easy to get hold of and they tend to do this job fantastically. They can remove most, if not all, of the moisture from the fabrics and upholstery including the seats, carpets and curtains, which can soak up plenty of water.
Dehumidifiers are good as they are easy to use, and you can leave them switched on and working until the tank has been filled to the top. They also pose very little risk of fire, which is always good to know.
We recommend: UniBond Aero 360 Moisture Absorber >> Check the price on Amazon
We also recommend: Nobebird Dehumidifier >> Check the price on Amazon
If you discover that there is moisture that is trapped in specific places - such as between the laminates, in the walls or in the floor - then you will have a much tougher job on your hands. These areas will need to be stripped in order for them to dry out properly. If the damp areas are located within the interior walls then you can remove them to allow them to dry quicker. The interior wall boards are covered in a waterproof laminate, and the outer walls are also waterproof so when water gets in, you will have to remove the interior walls to ensure that it can dry out.
It is worth bearing in mind that one of the most common places for water to build up is through the trims around the joins and awning rails. So give these your attention when drying the caravan.
The most important thing to remember is that it’s best to let it dry slowly and as naturally as you can. We wouldn’t recommend using heat as this could cause elements of your caravan to warp.
It’s a slow process but allowing it to dry in its own time will make any repairs a lot easier and more effective in the long term.
Treating damp and mould
Use a mould removal spray to tackle areas of mould and mildew. Once this area has dried, combine clove oil with water and spray it on the affected area. Leave for 20 minutes and then wipe dry. This will help to prevent it returning in the future.
We recommend: HG Mould Spray >> Check the price on Amazon
We recommend: Clove Oil >> Check the price on Amazon
Removing and replacing old rails
You will want to begin by removing the screws - which are often covered by a plastic strip - that hold the rails to the body of your caravan. Then, once you have removed them, you will want to gently pry the metal rails themselves away from the body of the caravan. Take your time with this part of the job, as these rails could still be bonded on and you will not want to damage them or bend them.
Once the rails have been removed, begin to get rid of all of the old sealant. This is a laborious task and may take a while, however, it is vital that you carry it out properly. You will want to ensure that the contact surfaces between the rails and the caravan body are completely clean and free of any old sealant or grease. A very effective method of removing grease would be to use some Isopropyl alcohol, which is a brilliant degreaser that should be available from any specialist caravan shops.
We recommend: Rubbing Alcohol 500ml Isopropyl >> Check the price on Amazon
Once you have completed all of the above, you will want to replace the rails. You need to ensure that you use a very high quality sealant - a mastic - that doesn’t completely dry. You will want to apply it evenly and then place the rail back onto the body of the caravan. Then, you should apply some pressure until the mastic is visible through the screw holes in the rail. Once the mastic is oozing from the holes you should put the screws back in and keep tightening them until the mastic is once again visible around the sides of the screw. Once this has been done, wipe off the excess mastic and replace the plastic trim.
We recommend: Sikaflex 522 Caravan Adhesive & Sealant >> Check the price on Amazon
This should seal the trims and the awning rails and ensure that no more water can get in through here via that route.
Preventing damp in the future
Once you have fixed your damp caravan, you will want to ensure that it does not suffer from the affliction again. And one good way to do this is to check, regularly and thoroughly for signs of moisture. If you do discover damp then you will want to catch it early and sort it right away in order to prevent major damage.
Make sure that your caravan is well ventilated regularly, whether this is while you’re on the road, or just a monthly occurrence of flinging the doors open to let some fresh air in.
When cleaning your caravan, or after heavy downpours, regularly check for any leaks or water entering where it shouldn’t be. These quick checks may help you to spot a problem early, that could have developed into a larger one over time.
If you’re leaving your caravan empty for a long period of time, for example over winter storage, make sure to leave all of your cupboards open and remove any cushions, mattresses, duvets or other removable upholstery. As these are materials that can soak up moisture and cause issues. If you are using a cover, make sure it is waterproof and breathable to help to prevent water ingress.
While on the road, there are also things you can do to curb the condensation:
- Avoid drying clothes inside your van, use the awning to do this instead
- When cooking, place lids on saucepans and make sure your windows are ajar
- Keep a window open when you shower and make sure the washroom door is completely shut to stop the moisture reaching other areas of the caravan. Give the interior walls a wipe down once you’re finished to stop the water lingering
- Much like when you’re drying out your caravan, it can be a good idea to always have a dehumidifier handy to fend off moisture
Blog updated by Abbie Rogers on 14/10/2020