Trailer leaks are making my eyes leak - Fiberglass RV


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Old 01-09-2010, 02:36 PM   #1
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We managed to fix a leaking window and several rivets that we replaced with bolts. But there are still so many! The other dinette window and the curtain rod rivets are easy to identify and fix.

I am mystified by the leak(s) in the ceiling. I thought I might have fixed it by filling in some previously filled rivet holes with additional marine filler. This didn't work. There are two vents and a strange steel rod on the roof. Both vents get drippy all along the inside of the plastic lids, which I think must be condensation. But I am getting active drips from a ceiling light (which is glued on, so the leak is coming from somewhere else) and some edges of the smaller fan vent. Also, there is a drip coming from the ensolite seam over one of the dinette benches (along the side curve of the dinette area).

I took a couple of photos of the roof. There are some chips in the gel coat. Could these be leaking? Or is it more likely to be one or both of the vents?
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Old 01-09-2010, 03:27 PM   #2
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Edited to add:

Okay, looking at the photos, I would say that a PO has definitely tried to stanch a leak around those vents, but did so in an improper way. Those would be my first suspect and there is no way I would do anything more drastic before I re-bedded those.

One of those gelcoat chips does also look kind of large, so it is possible that you have a leak there (if it is also penetrating the actual fiberglass), but the vents still need to be re-bedded.

You might be able to check the integrity of the 'glass by taking down the Ensolite and then looking at the fiberglass at night with a strong light. That might show if you have any cracks or holes that penetrate the shell.

Also, has the roof sagged? I might be seeing a sag in the second photo, but it's really hard to tell for sure. If that's the case, flexing could be another factor (but I'm not saying it is as I can't tell). Can you show more of the "strange steel rod"? I wonder if that was put up top to keep the roof flat. Was there perhaps a heavy air conditioner up there? Or just a lot of holes for the numerous roof vents? I'd like to see more of that rod and the roof, myself.

Again, I would fix those vents no matter what. If those hadn't been leaking, I highly doubt there would be caulk globbed all over them (ineffective, but people do it often).

************

Okay, what I wrote before looking at the photos:

I would say it's very likely to be leaking from around a vent, and pretty unlikely to be leaking through the actual fiberglass.

As to the leak coming in at an Ensolite seam, that's probably because water is running behind the Ensolite (coming in somewhere else) and then finding a handy ingress point at the seam. Like on boats, the water often comes in at a point seemingly unrelated to where it originates.

Since the vents are very often leak culprits, if it were me, I wouldn't begin to consider/repair more exotic leak sources until I had re-bedded the vents. Especially if there is any evidence of anyone putting caulk or sealant around the outside of the vent flange (this is generally someone's misguided or "shortcut" way to try to repair a leak, so it's likely to mean there has been a leak that has been "repaired").

What I would do is remove the vent, clean/solvent wash the flange and the area of the camper roof that is/was under the flange, and then re-bed the vent with the sealant under the flange (not on top of the flange and its fasteners).

Given that you've had a number of leaks, re-bedding the vents won't be wasted effort, and then you can see what's what after you're done.

Raya
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Old 01-09-2010, 03:32 PM   #3
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Amy, you need to finish sealing the rear vent.
I told the person you bought the trailer from he needed to finish sealing it. I would bet that your roof leaks will be solved when it is properly sealed
When I bought the trailer it had a home made Mickey Mouse skylight where the new escape hatch is now.
I think the steel tubing you refer to is roof stiffener as the sky light was an add on and it probably weakened the roof. Water collects in that area if I remember correctly. You may need to unbolt it and seal the bolt holes.
I know you live in a very wet area. Until it's dry enough to finish sealing the rear vent I would lower the front jack or raise it up all the way so the water runs off the trailer roof if your not doing it already.
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Old 01-09-2010, 03:46 PM   #4
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Okay, sounds like that steel rod is a roof stiffener.

So, a few thoughts come to mind:

1) If I were in need of a roof stiffener, I would probably fiberglass one to the inside of the roof. It would be at least as (and probably more) effective, and it would have the benefits of not rusting, not needing to have holes or be bedded, and not causing wind resistance. They even make pre-made stiffener beams (for boats, called stringers) that you can just glass in place (or you can make your own). It's basically a form (either a block of foam or a half-pipe) with fiberglass wrapped around it and going out to the sides in the form of tabs. If you want to go this route, I could dig up some photos/etc. This would be under the Ensolite.

2) If your roof has sagged a little or is flexing, that could cause your roof vents to be a bit harder to seal, and/or to need sealing more often.

3) Okay, yes, this makes it more of a project, but, on the other hand, fiberglassing is not difficult, per se, and you will have that many more skills in your bag of tricks for future And you live where you can easily get supplies.

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Old 01-09-2010, 03:49 PM   #5
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Alright, it looks like the first job will be to remove and replace the smaller vent. Is butyl tape all I need for this? I remember a recent thread on this, so I will look for that.

About the roof: is there anything I can do if there is sagging? The steel rod is old and rusted, but the undersides of the fasteners are completely dry, so I am hoping that it isn't a source of leakage.
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Old 01-09-2010, 03:51 PM   #6
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I guess this answers the questions I just posted. But this really isn't helping my eye leakage at all!



Quote:
Okay, sounds like that steel rod is a roof stiffener.

So, a few thoughts come to mind:

1) If I were in need of a roof stiffener, I would probably fiberglass one to the inside of the roof. It would be at least as (and probably more) effective, and it would have the benefits of not rusting, not needing to have holes or be bedded, and not causing wind resistance. They even make pre-made stiffener beams (for boats, called stringers) that you can just glass in place (or you can make your own). It's basically a form (either a block of foam or a half-pipe) with fiberglass wrapped around it and going out to the sides in the form of tabs. If you want to go this route, I could dig up some photos/etc. This would be under the Ensolite.

2) If your roof has sagged a little or is flexing, that could cause your roof vents to be a bit harder to seal, and/or to need sealing more often.

3) Okay, yes, this makes it more of a project, but, on the other hand, fiberglassing is not difficult, per se, and you will have that many more skills in your bag of tricks for future And you live where you can easily get supplies.

Raya
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Old 01-09-2010, 04:43 PM   #7
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Here is another thought, although it's something I have no experience with.

I wonder if you could achieve the equivalent stiffener-hood by attaching a hat beam type of stiffener (like a stringer) to the outside of the (prepped) roof with UHB tape?

I don't think this would probably be as good as fiberglassing one to the inside (that makes a really good bond and plus spreads the load out quite a bit with the tabbing), but OTOH, it might be as good as a rusting steel piece bolted through the roof.

Then too, it might be good to determine what you really need, strength or reinforcement wise. I mean yes, someone bolted a stiffener to the roof. But did they use that exact piece because it was what was needed, or did they guess? Maybe they happened to have it on hand. You might be able to do something more appropriate (assuming it turns out that that particular stiffener was not the exact best approach).

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Old 01-09-2010, 06:27 PM   #8
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Hey Amy if it gives you encouragement my trailer is currently torn apart with the ensolite pulled back. Doing some search and rescue work myself right now and getting ready to refiberglass the inside seam. Your welcome to swing by to check it out so you can see how I've gone about my hunt and peck routine to locate the buggers. I would say the buytle looks to have lots of gaps judging from the photos. Doesn't take but a tiny pinhole to wick its way in. If you need a different set of eyes I can help you out, either way good luck.
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Old 06-02-2010, 09:39 AM   #9
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I just went throug a similar hair pulling and eye watering experience. I found all of my leaks and what really, really helped was to pull back the interior liner and look for the tell-tale water tracks. The tracks are quite obvious if the leak is anything but new. Water can travel in wierd paths. My primary leak was a 1/4 inch hole in the belly band glass, which I sealed with resin and glass. It would leak 12 ounces in a downpoor, so quite a bad leak, essentyially funnelled all the water than hit the belly band, which then went in the hole. My other leak was a door hinge mount that needed to be sealed correctly.
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Old 06-03-2010, 11:10 PM   #10
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Okay Ben I had the exact same problem on the belly band....finally my persistance paid off. Glad yours did to!.


Quote:
I just went throug a similar hair pulling and eye watering experience. I found all of my leaks and what really, really helped was to pull back the interior liner and look for the tell-tale water tracks. The tracks are quite obvious if the leak is anything but new. Water can travel in wierd paths. My primary leak was a 1/4 inch hole in the belly band glass, which I sealed with resin and glass. It would leak 12 ounces in a downpoor, so quite a bad leak, essentyially funnelled all the water than hit the belly band, which then went in the hole. My other leak was a door hinge mount that needed to be sealed correctly.
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