can a Bigfoot belly band leak? - Fiberglass RV
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Old 02-18-2021, 12:57 AM   #1
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Name: Bob
Trailer: Bigfoot
British Columbia
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can a Bigfoot belly band leak?

My newish-to-me '89 Bigfoot 17 has a minor leak that shows some moisture at the floor near the door and forward a couple feet into the storage area. We've had a brief snow and its melting slowly which has produced a slow water source off the roof. I haven't covered the trailer for this very reason, to check for water tightness, now that the unit resides on the 'wet coast'. Based on the slope of the trailer (slightly raised in front) and after inspecting the door, and windows, I'm pretty sure they aren't the cause.

I do see water entering gaps at the top of the belly band and some coming out underneath the band on the side of the trailer that is 'downslope' on the right side. I have no idea what lies beneath that band, as the rubber/plastic material is now rock hard and in a few places the band trim is not actually touching the fibreglass wall.
I don't know the actual construction that lies beneath, but I assumed (I know, I know) that there would have been some kind of leakproof overlap happening there. Maybe not? It appears if I can see water coming out from the underside, maybe its actually leaking inside the wall as well?
One solution is just seal the heck out of all the seams but that seems a little bush league, and each length of band has 4 seams (above and below trim, and above and below the black inside banding). That would be a nuisance and messy job.
Anyone else had to deal with this?
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Old 02-18-2021, 09:27 AM   #2
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Trailer: Sasquatch
Montana
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Yes, there have been a few belly band threads, and I think a couple of them were Bigfoot-specific. It's something I plan to do this summer. I developed a leak last year that I cannot track down, and the belly band is one of my suspicions.

We had a really wet spring a couple years ago; it just rained and rained and rained. Normal for some places but not so much here. At least not these days. Anyway I store my clothes under dinette seat, next to the door, the same spot I think you're talking about. At some point I pulled some clothes out from way in the back, and they were moldy! So I realized I had a leak.

I resealed the window above that dinette seat/storage bin and in my case that solved it. Or maybe it just hasn't rained that much since...
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Old 02-18-2021, 12:02 PM   #3
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Name: Randy
Trailer: Casita 17 FD
Florida
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Belly Band Gunk

In thinking about it, I have noticed that on my Casita there is a lot of dirt, algae, and mold that builds up under the top of the aluminum belly band.

When I wash it, I try to clean all that gunk out as much as possible with the hose. Some of it will run out along the top edge of the belly band, and some wil run around the band and out the underside.

Thus it seems entirely possible that if that gunk builds up and works its way around to the underside of the belly band, it will form a dam in a section of the band, and thus it will allow water to find its way into or be wicked into any (even tiny) gaps between where the upper and lower shells meet.

Hope that helps,
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Old 02-18-2021, 01:29 PM   #4
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Water will find its way into any gap eventually, without any help.

The reason I scrape the snow off my roof all winter is that I can picture what happens. The sun hits the camper, snow slowly (or quickly) melts, and runs down the sides of the camper. Everywhere it runs, if it hits a flat surface or a minute gap, it collects. Then it freezes again overnight, expanding, enlarging the gap, then thaws again in the sun and runs deeper in. Over and over again, all winter. Thus tiny gaps in your window seals, belly band etc. become bigger gaps and water slowly but surely makes its way in, creating a place for rain water to get in all summer.

It's impossible to completely avoid this, but I'll avoid it as much as I can.
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Old 02-19-2021, 01:17 AM   #5
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Name: Bob
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British Columbia
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Thanks folks, for the good feedback. I did some extended reading as suggested, and now I think I have a plan. It would be prudent it seems to replace the inner vinyl all around, and I see its fairly cheap on Amazon for the 5/8" width - but the pliability of new material is most important, because like I mentioned, mine is very hard and brittle now with age (definitely not reusable). I'll probably take all the screws out and put butyl tape the whole length beneath the trim carcass, then replace screws followed by the new vinyl outer cover that is pressed in. That's a project for warmer/drier weather, and hopefully is the leak source.

Seriously thinking about one of those steel topped RV shelters that Wallymart sells...
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Old 02-19-2021, 03:32 PM   #6
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why not get that driectly from the factory?
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Old 02-19-2021, 03:35 PM   #7
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Just my two cents worth... While a belly band connection could possibly develop a leak, I believe the chances are small since the two halves of the fiberglass body are fiberglassed together at that point, making a very strong seal. However, the screws holding the trim on could possibly wiggle free, developing an entry point. My solution when my old vinyl trim insert wore out was to paint the inner surface of the trim and screw heads with black FlexSeal. This seals the entire area but still allows access to the screwheads if needed (by peeling off the FlexSeal layer there). I could then put back new vinyl insert trim, but I’m not planning to do that since the FlexSeal looks like the vinyl. I had tried the inexpensive vinyl insert from Amazon first, but it quickly failed in heat while driving down the road. It seems that it stretched and flopped right out of the chrome trim. Not good! Also, the vinyl does nothing to weatherproof the belly band. It is just for looks.

Since you have snow and rain, I’m more inclined to think you may have a roof vent or another opening needing new sealant. The moisture could enter on the roof and migrate quite a ways inside the roof/walls to eventually leak inside. You should definitely checking your vent caulking once the weather improves.

Best of luck!
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Old 02-19-2021, 03:39 PM   #8
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ahhhh the flexseal. i like it too!
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Old 02-19-2021, 11:24 PM   #9
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The vinyl insert in the belly band is strictly cosmetic and the screws are probably impossible to remove. Its possible, but unlikely that the leak is in the band.
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Old 02-20-2021, 09:57 AM   #10
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Hmm. This starts to confirm my reluctant suspicion that my leak is actually through my somewhat newly installed cable hatch in my roof for my solar cables. The surface of the hatch is sealed very well with eternabond, which means to me it's the membrane the cables go through which is leaking, which means the cable hatch doesn't do the one thing it's meant to do.

Disappointing and not an easy removal-replacement job...
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Old 02-20-2021, 11:44 AM   #11
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Name: Bob
Trailer: Bigfoot
British Columbia
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevin A View Post
Just my two cents worth... While a belly band connection could possibly develop a leak, I believe the chances are small since the two halves of the fiberglass body are fiberglassed together at that point, making a very strong seal. However, the screws holding the trim on could possibly wiggle free, developing an entry point. My solution when my old vinyl trim insert wore out was to paint the inner surface of the trim and screw heads with black FlexSeal. This seals the entire area but still allows access to the screwheads if needed (by peeling off the FlexSeal layer there). I could then put back new vinyl insert trim, but I’m not planning to do that since the FlexSeal looks like the vinyl. I had tried the inexpensive vinyl insert from Amazon first, but it quickly failed in heat while driving down the road. It seems that it stretched and flopped right out of the chrome trim. Not good! Also, the vinyl does nothing to weatherproof the belly band. It is just for looks.

Since you have snow and rain, I’m more inclined to think you may have a roof vent or another opening needing new sealant. The moisture could enter on the roof and migrate quite a ways inside the roof/walls to eventually leak inside. You should definitely checking your vent caulking once the weather improves.

Best of luck!
Okay, a lot of good info there. I didn't realize they actually fibreglassed the halves together. I thought maybe an overlap that was screwed to allow a tiny amount of 'give'.
It is obviously my main fear, that yes, the leak is actually from somewhere else But where? We don't really get more than 1 or 2 freeze thaws on the coast...just wet most of the time:/.
My roof hatches have been attended to last fall with good products...my awning screws were all replaced with SS and flex seal...window seals have been checked and tidied up...no water in window tracks (except the small rear one which I removed and re-sealed with Eternabond). The reason I went fibreglass this time again (after a Trillium years ago) was because of the solid structure with few water entry points. Oh well, eh?
Good tip on the Flexseal...I've had good performance from the the spray in other applications...the liquid seal was OK, but I found it a bit runny and I lost most of it to hardening in the can....I think, based on what you did, the new Flexseal paste would even be an easier solution. Remove and replace/reseal the screws as necessary, then FILL the entire inner gap using the paste and a putty knife. (the plastic carcass would give nice finish edges and it would end up looking like the same black band without using the thin vinyl capping). I would probably use a bit of Dicor, just in case, to fill any of the top contact point between the plastic rail and the fibreglass. No way there should be any leaks. At the very least that would eliminate this structure as a source of water entry. Then the search continues (probably).
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Old 02-20-2021, 11:50 AM   #12
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Trailer: Bigfoot
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jack L View Post
The vinyl insert in the belly band is strictly cosmetic and the screws are probably impossible to remove. Its possible, but unlikely that the leak is in the band.
I fear you are right about the band. Screws impossible to remove? Haven't found one yet that is. But I'll report back once things warm up.
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Old 02-20-2021, 09:57 PM   #13
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Trailer: Bigfoot
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Originally Posted by k0wtz View Post
why not get that driectly from the factory?
I don't know if the factory would be all that interested in 'vintage' repair stuff...I did contact them once about spare tire covers and they passed me over to my nearest Bigfoot dealer (Abbotsford, BC). Fair enough.
I think another option is who I read about elsewhere on this forum, a dealer that is located very close to the factory and advertises themselves as a Bigfoot specialist (Gilmay RV in Vernon). I'd like to ask them a few techy things, once I get my list together

As this present discussion developed, I now less inclined to replace that band strip, and instead fill it with Flexpaste. But that could change as the investigation continues.
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Old 02-20-2021, 10:13 PM   #14
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Name: Bob
Trailer: Bigfoot
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Originally Posted by ZachO View Post
Hmm. This starts to confirm my reluctant suspicion that my leak is actually through my somewhat newly installed cable hatch in my roof for my solar cables. The surface of the hatch is sealed very well with eternabond, which means to me it's the membrane the cables go through which is leaking, which means the cable hatch doesn't do the one thing it's meant to do.

Disappointing and not an easy removal-replacement job...
I'm starting to second-guess my diagnosis as well. The window above the observed moisture on the floor edge (that originates from inside the wall) does have some wet areas in its track. As far as I know these windows are built to drain water that works it's way by the 'partial' weather trims that you see on the outside. The window drains are in fact working which I can see. But, is there also a way for water seeping down below/through the window casing frame as well?? I am trusting that the black extruded aluminum frame is all one piece, and only the brown inside portion that sandwiches the structure, is separate?

While this moisture issue is not serious at the moment, and there is no 'soft' panelling or floor areas...it will obviously develop further now that it lives at the coast, if I don't address it (I covered the trailer a couple days ago to slow things down for now).
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Old 02-24-2021, 01:51 PM   #15
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Trailer: 1986 Bigfoot FT20
Michigan
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob T View Post
I don't know if the factory would be all that interested in 'vintage' repair stuff...I did contact them once about spare tire covers and they passed me over to my nearest Bigfoot dealer (Abbotsford, BC). Fair enough.
I think another option is who I read about elsewhere on this forum, a dealer that is located very close to the factory and advertises themselves as a Bigfoot specialist (Gilmay RV in Vernon). I'd like to ask them a few techy things, once I get my list together

As this present discussion developed, I now less inclined to replace that band strip, and instead fill it with Flexpaste. But that could change as the investigation continues.
My 2 cents, don’t put that junk in your belly band. You will regret it.
The plastic part is cheap and easy too replace. You can check by pulling it out and test the screws. If loose, the wood is damaged. Fill screw hole with epoxy and install new screws. Ones that don’t loosen use a Dremel cut a slot across and remove with good screwdriver.

Now for what is leaking, remove your window and reapply butyl tape.
You probably have noticed overtime, putty seeping out under window.
Well it comes from somewhere. Causing voids behind the window frame. And water will find it’s way to your floor.

Use lap seal around your solar fittings if your uncomfortable with it.

Forgot, to test install a piece of thin flex metal tape. Used on duct fittings, will keep water from getting behind frame. And is easy to remove.
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Old 02-25-2021, 12:38 AM   #16
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Name: Bob
Trailer: Bigfoot
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Thanks Mike...I think you've hit on a good approach, which makes keeping an eye on things down the road much easier too. I'm going to see if I can get some 'stock' band vinyl first (as an earlier responder suggested) prior to Amazon, then I'll see what's what with that area.
And yes, pulling the window seems prudent. I think I'll do that the next warmish sunny day we get. Good idea also on the metal tape (I even had lots but didn't think of it)...so I had already made a temporary outer seal with thin eternabond around the top edge of the window.

As water is inside the wall in that area (I can see drips coming out of the factory drain hole in the underside fibreglass just rear of the step), I wonder if I should put on an electric heater and really heat up the interior with the window removed (and just a weather barrier of some sort on the outside).

Thanks folks, for all the help so far..

Bob T.
'89 Bigfoot 17 DLX

Quote:
Originally Posted by mszabo View Post
My 2 cents, donít put that junk in your belly band. You will regret it.
The plastic part is cheap and easy too replace. You can check by pulling it out and test the screws. If loose, the wood is damaged. Fill screw hole with epoxy and install new screws. Ones that donít loosen use a Dremel cut a slot across and remove with good screwdriver.

Now for what is leaking, remove your window and reapply butyl tape.
You probably have noticed overtime, putty seeping out under window.
Well it comes from somewhere. Causing voids behind the window frame. And water will find itís way to your floor.

Use lap seal around your solar fittings if your uncomfortable with it.

Forgot, to test install a piece of thin flex metal tape. Used on duct fittings, will keep water from getting behind frame. And is easy to remove.
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Old 02-25-2021, 06:57 AM   #17
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Good call, your going too fined the paneling will be delaminated around the window. Heavy duty construction adhesive will work just fine. Go to Harbor Freight buy some spring clamps, install around perimeter.
Drying it out with electric heaters will work nicely.
Another problem area is the 9Ē vent in bathroom. You might someday find water around the stove. Thatís where itís coming from.

Amazon has the belly band material in different colors. Try a different color, will make it look like a different trailer.

https://smile.amazon.com/Camco-Vinyl...%2C200&sr=8-14
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Old 02-25-2021, 07:02 AM   #18
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Good call, your going too fined the paneling will be delaminated around the window. Heavy duty construction adhesive will work just fine. Go to Harbor Freight buy some spring clamps, install around perimeter.
Drying it out with electric heaters will work nicely.
Just tape plastic outside

Another problem area is the 9” vent in bathroom. You might someday find water around the stove. That’s where it’s coming from.

Amazon has the belly band material in different colors. Try a different color, will make it look like a different trailer.

https://smile.amazon.com/Camco-Vinyl...%2C200&sr=8-14
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Old 02-25-2021, 08:43 AM   #19
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Trailer: Bigfoot 25 ft RQ
Missouri
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Two Bigfoots owned for a total of 17 years. Everything on a Bigfoot can and will leak.


And ALL of the zink coated screws will rust. It would have cost the company an extra $10 to use stainless steel.


And when your Bigfoot does leak and the water gets to the particle board floor the particle board will soon disintegrate. (as mine did) Seven sheets of high quality marine grade plywood would do the floor in a 25 ft. and cost how much more than the particle board?



Other than those three minor issues I love the Bigfoots.
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Old 02-25-2021, 09:57 AM   #20
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Name: Phil
Trailer: Bigfoot 17
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I would also check the entry door. I found small cracks in the chalk above door on my bigfoot. I removed all chalk and re-sealed. The crack developed again. I then noticed as I pushed on the door frame that there was slight movement between frame and fiberglass shell. Wooden door header was rotted. You must remove the three buttons in the interior fabric liner above the inside of door to access the three buried screws. Once you remove the fabric covered door topper, you can inspect the interior for signs of water intrusion.
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