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Flooded RV? Top Things to Know and Do in Case of an RV Flood

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Published : November 2, 2022
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One of RV owners' worst nightmares is to have their vehicles flooded. Many RVers simply drive away from floods and storms, but unfortunately, you can't always avoid them. Usually, when an RV suffers flood damage, your insurance company will total the vehicle because restoring a flooded RV to its original integrity is difficult. RV flood damage can often cost more than its original value. Let's look at things to know and do in the event of a flood. 

How Does an RV Get Flooded: Common Causes of Floods in the RV

Your RV can fall victim to flood damage for several reasons, including:

  • Malfunctioning equipment
  • Lack of maintenance
  • Aging appliances
  • Natural wear and tear 
  • Natural flooding

The worst type of RV flood that you can endure results from your own negligence. Nothing feels worse than knowing you could have prevented the flooding. Whatever the cause, you shouldn't let yourself feel too bad. Plenty of RVers experience flooding, and there are dozens of reasons it can happen. But there are quite a few scenarios that you can easily prevent:

Failure to Winterize the RV: Properly winterizing your RV is crucial, especially in colder climates. Failure to do so can lead to frozen pipes and components, causing extensive damage when temperatures drop. Winterization is essential to protect your RV during colder seasons.

Proximity to Rivers or Bodies of Water: Avoid parking your RV too close to rivers, lakes, or other bodies of water. Natural flooding resulting from rising water levels can pose a significant threat, especially during periods of heavy rainfall or rapid snowmelt.

Poor Ventilation and Condensation: Inadequate ventilation and high condensation levels inside the RV can contribute to moisture buildup. This excess moisture may lead to water damage and create an environment conducive to mold growth. Proper ventilation is essential for preventing such issues.

Inattentiveness to Weather Warnings: Stay informed about weather conditions before embarking on your journey. Ignoring weather warnings or not adjusting travel plans in response to severe weather forecasts can expose your RV to unnecessary risks. Always prioritize safety by planning ahead.

Beware of Flash Floods in an RV

Tornados pose a serious threat, but many don't realize how dangerous a flash flood is to RVers. In fact, RVs, in general, prove highly vulnerable to many disasters. Here's how it happened back in June 2010, just to give you an example. During this fiasco, 20 campers, including eight children, died from a flash flood that they tried to weather in an RV. They died when the Little Missouri River rose over 20 feet in a few hours. 

When the banks overflowed, the campers at Albert Pike Recreation Area in Arkansas have been swept away.

Another story, with a happy end this time, happened in 2021 in Oregon. The local authorities evacuated eight people from the RV park while the Coast Guard airlifted another twelve people and three dogs. But, again, the culprit for the massive RV flooding was record-breaking rain and creek overflowing. 

With all of this in mind, what do you do during a serious storm? Wait it out inside your motorhome? No. Instead, most campgrounds have a cinderblock or a brick bathroom. It would be best if you understood how to get there no matter the hour of the day. Avoid picnic shelters because they can suffer damage. 

You want to exercise caution from flash floods, so before you take your RV on a road trip or a camping vacation, stay updated on the weather and ensure your RV is in top shape. 

How to Protect Your RV from Flooding

First, check your windows from time to time to see that they are sealed properly. If not sealed well, you will want to have them sealed to prevent leaks into the RV. Even small leaks can prove disastrous. In some cases, the damage happens because the manufacturer uses low-grade materials. You can tell when this happens because of how it will cause delamination or where the walls will detach from the coach's foundation. Unfortunately, noticing this problem can take years to spot it. Unfortunately, there's also no low-cost way to fix it.

Before you leave for your trip, call in a professional electrician who can test your RV's electrical infrastructure. You don't want to risk this yourself. All switches, contactors, relays, outlets, and ground connections should receive testing. Don't plug anything into the unit until you know for sure. 

You may also choose to park on gravel whenever possible over dirt. Again, gravel drains more easily due to the extra rocks. Just remember that gravel won't soak up water like sand or dirt.

One of the other dangers is that people don't think or worry about storage. However, you must think about what would happen if the area you store your RV could flood out.

Technology and Gadgets for Flood Preparedness in RVs

Stay ahead of potential flooding risks by leveraging technology and innovative gadgets designed for RVs. Water sensors, weather monitoring apps, and flood-resistant RV designs can play a crucial role in detecting and preventing flood damage. Incorporating these technologies into your RV can provide an extra layer of protection against water-related challenges.

Water Sensors: These small devices can be placed in vulnerable areas of the RV, such as near windows or on the floor. They detect water leaks and send alerts to your mobile device, allowing you to take immediate action to prevent further damage.

Weather Monitoring Apps: Numerous mobile apps provide real-time weather updates and alerts. RVers can use these apps to stay informed about approaching storms, floods, or adverse weather conditions, allowing for timely evacuation or preparation.

Flood-Resistant RV Designs: Some RV manufacturers incorporate flood-resistant features into their designs. This may include elevated chassis, sealed compartments, and water-resistant materials to minimize the impact of flooding on the RV.

Dehumidifiers: Dehumidifiers help in the drying process after a flood. They remove excess moisture from the air inside the RV, preventing the growth of mold and reducing the risk of long-term damage.

Moisture Meters: These handheld devices measure the moisture content in materials like wood. RV owners can use moisture meters to assess if the RV’s structure has dried adequately after a flood, helping to prevent issues like decay and mold.

Emergency Weather Radios: Battery-powered or hand-crank emergency weather radios provide real-time updates on weather conditions, including severe weather warnings. These radios ensure that RV owners are aware of potential flooding risks and can take necessary precautions.

Portable Power Stations: In the event of a power outage during a flood, portable power stations with built-in batteries can keep essential devices and appliances running. This ensures that communication devices, lights, and emergency equipment remain operational.

Backup Power Generators: Larger RVs can benefit from backup power generators. These generators can provide electricity to the RV, allowing occupants to run appliances and maintain essential functions during power outages caused by floods or storms.

Smart RV Systems: Modern RVs often come equipped with smart systems that allow owners to monitor and control various aspects remotely. This includes checking for water leaks, controlling temperature and humidity levels, and receiving alerts in case of potential issues.

GPS Trackers: GPS trackers can be attached to the RV to provide real-time location information. This is valuable during evacuation scenarios, ensuring that RV owners and emergency responders can locate and assist in the safe evacuation of individuals and vehicles.

How to Stay Safe in Your RV During a Flood

Generally, you don't want to stay in the RV during a flood. It can seem confusing because many people use their trailers for shelter during the rain. Nothing wrong with it, but beware of when it may flood.

Don't drive onto a road where there may be flooding because the RV wasn't meant to handle this. If you want to prevent RV flooding, keep it from happening in the first place. Don't risk it, to begin with, if you see the potential danger. 

If you come across a barrier that blocks a flooded road, don't drive around since this is asking for problems. 

Nevertheless, if rain or full-fledged storms catch you on a campsite, let's see what you can do to prevent RV flooding.

During a flood, you should beware of the potential electrical hazards. Don't go near metal items or electrical equipment during a flood. Flood water and AC or DC electrical outlets don't mix. Even after the water dries out from the flooding, you should test an AC outlet thoroughly since it may be subject to corrosion. 

How to Inspect an RV for Flood Damage

Let's say that the flood has already happened. You can take dehumidifiers and fans to speed up the drying process. Buying a moisture meter can help you determine if you dried out the wood enough. Usually, you want 15 percent or less moisture. Anything over 20 percent moisture will lead to decay and possible mold. 

Beware of manufacturers that use OSB for flooring under tile or carpet. In many cases, with severe flooding, it will become mushy. You will need to replace it altogether. Old particle boards can also pose a problem, and you may find that you can't even walk on them. 

In some cases, flood damage can be quite subtle, so you want to check everything. For example, when you inspect your RV for water damage, you should check the interior and exterior of your vehicle. 

You do this because leaks from the exterior can lead to a leak on the interior. Signs of damage to the interior include:

  • Soft flooring 
  • Discoloration 
  • Appearance of rot
  • Appearance of mold 
  • Rusted metal items
  • Malfunctioning appliances 
  • Spongy areas on the roof
  • Discolored areas on the ceiling
  • Indentations on the side walls
  • Bubbling

Unlike the exterior, the interior isn't waterproof; once water gets inside, it can cause great damage. In some cases, the damage will be a $20 repair, but you will have other cases where you must take the RV in for repairs worth thousands of dollars. 

Check the seals around the roof of the RV. Look for damage present there. Unfortunately, the roof of a motorhome proves to be one of the hardest areas to protect. Over time, fluctuating temperatures can damage the roof and cause it to leak. Before you hop onto the RV's roof, ensure it can hold your weight. You don't want to go up there if there's any risk of the roof caving in. 

You want to inspect your RV for weaknesses all around. This is because damage often proves difficult to detect, and if you don't catch it in time, it can lead to costly repairs or a totaled RV. 

How Much Do You Need to Pay to Fix a Flooded RV?

Minor leaks from the window can cost you under $20 to repair, but the damage can be so extensive in some cases that it isn't worth repairing. For example, repairing a massive leak in the room can cost you $2,800. Labor usually costs about $100 per hour, but the largest dealerships often charge $150 per hour.

Flooded RV Legal and Insurance Considerations

After a flood in the RV, you will want to make the necessary repairs. That leads to the question, "Does insurance cover RV flooding?" Luckily, RV insurance covers all types of flooding, and because of the devastation a flood can cause your RV, you want to have it. As long as you have comprehensive RV insurance, it will cover most non-accidents from flooding. Fire, hail, and water damage are all covered. 

Understanding Insurance Policies

Comprehensive RV insurance is paramount, particularly coverage for flooded RV damage. Owners must diligently review policy terms, ensuring a clear understanding of coverage limits and any exclusions related to floods.

Filing Claims

Prompt reporting of flooded RV damage is crucial to streamline the claims process. RV owners should meticulously document damages through photographs and receipts and maintain transparent communication with their insurance company, providing essential details.

Potential Pitfalls and Misunderstandings

RV owners should be aware of common policy exclusions tied to floods and understand instances where coverage may be denied. Additionally, clarifying the difference between actual cash value and replacement cost coverage is vital, as well as understanding coverage for temporary living expenses if the RV becomes uninhabitable.

Seeking Legal Advice

If disputes arise, claims are denied, or there are concerns about policy interpretation, seeking legal counsel is advisable. Accessing legal resources such as ombudsman services or legal aid can be beneficial, and consulting with an insurance law attorney for complex issues is encouraged.

General Tips

Maintaining organized record-keeping throughout the claims process is essential. RV owners should carefully review and question insurance adjuster assessments, and periodic reviews of insurance policies are recommended to ensure ongoing relevance and alignment with coverage needs.

Many don't realize it, but the other danger from RV flood damage comes from the mold that water generates in a motorhome. Dampness becomes the perfect environment for mold, which can prove dangerous to your health. In most cases, comprehensive RV insurance should cover this issue as well. To prevent mold from taking hold of your RV, you will want to open the windows slightly and turn on your fans and air conditioner. 

Is It Worth Repairing a Flooded RV?

Many RV owners wonder, "How much does it cost to fix a flooded RV?" Unfortunately, that answer will largely depend on the extent of the damage. 

Let's say you have gone through some flooding but still want to repair your RV despite the obstacles. In some cases, if the damage is light enough, you could repair it more easily. First, you must determine if the flooding happened because of a leak. Check everywhere and repair the possible leaks in the RV before you attempt to fix it. Look around the walls and the roofing for leaks. After you fix the leaking areas, replace the damaged interior. 

It would be best to consider mold an insidious, sometimes invisible enemy. Even units that may look clean could still be a big host to mold spores. Cleaning it doesn't help because it can often develop more mold spores later. 

In many cases, severe RV flooding won't be worth the cost of repairs. Fixing an RV that has suffered catastrophic flood damage can prove incredibly difficult. RV flood damage can sometimes be repaired, but there are many cases where it will cost too much.

Severe water-damaged RVs will become a constant financial strain with little payoff. Call your insurance company and see if they will total it. In many cases, they total the RV after flood damage because the vehicles are near unsalvageable at that point. 

What to Do with a Totaled Flooded RV

You may even wonder what to do with a totaled, flooded RV for the right reasons. Unfortunately, doing anything may prove difficult because the water within the RV can cause structural, electrical, and mechanical damage that might be nearly impossible to fix. In addition, a flooded RV depreciates way faster than an old or worn motorhome.

In other words, you have two options. You can take the vehicle to the junkyard and be done with it, or you can sell it for cash to those who buy totaled RVs. The latter choice is better because you can recover some money fast instead of leaving your beloved motorhome in a landfill. Moreover, selling a junk RV for cash can save you the extra costs associated with towing an RV

Final Thoughts

Having a flooded RV on your hands can pose quite a challenge. You may want to attempt to dry out the camper, but in many cases, you will need to speak with your insurance agent about having it totaled. Unfortunately, water damage is the one thing that many RVs won't stand up against well. Luckily, most insurance companies will cover you in the event of flooding damage to your RV, and you can also take active measures to prevent damage. However, if a flood rendered your motorhome useless and unrecoverable, selling the junk RV might mitigate the problem. 

Flooded RV FAQs

1. How can I tell if my RV has water damage?

Check for a spongy roof, walls, or flooring areas, indicating water damage. In addition, you have several other signs of being aware of water damage, such as signs of mold, rusty metal, discoloration, and cracked or peeling caulk. 

2. How do you check for mold in an RV?

To check for mold in an RV, look for discoloration that appears green, blue, black, or white. Commonly, you will see this mold on carpet, walls, or other flooring types. Many times, you can smell a dank or musty smell. 

3. How do you dry out a water-damaged RV?

To dry out your RV, bring in fans and dehumidifiers to eliminate the moisture in the air. You will also want to turn the fan over your cooktop stove and in the bathroom. Doing this helps to circulate the dry air back into the RV.

4. Is it worth repairing a severely water-damaged RV?

Severe water-damaged RVs can pose constant financial strain and may not be worth the cost of repairs. Contact your insurance company to assess if the RV can be totaled. Selling a totaled RV for cash might be a more viable option than attempting extensive and costly repairs.

5. Are there government assistance programs for RV owners dealing with flood damage?

While there isn’t a specific federal program dedicated to RV owners, FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) may provide assistance in declared disaster areas. Affected individuals, including RV owners, can apply for aid, covering temporary housing, home repairs, and other disaster-related expenses. It’s essential to check FEMA’s official website or contact local emergency management agencies for the most accurate and current information.

6. How do floods impact the resale value of RVs, even after repairs?

Flood damage can significantly impact an RV’s resale value, even after repairs. Prospective buyers are often wary of purchasing previously flooded vehicles due to potential hidden issues. To mitigate the impact on resale value, meticulous documentation of repairs, including photographs, receipts, and a comprehensive history, is crucial. Providing evidence of professional inspections and certifications attesting to the RV’s restored condition can instill confidence in potential buyers. Additionally, being transparent about the flood incident and repair process during resale negotiations is key to building trust with buyers.

Make sure that you check the real value of your RV before deciding to sell it to a private buyer.

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