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Old 11-04-2012, 02:21 PM   #1
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RV as a "lifeboat"? (kinda long, sorry!)

Our house was in a mandatory evacuation area during Sandy (< 1000 feet from the CT shoreline with a marsh in the backyard). We elevated some stuff, packed up the important things (valuables and irreplaceable sentimental items) and the dogs and headed north in our 32' class-A to ride out the storm. We parked in a relatives driveway and had no problems at all!

We came back after the storm to no catastrophic structural damage BUT we did get 4" to 8" of water throughout the house. We lost the fridge, chest freezer, dishwasher, washing machine & dryer. Sofa, recliner, box spring, mattress and futon mattress were all varying degrees of damp/wet so we tossed them. I think we can salvage the dressers and other wood furniture? We ordered a Pod storage container to put everything we salvaged from the house and we cleaned out all the soaked carpet . . . now we start with the insurance companies (flood & homeowner's) to get it all repaired.

We did hire an independent adjuster to represent us. They charge based on the total settlement but from what I hear they make life easier and get you a bigger settlement.

Part of me wishes that Sandy just took the whole house away . . . we could have paid off the mortgage, cleaned up the debris and put a pad down for the new(er) RV we could have paid for with the proceeds.

To those who have stayed with this long story, thanks! Any thoughts, suggestions, shared experiences and advice would be appreciated. I've never gone through anything like this before AND I'm willing to listen.

I do have some RV specific concerns . . . the wife and I (and our 2 dogs) are currently living in our RV parked in the driveway of our house. We have electricity, phone, cable and internet. I can fill the fresh water tank on occasional warmer days. My guess is that it will be months before we can get back into the house for good?

The house has heat, electricity, hot water and the bathroom is in decent condition. The house's kitchen is pretty bare but we can use the sink & stove.

I filled up the RV's propane tank last week. We're using it primarily for heat. It's getting down around freezing at night. I think that I can get 2-3 weeks before I need to refill it and I'll dump the tanks when I make that trip. After that trip, I'd like to be able to keep it parked for the duration. Keeping that in mind, I have some questions about heat, propane, freeze protection, etc.

Can propane delivery companies refill my tank in place? What do I need to tell them?

On a sunny day, the furnace barely runs . . . I'm concerned about the pipes freezing underneath even when we're warm inside. We're using some electric heat inside BUT I'm conscious of the idea that if I don't get the furnace running the pipes may freeze. What about getting remote sensors? Where should they go? What about bales of hay and/or foam board to block the wind/cold from underneath?

I'm not sure what else to ask at this point . . . thanks in advance for any/all suggestions!

1991 32' Winnebago Itasca
bought used in 2009 - our first
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Old 11-04-2012, 03:06 PM   #2
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Just tell the propane service you have a full service tank. They will be able to fill it with their truck hose.

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Old 11-04-2012, 03:09 PM   #3
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Sorry about your misfortune, but we're glad to hear everyone is OK and the house repairable.

As far as your questions..... Most propane dealers will not stop for just filling the tanks on an RV. However, you may be able to get them to put a 100# tank next to the RV and hook it up. Give them a call and see what they can do for you. You can find remote wireless outside thermometers in Wal Mart or other box stores. They work on batteries and you can put one or more on each master indicator to give you temps where you need it. I have 2 remotes on my rig, one outside and one in the wet bay and they work fine. Just put them in the area where you think it might freeze first. Anything you can use to break the wind will help keep the temps up under there. Keep the mouse traps handy, though. The critters like to live in the straw or hay and guess where they go when they go out for dinner. If you can stand the cost, a slightly opened window in the rig will keep the furnace running often enough. A small resistance heater under the rig or a catalytic gas heater may help under there if it gets VERY cold, but be careful if you're using unwrapped straw or hay bales around the perimeter. The place under there doesn't have to be 70 degrees, just above freezing. 34 is fine.

Good luck with the recovery.
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Old 11-04-2012, 03:15 PM   #4
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My thoughts would be, rent a larger propane tank and attach to your motorhome. Buy a sani-con and pump your tanks in the house sewer system. Some folks use a electric light with a 60 watt bulb to keep below bays warm.
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Old 11-04-2012, 04:15 PM   #5
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My experience with independent insurance adjusters (commercially) is you need to keep the line of communications open and check up on them closely and often. Make sure they are representing you and only you, not the insurance company. Make sure they are aggressive about listing everything you lost, cost, and age of the item to your benefit but not to pad the bill so to speak. If the insurance company gets wind of a adjuster who is less than honest they can shut down the process and audit the entire thing. An audit isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it does take time. Put your thinking cap on and come up with a list of everything, and I mean everything you lost. Don't forget a single thing. Everything cost money and if you forget something that is money out of you pocket. Remember that box of tissues? $2. How about the throw rug? $18. Tooth picks? $1. It can add up. Don't forget sales tax and shipping cost. I costed everything by using Amazon.com for everything I could. Make sure the insurance company pays everything and doesn't inadvertently skip a page of items. (that happened to me)

Also make sure you know how long you have to file the loss. For me it was 2 years. If I thought about something I had forgotten to list State Farm promptly sent a check for that item...until that time expired. Then the file was closed and it was to late to send in an item. I mention this because it the adjuster you hired is really busy, he/she may delay in processing your claim and eat into that 2 year, or however long you have window.

One more thing. If you have wet items you are thinking about saving think about what was in the flood waters, and is now soaked into the wood. Hardwoods are not as muck of a problem as pressed board. Drywall needs to be inspected closely and replaced after the area is sprayed for mold. Make sure you educate your self about what to use for mold. Very important.

If you have a trusted insurance agent talk to him/her. They can help you a lot. One last thought just popped into my head. Don't pay the independent agent until your insurance company is satisfied and you are satisfied. If you are paying a % of the total to the agent, and a year down the road the insurance finds some funny stuff, they can withdraw payments from you and your independent agent has his money and is gone. I know several cities and counties who were promised the moon by a independent agent for a lump sum fee, and when it was all said and done the cities/counties were left holding the bag with almost nothing.
Good Luck, Be Safe and Above All, Don't Forget To Have Fun
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Old 11-04-2012, 09:26 PM   #6
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As others have stated, you can keep your compartments warm by using a small ceramic heater with the thermostat set very low. Also, if you're going to use water out of your onboard tank, I would use the heater near your water pump and other main lines. Just be careful it doesn't come in contact with something that is flamable. We've done a lot of winter skiing with our MH in temps well below freezing.

As far as getting propane, as suggested, check with a supplier to see if they will deliver. We spent several months in our motorhome in Mississippi after Katrina helping folks rebuild, and there were LP trucks filling tanks when called. Most larger LP dealers have small trucks fitted for this purpose. Dumping tanks was a problem for us, but a Flying J along I-10 would let folks dump for a fee and there were also small tanker trucks that would come to your RV and pump out. It will take a little time before some of these might be available, but I would bet that they will be soon. There will be hundreds, if not thousands, of temporary living facilities being set up and all of them will have the same issue you do.

As has been suggested, I would be careful letting someone else represent you. I got involved assisting folks whose homes we were working on dealing with their insurance companies, FEMA, local rebuilding codes, and dishonest contractors. I witnessed distressed homeowners being taken advantage of on numerous occasions. You have gone through a very difficult time and lets hope that your future rebuilding will go well.

One additional comment relating to mold as others have mentioned. Be sure to remove all drywall that has been wet and inspect and treat the wood underneath it. Any mold left untreated will become a future problem.
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Old 11-05-2012, 06:23 AM   #7
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You are getting good information from all responders. Having gone through this with Hurricane Charley I would suggest this.
TAKE PICTURES of everything ! Hopefully you also had them from befor also.
For evereything you do regarding clean up, keep times and dates. Your insurance will reimburse you for your labor.
You should also have coverage within your policy regarding temporary living expenses so your motor home costs are also reembursable. IE: fuel, propane and if you were in a RV park, that fee as well.
Make sure that EVERY contractor you hire is insured and licensed to do business in your County and get copies of their credentials.
IF contractors require money up front to repair your home then use this agreement in your contract
"When materials for your home are inventoried and suitably stored on YOUR site" then pay for those materials."
Then Labor payments will be weekly based on the completion of work.
NEVER NEVER NEVER pay any funds upfront. In disasters like this contractors will flood your area, take your money and you may never see them again OR use your funds to work on others, much like ponzi schemes.
Good luck and stay on top of every detail.
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Old 11-05-2012, 06:27 AM   #8
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Never enter into any "neighborhood" agreement where a group of neighbors get together and hire one contractor. That in itself is a disaster for numerous reasons !
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Old 11-05-2012, 06:32 AM   #9
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Thanks for the advice and comments so far. Sounds like there are solutions for getting propane. I think that once I dump the tanks I'll be all right for a while. We can still use the kitchen & bathroom in the house for now, we'll see what happens once work begins?? I have one remote sensor on the house just to keep an eye on outside temp, I'll have to move it to a bay and see how it works. The flood insurance doesn't cover temporary housing. I have to check and see about the homeowner's? I like my RV, but the thought of spending winter MONTHS in it is loosing it's luster. A co-worker had a house fire last year and his insurance rented a condo for them for 6 months while it was rebuilt. That may be an option.

As far as the independent adjuster goes . . . I trust him. He lives about a 5 minute walk from my house (actually closer to the Long Island Sound than me). His street had considerable damage from Irene last year. He's been in business for years. I only had one brief communication from an adjuster from my flood insurance company yesterday and I can't imagine being caught between the homeowner's & flood companies trying to decide who's responsible for what?? His company will take care of all the paperwork and negotiations AND if I have problems . . . I know where he lives!!
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Old 11-05-2012, 06:49 AM   #10
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One additional idea, you can register with FEMA and request a FEMA trailer. If you get one and if it still works as it did during Katrina, they will install one on your lot and connect all of your utilities to it. It may not be any larger than your motorhome, but it will ease your issues with having utilities and permit you to devote full time to getting your home restored. They will probably be arriving in your area by the thousands in the immediate future. Even during Katrina, there were storage areas that I witnessed that had hundreds of new units that were never used.

Again, good luck and a speedy completion to get you back into your home!
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Old 11-05-2012, 07:15 AM   #11
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Be careful When putting your saved contents into storage. These items will still be high in humidity and although appear untouched, will mould.

Also, with your house, ensure that it is completely dry. Have someone show you that the wet areas no longer hold moisture. In addition, have them prove the relative humidity is back to normal. Humidity causes secondary damage and is just as problematic as the actual wet stuff.
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Old 11-05-2012, 07:43 PM   #12
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To keep the supply water hose from freezing, run it inside a PVC pipe. Loose fit pipe and elbows over hose from supply to RV. No need to glue it together, the air pocket around the hose will protect it from light freezes and most moderate freezes. Bury the pipe for more insulation and where it comes out of the ground, a larger diameter PVC pipe over that one will farther insulate the supply hose.
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Old 11-05-2012, 08:19 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Pigman1 View Post
Anything you can use to break the wind will help keep the temps up under there.
Wind chill only affects warm blooded mammals, not inanimate objects other than they do cool off quicker.
Hope the OP isn't like my boss's house in Louisiana. They had flood insurance and wind insurance. The insurance company said water surge was not covered so all they got was a few $1,000 to cover what the wind tore off, not even the whole roof.
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Old 11-05-2012, 10:30 PM   #14
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Hi Ken,

Sorry to hear of your loss with Sandy, but at least you do have a backup plan with the motorhome and some use of the house.

The DW and I have a LOT of experience with living in a Class A and a TT during the last 2 New England winters. We also have some good experience with storing property in on-site containers ... so here are some pointers

For the on-site storage - forget about the POD and instead contact Eagle Leasing Storage Containers, Storage Container Rental, Office Trailers, Road Trailers - Eagle Leasing Company For close to the same price, or less, Eagle will provide you with steel shipping containers to store your items in. These containers will keep your contents much better than a POD will. The POD's (we have used them the last time we moved) are wood frame construction with thin sidewalls. A POD will not be the best environment to keep moisture away from your belongings. The Steel shipping containers do a much better job ... although if you can, running a dehumidifier in the container will also help to keep the interior dry.

And yes, I know about PODS and containers. We used 3 PODS to move from Mass to CT a few years back and then rented containers from Eagle before I eventually bought my own 40' shipping containers. I bought 3 of them about 4 years ago for extra storage and a workshop ... but more on that in another post.

As far as living in your RV through the winter, it's not impossible in New England. While the DW and I were taking care of an ailing relative through the harsh winter of 2010 we lived in the backyard in a 36' TT. The TT had 2 removable propane tanks and I was usually filling one every 7-9 days.

Last year, we spent the winter of 2011 in our 32' Class A ... helping our son and his family when our 1st grandson was born 3 months early. This time it wasn't as easy as lugging the tanks down to UHaul. With the larger tank on the motorhome we got about 18-21 days out of a tank. We were using the propane for heat with the furnace, cooking on the propane stove and taking the occasional shower using propane. We were also able to get the same amount of time out of our holding tanks - I would dump at the local RV superstore when re-filling on propane.

Since you have access to the bathroom in the house, and it sounds like some use of the kitchen, you can likely get ~3 weeks, maybe a little more out of your propane tank. As other users have suggested, you might have some issues with getting a propane company to come out and refill the propane tank - we definitely did when we called around - but you do have some options including:

- having a propane company deliver a large tank to your house and hooking that up to the motorhome

- using an "extend a stay" hookup on your motorhome that will hook up to standard propane tanks. Then you can bring your tanks to someplace locally and get them refilled.

For the bays, I used a couple of battery operated thermometers with remote displays like this one from Home Depot to keep an eye on temperatures in the bays and I also used a ceramic heater with an automatic on/off (based upon temperature) to keep the bays warm.

To keep us warm in the motorhome we used an oil filled electric heater, and ran it at about 71 degrees .. for us that kept the interior relatively warm and kept down the cycling of the propane furnace.

We also used relfextix insulation like this stuff from Home Depot that we cut to the size of the windows. We only have single pane windows on our motorhome and once we cut this out and placed it on the windows, we had a nearly 7 degree uptick in interior temps. It most certainly worked .. although it makes the interior a little dark.

Good luck with your next steps!

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