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Old 11-25-2009, 08:39 AM   #1
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Worst case scenario -- a cautionary tale

As some of you know, we bought a used Class C motor home from a dealer in Webster City, IA last month. In generally good overall shape, we've run into a serious problem with rotten wood beneath the bath tub. Here's how we found it:

We rented it out last weekend to folks who managed to flood it quite thoroughly. (See my other post entitled "Where is the water supposed to go?") We're still not sure how it happened, but it did. Since we were planning on replacing the old carpet next spring anyway, we decided to not even try to dry it out, opting to rip it out instead. So, I set about removing all the carpet.

When I got to the bathroom and started cutting, I knew we were in trouble right away. We've had a problem with mouse odors coming from under the bath tub -- a completely inaccessible area -- and were planning to rip that out and replace it with a stand-up shower instead next year. However, when my cutting blade went into mushy plywood in front of the tub, I had that "uh-oh" moment that sends that sick feeling right through you.

After peeling back the carpet it was obvious what needed to be done. The plywood was literally gone, reduced to a crumbly mass of fiber, and I was able to dig down to the RV's insullation underlayment with my bare hands. This area had obviously been wet a brazillion times in the RV's 16 year history, and we had obviously been sold a bill of goods. Clearly the "moth ball" odor the dealer explained away so cavalierly was really a combination of inaccessible mouse nests and rotten flooring in the bathroom.

So, yesterday I disconnected all the plumbing, ripped out the tub enclosure and, finally, the tub. What I found underneath would make a normal human go screaming into the night, but luckily I've got a strong stomach. Mice had chewed their way into the heat ducts (that were stupidly run BEHIND the tub) and absolutely packed them with chewed up carpeting, fur, and poop. This explained the minimal heating in the master bedroom, and the horrible odor coming from the duct in the bathroom.

Dutchmen, as is their "normal" practice, had laid carpet wall-to-wall -- even underneath the plumbing. Over time, as minor leaks developed (or other floods occurred) the carpet got wet -- and stayed wet. The water would soak down into the foam underlayment, which, like a sponge, was very effective at holding the moisture right up against the wood. Over the span of 16 years, the wood simply rotted out, leaving behind a non-structural smelly mess, a perfect environment for mice.

I was able to remove an area of flooring roughly 2' x 3' -- with my bare hands. Today I'm going to cut back to "real" wood and then figure out my patch. The floor under the new shower has to be raised up 5" anyway, so a patch of 3/4" marine-grade plywood -- what SHOULD have been under the tub from the start -- can be laid on top of the hole, restoring structural integrity. I'm going to have to re-route some drain pipes (that had been run down the front of the now-removed tub), but otherwise this will be a pretty straightforward bathroom remodel.

In the end, our motor home will be much better, with all-new, mouse-free heat ducts, accessible plumbing, more storage space in the bathroom, and a large stand-up shower (instead of that silly bath tub) -- but, wow, I sure didn't expect to be spending hundreds of hours remodeling our "new" RV this fall. With winter nearly upon us, I'm in a race to get it done before the weather goes really bad, which is never a good way to do this sort of work.

Bottom line: Let the buyer beware. I thought that by buying from a dealer (and paying a little more) I would be protected from buying crap, but I was wrong, and have learned a valuable (if expensive) lesson.

Another valuable lesson: if your motorhome is a few years old, and you've ever had (or suspect that you had) water on the bathroom floor, you WILL have problems that require removing the tub/shower. The incredibly stupid practice of laying foam-backed carpeting beneath inaccessible plumbing guarantees it, so you might as well start making plans to fix it now.
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Old 11-25-2009, 08:54 AM   #2
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Hopefully you are wearing a dust mask. That viral infection from mice is nasty. Good luck.
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Old 11-25-2009, 08:59 AM   #3
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What a bummer, Jay...that dealership has sold dozens of the Dutchmen Class C's over the years & I'm really surprised they weren't on top of the problems before you bought it. We've had work done there by a number of their techs over the years, and they always seemed to be top-notch.

Hope you get the problems solved!!

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Old 11-25-2009, 09:07 AM   #4
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Seems to me they,. the Dealer owe's you some money or name the dealer in good time if they dont respond correctly,bad press is worth alot in todays times.If it was the salesman s fault,well if i was the owner and it was costing because of Puffing.
I hope this was just a mistake and they didn't know,but they still owe!
We old folks can only use our Mouth,but it's time to speak out.
Good luck and hope you find no more hidden problems!
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Old 11-25-2009, 11:29 AM   #5
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Unless the dealer is giving you a warranty, I would perfer to purchase from a private party. I can get a 'feel' from the prior owner and usually save a few thousand dollars to boot.
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Old 11-25-2009, 08:15 PM   #6
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Hopefully you are wearing a dust mask. That viral infection from mice is nasty. Good luck.
Good idea, there.

I spent all day working on it again today. I removed the toilet and pedestal (now THAT was a fun job) because the rotten wood under the tub went right up to the pedestal, and I needed to see if it continued underneath the toilet. Unfortunately I discovered that the pedestal/toilet sits atop a protrusion in the black water tank, and underneath that protrusion is more soaked carpet. I can't figure out how to remove the black water tank without almost completely gutting the RV (the fresh water tank sits on TOP of the black water tank, just to make it interesting!), and I can't figure out how to remove the wet carpet (and possibly more rotten wood) without removing the black water tank. Augh!

So, I've taken a different tack. I cut the carpet off as close to the protrusion as possible, yanked out as much of the soaked foam from beneath it as I could, jacked the protrusion up with a wedge, and aimed a fan right at it, which I'm letting run overnight. We'll see how well that works.

Luckily, it looks like the rotted wood is only under the tub, but I'm thinking that once I've got that area underneath the toilet dried out I'll fill the area beneath the black water tank protrusion with a 3/4" piece of plywood and caulk the crap out of the whole area, to prevent future water intrusion. Then I'll have to rebuild the pedestal that the toilet sits atop, and reinstall the toilet.

On another front, after further consideration, I think I'm going to reinstall the tub after replacing the flooring, rather than a stand-up shower. There is simply too much plumbing and electrical to reconfigure if I put in a shower stall, unfortunately. I'll have to buy a new tub surround, which was ruined by removing it. And, of course, I'm going to install all-new furnace ducting to replace the old mouse-eaten/packed stuff.

On yet another front, we were able to remove the bed frame from the floor (another 30 screws) and raise it up long enough to cut the carpet out from underneath. This was important because the 110 volt inverter, which is attached to the bed frame, was sitting an inch above soaking wet carpet. Great design.

This was the last of the items to be raised and have the wet carpet removed from beneath. Once I get the sub-floor put back in the bathroom (tomorrow I hope -- Happy Thanksgiving!) it will be time to start making a template for the linoleum.

My plan is to install 3/4" marine-grade plywood, cut to fit the hole that I've created by removing the rotten sub-floor. I'm then going to caulk all the edges/gaps (the piece will be sitting directly atop one of the metal side cargo bays), and then top it all off with another 1/2" sheet of marine grade plywood. This will be screwed into the patch and the surrounding "good" wood with stainless steel screws. I'm then going to caulk the crap out of every edge and seam before installing the sheet product over all.

Then, I will reinstall every, single screw that holds down every, single cabinet, couch, bed, and seat. Yee haw! What a great way to spend a week or so...

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Old 11-26-2009, 04:42 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by JJHoneck View Post
Good idea, there.

I spent all day working on it again today. I removed the toilet and pedestal (now THAT was a fun job) because the rotten wood under the tub went right up to the pedestal, and I needed to see if it continued underneath the toilet. Unfortunately I discovered that the pedestal/toilet sits atop a protrusion in the black water tank, and underneath that protrusion is more soaked carpet. I can't figure out how to remove the black water tank without almost completely gutting the RV (the fresh water tank sits on TOP of the black water tank, just to make it interesting!), and I can't figure out how to remove the wet carpet (and possibly more rotten wood) without removing the black water tank. Augh!

So, I've taken a different tack. I cut the carpet off as close to the protrusion as possible, yanked out as much of the soaked foam from beneath it as I could, jacked the protrusion up with a wedge, and aimed a fan right at it, which I'm letting run overnight. We'll see how well that works.

Luckily, it looks like the rotted wood is only under the tub, but I'm thinking that once I've got that area underneath the toilet dried out I'll fill the area beneath the black water tank protrusion with a 3/4" piece of plywood and caulk the crap out of the whole area, to prevent future water intrusion. Then I'll have to rebuild the pedestal that the toilet sits atop, and reinstall the toilet.

On another front, after further consideration, I think I'm going to reinstall the tub after replacing the flooring, rather than a stand-up shower. There is simply too much plumbing and electrical to reconfigure if I put in a shower stall, unfortunately. I'll have to buy a new tub surround, which was ruined by removing it. And, of course, I'm going to install all-new furnace ducting to replace the old mouse-eaten/packed stuff.

On yet another front, we were able to remove the bed frame from the floor (another 30 screws) and raise it up long enough to cut the carpet out from underneath. This was important because the 110 volt inverter, which is attached to the bed frame, was sitting an inch above soaking wet carpet. Great design.

This was the last of the items to be raised and have the wet carpet removed from beneath. Once I get the sub-floor put back in the bathroom (tomorrow I hope -- Happy Thanksgiving!) it will be time to start making a template for the linoleum.

My plan is to install 3/4" marine-grade plywood, cut to fit the hole that I've created by removing the rotten sub-floor. I'm then going to caulk all the edges/gaps (the piece will be sitting directly atop one of the metal side cargo bays), and then top it all off with another 1/2" sheet of marine grade plywood. This will be screwed into the patch and the surrounding "good" wood with stainless steel screws. I'm then going to caulk the crap out of every edge and seam before installing the sheet product over all.

Then, I will reinstall every, single screw that holds down every, single cabinet, couch, bed, and seat. Yee haw! What a great way to spend a week or so...

sorry about your h2o problems JJ.
check out my recent post and pics about installing waterproof ALLURE composite flooring in my moho in "MH PROBLEMS AND SOLUTIONS..."
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Old 11-26-2009, 05:09 AM   #8
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Sounds like you have quite a job there Jay. Good luck with the re-build.

Now about this whole "rent" it out deal. Is that something you have planned to do to help pay for the MH or was it just a spur of the moment thing?

Thanks
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Old 11-26-2009, 07:19 AM   #9
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JJHoneck,

Feel for you and your "project"-- Good luck.

My comments are about "Mouse" control. This past summer in Maine our neighbors had a mouse problem. They saw one running around in their 5th wheel one evening. They caught three with mouse traps. My bride decided that we might incur a similiar problem since we're backed up into the same wooded area. She made me put out "Decon" in about four places in the bays. She also had the neighbors do it too. Well I checked the Decon's on the second day and the little devils had eaten one full package and about three quarters of a second. No more problems for the rest of the summer. Our neighbors had similiar results with the Decon's.

I'm told that the Decon makes the mice thirsty (by "Joe" a retired fire chief), and they go off to get a drink, and expire !! What an easy, neat way to solve a difficult problem before it becomes a hugh problem.
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Old 11-26-2009, 08:43 AM   #10
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Sounds like you have quite a job there Jay. Good luck with the re-build.

Now about this whole "rent" it out deal. Is that something you have planned to do to help pay for the MH or was it just a spur of the moment thing?
Yes, and yes.

We own and operate a small hotel, and used the RV as over-flow during the last two home football games, when everything in the area sold out. My investment in the MH was minimal, and the cost to repair it will be mostly my labor. Materials (plywood, linoleum, caulk) shouldn't cost more than a couple of hundred bucks.

Although I'm upset that the last renters managed to flood the RV -- they were obviously idiots -- they did NOT cause the damage I'm stuck repairing. In fact, I'm truly thankful that the flood happened when it did, since it allowed me to discover the rotten wood underneath that stupid carpet.

My disgust goes well beyond the carpet, however. I swear, if you constructed a commercial building, home -- or even a mobile home -- as stupidly as this motorhome was built, you'd be arrested. Starting with the carpet (and, more seriously, the carpet pad) being installed beneath inaccessible, known plumbing problem areas, and working your way down to using substandard construction materials and skipping every fourth screw-hole, it's hard to believe what is actually underneath all those fancy microwaves and custom cupboards.

I'm thankful that my investment has been minimal, cuz what I've found beneath the surface indicates a real lack of intelligent design or commitment to the long term. I sure hope you guys that are paying $90K (and up) are truly getting something worth owning -- cuz if all motorhomes are built like this one, they are surely a huge rip off. I'm used to dealing with small airplanes, which aren't exactly known for intelligent design or sturdy construction -- but they look like swiss watches compared to what I've found in our RV so far.

Oh, well. When I'm done, all of the screw holes will have screws, all of the screws near water will be stainless, the bed frame will be beefed up, the floor in the bathroom will be like the bottom of a boat, the 110 volt inverter will be protected from water, the heat ducts will be replaced with new (and, hopefully, with something mice can't chew through) and re-routed so that we can reach them without removing the bath tub, and an access panel will be installed so that the tub drain can be easily inspected/replaced/repaired. And, most importantly, there won't be any carpet beneath any furniture or plumbing fixtures.

All of this could have been done by Dutchmen at the factory for an incredibly small amount of money -- probably less than $200 in materials.
Would cutting the carpet out of areas that potentially get wet have cost them a little labor? Yep, maybe ten minutes, if you've got a guy who knows how to work a carpet knife.

If stupidity were a crime, Dutchmen would receive the death penalty for the way they built this motor home.
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Old 11-26-2009, 10:43 PM   #11
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Well, after another six hours of work this morning (before over-stuffing with turkey and all the trimmings) our motor home is now entirely odor-free -- yippee!

We finished replacing the floor in the bathroom today. With a new 3/4" sub floor filling the rotted areas, and another 1/2" overlay on top of that, with two layers of plastic beneath it all, that floor is now stronger than new. I then caulked and sealed EVERY seam, and filled the void under the toilet with "Great Stuff" expandable foam. I also filled every void in the sub-flooring with that stuff, too, before placing the plywood. I plan to get on a creeper and fill every void on the BOTTOM of the RV with that stuff, too. It's cheap, and if nothing else it should make it a lot harder for mice to get in during winter storage.)

I slid a piece of 1/2" treated plywood underneath the black water tank protrusion that Dutchmen had stupidly reinforced/supported with TWO layers of (now) soggy, rotten carpet. Yesterday we had removed as much of this carpet and foam as we could reach, and then dried this area thoroughly overnight (by inserting small tubes beneath the soggy carpet/pad, and pointing a fan directly at the area), so it was as good as we could make it.

Once that piece of plywood was in place beneath the old carpet, I filled the rest of the void -- in front, and on both sides -- with Great Stuff expandable foam. This effectively sealed in the inaccessible area beneath the toilet. It may still be a bit damp in that area under the blackwater tank protrusion (that the toilet sits atop), and the wood beneath may very well be rotted, but there was no way to reach this area without removing the black and fresh water tanks -- a job that would require tearing out the bathroom/bedroom wall. So, we had no choice but to seal it in. Luckily, it's a small, non-structural area, and this was the best we could do.

We then replaced all the old mouse-infested heat ducting with brand new. Within minutes of completing both of these tasks, we both noticed that the sickly smells of mouse and rotten wood were GONE, at last. What a relief!

Now that we're getting close to installing the linoleum, we're getting into "mission creep". That's the infamous "as long as we're at it" mode that can make any project stretch into infinity. Mary now wants to speckle-paint the bathroom, so that it'll look new. (The contact paper that Dutchmen used throughout the RV is appallingly bad.) The paint has got to match the new floor, naturally, which we'll be installing in the next week. And without the old blue carpet we no longer need the dated-looking blue draperies, so those are slated for replacement.

Dang, guys, I've got to get this rig into winter storage before she decides we have to re-do the appliances, too!
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Old 11-27-2009, 08:46 PM   #12
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What a nightmare!! Sounds a real pain in the *** job/problem.Especially as you got it from a dealer. Cant believe the stupid places they put all that carpet...well im not overly surprised...

as on our 1987 bounder in the outside cubby that contains the water pump,everpure quick release water filter system and water pipes etc,the floor and sides of the compartment were covered in the thick pile carpet used on the main floor!!!! I couldnt believe it , what a stupid covering to put in where theres potential for leaks!!!!

So with luck being what it is ,sure enough plenty of leaks over the years , had to rip out all that useless carpet :(

Good job on finishing the huge task .Now enjoy the revamped RV
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Old 11-27-2009, 09:44 PM   #13
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Bottom line: Let the buyer beware. I thought that by buying from a dealer (and paying a little more) I would be protected from buying crap, but I was wrong, and have learned a valuable (if expensive) lesson.
A costly life lesson. If a dealer's lips are moving, he is lying.
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Old 11-27-2009, 10:06 PM   #14
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That really sucks. I hope all goes well with the remodel.
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