Friday 13 October 2017

Checking For Damp In Your Caravan Or Motorhome

Have you ever checked your caravan or motorhome for damp?

Like most people if they were honest, probably not.

That musty smell, do you put down to just stale air as your van has been shut up for a while.

Perhaps it is something more sinister, the dreaded damp!

Damp can go unnoticed for a while, and by the time it is discovered, the damp has well and truly set in and it’s expensive to sort out.

Checking for damp is vital, not only on your own caravan or motorhome, but on any that you are thinking of buying, even a brand new one can suffer from it!

Damp can be caused by a couple of things, firstly water ingress, through cracked sealants, or damage to panels, roof vents or windows, it can also happen through rising damp and your floor rotting out!

Or the other way of damp is via condensation and poor or zero ventilation.

You may also suffer from weeping water pipes, when was the last time you checked all of yours?

So Damp can be a real problem, but it is preventable and less costly if you catch it quickly.

Below is a guide to what to look out for, how to spot it, and where to look.

Damp Guide

Equipment required:

Torch, Kitchen Roll, Damp Meter, Step Ladders and a Sense of Humour!

Now, this does require you to spend time on your hands and knees, so knee pads are optional!

For ease of wording I will be referring to a caravan throughout this guide, but the procedures are exactly the same for any other type of campervan/motorhome.

Firstly it is easier if the caravan is empty as you are going to be poking around in all the places that are usually full of all the things you think you need but actually never really use!

So let's start with a methodical approach.


The Door - Does it open and shut as it should do?

Is the rubber seal intact all the way round or is it damaged or crushed?

We are looking for ways that water can come in, a crushed or damaged seal is an easy water entry point.

Starting from the front of the caravan, open up the front locker, remove everything and have a look to see if there is any way that water is seeping in and pooling - especially if you have fitted trays for gas bottles etc.

Check to see that the back panel inside the locker is not damaged.

The locker should be vented in the base, make sure that nothing is covering these vents.

Check all the front windows for cracks and that they all open and close properly, none of the seals are crushed or broken. You can do the same for any side or rear windows as you work your way around the caravan.

On the side of the caravan, make sure that the awning rail is intact, and not damaged in anyway. It is not uncommon for an awning rail to be pulled away from a caravan, especially at the ends/corners. If there is sealant running along the top of the awning rail, make sure it is intact with no cracks or splits.

The same can be said for any guttering around the van.

Check the bodywork of the caravan, I know it sounds obvious, but there can be hairline splits or degradation of the plastic, especially on older vans. Check the handles on the van, these can very often be a water entry point especially on older vans where the screws are visible.

Around the back, check to make sure that the light clusters are all sealed properly. Water can enter the light cluster, fill up, then run down the wires straight into your van! Any cracked or damaged clusters, replace as soon as you can.

If you have side lockers, check inside them, and once again, check seals to make sure they are not crushed or damaged.

Air vents, fridge and water heater, make sure they are not damaged.

Now before you get the step ladder out, let's take a look underneath the caravan.

You are looking for any obvious damage or worse case scenario delamination of the wood floor. Delamination of the wood floor occurs when the layers of the plywood come apart due to the glue failing, either through damp or constant use.

There are a number of places to check, but if you can I would take a good look around the whole floor pan.

But the Hot Spots to check would be:

  1. The very front - due to water spray and debris being flicked up by the tow car.
  2. Wheel arches - These should have a plastic liner, but make sure that they are not damaged, and that they over lap the floor and not butt onto it!
  3. The front and rear corners of the caravan, as the gutters and roof will channel the water to these points.
  4. Where the waste pipes exit the floor. Water can not only enter here but could also be coming from the waste pipe itself!
  5. The corners, where you may of accidentally hit the caravan, the plastic may of bounced immediately back into shape leaving no trace but the wooden floor or seams may of been damaged.

Now to the roof, make sure you have someone to steady the steps for you. Take a good look along the roof edge of the caravan, especially the left hand side where you may of got a bit close to the hedge a couple of times. Branches are brilliant at hooking out sealant!

Check the roof where items come through, such as gas flues, tv/radio aerials etc. Also check any roof lights/covers for any obvious damage. It maybe easier to check from inside the van stood on a small set of steps with your head poking up through the window!


On entering the caravan for the first time in a while, how does it smell? Does it smell musty or damp, as we mentioned earlier, it is easy to blame it on an old dog blanket or a pair of shoes.

Depending on the size of the caravan and the weather, remove all the seat bases, and if dry put them outside to give yourself some space. Now, remove the slow cooker which you thought you would use but never have, along with all the plastic bags you thought you would save, and spare blankets you keep in case you get cold.

Now that the space is clear I want you to get down on your hands and knees and with a scrunched up piece of kitchen roll dab it into all the accessible edges and corners. Does it stay dry? Hopefully it will do!

This is where you start using your Damp Meter, really easy to use, just switch it on and start prodding it about along all the edges and right into the corners.

On newer vans it may be a little tricky to do this due to the lack of exposed wood.

Using either a 2 or 4 pin damp meter does require you to push the pins into the wood, running in line with the grain.

The way it works is quite simple, the electrodes (pins) measure the flow of current between the 2 or 4 pins, the greater content of moisture the higher the flow of current.

A damp meter is not expensive, you can pick them up from either Amazon or Ebay for very little money.

You can check out this Digital Damp Meter Here it is currently at £7.99 including postage.

damp meter.jpg

Look to see where your water pump and water heater is situated that all pipes are secure, and there is no signs of any leakage, this is often a place to find damp, the push fit connectors tend to come loose over time. So make sure you dab the kitchen roll around the floor.

Moving into the kitchen area, look under the sink, check to make sure that the waste pipes are not damaged, it’s amazing how many odd marigold gloves you will find!

If you have access to under the cooker, check here, there are often floor vents here.

You will probably have no access to the rear of the fridge, and I would not advise pulling it out either! But check cupboards either side.

Check around the bathroom area for any obvious leaks, then check around the outside of the bathroom, if there is water leaking from the bathroom it may show up either side.

If you have a rear fixed bed, this can be a place for mold to gather quickly. When not using the caravan for any period of time I would prop up the bed to allow proper air flow. Just stick your broom in to hold it up.

Remove everything from underneath the bed, climb in the void and start checking.

If you have floor to ceiling wardrobes, make sure you check not only the base but the tops as well.

This is also the case for any top lockers/storage cupboards you may have.

Once you have completely done the whole floor, think about looking around the windows, and checking the seals from the inside.

Finally move to the inside of the roof, checking vents and hatches for any damage or moisture ingress.

Hopefully you will be ok, but if you detect any type of damp I would personally take it to your local caravan dealer who can advise you on the best course of action.

It may not be obvious to the untrained eye where the actual moisture penetration may be coming from. Water does have a tendency to run before emerging at a weak point.

I am no expert on damp, but having lived full time in a caravan for 4 years I do feel I know a few things about what to look out for. However, please feel free to leave comments with anything I may of forgotten!

Till next time...........


  1. Hi! I have recently found you and as a newly Living-in-a-caravan-er I have found this blog very useful. I am wondering, though, why you haven't posted anything for a while. Is everything ok?

    We recently sold up and moved into our static caravan until the site closed in November. Since then we have been serial renting holiday cottages while searching for a small motor home and a house we can let out to fund some travel. Our plan is to live in our caravan most of the time and travel in the winter months. We have just bought a 2001 Hymer that is in mint condition internally with less than 900 m on the clock. Apparently the owner just parked it up after his wife declared she wasn't interested in motorhoming. We are very excited about it but nervous about whether we've made the right choice. We are buying from a dealer so it will have some guarantees 😉
    I've been interested in some of the chats on here about how the financing of such lifestyles works out (or not). We realise that it is going to be a challenge as neither of us is working (I am retired and my photographer OH is struggling as he awaits a hip replacement)
    I have started writing a blog too, as it happens. If you'd like to take a look it is called Downsize-me on blogspot

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