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Old 03-20-2012, 04:25 PM   #1
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Default Leak around water heater

Hi! I just bought a used Fun Finder shadow cruiser a couple of weeks ago, and I'm really loving it so far. However, I'm a complete newb, so I'm still trying to figure out everything. Last night I ran into a serious problem, and I'm curious if anyone has any input on a potential solution.

Last night we had a really terrible thunderstorm (tornado warnings across the state, that sort of thing) with really high winds. During the worst part of the storm, water started coming out onto the floor from under the bed! When I investigated to discover the source of the leak, I found water seemed to be coming in around the water heater.

I did the best I could to prevent any serious water damage, and then this morning I went out to investigate the problem, but I'm still having trouble deciding where the water is coming in. It seems that the water heater panel is pretty flimsy. Is it possible that the leak occurred because of the wind catching this panel and pulling it up? This seems very likely, because when I pull at the panel, it opens a gap of about 3/4 inch.

I'd appreciate any input. My first instinct is to go ahead and recaulk the edges where the caulk is starting to wear (even though it doesn't seem cracked or compromised, yet), and maybe get some thin weather stripping to seal that panel and help keep the rain out. It doesn't seem like there is or ever was anything designed to keep water out of this compartment, but even if it's supposed to be water tight under the panel, wouldn't it be bad for water to get onto the wiring, etc, that is under the panel?

Okay, hopefully this question wasn't too dumb! Thanks.
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Old 03-20-2012, 06:11 PM   #2
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Default Water heater leak -- which panel?

First, that is not a dumb question!

Second, you mention a panel that is leaking -- exactly where is it? Outside? On the top of the water heater compartment or the bottom? Can you get to the leaking panel without lifting the outer access door that covers the water heater controls? Or is it inside that access door?

My guess is that some good caulking will probably do the job -- that must have been some storm, to force water under the seals and through the wall and under the seat and onto the floor!!
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Old 03-20-2012, 10:29 PM   #3
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It was quite a storm! Several tornadoes touched down in that storm system, but luckily none of them were near me! We still got a lot of wind and rain. It doesn't rain much in Texas, but when it does, it RAINS. :P Luckily we've got a clear weather forecast for the next week, so I should have time to fix the problem.

I think that what I'm calling a panel is what you're calling the outer access door. I was able to get a better look at what was going on when the storm was over by removing the mattress so that I could pull up the plywood cover that hides the water heater without also having to hold up the mattress. It appeared that the water was coming from the top of the unit, where it joins with the wall.

Having seen that, I looked on the outside, under the outer access door, and it didn't appear that there was actual caulk on the seam between the control panel and the wall. It seemed to be some sort of foam or rubber strip that was placed between the wall and the water heater when it was installed. I'm not sure if this is normal because I'm not sure how these things are installed, but it looks like a pretty sloppy job. The rubber strip was twisted so that a couple of inches were only protected by a tiny strip of the rubber, and over time that rubber has started to crack. I went ahead and caulked along those seams, even though I doubt this could cause the amount of water I was seeing. Either way, it was bound to start leaking eventually.

Unfortunately, when I was looking into the water heater compartment (from inside the trailer) I also noticed that I could see the ground through a gap between the floor and the bottom of the panel, which can't be good. Given the amount of water, and the fact that it only leaked when there was very high wind coupled with lots of rain coming down, I suspect it's more likely that this is the actual culprit. The gap is technically covered by the access door, but the access door is so flimsy that a strong wind could easily force rain between the door and the controls, and then through that gap. The bad news is that it's too wide a gap to fill with caulk, so now I guess I'll have to figure out where to go from here. Someone had suggested that foam stuff that comes in a can, but my experience with that is that it can be very ugly and difficult to remove, so I'm hesitant to use something like that unless it's supposed to be permanent. How common is it to need to remove/replace the water heater?

Also, I'm not sure how flimsy those access doors are supposed to be, but it seems to me that it would be bad for lots of water to get onto the controls. I'm considering installing something along the edges of the access panel to make it less likely that the wind will cause a gap where rain can get through. I think the right kind of weatherstripping should do the trick and still allow it to close properly. I can't think of any reason /not/ to do this, since at worst it's just double protection, so if anyone has a different viewpoint on it, I'd appreciate to hear it.

I suspect that the only reason that the water heater situation has not caused serious water damage already is because the previous owners never let it sit through a major thunderstorm like that. I'm glad I was living in it when it happened, or it could have been bad!
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Old 03-21-2012, 08:41 AM   #4
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You shouldn't get rain water coming into the trailer from the water heater assuming that it's sealed properly. The access door is really just a cover for the burner controls. It's not intended to be waterproof, its even vented, so rainwater can easily get through it. The water heater control area however shouldn't leak as long as the flange around it is properly sealed to the exterior wall.

If you have the installation manual you'll see what I mean. If you don't you can download it online.

As for the other gap you describe, without a picture it's hard to envision but if the gap is too large to caulk you might try some foam pipe insulation from the local hardware store. It's available in different sizes and you can cut it as needed and possibly wedge it into the gap?
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Old 03-21-2012, 09:19 AM   #5
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Default Sealing gaps around the water heater

I'm not sure that ordinary foam pipe insulation would do the job of filling that big gap -- it absorbs water. The waterproof gap-filler spray foam is the right product, even though it is messy and a hassle. DAP makes a number of different products available at major hardware stores.

If you use the spray foam, use plastic sheeting and masking tape to protect other areas of the trailer from overspray. Put plastic down under the trailer to keep your driveway from getting stained with drips when you fill the crack. Wear long gloves to protect your skin -- this stuff does not come off. And wear old clothing.

Please don't ask me how I learned all of these lessons.

If you ever need to remove the water heater (doubtful), this foam stuff can be cut with a sawzall or oscillating multitool, so don't worry about that.
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Old 03-21-2012, 01:54 PM   #6
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The fiberglass type pipe wrap will absorb water, but the closed-cell foam type won't.
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Old 03-21-2012, 04:53 PM   #7
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I don't think I have the installation manual, but I think it's pretty poorly installed. I guess I will use that spray foam.

That stuff is such a pain. :P

I'm glad it doesn't matter if water gets on the controls, though. One less thing to deal with!

Thanks for all the help!
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