Caravan Buyers Guide – Step 3 – The Interior

Dampness the curse of the caravan buyer.

Dampness or water ingress (to give it it’s technical term !) basically indicates a moist condition with no visible water at the surface. When your caravan has dampness, the walls and the floor rot away leaving holes and a very bad smell. Not only is this bad for the van, it can also be very bad for your health due to the germs and bacteria living there.(especially for people with skin allergies, asthma and arthritis)

Damp can be cured and often very successfully, but the walls are never the same and unless they are repaired by a professional caravan repairer, they may end up bulging or uneven with discolouration.

Floors almost never recover from damp as they become spongy and brittle. Any caravan can suffer from damp no matter what size or age. One of the most common causes of damp is that people do not drain the water out the boiler during storage. The problem that this causes, is that over the winter months when the van is in storage, the pipes expand due to the cold and frost, they then split and the water leaks out, another common reason is faulty seals.

What am I looking for ?

Damp can be anywhere in a caravan, so check everywhere. Damp usually smells like a wet towel that has been left, but a lot of people air the caravan off before viewing so do not rely solely on this.

Look for lumps or bumps on panels, stains or mould. Look out for discolouration on panels around windows, around the kitchen sink and taps. Look out for springy floors and mats placed around the door area.

Damp can spread at a alarming rate when in storage make sure all inside doors, cupboards are left open.
Empty all water out of boiler and taps too. remove all soft furnishings and if possible buy a few damp traps, these can be as cheap as £1

This is bubbling or bulging damp, this was found behind the seating area it is quite severe. This damp has a very soft feel to it and will easily rip if pressed too hard. This damage was caused over one weekend due to a faulty window.

Stains will look like this. Pay special attention to vents or skylight areas and around the windows. With the roof being curved, water can run anywhere so check right up to the edges.

All damp will end up like this. The panel is completely beyond repair and needs a serious amount of money and time spent to get back to normal. No easy fix or repair here.

Watch out for extra trim added around windows, a sure indication that damp is being hidden. Common places are around windows and kitchen bench.Look for add colored trim around door also

Watch out for odd wallpaper being added over walls. This is just a quick fix and will have damp within days. Look around toilet, mirrors etc for different patterns of wallpaper.

Pay special attention around the sink area. This is a common place to find damp and stains. Make sure to open all cupboards below and above

Look behind all seats and check panels for any different colours, as this may mean damp or previous damp, so make sure you look under seats too.

Look in all cupboards for damp and black mould. Black mould cannot be removed, so watch out for wallpaper covering painted areas

Pay carefully attention to the roof. Look for bulging areas, follow the angle of the roof for damp spots and make sure to check skylights too. Get right up to the edges

Look out for bathrooms that are a mix match. NO matter how good a repair job it looks with out proof of a professorial fix assume it is not. Damp could come back at any time.
Remember to lift any rubber mats when you enter the caravan, then test the floor by putting pressure on it when you walk. The rubber mats will hide the softness or spongy floor.

Remember a lot of people add laminated floors to the caravans to add extra strength to the actual weak floor. Some modern caravans have a wooden effect lino floor which is normal.

If not, find the firmest point on the wall and use that as your guide. Anything softer than that could signify damp.
Some damp is easy to spot. Look for bulging areas or bubbling areas. Look for discolouration and black spots. Also, use your nose! Most times you can just smell dampness as you enter. Don’t be put off by the owners personal objects in wardrobes or cupboards. Or awnings underneath the seat or up against a wall. Some dishonest sellers usually do this to hide damp or dodgy spots.

The inside is can be quite tricky, as there are lots of hidden places to check. Try to check every wall and the roof and If you have a damp tester then use it. (these can be purchased from most caravan and camping retailers and are invaluable when looking for a van).

Just kindly ask to remove the items and do the test as normal. Another thing to look out for is new or different shaded wallpaper over the panels and roof area, particularly in the toilet/ bathroom. Also look for joins and plastic trim that don’t match. This could signify a repair to a damp area.
The ideal way of preparing your checklist is to split the inside of the caravan into 4 parts.

First things first, start at the rear of the caravan, shuffle along the floor, check to see if the floor is spongy. There should be very little movement. If it feels spongy, then the floor is on the way out. There isn’t a lot you can do to repair a spongy floor and it really isn’t worth repairing in my personal view, in regards to the amount of work that needs to be done. Remember to remove any rubber mats or sheets of cardboard (read tricks of traders for more info)

Now, time for those all important checks. First up, it’s the front seating area. Test all visible walls in every area first, then examine the areas in our guide. This will result in a near perfect examination of the caravan.

So remember, take your time, don’t rush and remember to write every thing down.

It’s easy to forget things so ensure that your checklist is prepared BEFORE you go to view your prospective purchase.

1)Open all cupboards have a feel against the wall and roof area. Get your hand right in to the corners, feeling for softness or damp.
2) Check along the upper shelf, check all of the ceiling from front to back, looking for soft spots, stains, bulging, etc.
3) Open all side windows in front. Make sure flyblinds/blinds work as they should.
4) Open front windows. Make sure flyblind/ blinds work. Look for damp, soft patches and stains — The front windows are particularly susceptible to water ingress due to being the most exposed and due to the rigors of towing.
5) Remove the back cushions on both sides and feel wall from top to bottom for damp. Ensure you get right into the corners. Lift up seat area and check wall and floor. Some people may place awnings here. Ask the seller to lift them out and check behind where they have been placed. The honest seller should not mind this if there is nothing to hide.
6) Check upholstery for rips, tears, cigarette burns and stains.
7) Look behind all curtains for damp patches
8) The Boiler
The boiler is usually located under the front seats ( if it isn’t, locate the flume on the outside and thats where it will be). Remember, wherever there is water there can be damp. (Circled are the places to check.) Check all pipes that go in and out from the boiler and water inlet. Check floor for wet patches or leaks. Check against the wall for damp and soft spots.Look out for rust too.
Have a good look with the torch right into the corners. Ask to see the boiler working. This is a 5 minute job and all the seller has to do is attach the pump and water, switch the gas on and prime the tank.
It is vital to check this unit out as it a new boiler will cost £280 + and you could be looking at £150 to fit. The water will get hot within a few moments of running out of the tap.

9) As in the front, open all the upper cupboards and check for damp. Look for stains. Sometimes you may get a cup holder. – remove this and look underneath for damp.
10) Check any windows that are behind the kitchen, open and close, check flyblinds and blinds work too. Look around the window for damp and stains.
11) Check right along the walls for damp, right up to the working surface. Look for any suspect silicone patches, check round the sink for cracks, holes, etc.
12) Ensure you see the oven, hob and grill work ( see tricks of the traders for more info)
13) Open all lower cupboards, check the floor and walls for damp, get right into the corners.

14) Ensure the window opens and shuts, check flyblind / blind works. Check around windows for stains and damp.
15) Remove cushions, look for damp behind them and check the wall for damp.
16) Check upholstery for rips, tears, cigarette burns and stains, remove cushions and check underneath for damp on the walls and floor.
17) Check the floor is quite solid and has very little movement. If the floor feels springy then do not buy.
Walk the whole area and check next to the door. A lot of people put laminated flooring in to strengthen damp floors, so beware!
Look out for rubber mats on floor, remove and walk over again.
18) Do the same, check as you did for the front, check cushions for rips, tears, etc.
19) Check all of the wall (even behind curtains) and under seats for damp and check floor too.

The Bathroom

The bathroom is quite a difficult place to check. It may be small, but there is a lot of water used in here and if not maintained carefully, can have many leaks. Sometimes, the damp testers can give false readings due to the shiny waterproof paper, so it is best to double check with your hands for soft patches, etc.

What am I looking for?

Look out for areas that look odd (i.e. around sink, toilet, etc) and walls that have a different design.
Look out for plastic trims every 3ft or so, as this could be an indication that they have re-papered the walls with waterproof paper to hide damp. Also watch out for towels in the wardrobe and rubber mats on floors. (rubber mats can hide dampness in the floor !!) Remember, when inspecting the caravan take your time. Your caravan could be a significant purchase and one you do not want to regret because you didn’t spot a fault because you rushed into checking things

Look out for oddly placed tiles or strips of wallpaper. This can be an indication of hidden damp. Bathroom walls should be all the same pattern and texture. If it looks odd then it probably is hiding something.

Look out for black mould. This cannot be removed as it is behind the waterproof paper. The only way to fix this is to replace the panel. Look out for shower curtains hiding this kind of damp

Paper that’s peeling away from the walls and soft spots. Get right into the corners and behind objects (i.e. curtains, mirrors) look out for items placed conveniently to hide damp.

Look out for cracks in the shower tray and gaps around the shower tray / toilet, this will rot the floor away underneath when the water leaks through. Usually if there is gaps the floor and walls behind have damp.

Look for out of place mirrors and cabinets that don’t match. This can be a sign that they may have been added to hide damp. Out of site out of mind is a dodgy dealers motto.

Different colour wallpaper and mismatched trim are a give-away that the bathroon has damp. Quick fixes like this are a waste of time and will be back within weeks.
The bathroom can come in many shapes and sizes, But the guide works just the same. Check every part of the visible walls, open all cupboards, get into the corners and make sure you check the wall behind you when you enter, as a lot of people neglect to check this wall.Also check the roof and skylight.

1) Check all walls for damp, softspots and black mould. Remove any tables that are stored in there. If someone has stored a awning in there or water containers, place these outside. This is a common trick to stop you looking.
2) Remember to have a look behind the shower curtain. If there is a window in the bathroom, check that it opens and closes and that the seal is ok.
3) Check the toilet for gaps around outside. This is a common place for damp, as is behind the lid at the back. Make sure you open it and have a good look inside.
4) Check all seals around toilet.

5) Open any cupboards and look inside for damp on floor and around walls. Look for damage or bad seals that will let in water.
6) Check all seals around the shower tray where it meets the wall. Look for gaps where there is no silicone. Feel the bottom of the wall where the seal meets the plastic for soft spots.
7) Check the shower tray for cracks and damage. Some people may put carpets, mats etc. over the tray to hide them. Remove and check.
Any leaks here will rot the floor

8) Check roof for stains, mould, etc. Look around the skylight for damp, around the fittings, open skylight and make sure its quite stiff to open (any slackness, will let in water or blow open when towing.)
9) Look around the sink and any wall cabinets for damp. Look for broken seals. Check the sink is not cracked.
Look for cabinets or mirrors that look out of place. More than likely, they are there to hide damp.
10) Check taps for leaks. Ensure shower has hot water and that there are no leaks from that.

Written By

Mike Cruckley runs and maintains and is passionate about Caravanning and all things camping related. You can find him on Google+