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Old 11-20-2020, 09:56 AM   #1
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Exclamation Skirting: Mobile type, tarps, Reflectix, hay bales, plywood/foam board?

So I have my son's family living in my 33' Cherokee while they build a tiny home on their 20 acres. I'm looking at ways to keep the pipes from freezing. I already have heat tape and insulation for the water line, that's a no-brainer. I was originally going to just use heavy duty all weather duct tape to lay on a skintight layer (two layers where the pipes run) on the entire underside of the trailer with Reflectix brand flexible insulation (two layers of bubble wrap with tough reflective film on both sides, has an R-Rating of 3.7), rather than putting a skirt around the trailer. But the helpful people at the dealership (bought it new this March) say that often the tape fails because the winds blow so hard here, and to go with 1/8 inch plywood skirt on a 2x3 wood frame. I honestly thought that coating the entire underside skin tight with a couple of layers of r-3.7 would be a lot better than putting a skirt on, which will ultimately end up being a sanctuary for mice (pack rats, wood rats, voles, and mice are a curse here) and other critters. After all, the whole point is to keep the trailer and pipes warm, not the parking spot warm. Silly me.

So the skirting options are hay bales covered in 6 mil plastic or heavy duty contractor garbage bags (cheap and easy but kind like building a mice condo with ladders to get into the trailer), mobile home skirting (spendy and how do I attach it to my trailer), vinyl tarp type skirting (basically a long skinny tarp sold at 10x tarp prices), building a frame and putting 1/8 inch plywood on it, or using rigid foam boards.

I know you can get sticky hooks for the exterior to attach whatever skirting I choose, but how sturdy are they? I hate to start drilling holes in a brand new trailer, but I fear the local winds will blow pretty much anything flimsy I put up away. We get 40-50 mph gusts pretty regularly here. And the site is uneven, so I'll need to seal the bottom edge with gravel or sand no matter what skirt I use. At this point I'm leaning towards the Reflectix covering the underside, partly because I already have all the materials needed, but also because I can do all the work myself (would have to buy a lot of tools or hire help for most of the other options).

I just want to keep my pipes from freezing, not win a Home Beautiful award. Anyway, I'd appreciate any feedback from folks who have dealt with skirting their travel trailer. Has anyone successfully (or unsuccessfully) used flexible insulation taped or glued directly to the underside, just like a second layer to the existing underside covering? Or had to deal with fastening the upper part of a skirt without drilling holes? Used hay bales without mice and rodent issues? Found a source for a mobile home skirt that is affordable (they aren't living in a trailer because the local mansions for rent aren't decorated nice enough)? Found a solution that's none of the above? I would greatly appreciate any shared experiences.
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Old 11-20-2020, 10:59 AM   #2
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So why are you not following the advice of the local rv dealership? Seems like plywood would stop the wind and help keep the cold from getting underneath the rv. As for the pests, perhaps a cat or pest control.
How cold do you anticipate it getting? Your problem is not only the pipes underneath the rig, but the pipes in the walls. These are very small pex pipes and freeze easily. You're going to need heat tape to keep the line into the trailer from freezing and perhaps some RV antifreeze in the holding tanks.
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Old 11-20-2020, 11:35 AM   #3
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So why are you not following the advice of the local rv dealership? Seems like plywood would stop the wind and help keep the cold from getting underneath the rv. As for the pests, perhaps a cat or pest control.
How cold do you anticipate it getting? Your problem is not only the pipes underneath the rig, but the pipes in the walls. These are very small pex pipes and freeze easily. You're going to need heat tape to keep the line into the trailer from freezing and perhaps some RV antifreeze in the holding tanks.
It mostly gets down to 20 at night, will have a few nights in the teens but not many. Your other questions are already addressed in my original post. Care to share your own past experiences with full time winter RV living and how you dealt with skirting and insulation?
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Old 11-20-2020, 11:41 AM   #4
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Something to consider is that insulation will do nothing without a source of heat inside if it. Whatever is intended to be protected by the insulation will eventually be subjected to the ambient temperature. Whether or not you will have enough heat loss through the floor of your RV to the area you have skirted beneath it is dependent on the outside ambient temperature and the amount and size of places you have in the skirting that will allow heat to escape and cold air and wind to enter. You may need to compensate for a lack of heat loss through the floor of your RV with some form of supplemental heat within the skirted area.

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Old 11-20-2020, 11:45 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by justanotherrvr View Post
Care to share your own past experiences with full time winter RV living and how you dealt with skirting and insulation?
You posted this as I was typing my previous post. I have no full time winter RV living experience and I have never skirted my RV. I am basing my opinion on what I have experienced as a plumber and dealing with homes on crawl spaces and mobile homes. Its no different with an RV.

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Old 11-20-2020, 11:53 AM   #6
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I've had numerous friends use hay/straw bales wrapped in plastic for winter "skirting" in temps down to Zero and below. Most found that there was enough heat migrating from the heated trailer to keep water lines from freezing but heated water supply lines were essential. Use ABS Pipe for waste connection and make sure there is plenty of slope from dump valve to sewer connection. Any standing water in the pipe will freeze.

As for the "critters", a simple rodent bait station handles that problem. Don't rely on a cat as during cold weather it will just curl up on the back of the couch and expect YOU to feed it
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Old 11-20-2020, 12:11 PM   #7
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Something to consider is that insulation will do nothing without a source of heat inside if it. Whatever is intended to be protected by the insulation will eventually be subjected to the ambient temperature. Whether or not you will have enough heat loss through the floor of your RV to the area you have skirted beneath it is dependent on the outside ambient temperature and the amount and size of places you have in the skirting that will allow heat to escape and cold air and wind to enter. You may need to compensate for a lack of heat loss through the floor of your RV with some form of supplemental heat within the skirted area.

Bruce
Thanks for your thoughts, every bit helps. I'll definitely want to be prepared to run a small heater under there on the coldest nights. From what I have gotten from the local dealer, it's mild enough here (Oregon/California border area) that just skirting seems to be enough for most nights. Just enclosing the underside of the trailer with plywood or mobile home skirting and no further insulation seems to do it for their customers. As long as it blocks the wind completely enough, it tends to stay above freezing under there. Sealing up the crevasses where air can get past seems to be the key. And for us, the trailer has full sun all day, which will tend to warm the ground around it and, hopefully, the ground underneath a bit too.
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Old 11-20-2020, 12:59 PM   #8
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I've had numerous friends use hay/straw bales wrapped in plastic for winter "skirting" in temps down to Zero and below. Most found that there was enough heat migrating from the heated trailer to keep water lines from freezing but heated water supply lines were essential. Use ABS Pipe for waste connection and make sure there is plenty of slope from dump valve to sewer connection. Any standing water in the pipe will freeze.

As for the "critters", a simple rodent bait station handles that problem. Don't rely on a cat as during cold weather it will just curl up on the back of the couch and expect YOU to feed it
Thanks for the feedback! I have everything to heat the water supply hose, doing that asap. And thankfully we have a nice slope to the septic tank so I think we'll be ok there.

I'm warming up to the straw bales in plastic method (pardon the pun). One is it's cheap and easy enough I won't have to hire a helper, but also because I expect to be parked in a year round RV park next winter, so the critters will only have a short time to move in. Plus the site the trailer is on is sloped and has concrete over it: the hay bales will seal up the bottom of the skirt handily, where with a plywood or other rigid skirting, sealing the bottom may be impossible, or require pouring concrete, which I'm not going to do for a single winter. Once I'm in a more permanent spot, I'll spend the money on a plywood skirt with a strong framework to stand up to the wind gusts we have around here. Just went through a NOAA Wind Advisory for 70MPH gusts, it was pretty bad. Advisories for 50 MPH gusts happen about every 2 months here. Hay bales will stand up to that, where with other solutions I might have to rebuild a whole lot.
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Old 11-20-2020, 01:01 PM   #9
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If you have an outside shower, you might want to think about protecting that as well. There may be enough heat getting through the wall from inside of the RV that it won’t be an issue, but those water pipes are right there, as close as they can be to the outside. Maybe box it in on the outside with some board-type insulation or work out something similar that won’t be ruined by rain or snow.

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Old 11-20-2020, 01:02 PM   #10
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Thanks for your thoughts, every bit helps. I'll definitely want to be prepared to run a small heater under there on the coldest nights. From what I have gotten from the local dealer, it's mild enough here (Oregon/California border area) that just skirting seems to be enough for most nights. Just enclosing the underside of the trailer with plywood or mobile home skirting and no further insulation seems to do it for their customers. As long as it blocks the wind completely enough, it tends to stay above freezing under there. Sealing up the crevasses where air can get past seems to be the key. And for us, the trailer has full sun all day, which will tend to warm the ground around it and, hopefully, the ground underneath a bit too.
Water only has to be kept above 32 degrees to keep it from freezing. Keeping the wind out is key. Also consider that the earth itself has heat. Some areas have enough underground heat that it's used as a source for heating homes.

Keep it from being exposed to direct cold and wind and it will often provide enough heat to keep water lines from freezing all by itself, except in extremely cold areas where temps run significantly lower than freezing all winter long.

As NMWildcat pointed out many of us are guilty of overthinking. I was always taught to "hope for the best but plan for the worst". Along that line I'd consider bringing a couple jugs of water along for "just in case" and keep them where they can't freeze regardless.
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Old 11-20-2020, 01:22 PM   #11
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Back side of the outside shower box

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If you have an outside shower, you might want to think about protecting that as well. There may be enough heat getting through the wall from inside of the RV that it wont be an issue, but those water pipes are right there, as close as they can be to the outside. Maybe box it in on the outside with some board-type insulation or work out something similar that wont be ruined by rain or snow.

Bruce
Bruce, In our SOB, the back side of the outside shower "box" is in the cabinet of the inside lavatory sink vanity. It could easily be kept sufficiently warm by simply leaving the vanity door open. That said, it wouldn't hurt to take a 1" thick piece of Styrofoam and putting it inside the outside cover of the shower box, too.
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Old 11-20-2020, 01:26 PM   #12
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If you have an outside shower, you might want to think about protecting that as well. There may be enough heat getting through the wall from inside of the RV that it wont be an issue, but those water pipes are right there, as close as they can be to the outside. Maybe box it in on the outside with some board-type insulation or work out something similar that wont be ruined by rain or snow.

Bruce
Good point, easy to forget about the outside shower completely. I have plenty of the Reflectix to use, and the weather won't bother that stuff for one year. Maybe I can make a 'blanket' cover of a double layer of that for that entire area, use bungees to close the bottom half and just cover the whole area where the shower, water hose and black tank flush are. So many things to consider with full time winter living.
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Old 11-20-2020, 01:40 PM   #13
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It mostly gets down to 20 at night, will have a few nights in the teens but not many. Your other questions are already addressed in my original post. Care to share your own past experiences with full time winter RV living and how you dealt with skirting and insulation?
I dont have any personal experience in skirting, but I ran across this one day last year.

https://billboardtarps.com/?gclid=CjwKCAiA7939BRBMEiwA-hX5J2LnD3_4O3QQZBcYau8NUBewoDnfROWsFxdVv1kAGTYoBfy i3Yp0wRoCjIoQAvD_BwE

Might not work in your conditions, but I know people have used it for skirting. I also believe that many who skirt use a small electric space heater under the trailer to maintain temp above 32F.

Good luck!!
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Old 11-20-2020, 02:19 PM   #14
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It looks like we have pretty well covered the ground (pun) on skirting. So I'll change the subject. Have you checked your insurance on the trailer when being used as a living quarters? A few years back (5?) we received a letter from our insurance company informing us that if being lived in it was not covered by the usual policy. That included friends and relatives visiting for holidays and weekends. I inquired as to the cost of the coverage required and if memory serves it was about $500 which I thought was exorbitant. You will be making maximum use of heaters and the furnace so it might be worth looking into. Adding a fire extinguisher to the bedroom might not be a bad idea either. I've often wondered if we had a fire at night what good that extinguisher by the door would do us?

Be safe, be well,

Paul
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Old 11-20-2020, 02:27 PM   #15
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Water only has to be kept above 32 degrees to keep it from freezing. Keeping the wind out is key. Also consider that the earth itself has heat. Some areas have enough underground heat that it's used as a source for heating homes.

Keep it from being exposed to direct cold and wind and it will often provide enough heat to keep water lines from freezing all by itself, except in extremely cold areas where temps run significantly lower than freezing all winter long.

As NMWildcat pointed out many of us are guilty of overthinking. I was always taught to "hope for the best but plan for the worst". Along that line I'd consider bringing a couple jugs of water along for "just in case" and keep them where they can't freeze regardless.
Thanks, I'm starting to realize that keeping things 33 degrees doesn't mean heating it much at all. The one person I know who lives full time in their RV nearby me has zero insulation in their skirt, and just sealing out the wind and air does it for them and all the other fulltime RV folks around here.

My original reasoning behind using the Reflectix as a blanket for the underbelly is becoming clearer as I weigh the other options. One side of the trailer is much higher than the other, the slide out is nearly 4 feet off the ground. That's a lot of hay bales, using rigid foam would be cheaper at that point. But I foresee foam board sailing off in the next go round of 50-70 MPH winds we get regularly.

So I think you and Wildcat are right, I seem to have overthought and second guessed myself. When I bought the two 400 square foot rolls of Reflectix, I did it because I thought the terrain on the site would have made any skirting a huge undertaking (I'm so looking forward to moving to a park with all level sites now), and in some cases just plain stupid, because foam and tarp type skirting will be gone the first 70 MPH gusts arrive again. And maybe plywood too, we have a neighbor who came out one morning to find his entire pole barn just gone. It was an open sided hay storage type structure, huge thick poles holding up a heavy duty steel roof, and he literally had to go looking for the pieces.

And when the foundation for the house my son is building was poured, the last delivery had way more than they needed, so they asked if we'd be OK with them laying it out in the dirt driveway so they wouldn't have to bring it back and then dispose of it (plus made it easier for them to clean out the truck, too). But the stuff hardened way faster than we could rake, so the driveway where my rig is parked is lumpy, uneven, and on a slope to boot. Meaning sealing the air out from under the entire trailer might be impossible without jack hammering or bringing in a whole lot of gravel. All that work and $$$ for one winter season?

And the mice, packrats, wood rats, and voles here are epic; can't tell you how much damage they've done to the things in storage. I am NOT going to build a straw bale invasion scaffolding / attack base around my trailer.

No, I'm now thinking the underbelly blanket idea is the most likely way to successfully protect my rig and make life bearable for the winter. And next year when I move, the Reflectix (it's an all plastic waterproof product and used in commercial buildings a lot) can be re-used as an extra layer after getting a proper plywood and frame skirt, to save even more on heating bills.

So thank you for your feedback, I'm going to go out and start cutting and taping up Reflectix under my trailer. No more second guessing.
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Old 11-20-2020, 03:14 PM   #16
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Incipient firefighting

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Adding a fire extinguisher to the bedroom might not be a bad idea either. I've often wondered if we had a fire at night what good that extinguisher by the door would do us?

Be safe, be well,

Paul
Don't even think about using that extinguisher for anything beyond a grease fire in a skillet on the range (and a pan cover works better there anyway). Just get out--fast as you can. That little canister will give you maybe 15 seconds of operation. Unless you've practiced aiming at the base of the flame with that canister before, it will be exhausted before you've zeroed in on the target.

Look at the expiration date. When it's close to expiring, try it on a campfire.

I was an industrial first responder for about 40 years. Each year I had to comply with an OSHA requirement to extinguish a gasoline or kerosene fire in a 10'x10' tray with a 10 lb. ABC extinguisher. This is surprisingly difficult, especially if there is any breeze at all. These are for incipient fire-fighting only: wastebaskets, pan fires, etc.

Here's something else I have thought about and posted here before: Fire escape. Everyone knows there's an emergency escape in every travel trailer that has only one door: a window that quickly opens completely, often adjacent to a bed. How would you use it? Intuitively, you would crawl across the bed to it and go out head-first, belly-down. It's six feet to the ground. Your head and arms are out. What do you do next?

Rationally, it seems like the right way to go out is feet-first, belly-down. As your waist passes the window, bend at the hips. Pushing with your hands, get your torso out and drop to the ground, or maybe hang on to the window edge, extended arms, and let your feet drop the 1-2 feet to the ground, if not touching.

I really want to do a fire drill. We should do them regularly. DW refuses, but I may do this solo next week, just to see if I can. The Cherokee is permanently sited. No one would complain if I left a concrete block beneath the fire-escape window as a step. I'll see if that's needed.

Sorry for the rant!
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Old 11-20-2020, 03:28 PM   #17
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You may want to revisit your plans just a bit.
You do not want to be "air tight", in fact make sure that you have plenty of ventilation under your rig to keep from getting condensation and causing you other problems.
What you want is to keep the wind from whistling straight through but still allow for the space to breath.
One of the easier options is to build light weight 2x2 frames and mount the reflective backed Styrofoam to the frames. You can drill holes in the frame to put spikes (or cut pieces of #3 re-bar) down through to help keep in place.
Good luck
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Old 11-20-2020, 03:43 PM   #18
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Have you seen this thread?
They have stayed in it with -40F weather.

New fifth wheel owner over winter...
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Old 11-20-2020, 03:47 PM   #19
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Good point, easy to forget about the outside shower completely. I have plenty of the Reflectix to use, and the weather won't bother that stuff for one year. Maybe I can make a 'blanket' cover of a double layer of that for that entire area, use bungees to close the bottom half and just cover the whole area where the shower, water hose and black tank flush are. So many things to consider with full time winter living.

Our fix for the outdoor shower was to added valves to supply lines to shut off after draining lines. You can add antifreeze if you like just to those. Leave head off all we have made it thru weeks of teen weather this way.

Good luck
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Old 11-20-2020, 04:55 PM   #20
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It looks like we have pretty well covered the ground (pun) on skirting. So I'll change the subject. Have you checked your insurance on the trailer when being used as a living quarters? A few years back (5?) we received a letter from our insurance company informing us that if being lived in it was not covered by the usual policy. That included friends and relatives visiting for holidays and weekends. I inquired as to the cost of the coverage required and if memory serves it was about $500 which I thought was exorbitant. You will be making maximum use of heaters and the furnace so it might be worth looking into. Adding a fire extinguisher to the bedroom might not be a bad idea either. I've often wondered if we had a fire at night what good that extinguisher by the door would do us?

Be safe, be well,

Paul
Just bought it new, was very thorough about the insurance. The insurance company knows it's being lived in full time, everything's covered. And yes, it was more than I expected to spend, but well worth it imo. Covers storm and wildfire damage too, which matters a lot as we've been evacuated once for several days, and had a couple of fires where we were packed and ready. I'll think about a bedroom extinguisher though, because getting to the front door can be a chore with toddler toys everywhere.
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