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Need some help getting a livable space


Paul James

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Hi All.. I’ve been reading these forums and I currently find myself between the proverbial rock and hard place, and in desperate need of some sound advice. In a nutshell, I need a place to live.

 

About 5 years ago I moved down to the Jersey Shore area just north of Long Beach Island. I was there when Sandy struck the area, and as I had just retired, I was helping people try to get back in their homes. My own home was water damaged, and between that and the work I was doing, I developed a severe mold/chemical sensitivity. I was forced to move out of my house and spent 6 months trying to find a house I could live in. I thought I'd found one, moved in 2 months ago, but I'm having issues here as well (I’ll spare you the details of a failed inspection and remediation), and am going to have to move out.

 

I can't see moving into a third house now, only to find it's unlivable ,and I don’t really want to, so I'm thinking modular home or motor home. Finding suitable building sites in Northern NJ where I am now isn’t easy, and I’m in need of a quicker solution than modular. The idea of a motor home appeals to me, but.. I keep reading the number one problem with motor homes is water intrusion, and I can’t live in even a low level moldy environment. I read a post yesterday where a guy was saying areas that don’t get air circulation, behind beds, in closets, are prone to mold growth.

 

So finally.. to my question. Is there such an animal as a water/mold free MH, and if so, how do I go about finding it, and what do I look for? I was at an RV show in AC 2 weeks ago, and when I went in some RVs with lots of carpeting, I got allergy symptoms, but in a coaches with hard flooring and not much carpeting (only on the slides) and I was pretty much ok. So I think off-gassing in a brand new RV will be problematic. I don't think I have the money to get what I’d want in new coach, so I was thinking of one maybe 3- 6 years old, and a top brand. Am I best off in a fairly new one with a fiberglass roof? Should I minimize the number of slides to minimize water problems?

 

Pretty sure I want a Class A, I like the idea of seeing the world through that big piece of glass. I’ve read the heavier frames of DPS are less prone to flex and thus cracking of seams, but I’m concerned I may have issues with diesel, I know I don’t with gas. Is a DP a more livable rig for fulltime, and in owning one will I be subject much to diesel fumes? I’d like over 30 ft. as it will be my home, but if I go to 40ish, will I be excluding myself from National and State Parks I’d want to visit? I’d like welded metal construction and a molded fiberglass roof with best seam joinery to shell. Also, my kids are here in New Jersey, so I'd like something that can take the Northeast climates, not sure about that one.

 

My budget is flexible, I could do 50K, or 150K+ when I sell my house; and if I do this I don’t have the luxury of a lot of time. There aren’t any RV dealerships close by to look much, and most recommendations I see say to go with quality brands, National, Tiffin, Newmar, Monaco, but if I go on RVTrader, I’m just overwhelmed, I really don’t know what brands/models to focus on. So I’d appreciate recommendations as specific as possible. I’d really like to do this if I can.

 

Thank you to anyone who read all this, it is much appreciated. Right now, I need all the help I can get.

 

Best.. Paul

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Welcome to the Escapee forums. We are here to help in any way that we may be able.

 

An RV is not so very different than any other type of home in that must stay on top of maintenance to prevent leaks, and quickly repair any leak that should happen. Mold is really no more common in an RV than in a house, and the causes are exactly the same. Where mold becomes an issue is when RVs are used in cold weather and too little attention is paid to proper ventilation and heating of areas where airflow may be restricted. RVs always have less insulation than a stick house and the have far less volume of air, with the very same activities to generate air moisture as you have in a house. Even the largest of RVs has less than 400 sq. ft. of inside space so the volumer of air is just as much less. The key to successful living in an RV is to take the time to learn which ones are of good quality and how to judge one that has been well cared for. I suggest that you start by getting yourself a membership in the RV Consumer Group and take advantage of all of the educational materials that they will supply to you.

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The best rig to avoid mold is a fiberglass egg trailer. I don't know if you can live that small, though. Check out Scamp, Casita, and Escape trailers to see if any of those appeal to you. Oliver is another brand but I'm not sure what their current status is.

 

Linda Sand

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Thanks for the replies...

 

@ Kirk Signed up for RV Consumer Group

 

@ Linda Sand I looked at the fiberglass eggs, I think I'd feel cramped living full time in one. I think Bigfoot makes the biggest one at 26'. Is there a maker of Class A rigs that comes close to that kind of tight construction?

 

@ JimAlberta I have a friend in Prescott, AZ who just told me "Come out here, we have no mold". I was thinking I could winter there and come back east to be near my kids Spring through Fall.

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Water problems are generally with the roof. A fiberglass roof that wraps around is probably the best. Other water problems are from pipes that vibrate loose. One thing that a MH has going for it is plenty of air circulation is available. Since you never considered a MH before you are going to have a steep learning curve. If you go this route you will need to look at it as a big adventure and roll with the punches.

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". I was thinking I could winter there and come back east to be near my kids Spring through Fall.

That is the beauty of RV living. We can easily travel where the weather suits us with the seasons.

 

I don't know of any motorized RV that is of the type design that is used by Burro & Casita travel trailers and the reason that they don't come in larger models is the form of construction used rather limits the size. Also, that type construction is expensive as compared to other RVs on the market. Somewhat similar in construction techniques but made of aluminum and so much larger would be the Airstream line, but those are also very expensive as compared to other RVs of similar size. If you are into remodeling or to buying a remodeled but older RV, the GM motorhomes were built pretty similarly and there are still some around.

 

On the other hand, let me suggest that you may be overly concerned about the mold issue since many of us live for years in RVs of every type of construction and do not have those problems. The mold issue is no greater in an RV than in a stick house, other than the fact that you have so much smaller volume of air for your normal activities. Breathing is probably the biggest contributor of moisture in the RV with cooking and showers next. The key to avoiding high moisture levels inside is ventilation.

 

I'd be more concerned about the issue of out-gassing that you brought up. That can be a major problem in an RV, again due to the small volume of air. I think that you might be wiser to look for one of the higher quality RVs that is a few years old to avoid that early period when so many of the construction materials used in RVs are going through that cycle. While even the highest priced RVs do use glues, the mid to lower priced ones have glues and plastics everywhere. Mold can be avoided with good housekeeping and ventilation, but out-gassing is much harder to deal with.

 

One other thing to consider is the likelihood of mold issues from the environment outside of your door. My wife has reactions to mold if it becomes very concentrated and there are many nature situations where it can be an issue. National forest campgrounds in high rain locations tend to cause her problems if we stay very long. Coastal areas usually do not because even though it may be wet, there is usually constant air movement to keep spores in check. It is something which can be dealt with but it does require some forethought.

 

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Well I'm not exactly a newbie. While I was trying everything to make my former house livable, there where many nights I had to retreat to the garage and sleep in my car as I was unable to stay in the house. So I am used to sleeping in motor vehicles. Maybe that's why now, I want to go bigger than a Casita.

 

The last 18 months have been a trial with lots of frustration and disappointment. The house I'm having to leave now was my light at the end of the tunnel, so I've been forced into learning to roll with the punches. I do realize that I have challenges ahead, but a the risk of being over dramatic, most anything would be better than the way I've been living the past year. Before I lost my home, I was working with folks who'd lost everything they had, that didn't happen to me, I didn't lose everything, but I lost a lot

 

So at this point an adventure sounds pretty good. Of course I know the black tank hose is going to come loose. So ah.. what Class A's might I want to look at?

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@ Kirk You've helped to put the mold issue in prospective for me, so thank you. As to the off-gassing, I completely agree that going into anything new will not be a good situation for me. That's one reason I'm thinking 3-6 years old. Also that would make things more affordable for me.

 

As to an older unit remodel, won't that be more prone to leaks, just because it been down the road so many more miles?

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As to an older unit remodel, won't that be more prone to leaks, just because it been down the road so many more miles?

The answer is, maybe & maybe not. That GM mentioned is made with the same one piece construction as are any of those little fiberglass trailers. It was mostly the cost that killed them in production as the market for such expensively built RVs is very limited. Those aluminum RVs like the Airstream and the Avion are also very long lived and leak free with reasonable care. But the vast majority of RVs can be in very good condition and free of mold or leaks if the owner took proper care of them. In most RV construction today, leaks are more a matter of proper use, maintenance, and repair than it is of age. It is true that as any RV ages it needs more extensive maintenance but there are plenty of any of the better built RVs out there which have no leaks and have not had any major issue with leaks.

 

An RV developing a leak is not a total disaster that destroys it. What is fatal to most RVs is leaks that are not repaired. That occasionally comes from an undiscovered leak, but most are caused by ignored leaks. Just as a stick house must have proper maintenance and repairs to last for many years, that same thing is true of an RV. It is more challenging for an RV because it has to be constructed so that its weight is not prohibitive to moving it about and it must withstand the vibrations of travels over the roads, but the leak issue is really not that different. You have to do proper inspections of potential areas where leaks first develop and you must do preventive maintenance as needed and also repairs when a leak develops, just as with any type of home.

 

The problem that comes with older RVs is not nearly so much of being worn out as it is of the chance of poor maintenance, neglect, or abuse of it increases with age and most buyers are not knowledgeable enough to detect such indications and are unwilling to pay for good professional help. A proper used RV inspection before purchase will take several hours, even by the most talented professional. For that reason the cost of such will usually be between $250 & $500, or even more. It is very difficult to prove that some disaster was avoided by such inspections, but I have not yet heard of anyone who used one of the known inspection services who got bad advice. But keep in mind that if you do this, you might be told not to buy the RV in question and while that means you avoided an mistake, it also means that you need to pay for another RV to be inspected and the price will go up. To me, the cost of inspection is part of the cost of a used RV.

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Let me say a few things from our viewpoint. We almost always by our trailers or MH new. We have no idea how anyone else has treated their vehicle.

 

For medical reason we just moved from a 38' 5th wheel to a 36' MH. We approached this knowing we had a big learning curve(it is the same but different). Since we keep most of our homes for about 10 years we don't have any concerns buying new. Everyone says you take such a hit but I am not sure. We paid $45K for our last 5th, traded it in for $29K and it was 6 years old. We thought that was a fair price.

 

The biggest concern is always floor plan. First and foremost that needs to be considered. We wanted a gasser because we had a diesel MDT and were tired of the maintenance. Wanted something simper for us to maintain. Over a few months we settled on a Winnebago Vista 36Y. It met all our requirements but we still had concerns about fitting in. We cut back on what we carry and in the end had left over space.

 

In purchasing we bought one that had been on the lot for about 6 months. Figure most of the sytems and slides had been heavily tested. There were things in the MH we didn't want. I did not want a washer/dryer nor did I want an RV oven(few people use them as they are hard to light, no standing pilot). The dealer agreed to remove these items and put cabinets in there place. Took about 2 months in all. In the end we got a good trade and 30% off of the MSRP.

 

I will say we are very pleased with the MH. It is a perfect fit for us and our cats(they love the dashboard when in camp). Though I keep less grocery supplies and mutter about some of the cabinets I can say we only had one problem with the MH. We blew the leveler fuse. At that time we went back to the dealer to get it fixed. Dealer was responsive with some pushing on our part but we usually try to avoid going back to the dealer, they are just an aggravation.

 

We are now 2 months on the road and have had no problems other than not putting enough water in the black tank to start out with. Minor problem once figured out.

 

This MH is all tile except for the drivers compartment. It is what we consider an entry level motor home. We did not look at any above a certain price range since we didn't want to be tempted.

 

We of course added stuff to our MH: electric reel, EMS system. vacuum, toad stuff(remember you will need a toad), TPMS(from our 5th/MDT rig). Lots of little things were added to make it a home and up to our standards as we drove down the road.

 

This is our personal experience and desires. I hope it gives you some insight as to the thought process of buying a MH.

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Yes, I take your point on not knowing how an RV has been cared for, even with an inspection, your buying decisions are helpful to me. And 16K for 6 years is little more than $2500 a year, $200 a month, not bad at all. Add to that not knowing how a used RV's been cared for, it does make an argument for buying new.

 

As off-gassing is a concern, and not just from carpet, which I wouldn't want, I think I'd be looking at something at least 3 years old. And I think Kurt's point of viewing the inspection as part of the cost of buying used is the correct way of looking at it, it's some level of insurance against making a very costly mistake.

 

I've read in many places you don't want entry level if you're full time, but you read a lot of things (funny, you didn't look at more expensive units so as not to be tempted). But buying what you considered entry-level didn't scare you off, correct? I'm sure you still spent a lot for your RV, and you bought from a well regarded maker, so it's not like you're buying junk. Is it like buying a Chevy say instead of a Caddy? I know the car analogy is not always a good one in the RV world.

 

@ Kurt I like the idea of the older GMs is appealing to me, I was fixated on Bluebirds for a while, love the style and the quality. But again, the age scares me a little, and for the prices I see I could buy entry-level new. Guess it's a continuing debate.

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We also have 40 years of rving experience behind us. Knew what we wanted and what we were looking for. Knew what our plans for its use was. There are different levels of entry level. I would put the Winnebago Vista at the higher end, same with Newmar. Chevy vs. Caddy is a good compare. Both have entry level models.

 

A MH at entry level has standard items that are different than a trailer. Hence, they cost more. It is not just the engine.

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Yes, really helpful, thanks. 16k over 6 years works out to $2500/yr, or $200 a month, not too shabby, and it's an argument for buying new. Even with minimal carpeting, the off-gassing is a concern, so I'd likely go 3+ year old. And I would take Kurt's advice on paying for the inspection and consider it part of the cost of buying used.

 

Of course you read lots of opinions, but one I frequently read is you don't want entry-level for full time. But buying what you considered entry-level didn't put you off the Vista, correct? I'm sure you still paid good sum for it, and you're buying from a well regarded maker, so it's not exactly like you getting an unreliable piece of junk.

 

@ Kurt I like the idea of the older GMs, was fixated on Bluebirds for a while, love the style, but both worry me some as to age. And the price of a new Bluebird would buy many new rigs.

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Thought my first reply didn't post, so I reposted, then saw it did.

 

So I take it that entry-level is all relative, maybe a highly loaded term with respect to who owns what? I'm sure it's a matter of individual model/manufacturer. And I see your point on the car analogy, Chevy made Vegas and Impalas. Sure I'd be happy with an Impala.

 

Question, how noisy is the cabin in your Vista going down the road, does a gasser get really load pulling up hills?

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We haven't been in any mountains yet. But from what other people say pulling hills with the Ford V10(pretty much standard) isn't a problem. If we end up in the slow lane poking up a hill, we don't care. We are retired and can go at our own pace and stop when we want. No need to make miles. We didn't like the shifting pattern(Ford believes in one size fits all) and bought a 5 Star Tune and changed our shifting pattern. Like the pattern much better. We don't find the noise from the engine at all a problem. Actually surprised how quite it is. If you have a dealer near you take one for a drive.

 

Noise in the cabin is a personal thing. It is not as quiet as a car, it is a truck, it has a long wheelbase. It is quieter than our MDT. In the beginning it rattled a lot(besides the dishes). We learned to pack it better and then found out about lubing the slides. We said how could lubing the slides make it quieter? It does. Don't ask me why. Just am happy.

 

Make sure when you get your rig inspected they do a frame inspection. Just making sure the engine and the components work is not an inspection. Check under the shower, lavatory, around the toilet, in the kitchen and around the perimeter walls for bubbles. Those are all the places water incursion appears.

 

Make sure your tires aren't more than 6 years old, the tread may look good but there may be dry rot and why push your luck. We plan on new tires every 6 years. Also, Chinese tires are a no-no. If your rig has Chinese get better tires immediately. A blown tire can do thousands of $$ of damage,. besides check your heart function. Under-inflation is another no-no causing problems. All the tire mfg. have tire tables. Once you get your rig weighed(best is a 4 corner) you look up your tires, look up your weight and the table tells you what pressure is minimum. We usually add 5-10 lbs. but don't exceed the sidewall pressure.

 

Another option you may want to consider once you get a rig is to go to the Escapee Boot Camp. You won't need to learn everything via the school of hard knocks though the internet now helps the learning curve.

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Question, how noisy is the cabin in your Vista going down the road, does a gasser get really load pulling up hills?

We traveled fulltime in a 36', gas powered motorhome for nearly 12 years and owned it for 14 years. Almost all of the miles we were towing with it, first a Ford Ranger and then two different Honda CR-V's. We crisscrossed the Rocky Mountains on every major an several minor routes, traveled all of the west coast on US101 several times, covered most of the routes through the Appalachian Mountains, most of W. Virginia and pretty much all of the Ozarks. I'm not sure just how to answer but I can tell you that while we didn't race up the hills and mountains, we were never the slowest rig on the highways and we never experiences any problems at all.

 

Power is one of those things that just depends upon who you ask. Our F53, V-10 was an early one, rated for only 275 hp, but the early diesel rigs were also only 275 hp and the owners were happy at first. Slowly over the years the hp rating of diesels has steadily risen to where few are much under 350 hp today and many are more, but the V-10 Ford is also increased today and rates as 362 hp. They are not a diesel but they will at times out climb some of the smaller diesels, particularly if you don't get caught where you are forced to slow below optimum power RPM. Even if you do get held up and must go down slower and can't regain those lost RPM due to a very steep grade, they still get there and only a few minutes behind the guys boasting about their 350, 400, or even 500 hp diesels. If your purpose is to race up mountains, probably you should not travel by RV at all. There are many very happy motorhome owners that are powered by Ford or GM gasoline engines and they continue to sell well and for a lot less money than those big diesel power plants.

 

No question about it, those big diesel pushers are very nice and have their advantages over we humble gas powered folks, but mine sure cost a lot less!

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Watch out for anything in the 2012-1014 time frame that has Schwintek slides. I understand that there were a fair amount of problems. It has never bee clear to me if it was the installation(not being square) or the motors.

We have the Schwintek slides. The issue was mostly the installation. Once we learned how to synchronize them we have had no issues. I wouldn't steer someone away from a rig with that slide, necessarily.

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Thanks Kirk, SW, for the reassuring words on gas engines. Although I'm in no particular hurry and don't need to be the first one up the hill, I also don't want to be struggling up at 20 mph. So glad you don't consider them under-powered, and as SW pointed out, you can make changes to the shift pattern. I was really as concerned about the noise in the cabin, I want to be able to hold a conversation while on an incline.

 

The gasser appeals to me on a number of levels, lower upfront cost of the rig, cheaper to maintain, and at least where I live, gas is cheaper than diesel and easier to find. The proponents of diesel also point to better braking and smoother ride, But I've also read stabilizers can greatly improve the F53 ride, eliminating a lot of swaying and bobbing. I guess I'll need to test some of these things out for myself.

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The breaking issue is more one of theory than of actual tests. The F-53 had hydraulic brakes but they are 4 wheel disc while most,air brake systems still use drums. A diesel has good downgrade control only if it is also equipped with an exhaust brake and not all of them are, while gas engines have good hold-back capability as long as you go down in the proper gear and know how to use your brakes. The disc brakes cool very quickly so if used properly they can be used as much as needed.

 

No question that a diesel with air ride is superior to that of any gas chassis motorhome. In my opinion that is it's greatest difference and I have driven more than one of them. But not all diesel pushers have air ride as some of them at the lower end of the price structure do nou use air ride or air brakes.

 

There are things available on diesels that are not for gas chassis which are very nice to have, but the question is whether or not those nice things are worth the cost that is 30-60% greater than a similar coach that rides on a gas chassis. You mentioned the comparison for RVs and prices to that of cars. So the question is, must you have a Lincoln Town Car, or will a Ford Tarus get you where you are going? The fact is that even one who uses an RV part-time still spends far more of his hours in the RV with it sitting still in a campground than he does actually traveling down the road. My gas powered RV had the very same views, went to the very same campsites, and did exactly the same trips as anyone with a diesel did. It wasn't always the first one to the top of the mountain, yet the view from the top was exactly the same.

 

I have often said that if I had deep enough pockets, I would travel in a diesel pusher, no question about it. Where I differ with those advocates of diesels is in either the amount of money I have available, or in the priority which I put on the possible uses of that money. When we began to shop for a full-time RV home I chose the perfect coach and it was a diesel pusher.(a 1998 Serengeti, by Safari) But then the realities of our budget set in. To buy the coach we had chosen would mean that we either had to retire to the road with a monthly payment on it, or we would have to spend all of the proceeds from the sale of our house to pay for it, leaving no reserve to buy a home again if we should need to do so. We had been convinced that only a diesel would do so we shopped for days at the Dallas RV Show in an effort to find some alternative that we could pay cash for, to no avail. Eventually we settled back to the higher rated gas powered RVs of which there were quite a number at that time, going with the F-53 chassis because it was just out with the V-10 and had the highest GVWR of any gas chassis available.

 

To make a long story short, we went on the road and lived very happily for 11+ years when the situation changed and Pam needed some serious medical attention. Since RVs are not wheelchair & walker friendly we began to look for a place to land and reverted to a part-time RV status once more. Thanks to our choosing to yield to the rule of budget we had a nest egg which allowed us to buy our present home for cash, and did not have to sell the RV. Our gas powered RV cost much less to buy, and was also less costly to maintain, yet it served us just as well as would have that Serengeti that we wanted so badly, and our memories of those years are just as sweet as they would have been had we traveled in that nicer diesel pusher RV.

 

To me it is a matter of budget and even today, if we had been in a position to keep that cash reserve for an exit plan and still buy that diesel pusher, no question that it would have been a much nicer ride in our travels, but it would not have taken us anywhere that what we had was unable to go.

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Kirk.. that was a really great post, and thank you. I've cut and pasted it to my "things to keep in mind" file, to remember to be practical about this purchase. I'm in very similar circumstances, retired with a house to sell, and a fixed amount of money I need to last me. So I need to be smart about what I buy and what it is that I really need. SWarton made the comment that they didn't look at higher priced units (a level they decided they didn't need) so as not to be tempted, a successful method for them to stay practical. Thanks to him as well for sharing his insights gained like you over many years of experience.

 

You were generous to share some of you life circumstance, and to take the time to give me such thoughtful responses to my questions. Thank you so much. On to keep looking for a Class A gasser.

 

All suggestions kindly welcomed.

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Paul I don't any answers but a question about your severe Mold/chemical sensitivity? How does it affect you, is it breathing? If so I would think that you could have a filtered air pac or something like a CPAP machine with full mask but for filtered air rather pressured air. My thinking is the Good Lord should something from forcing you to sleep in the car when the air goes bad. Even sleeping some of the medical tents

Clay

 


. My own home was water damaged, and between that and the work I was doing, I developed a severe mold/chemical sensitivity.

 

Paul

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Hey Clay.. yes, it affects my breathing, and my eyes mainly. I get tightness across my chest and it hurts to breathe, and my eyes get really swollen, a number of times I've woken up and they were swollen shut. The problem is if you remain in the environment that's affecting you, you can become sensitized to a wider range of things. For many people fragrances and scents, cleaning products are the next thing that triggers a reaction. I don't have that, it's mainly mold that bothers me.

 

But sawdust really bothers me now, and I was forced to give up woodworking. Was painful selling all my tools, but I did get quite accomplished at selling on Craigslist. If anyone wants some tips, message me.

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Until this latest unit, we always bought used. Did not pay for inspections; relied on ourselves to check it out. The only problem we ever had was with the new unit & the off-gassing of carpet, furniture, wood stain, etc. that you mention. Maybe we were lucky, or maybe we actually were competent enough to find the issues on our own!

 

Oftentimes even if a used unit has had a leak with resulting mold issues, it might well be less expensive to have that fixed than paying the price for a brand new unit (we have relatives who had mold issues in their bedroom slide, & paid a few thousand for wall/carpet replacement).

 

As mentioned above, getting away from the wet weather is definitely one of the benefits of any kind of RV. Not only is there more chance of leaks/mold inside the coach, but you're surrounded by mold spores floating around outside. Going back to the Midwest (where we're originally from) for any length of time seems to eventually cause us some kinds of issues, either allergy- or skin reaction-wise. There are different allergies in the west, but mold is going to be a pretty minimal concern!

 

Renee

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