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Old 08-04-2019, 11:26 AM   #1
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Water damage to panels used in Sportsmobile interior

We picked up our Sprinter Sportsmobie build from Sportsmobile North back in December and have been having a grand time exploring the US with it. Already have 22,000 miles on it.

The build by Sportsmobile North was great and I only had a few small issues that were quickly remedied. The one issue I've recently experienced is swelling of the wood panels under my dinette seat due to water contact.

We've been careful not to spill liquids or let rain fall on any of the interior panels, but during a trip a buddy left a pack of drinks on the floor in the aisle between the dinette seats and the cold drinks must have sweated in the humid air. The resulting water appears to have found a gap in the glued seam where the wood panel meets the loncoin floor. This has resulted in the panel swelling like cheap MDF.



Sportsmobile North is going to replace the impacted panels for me, but I am wondering why Sportsmobile uses panel materials that can be ruined by such incidental water contact? Also, I'm trying to find the best way to protect all similar seams to keep them from being impacted by water contact. Close examination shows that Sportsmobile used some sort of flexible glue where the panels meet the loncoin flooring, but there apparently was a gap in the glue protection somewhere that allowed water to reach the cut edge of the panel.

I'm now concerned about not only the seams where the panels meet the loncoin floor, but also places like the dinette table top. That's made from the same panel material with the plastic trim installed around its edge. A drink spilled on this table top seems like it would easily find its way behind the plastic edge trim and wet the cut edge of the panel resulting in damage by the swelling of the panel. I'm seriously thinking of removing this plastic edge trim so I can waterproof the cut edge of the table panel before reinstalling the trim.

I'm currently testing a thin PVA glue which seems to do a great job of wicking into the seam and guarding against water intrusion. This particular glue remains flexible when it dries so that should help prevent cracks from forming in the protection due to vibrations/flexing due to road travel. I may be able to use this to waterproof the seams where panel disassembly to waterproof the cut panel edge would be complicated.

Has this been an issue for anyone else and/or what have you done to keep it from happening?
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Old 08-04-2019, 11:41 AM   #2
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"This has resulted in the panel swelling like cheap MDF."

This is not swelling like cheap MDF, it is in fact cheap MDF swelling! Welcome to the never changing Sportsmobile. This has been an issue for most SMB owners, especially inside rear or side doors where just one spill, rainstorm or even high humidity and you've got swelling on the bottoms of the panels, floors of cabinets, etc.

I don't mean to come across sounding like a jerk but if you didn't want an interior entirely built out of MDF you shouldn't have bought an SMB. They have been using it since they got started and it is indeed crap. I have replaced a couple of entire SMB interiors with birch piece by piece.

I'm glad they are replacing it for you. I wonder if they'd be willing to replace the cheap, swelling MDF in every other SMB ever made?

Good luck, it's really sad to see this on an expensive new SMB.
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Old 08-04-2019, 01:45 PM   #3
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"This has resulted in the panel swelling like cheap MDF."

This is not swelling like cheap MDF, it is in fact cheap MDF swelling! Welcome to the never changing Sportsmobile. This has been an issue for most SMB owners, especially inside rear or side doors where just one spill, rainstorm or even high humidity and you've got swelling on the bottoms of the panels, floors of cabinets, etc.

I don't mean to come across sounding like a jerk but if you didn't want an interior entirely built out of MDF you shouldn't have bought an SMB. They have been using it since they got started and it is indeed crap. I have replaced a couple of entire SMB interiors with birch piece by piece.

I'm glad they are replacing it for you. I wonder if they'd be willing to replace the cheap, swelling MDF in every other SMB ever made?

Good luck, it's really sad to see this on an expensive new SMB.
Thanks.

I frequented the forum for a while before placing my van order and can't recall seeing any complaints about the interior panels swelling. Granted, I wasn't specifiacally searching for such a complaint either. I do recall seeing one older thread which talked of Sportsmobile panels being built from ArmorCore and there was at least one post I recall where apparently Sportsmobile was demonstrating the water resistance of ArmorCore by submerging a piece of it in water.

It does seem odd to use a material that is so susceptible to water damage in an outdoor recreation vehicle that's going to at least be exposed to incidental contact to water. I could understand not being able to pour buckets of water on the floor against the cabinets as even regular wood can warp with prolonged exposure to water. Certainly a good marine grade plywood can't be that much more expensive to use when considering the full cost of an outfitted van.

It does make me wonder what other custom van outfitters, or even regular RV builders like Winnebago, are using for cabinet material.
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Old 08-13-2019, 08:47 PM   #4
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I found the video where a Sportsmobile West employee is touting the water resistance of the ArmorCore panels that are their primary material used in the building of cabinets inside Sportsmobiles.

We are heading out to Sportsmobile North this week to have our water damaged panels replaced and while we are there I hope to get a better understanding of the disparity between this touted water resistance and our personal experience.

https://youtu.be/4dJXPzadNXU?t=387
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Old 08-14-2019, 03:21 PM   #5
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Can you post a picture of the exposed edge of the material when you pull off the Tee molding? ...Just curious if it's plain old MDF or particleboard. The PVA glue or perhaps a sanding sealer sound like reasonable ideas.


There have been lots of discussion here about SMB MDF and brackets holding everything together; there are other builders/outfitters who are using baltic birch or other higher quality materials and more robust construction techniques for cabinet construction and fastening things to the van.
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Old 08-14-2019, 09:28 PM   #6
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Can you post a picture of the exposed edge of the material when you pull off the Tee molding? ...
I'm curious too. I have seen very few newer SMB's but all the older ones (mid 2000's back) were full of MDF.
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Old 08-15-2019, 06:01 PM   #7
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Can you post a picture of the exposed edge of the material when you pull off the Tee molding? ...Just curious if it's plain old MDF or particleboard. The PVA glue or perhaps a sanding sealer sound like reasonable ideas.
Yes, I can do that once I either get my ArmorCore samples from Sportsmobile or I remove the T molding from my table top in order to seal its edge. I did temporarily remove a bit of T molding from a cabinet edge once to reseat it and the exposed edge looked exactly like what you see in the video I linked.
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Old 08-15-2019, 06:39 PM   #8
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Damn. My opinion of Sportsmobile is taking a nose dive.

So my wife and I drive out to Huntingon, IN to have the water damaged panels I mentioned in this thread replaced. The cut edges were not sealed and they therefore were able to absorb water and swell. They offered to make the repairs under warranty so it's just the inconvenience and expense of a drive from Massachusetts to Indiana, but I understand that things happen. Nothing is going to be built perfectly.

While camped in the Walmart parking lot in Huntington, IN tonight, in preparation for our visit to Sportsmobile North in the morning, I hear what sounds like a drip on plastic. Odd. So I start looking around and then discover a small bit of water on top of a small tote we store under the sink cabinet. I pull the tote and some storage bags out from the bottom of this cabinet and get down there with a flashlight. This is what I see:



I'm censoring myself here because if I typed just a small part of the curses I uttered upon seeing this, I'd be banned from the forum.

I soon discovered that the water connections under the sink were not as tight as they should be. In fact, the hot water connection was so loose that I had to turn it almost ten times before it started feeling snug. I found water drips down the hot water line; I found the source of the leak.

The hand connection has three "spurs" along the perimeter for grip and the hot conection is right up against the cabinet wall so I don't see how it could have vibrated loose from rough roads. I suspect it just was never tightened properly.



I'm unsure what Sportsmobile is going to say about this. The water leak, even with the loose connection, is apparently slow; just a periodic drip when the system is pressurized. We've had the van since December, but because we live in the North East, we've only really started using the water system itself in April. Still apparently that's enough time for periodic drips when the system is pressurized to cause all that damage.

I don't even know how they are going to get access to this panel to replace it as it is adjacent to the dinette bench. I have a feeling this is going to be a huge hassle. Have to wait and see what they say tomorrow when I show them.
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Old 08-15-2019, 07:02 PM   #9
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Crap, that sucks. Wish you the best with SMB-N.
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Old 08-15-2019, 08:04 PM   #10
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Crap, that sucks. Wish you the best with SMB-N.
Thanks. They've been good to me so far.
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