Park Models
and
Maintenance

         Our thanks to Snowbirdtrailer.com - a website all about the Arizona Snowbird Park Lifestyle in a Park Model - for sharing some of their content with us.

The average park model is really very inexpensive.  A basic new unit can be purchased for as little as $25,000. But, like buying a car, that can rise quickly. Many used trailers on 'rented' lots are available for anywhere from $5,000 and up. Most are priced in the neighborhood of $15,000 to $25,000 but can range much higher with a lot of extras.

In resident-owned parks the whole cost changes because you are now buying not only the actual trailer but also your share in the park itself.  They are all about the same size - 400 square feet, but that can be misleading.  The trailers all start out at about 400 square feet. But then a storage room gets built and maybe an Arizona Room. There are all kinds of creative modifications done to enhance the living space. The climate allows for some pretty basic enclosures to be added that functionally serve as an addition to living quarters. But still generally retain the legal status as a vehicle. 

The diagram shown here is a very typical park model design. This layout is very common, at least before any modifications or additions. A standard layout consists of a bedroom, bathroom, and open design kitchen/dining/living rooms. The front door is typically patio doors and the rear door opens to the patio or Arizona room. They are well designed and make good use of the space available. The common width is 12 feet so the length is normally just over 30 feet. But there are still some that are narrower.  Some older units are only 8 feet wide and tend to resemble a standard older traveling trailer. Then additions were designed to expand to a 12 foot width. That resulted in what is called 'slide outs' or 'tip outs'.

The basic unit is 8 feet but there are sections expanded by an additional four feet. Some run the length of the trailer and some less.  The trailer shown here is an early '80s model. In the late '80s and early '90s the manufacturers began making most park models a full 12 foot wide.

The most common park model trailer in the parks today are the standard 12 foot width and are designed to appear more like a permanent dwelling with standard pitched and shingled rooflines. Windows and doors are more like a house and interiors also more house-like. A very typical trailer may be 10 to 15 years old and are commonplace in Arizona and other parts of the country.. 

Then there are the 'higher end' units that have been added to and modified.  These tend to be more common in the resident-owned parks (but not exclusively). The owners in these parks have a much higher investment and monies spent adding to the unit represents a far smaller percentage of the unit total cost and possibly less risk.  A variety of modifications and additions have added a lot more space and may even include a carport.   The end result is some pretty elaborate set-ups for what began as a 400 square foot park model.

Nearly all the Park Models have that standard layout (as shown in the diagram above) of the living, dining, kitchen area at the front of the trailer. bathroom, storage, and rear/side door in the middle and bedroom at the back. There are some variations on this but those are pretty rare.
trailer_living_front.jpg (20946 bytes)
Click to Enlarge
Front Living Area

Probably more than half of the trailer space is the front living, dining, kitchen area. The open design adds both spaciousness and versatility. It is a very practical layout.  Most units have ample windows and combined with the front entry patio doors they are very bright and open.
kitchen.jpg (19207 bytes)
Click to Enlarge
Kitchen

The kitchen setup makes good use of space and generally there is ample cupboard space. Most units also have some type of china cupboard and extra storage. The appliances are pretty well what you will have at home with possibly one exception. Propane is fairly common for cooking and heating.
dining_.jpg (23941 bytes)
Click to Enlarge
Dining 

The dining area is usually set up for two or four people. There is often a second china cupboard and possibly additional storage in this area.  The dining area can be quite small but is really all that most need. Most units are only occupied by two people and most of the entertaining is done outdoors in the patio area or Arizona room. 
bathroom.jpg (22600 bytes)
Click to Enlarge
Bathroom

Bathrooms are pretty standard four piece utilizing home quality fixtures. Usually quite small, at least compared to today's large facilities found in many new homes. But they have come a long way from those tiny old travel trailer bathrooms. They are certainly very functional and are getting a bit larger in newer units. They also have pretty reasonable storage space for towels, linens and other items.
bedroom.jpg (19436 bytes)
Click to Enlarge
Bedroom

Bedrooms tend to have quite a bit of closet and other storage space. Usually one wall is dedicated to double closets and drawers. The standard bedroom is probably in the range of 110 to 120 square feet. They are quite adequate. Although a king bed may be a tight fit. 
patio.jpg (18281 bytes)
Click to Enlarge
Outside Living Space

Nearly all the trailers sit on a lot that provides anywhere from about 15 to 25 feet of side yard. Normally that side yard is covered 'patio style' and serves outdoor living and vehicle parking.  Some parks have deeper narrower lots allowing parking in the front while others are wider and allow parking at the side.  The Arizona climate is so conducive to outdoor life that the patio area can become like an added living room. It is possibly the most common area used for entertaining and maybe even regular dining.
storage_shed.jpg (14614 bytes)
Click to Enlarge
Storage Shed

When you consider the limitations on park model size, the storage shed becomes far more valuable than your old shed in the back yard at home.  A storage shed is common fare and they are usually about 8X10 feet or larger. They are extremely valuable, especially when you consider you have no basement and the trailer size is limited. In fact, most people don't know what you would do without one.  The storage shed is rarely just a place for storage. They are used creatively like a work room, TV, computer room or bar.
az_room.jpg (20151 bytes)
Click to Enlarge
Arizona Room

Many people add a room at the side of the trailer to provide some extra living space. These rooms are known as 'Arizona Rooms'. They are constructed in varying sizes over part or even all of the side or patio area. In Florida they are known as a 'Florida Rooms.'  There are many different designs and layouts, some quite basic and others much more elaborate. They serve a variety of purposes including space for guests with some even adding extra bathroom facilities. But probably the most common is for the Arizona room to serve as a type of 'family room' similar to the one in your house back home.
Park Model Maintenance
Trailer Condition

The condition of the park models will vary widely. Older units can have some real serious problems. The best way to evaluate any park model is with a thorough inspection.  Does the exterior and interior appear well maintained?  Does it look like it has been upgraded - fixtures, paint, flooring? Older trailers came with metal roofs and a common site is an old roof with patches over patches. Newer trailers have traditional shingled roofs and are really not much different than your normal house roof.

Contrary to popular belief, park model trailers can increase in value over time, similar to a conventional house provided it has been well maintained, professionally improved following current code guidelines and updated in areas such as plumbing, electrical and quality interior finishes.  Unlike a standard RV that depreciates similar to an automobile, park model trailers can appreciate since the cost to replace them in current dollars increases.

Park model floors can become weakened from water or termite damage. What seems like a simple floor squeak can be a sign of bigger problems. It is a good idea to have a look under the trailer to see the condition of the floor. Electrical wiring can be somewhat less than up to normal household standards. Again, this can be more of an issue in older trailers where homeowner modifications may have been made over the years.

Plumbing in trailers is often done using plastic water lines and over time some of this older plastic becomes hardened and can easily break, especially at or near joints. Plumbing is usually not that hard to access and lines can be repaired and even (quite easily) updated.  Another common issue in the Arizona area is termites. They can really wreak havoc with a park model. They are common and if the owner hasn't done proper prevention they can infest the park model.  If you are not familiar with what to look for it may be a good investment to have an inspection by a pest control company.

Heating equipment is similar to a regular house with the possible exception of the common use of propane. Especially in the older units. Many are equipped with propane for both heating and cooking.  Cooling is by central or window air conditioners, heat pumps, or the 'swamp cooler'. Swamp coolers are most common in older units and are quite a reliable and inexpensive method of cooling.

Maintenance-Repair-Renovation

This section is to assist the park model owner with all those questions related to ownership. We have searched for sources of good information related to Park Model and added some advice and tips from the 'more experienced'.  Many readers will already have considerable knowledge and experience with their models but, information on the assumption that you are a new owner and wondering what to do next is always beneficial. 

To those who already have a lot of experience with their Park Model we would love to hear from you with any advice and tips you feel would help others less experienced.  Just email your tips & tricks to  webmaster@kofako-op.com  Otherwise, when in doubt, good neighbors, the local hardware store, and some experimentation can help solve many problems.

Good information on park models is sparse to some sense. There are plenty of sources for the traveling RVs and the standard house trailers but little specifically related to park models. There are some sites that provide good advice that applies to all trailers and some that dealt with specific infrastructure that applies to any home structure. Experienced owners of park models are only too willing to share their knowledge and experience.

Click on the subject that you seek advice on:

 

The following sites provide good information on the wide range of trailer maintenance, repair, and renovation: 



 


Air Conditioning

Since the invention of the 'Heat Pump' a device that air conditions in the summer and heats in the winter, most air conditioning is no supplied using this type of system.  Heat pumps work well in environments from 40F and higher which suits southern Arizona.  Below 40F, there is insufficient heat or BTU's in the air to provide ample heat efficiently.  Therefore supplementary heating is required.  Please see 'Heating'.  From an air conditioning perspective, the size of the unit is based on a number of factors, room size and windows being the most prominent.  For the average park model a 2 1/2 ton heat pump is sufficient for air conditioning.  These are commonly found units and are very competitively priced.  If your park model includes an Arizona Room and/or you want real bone chilling cool air, perhaps increasing to a 3 to 3 1/2 ton unit would be best.  It will cost more, but you will be better satisfied with the results.

Like everything, regular maintenance is critical for the best return on investment.  The average heat pump has a 15 year life.  Anything older than that and it is living on borrowed time.  If you use your park model year round, have it inspected every year by a professional.  If you use your trailer only half the year, its safe to have it inspected every other year.  Just be sure to cover the unit over the summer. 

Appliances

 

Bathrooms

 

Doors/Windows

Are you wondering how to repair a park model trailer window? Any leaking window can be a nightmare. To avoid weather issues inside your park model trailer you will need to invest very little money, just a little time and elbow grease will repair any leakage problems.  Here's what you need:

  • indoor/outdoor caulk remover
  • utility knife
  • bath cleaner without ammonia
  • caulk (the type that remains elastic)
  • water
  • rags
  • screw driver
Remove caulk. Use a good indoor/outdoor caulk remover to soften the existing caulk around the park model trailer window. Allow the product to work for two to seven hours. Use a utility knife to slice the caulk out from the base of the park model trailer window.

Apply cleaner. Use a cleaner to remove the residue left behind from the caulk. Apply liberally around the park model trailer window, allowing time for the cleaner to work. Rinse with water (use a rag if needed to scrub remaining debris) and dry the area thoroughly.

Tighten screws. Use a screw driver to make sure all screws in and around the park model trailer window area are tight. Replace any screws that appear stripped.

Apply caulk. Squeeze and caulk products are great because they do not require a caulk gun. A good layer of indoor/outdoor caulk applied around the park model trailer window will seal the gap around the window from the elements.

Clean drips, etc. Use the bathroom cleaner and a rag to clean caulk that has dripped or been incorrectly applied while it is still pliable. Make sure to remove all residue.

Removing Hard Water Stains


Hard water stains can appear on glass surfaces after tap water containing dissolved calcium and magnesium minerals has evaporated. Calcium and magnesium minerals can't always be sprayed away with your average household cleaner. You can try to use a stove-top cleaner, but most types have a potent smell and can be expensive. One effective home remedy for hard water stains on glass is a mixture of vinegar and baking soda.  What also works is vinegar and newspaper.

 


Electrical

First, electrical work requires adherence to local building codes and an inspection.  You run a serious risk of doing any electrical work without a permit.  Therefore, a licensed electrical contractor is generally required.  Contact you local municipal office for a list of licensed professionals.  It will cost you, but isn't your safety more important?

Heating

 

Kitchen

Painting

The interior walls of most park models and RVs are covered in a vinyl wallboard.  Seams are often covered in a matching tape or small trim strips. Painting or re-covering the walls is not a that big project provided you use the right procedures and more important, the right materials for professional results.

Plumbing

 

Roofing

 

There are many roofing applications applied to park model/RV roofs including metal, foam, rubber and asphalt shingles to name just a few.  A local roofing contractor is also a good investment over a do-it-yourself project.  Check with your local municipal services for licensed roofing contractors.

 

Skirting

Skirting is the application of a covering from the ground to the bottom of the park model trailer to enclose the vacant area found there.  There are many application types from brick foundations to faux coverings in imitation stone.  In most cases, on a new park model purchase, skirting is offered as an option.  Most RV parks insist through their bylaws, that skirting be provided on all installations. One company that deals in park model skirting can be found here. Another company provides their information here.


Summer-izing Park Models

There are some things to keep in mind when preparing your park model to sit in the summer heat of Arizona.  It is important to know some basics.

Add Moisture to the Air

Your trailer will not have much ventilation and it could become pretty hot in there. The climate is extremely dry so you need to consider adding some moisture to the air by providing some evaporation. One method is to place containers of water throughout the trailer that can evaporate over the
summer. Using small mouth jugs, like quart and gallon size milk and juice containers, allows for slower evaporation to assure they last the season.

Close Traps

Those traps below your sinks, bathtub, and in the toilet are there for a reason. (If you have ever removed one you will know what we mean)  During the summer the water in the traps is sure to evaporate and remove their plug value. They need to be closed off to prevent that from happening. Toilets can be sealed off with plastic wrap so as not to allow evaporation from the bowl and even the tank. Some people use mineral/baby oil or similar to stop the evaporation. Oil does not mix with water and remains on top creating a seal. Only a thin layer of oil is needed. 

Seal Drains

It is important to seal off all drain openings. Make sure to include all sinks and the bathtub or shower. A variety of methods are used for this, some 
quite creative. One method is to cover the drain openings with plastic bags filled with water. The bags then take the form of the surface where the drain opening is. Make sure to use sturdy bags and that they are 100% sealed. Use tape to seal the overflows. To be safe you may want to use a better quality moisture-proof tape than the painters tape used here. 

Cover Windows & Doors

Wherever possible, windows should be covered to prevent sun damage and reduce internal heat. Many trailer owners have cut aluminum insulation
sheets to fit each window and place them inside the curtains or blinds, or between the window and screen.  A variety of window coverings are seen in the parks come summer. Some simply use cardboard, some appear to be thin plywood. Some trailers with awnings will lower and secure them. But probably the most common are those aluminum sheets cut to fit each each window and the patio door. They are quite durable and can be used year after
year. 

Shut Off Water & Power Supply

Power and water supply lines should be shut off. Shut off power at both your internal breaker and the outside main breaker. Shut furnace thermostat and water heater off.  Some people advise leaving water in the lines to help protect the plastic lines from drying out and plugging. And when you return it is suggested that you open some taps before turning the water back on.  You should also take this opportunity to drain your hot water tank.  Over time, sediment builds up at the bottom of the tank.  A once a year flush is recommended and doing it right after you turn the water on is best.

More Inside 

Clean the fridge and freezer and use baking soda or coffee in dishes to help absorb odors. Some people also like to block open the doors to keep air circulating. Clean the grill and oven. Use drain cleaner in kitchen and bath drains and flush with hot water.  Remove batteries from smoke alarms, clocks, and remotes.

More Outside

Weeds should be sprayed around the trailer. They can grow quite well over the summer and most parks will charge you for dealing with them. Termites are another issue in Arizona. Those of us not familiar with these little pests are certainly in for a lesson in determination and (unfortunately) some destruction. It may be a good idea to call in an exterminator to have your unit checked and sprayed. You can buy termite sprays and do some work yourself but be sure to read the instructions for dealing with these critters. We are told that you can kill termites that are there but to prevent them at all you need to dig trenches or holes in the ground and then soak the ground under the surface. That's where they will come from. And don't store anything under that trailer unless it is sealed in plastic. That good 2x4 you are saving will be a real attraction. 

Arizona does get some good winds in the summer monsoon season. Your trailer can be vulnerable so you need to take a walk around to examine anything that could be caught by a strong wind. Awnings should be secured down and various trim and other items checked for their security. Also check yard ornaments and outside furniture.  You should do the walk around to see what can best be stored inside the shed or trailer. The less loose things around the better not only from severe weather but to minimize loss should there be a break-in.

Ants are another concern. As with other issues, things can happen over time when no one is around for maybe seven months. Get some ants appearing in your home and you usually catch things before they get out of hand. But when no one is around to catch things they can/will get out of hand.


Spiders are also a problem over the summer in park models. One suggestion is to scatter fabric softener sheets (like Bounce) throughout the park model before you leave. Put them behind the sofas and chairs, on the shelves, in the drawers and on the floor. 
Thanks Lois Baum


Swamp Coolers

Swamp coolers use water evaporation to provide cooling that is then blown throughout the trailer. The best explanation to describe the concept is to imagine putting on a wet t-shirt on a hot day and then blowing yourself with a fan. The rapid evaporation of the moisture provides considerable cooling effects.  Swamp coolers became quite out of fashion and almost suggest 'old'.  But there may now be some resurgence.  They can be more economical to operate than air conditioners and will save on energy. They require some regular maintenance but are quite an affordable means to provide some relief from the heat in earlier fall and later spring.  If you care about utility bills and about the environment then don't discount the swamp cooler. They are effective only in hot dry weather, which Arizona has and is certainly a reasonable cooling alternative for the desert areas.

The following websites provide good information the value and use of a swamp cooler.


Walls

 

 

 


Copyright SKP KOFA Ko-op Retreat Inc.  All Rights Reserved Site Map Website:  webmaster@kofako-op.com