By Russ and Tiña De Maris
In a recent RV Daily Tips Newsletter we asked readers, “How important is it to you that an RV park campsite have a concrete pad?” Most of you – 70 percent – thought a concrete pad was nice, but certainly not important. From the comments left, most were concerned that regardless of the pad type, a level place to park the RV was a critical issue.
But what about when you get home? Do you have a designated spot to park your RV? Are you considering putting one in? Here are some thoughts and suggestions on the different types of materials and design considerations for the at-home RV parking pad.
Keep off the grass! It may be the easiest and the least expensive route, but parking your rig on grass has a few drawbacks. In addition to killing off the grass, the moisture-carrying aspects of parking au-naturel could damage your tires. Think in terms of dry-rotting your expensive investment in rubber. Additionally, grass may be a greater attractant to pest infiltration. If you need to temporarily park on the lawn, tuck a vapor barrier between the sod and your tires – more on that below.
Growl at gravel? Don’t shake the idea off immediately. Gravel and crushed rock allow water to dissipate and hence are a lot more tire-friendly. Just how thick to make a gravel pad is the issue. Much depends on the soil conditions where you live. In some types of soil, putting down gravel is just great and it’ll last for years, wherein other areas it may vanish, swallowed up by mother earth in a short time.
Graveling over the top of larger stone can sometimes offset that problem. One RVer who did his own gravel parking pad dug down six inches. The bottom four inches received “L” sized stone, and after compacting, was topped off with regular sized gravel. Look around your area and talk to others who have gravel driveways and see what they’ve experienced.
Paving with pavers? These are an attractive option, after all, it’s a do-it-yourselfer project many could undertake, and they look pretty attractive. Trouble is, they may not be tough enough to take the weight of some RVs. Cracked or broken pavers can lose their appeal quickly.
Here’s a concrete alternative to pavers: Interlocking concrete pavers. Invented by those clever Dutch folks, they’re stronger than the aforementioned regular pavers, are relatively easy to work with, and are permeable, allowing water to head back down into the soil. They’re strong enough to take the weight of your RV.
Is asphalt asinine? To some, absolutely. It looks good, sure enough, but the trouble is the oil that’s in asphalt can damage tires. And if you’re in an area that tends to get heated up in summertime, putting down your automatic levelers on an asphalt surface may leave an impression that’ll be hard to erase – or forget. Temporarily parking on asphalt? Use a tire vapor barrier.
Finally, a poured concrete slab: Like gravel or interlocking concrete pads, there are no petroleum products involved that can damage your tires. However, water doesn’t flow through, so the pad should be designed with a slight crown at the center to urge water to roll off the pad, rather than pool.
How thick? Reinforcement materials like rebar? Those are questions we can’t get into. Best to ask for a professional’s advice on the design, or hire the job out.
And about those vapor barriers: Keeping your tires out of direct contact with the ground and certainly with asphalt when parking for a while is a good idea. Some outfits will be happy to sell you RV-specialty vapor barriers – for a price. But one of the most interesting and cost-effective ways to put the barrier in place is to invest in a simple plastic cutting board, even a cutting mat. Just make sure that the entire area of the tire that comes in contact with the parking surface sits on the vapor barrier. Here’s a set of cutting mats from Amazon.com.