Question: If I purchase a 5th wheel RV and not use it for travel, but rather use it as a stationary home, would I need to change the holding tanks to a more conventional disposal system like a regular home? Also would I need to enclose the sides of the RV like the skirting around a mobile home?
Answer: It is really your choice as to what you do. One thing to consider is if you think you might resell the fifth wheel at some point. If so, keep that in mind when deciding to make modifications.
If you definitely plan to make this a permanent home and you have not yet bought the 5th wheel then you might want to consider a park model or single wide trailer instead. (Or even sell the fifth wheel and use the funds to buy a park model/single wide).
These units will not need any modifications to the sewer system and might be just as cost effective once you factor in the cost of making modifications. A park model or single wide may also provide move livability – bigger space, appliances, water heater and so on.
If you already have the 5th wheel or are getting one at a great price, here are a few comments about making modifications:
One reason to bypass the holding tanks is the convenience of not having to dump and flush tanks. We were stationary for over 2 years in the northeast through winters and summers with regular holding tanks and we didn’t feel the weekly trip outside to dump and flush was a big deal. So you could keep the holding tanks and perhaps run a a 3” PVC pipe to the sewer connections instead of a sewer hose.
Remember that if you do retain the holding tank system, keep the valves closed until you dump and flush. Not keeping them closed will lead to waste solids accumulating in the holding tank.
If you do want to bypass the black water holding tank, you will need to change the RV commode to a residential unit and most probably remove the holding tank. This is because the commodes that come with RVs do not flush the same way a residential commode flushes. If you try to use the RV style commode, you will have to live with the smell of sewer gasses coming out of the commode every time you flush. Marine-type RV commodes do not have a p-trap or a siphon pipe that blocks sewer gasses, nor do they actually flush the waste. When you open the flap valve of an RV commode, the waste evacuates from the bowl by gravity, not the siphoning action present in residential commodes.
You can certainly bypass the holding tanks — we just don’t have any expertise or experience in this area to offer any help. If you don’t feel qualified to take on the work, get help from someone who does. Also, here is a Do-It-Yourself site that may help with aspects of the work. We also invite comments and tips from others who have experience with this type of project.
What you do may also be influenced by the climate. If you plan to situate the fifth wheel in a location subject to cold weather, then you will want to set it up to handle the dips in temperature and possible freezing. You may want to get a larger propane tank for heating purposes. Perhaps some of the content on these pages will be helpful:
Winterizing for Fulltimers
As far as the skirting goes, this might also be a good idea in cold weather. It could also be a deterrent to pests, or conversely, they might find the enclosed area to be their perfect home. Consider your environment and what objective you are trying to achieve with the skirting.
Another consideration is whether you will be in a location that allows you to do whatever you want. There may be local building code, campground or other regulations that are relevant to your situation.
Suggestions and comments welcome.