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How to Site a Static Caravan

Caravan is an informal British term describing what are known in the United States as travel trailers or recreational vehicles (RVs). "Static caravan" in the United Kingdom specifically defines factory-made units similar to small American mobile homes. In the United States, a travel trailer is considered static when sited at one location for an extended period. Permanently siting a caravan on cinder block piers creates a stable platform resistant to rocking, and allows absolute level be maintained. This is desirable both for human comfort and because, in older units, refrigerators will sometimes fail if operated off-level. It is also beneficial to tire and suspension life.


Preparation

Properly leveling a static caravan increases both safety and enjoyment.
  1. Contact the local Building or Zoning department. Relevant local and municipal zoning regulations or building codes may govern residence in any structure intended to be temporary, proximity to streets or property lines, or the permanent fixing of utility lines such as power cords and water hoses. Real estate tax may accrue if the caravan wheels are removed. Wind zone regulations may govern additions such as screened Florida Rooms, because lean-to roofs increase "wind capture."
  2. Good sized caravan for permanent siting.
  3. Create a flat, level pad where the caravan is to be sited. Use a rented sod cutter to remove any vegetation. Saturate the area with nonleaching weed killer.
  4. Rake out a firm base, and ensure good drainage, by using sufficient gravel to cover the area to a depth of at least 2 inches.
  5. Use stabilizing jacks and a carpenter's level to attach oversize bubble levels to both faces of one exterior corner at the caravan's rear.
  6. Maneuver the caravan to its intended permanent location, and chock its wheels. Extend the tongue jack. Remove the tow vehicle from the site.
  7. Calculate the number of cinder blocks required to build each pier. An average ground-to-frame height of 24 inches will require six 10-inch blocks to lift the wheels off the ground, assembled in a three-high interlocking pattern. Arrange sufficient blocks close to the four locations where the piers are to be built.
  8. Distribute wooden shims to the four locations where the piers are to be built.
  9. Locate four 24-inch pavers on the gravel, midway between the axle and each corner. To prevent later cracking, each paver location must be particularly flat, smooth and level.
  10. Retract the tongue jack until the caravan rear tilts upward sufficiently far from the ground to allow installation of both rear piers.
  11. Construct both rear piers upon the two rear pavers. Align two cinder blocks in one direction, the next course in the other, in a uniform interlocked arrangement. When no more will fit underneath, insert shims until the space between the top block and chassis is filled.
  12. Lift the front of the caravan using a bottle jack under each forward corner. To prevent the jacks from sinking, position broad jacking pads beneath the jacks before putting them under load. It may be necessary to build temporary piers beneath the bottle jacks to accomplish this safely. To minimize any risk of racking, alternately raise each jack only 2 inches at a time.
  13. Continue jacking past when the back end of the caravan sets onto the rear piers, until the chassis is approximately level. To ensure a solid siting, all its weight must be taken off the wheels so that springs relax and tires do not contact the ground
  14. Install the two front piers, constructed exactly as were the rear piers. Lower the bottle jacks until the caravan is settled on all four piers. The tires must remain off the ground.
  15. Fine-tune the level using a bottle jack under one corner at a time, again raising each jacking point only 2 inches per lift to avoid twisting the chassis. Go first side-to-side and then fore-to-aft. Use the bubble levels to avoid repeatedly entering and exiting the caravan. Slide in wooden shims sufficient to achieve exact levelness, then depressurize and remove the jack. Shims must be long and wide enough to cloak the entire upper face of each pier. Cinder blocks should not contact the caravan frame, so insert at least one shim everywhere weight is transferred to each support pier. Use sound hardwood with no cracks or knots.

Things You Will Need

  • Weed killer
  • Gravel
  • Carpenter's level
  • Bubble levels
  • Cinder blocks
  • Wooden shims
  • 2 Bottle jacks, with broad jacking pads
  • 4 pavers, 24-inch
  • Safety blocks

Tips

  • Freeze / thaw cycles and heavy rains may necessitate occasional releveling. Use the least number of piers that will safely supporting the caravan, to minimize the releveling required. For the size of static caravan specified, four piers is sufficient.
  • Position the cinder blocks with solid walls vertical. If they are open side-to-side, they will be weak.
  • Once caravan is sited, partially depressurizing tires will extend their life.
  • If the location is subject to intense ultraviolet or ozone damage, cover wheels with UV shields.
  • If leaving caravan for long period, winterize onboard water systems.
  • If location is subject to severe weather, fit hurricane straps to ground anchors.

Warnings

  • Safety first! Always have another person on-site when lifting heavy and unwieldy objects. Position safety blocks under caravan during entire siting process.
  • Hand-turned, electric and hydraulic automatic levelers slung beneath the caravan are called stabilizing jacks. They and the tongue jack are intended to distribute grounded weight. Do not use them to lift the axle off the ground.
  • Ensure both bottle jacks are rated to exceed the total weight of the caravan. Scissor jacks will be inadequate.
  • Caravan frames will flex if load is hung distant from the axle, which is the only point intended to be weight-bearing. Racking, or frame-twisting, can occur when supporting the corners. Racking may result in doors and windows, cabinets and even slideouts failing to operate correctly.

About the Author

John Cagney Nash began composing press releases and event reviews for British nightclubs in 1982. His material was first published in the "Eastern Daily Press." Nash's work focuses on American life, travel and the music industry. In 1998 he earned an OxBridge doctorate in philosophy and immediately emigrated to America.

Photo Credits

  • coach, trailer image by Greg Pickens from Fotolia.com
  • expédition image by Gilles Paire from Fotolia.com