If try to fix RV delamination on your camper, the water damage repair costs might not be worth the money. I know, because our old fifth wheel had delaminated walls that seemed to appear out of nowhere. Here’s why the problem started, and how we handled the damage.
Why Does RV Wall Delamination Happen?
If your RV has fiberglass walls, delamination can happen during one of the following scenarios:
A flying object hits your exterior fiberglass wall.
The impact probably won’t dent the fiberglass itself. After all, this material is used because it’s light, flexible, and gives way to pressure without breaking. But the impact of a flying rock or other debris can dent the inner layers of styrofoam insulation or wood material sandwiched between exterior and interior RV walls.
Underneath the dented fiberglass RV wall insulation a convex air pocket can form as a result of the object impact. The air bubble void causes separation of the glue holding the substrates together. When the bubble cracks, moisture moves in to further damage the walls.
Water damage at RV wall, window, and roof seams can also cause delamination.
Let’s say you were lazy about resealing seams on your RV roof, windows, and walls. Seams without good lap sealant are an easy way for water to seep into RV walls. Water damage turns smooth fiberglass RV walls into a blistered, bulging, wavy mess. Even worse, it kicks off wood rot that makes it harder and more expensive to fix RV delamination.
How to Know If You Have RV Delamination
Take a walk around your rig. Do you see any wavy spots or cracks on the fiberglass walls? Apply gentle pressure with your hand or plastic object. If the area sounds hollow and feels spongy, RV delamination might be the cause.
Another way to tell if you have RV delamination is to observe how your RV walls look in dry weather and wet weather. If the area in question seems to grow and contract between weather patterns, you probably have RV delamination.
We have owned two fiberglass wall RVs. Sidewall delamination happened to both.
The first time we had this problem, it was seven years after buying the brand new RV. Water intruded into the front cap of the fifth wheel. We didn’t know about RV maintenance back then, and didn’t regularly seal seams. Not once did we question the growing wave pattern, and within a year it looked awful.
The good news is that we managed to trade in the RV for a decent price. An RV dealer paid over fair market value, because our rig was an always-in-demand Arctic Fox by Northwood. Many years later, a Northwood representative said that it’s always possible delamination can start during manufacturing if enough glue isn’t used to seal walls together. Unfortunately there’s no way for the owner of the delaminated RV to prove whose fault it is.
RV delamination is just now happening on our current fifth wheel. It’s taking place on the slide out wall. We guess that it started at a wall puncture that had been duct-taped by the RV dealer. It was obvious damage, but we bought our second Arctic Fox fifth wheel anyways. The good deal was too hard to pass up. Now we must live with the delamination, or find a way to fix it.
Can You Fix RV Delamination?
Any search for RV delamination repairs shows a few brave souls who try to fix RV delamination themselves. You can even find RV delamination repair kits that claim to help fix and prevent more damage. But as you can see, the process is tedious and time consuming.
You can read an iRV2 Forums member “How To Fix RV Delamination” document if you want to give it a try yourself. Correcting the problem won’t cost you nearly as much as an RV dealer might charge. The professional RV delamination fix requires:
- removing the exterior fiberglass skin
- looking for water damage and the delamination source
- repairing the damage
- reapplying a new fiberglass wall
As you can imagine, the cost isn’t cheap. Repair costs run into the thousands of dollars. Final repair costs depend on the size of your RV, the delamination square footage, the extent of the damage, and the location,
Unfortunately, the cost to fix RV delamination might not be worth it when you consider your RV’s current value on the open market. Many people forget the repair. Their way to fix the delamination is to sell the RV “As-Is” just like I did.