Last updated on June 5th, 2023 at 11:18 am
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While there are a number of costly repairs that your RV might need over the course of its lifetime, RV delamination is certainly up there in terms of expense and labor.
But do you even need to worry about RV delamination? What exactly is it, and does it happen to each and every type of RV?
In this article, we’ll go over what RV delamination is as well as how you can help fix it if you notice it happening in your own RV. We’ll address the types of RVs that frequently suffer from delamination over the years as well as whether or not this is a repair you should tackle yourself.
If you are seeking a complete guide about RV delamination, this is it!
Curious to see all of the different topics we’re going to address surrounding RV delamination? Use our table of contents to navigate to the question you are trying to answer quickly!
What Is RV Delamination?
RV delamination is the process of decay and warping that occurs beneath the exterior of a fiberglass rig. It is a process that occurs without most RV owners knowing, given the fact that fiberglass is sturdy and won’t likely reflect the delamination process happening beneath it.
Delamination happens in between the fiberglass exterior of your RV and the interior, and decorative walls of your rig. Amongst the insulation and particle board used to construct the walls and roof of your RV, damage, separation, and decay can occur without RV owners knowing.
That’s why delamination is a serious issue. It can come in the form of unknown water damage as well as physical damage. Many common damages that occur to the exterior of your RV may not appear to harm your fiberglass shell. But these physical damages can harm the weaker interior walls of your RV, such as the wood or foam insulation.
Fiberglass is useful for RV manufacturing in that it is affordable, flexible, and lightweight. It is extremely durable in the grand scheme of things, making RVs more affordable and easier to manufacture overall. However, the materials that fiberglass is often bonded to are not nearly as durable, likely resulting in damage beneath the surface where you can’t see.
If the damage is bad enough, your RV can develop pockets of air and empty spaces between your exterior fiberglass and the interior wood or insulation of your rig’s walls. These air pockets are a result of glue and other bonding agents failing, steadily separating from your exterior fiberglass and creating unsightly ripples and bubbles in your RV!
That’s why RV delamination is a serious issue; it can spread throughout your RV without you knowing! Once you spot the telltale ripples or damages along the outside of your RV, it’s often too late to repair the damage done.
How Common Is RV Delamination?
In the grand scheme of things, RV delamination may be more common than we realize. This is largely due to the fact that delamination is difficult to determine until it’s likely too late to fix. However, RV delamination occurs only in RVs with fiberglass or aluminum exteriors that are bonded to an interior wall.
With this in mind, it’s likely that your own RV could experience delamination during its lifetime. This is an often-discussed repair in the RV community, largely because it is troublesome and often not worth performing due to the overall labor and costs involved.
Plus, delamination will only continue to occur until your initial problem is fixed, such as resealing or fixing water damage.
Many RV experts warn first-time RV purchasers to check any and all exterior walls for delamination if they are planning on buying a used RV. This can be a fairly easy process to accomplish, but you need to know what you are looking for.
Let’s take a more in-depth look at the types of RVs most at-risk for delamination and the signs you should be paying attention to!
Types of RVs That Experience RV Delamination
As previously mentioned, there are many different types of RVs that can experience delamination. Unfortunately, given the modern way in which RVs are built nowadays, delamination can occur in just about any hard-sided type of RV.
Given the fact that delamination is simply the process of your RV’s exterior pulling away or becoming separated from your interior wall components, it’s easy to assume that most RVs can suffer from this costly process over the course of your RV’s life. However, certain types of RVs are more likely to be afflicted by delamination compared to others.
Delamination commonly occurs in the following types of RVs:
- Class A motorhomes
- Class C motorhomes
- Travel trailers
- Fifth wheels
- Hybrid trailers with hard or fiberglass sides
Most Class B motorhomes and aluminum travel trailers such as Airstreams rarely suffer from delamination given the methods used to craft them, but even this isn’t a guarantee. It all depends on the methods and materials used to make a particular RV, and even individual RVs can suffer from delamination if not properly maintained!
But how can you learn to recognize and prevent delamination in an RV? Let’s take a closer look.
What Does Delamination in an RV Look Like?
In the grand scheme of things, delamination looks different from RV to RV, depending on the type of material that you have on the exterior of your rig.
However, you can recognize the possible signs of delamination if you notice any of the following on the outside of an RV:
- Warping of any kind in the fiberglass or aluminum exterior of your rig
- Ripples or waves along the walls, either outside or in
- Bubbles in your RV’s exterior, sometimes only noticeable if you press them
- Exterior marks that shift depending on ambient temperature or when placed in sunlight
- Marring or other wear along the seams of an RV, including around windows and doors
For the most part, delamination is easy enough to identify as you can see in the video below.
That’s why it’s very important to be aware of it when purchasing a used RV. So long as you know to look for bubbles, warping, or any other type of damage on the exterior of an RV, you are likely safe from making a bad purchase!
Additionally, checking the seams and connection points on the outside of an RV is a good idea if you are wondering whether a rig has begun delaminating or not.
If you notice that these seams don’t appear to be sealed well, or perhaps the seller you are talking to doesn’t have much to say about maintaining the RV you are trying to buy, you may want to look elsewhere!
How to Stop and Prevent RV Delamination
Whether you have a rig that is starting to delaminate or you simply want to save yourself the hassle, there are a few different ways to stop and prevent RV delamination.
Here are some of the ways you can work toward fixing delamination in any type of RV!
1. Prevention Is Key
While it may not be what you want to hear, oftentimes the best way of stopping and preventing RV delamination is to maintain your RV to begin with.
Prevention is the best way to avoid delamination in any kind of RV, no matter how new it is. But what are some of the best ways to prevent RV delamination, and what should you be looking for in this process?
For the most part, delamination occurs when there is an existing leak or break in the exterior of your RV. The fiberglass exterior may not reflect this damage, but the interior walls of your RV are much easier to damage compared to the exterior.
This means that hitting a branch or going through a hail storm may not look like much from the outside of your RV, but the interior may reflect otherwise!
That’s why it’s important to always know when and where damage has occurred on the exterior of your RV. This may be a difficult thing to accomplish, but being aware of any potential leaks is the easiest way to avoid the costly repairs involved with delamination!
2. Physically Check for Soft Spots or Bubbles
If you have recently purchased a used RV or are otherwise concerned about delamination on board your rig, you can physically check for soft spots or other damaged locations periodically. Simply by pressing against the exterior walls of your RV, you are checking for delamination and other signs of interior wall damage.
If you notice any spots that seem spongy or otherwise soft, you may have some delamination to contend with. Whether you have an RV with aluminum or fiberglass exterior walls, these exterior components should not separate from the interior components of your wall.
If you notice a bubble or any sort of air in between your exterior fiberglass and interior insulation, something is wrong. This can occur in brand-new RVs as well, so keep this in mind if you are shopping for something newer rather than older.
Occasionally, the adhesives used to bond a fiberglass exterior to interior wood and insulation don’t get applied to certain sections. This will result in bubbles or other soft spots in the walls of your RV, but this type of delamination is much easier to fix than delamination caused by a leak!
3. Identify Any Leaks or Damage in Seams
If you are worried that your RV is suffering from delamination, the first thing you should do is identify any potential damages in the seams of your rig as well as anywhere that could be leaking. The main issue with delamination besides your walls separating from each other is the potential for further damage caused by water and the changing of the seasons.
The most common cause of delamination is a lack of maintenance and repairs. Typically, your RV walls can separate due to consistent leaking and water damage. These leaks often occur along the seams of your RV, likely the seams of your roof and where the walls meet it. That’s why it’s important to always stay up to date on your resealing plans and other maintenance tasks!
For the most part, it’s fairly easy to identify a leak in an RV if you know what to look for. Oftentimes, the exterior of your RV will appear dirty, warped, or otherwise discolored compared to the rest of your rig if a leak is old. You may also notice that your interior walls appear to be damaged in some way, likely streaked with water or otherwise warped.
While it may mean that repairs are imminent, identifying existing holes or damages in the seams of your RV is necessary to keep it running for the long haul!
4. How Far Has the Damage Spread?
If you know that your RV is experiencing delamination due to water damage, you need to identify just how far this damage has spread. Unless you replace the walls, floors, and any other part of your RV that has experienced water damage, the overall structure of your rig will continue to weaken and decay.
While this is likely the scariest part of repairing RV delamination, you need to be aware of just how far your repairs need to go. Water damage is easy to identify in an RV, often causing the wooden walls and floors of your rig to bloat or warp in unconventional ways. There are also telltale streaks in the wood that appear wet and may even be damp to the touch if it has recently rained.
You should be sure to check all around a location that potentially has a hole in it, including the floor beneath your seams. Water damage is something that every RV owner fears the most, as it is difficult to completely repair.
Likewise, it’s extremely difficult to find where a leak begins and ends, so make sure that you are thorough in your identification of delamination damage!
5. Seek Repairs (But Be Realistic)
Knowing that your RV is delaminating can be a devastating blow to any RV owner. However, it is possible to seek repairs either through an expert in RV maintenance or potentially doing the repairs yourself.
For example, there are a number of delamination kits and supplies that you can purchase that can help you fix minor issues of delamination. If you have identified that your RV doesn’t have water damage but it is still delaminating due to a defect in the adhesive, these kits may work quite well for you.
However, if the delamination is extreme enough and you have extensive water damage throughout your RV, you may want to seek professional repairs. If this is the case, you are likely looking at a costly and labor-intensive repair that may end up being more expensive than your RV is worth!
That’s why it’s important to be realistic about your RV and whether or not it is worth keeping if it is suffering from extensive delamination. While there are many DIY repairs of delamination on Youtube, these are often extreme and involved repairs, not for the average RV owner!
7. Get Your Maintenance Schedule Finalized!
Whether you are experiencing delamination or not, getting a maintenance schedule finalized for your RV is key for any RV owner. Not only should you plan on winterizing your RV before storing it, but you should also anticipate needing to reseal the seams and connection points of your RV.
This is especially necessary if you live in a location that experiences extreme swings in temperature as the seasons change.
Many experts recommend checking out the exterior of your RV every quarter to ensure that you aren’t incurring unknown damage and potential leaks. Depending on your region, most people choose to reseal the scenes of their RV yearly. However, this also depends on how often you use your RV and whether or not it is stored safely during times of inclement weather.
Regardless of what you choose, RVs need constant maintenance in order to last year after year. Even the newest motorhome or travel trailer needs resealing in order to prevent costly damages such as water damage or delamination!
FAQ for RV Delamination
Still curious about what else there is to know about RV delamination?
Here’s a comprehensive list of some of the most frequently asked questions to peruse so that you can fully understand this common and costly problem!
What Causes Delamination in an RV?
There are many things that can cause delamination in an RV, including water or sun damage. Simply owning an RV can cause delamination, given the fact that bonding agents and glue wear down over time.
If you own an older RV, you should pay special attention to the potential for delamination as your rig ages. However, delamination can happen to any RV at any age, and at any price point. That’s why it’s important to prevent any damage to your RV whenever possible.
Even if your fiberglass exterior doesn’t look damaged, you may experience interior wall damage during basic rain storms or through casual impacts to the exterior of your RV.
Plus, a brand new RV just leaving the factory can also experience delamination if the glues and bonding agents were not properly applied to all parts of your rig. That’s why it’s important to know and be aware of the warranty for your RV if you notice any damage or bubbles in your fiberglass exterior!
Does Delamination on an RV Mean Water or Sun Damage?
Yes, delamination on an RV can potentially mean that it is suffering from water or sun damage. While water damage is a huge fear for most RV owners, sun damage can also be just as harmful. RVs experience constant fluctuations in both temperature and weather conditions, and the sun is a culprit for a number of costly RV repairs.
While fiberglass is extremely durable and flexible, it is easy for the materials underneath it to warp during the heat of the summer and the freezing temperatures in winter. That’s why it’s important to always store your RV carefully, often with a cover or other types of protection.
UV damage can cause delamination, especially if the adhesives in the walls of your RV are aged or otherwise subpar. However, more often than not, delamination on an RV means you likely have water damage.
While it isn’t a guarantee, the most severe cases of delamination are due to water damage and an unknown leak that has been steadily harming your interior walls, year after year. If you notice the exterior of your RV delaminating, you should check for leaks first and foremost!
Is RV Delamination Harmful to Your Health?
While delamination in and of itself isn’t necessarily harmful to your health, it can potentially be associated with other harmful things. If you know that your RV is delaminating due to water damage, you may want to avoid living or sleeping in your RV as much as possible.
This is because water damage is often a sign of something worse, especially for your health. For example, mold, mildew, and other allergens go hand in hand with water damage.
As the insulation and wood of your RV slowly rot, many different harmful substances can grow within the walls of your RV. If you are unaware of these potential toxins, your health can greatly suffer, especially if you live in your delaminating RV full-time!
Can I Fix Delamination?
Yes, you can fix delamination if you so choose. however, it depends largely on the extent of your damages as to whether or not it is worth fixing.
If your RV is your primary home and fixing delamination is your top priority, there are a number of DIY kits you can purchase as well as contact a professional to do the repairs for you.
If you find that only a small portion of your RV is experiencing delamination, repairs are definitely possible. This is especially true if you find easily accessible points on your exterior that allow you to insert adhesive or other products designed to repair delamination in a fiberglass RV.
However, if you find that your RV is delaminated throughout and this delamination is largely caused by water damage, the repairs may be too extreme to bother with.
The reason that many RV owners fear delamination is that it is such a costly repair to make, so keep this in mind if you are grappling with a particularly old and damaged RV!
How Much Does it Cost to Fix Delamination?
Depending on how much your RV has delaminated, the cost to fix said delamination can be high. It also depends on any other damage that has been incurred due to delamination, such as consistent water or UV damage.
No matter what, choosing to fix the delamination damage yourself is always more affordable than turning to a professional. As previously mentioned, there are many DIY kits you can purchase to fix delamination in your RV on your own. These kits range in cost, anywhere from $100 to $500.
These are useful if you have identified a spot of delamination that hasn’t spread too far and is easy to repair without damaging too much of your RV in the process.
However, if an entire wall of your RV is suffering from delamination, you may want to turn to the help and guidance of a professional RV repair person. This is especially true if your delamination appears to be largely caused by a leak or some type of water damage. RV maintenance professionals are aware of delamination and likely have better insight as to how to best repair your RV.
That being said, you need to keep in mind that these repairs done by any type of professional will be much more expensive compared to doing it yourself. While it means you don’t have to replace the walls, floors, and whatever else inside of your rig, someone else has to, and at a high price. Depending on the extent of your delamination, turning to a professional for help will likely cost you over $1,000.
That’s why many RV owners who own an RV with delamination damage often opt for a new RV option. It is often the case that delamination costs more to repair than the RV itself, and your RV Insurance company will likely tell you so! Keep this in mind if you are worried about your RV delamination repairs and how much they can potentially cost.
Can the Sun Cause Delamination on a Camper?
Yes, the sun can indeed cause delamination over time. Depending on where you camp, your camper or travel trailer can suffer from UV exposure and extreme heat. Often, the sun points out delamination rather than causes it, but constant exposure to high temperatures greatly affects the overall adhesives and bonding agents used within the walls of your RV.
Many RV owners report not noticing delamination until they have parked their RV in a sunny location or a shady one, depending. Your fiberglass walls can expand and retract depending on ambient temperatures, and this flexible process often highlights any bubbles or warping in your RV exterior.
Unfortunately, it isn’t exactly feasible to keep your RV out of the sun. While delamination is an extreme repair that no RV owner wants to deal with, no RV is made to last forever. The simple act of using your RV may indeed cause delamination, but this is all part of the joys and hardships of RV ownership!
Is Delamination Covered by Insurance or Warranties?
Assuming that delamination is covered by insurance or RV warranties is a slippery slope. It’s important to fully understand your insurance policy as well as any existing RV warranties that you have before pursuing coverage through either of these two options.
For the most part, delamination is not covered by RV warranties or Insurance programs unless it occurs in a brand-new RV, and very soon after you drive it off the lot. Again, all warranty programs and RV insurance policies are different, so make sure you know what yours has to say about delamination.
However, delamination is often viewed as damage that is caused by an RV owner rather than a manufacturer issue. It is rare that you can attribute delamination to a natural cause, such as road damage or weather damage.
So, most warranties and RV insurance companies will likely blame delamination on a lack of maintenance and repairs, something that is an RV owner’s fault rather than natural causes!
That’s why it’s important to not rely on your RV warranty or insurance policy for any existing repairs. While it’s worth checking, delamination is rarely covered unless there is an issue with the bonding agents supplied by the RV manufacturer! Unfortunate, but true!
RV delamination is nothing to scoff at, as it often makes or breaks the lifespan of your RV. If you feel as if your motorhome, fifth wheel, or travel trailer is delaminating, don’t wait to make repairs. This is a problem that doesn’t go away- it in fact gets worse with time!
By choosing to get your rig repaired sooner rather than later, you are catching delamination before it potentially ruins your entire RV.
On the flip side, you may find that it’s too late for your particular RV. If that’s the case, hopefully, this guide will help you with future RV purchases so that delamination doesn’t plague your camping adventures in the future!