You’re ready to head out on the open road in your RV. You’ve packed, and you have your itinerary planned. Freedom awaits. Suddenly you notice an unsightly wave in your RV’s walls. What could this be? Is this going to ruin your trip?
In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about RV delamination, including how to identify it, what causes it, and whether or not you should buy an RV that has delamination.
What Is RV Delamination & What Causes It?
RV delamination occurs when the sealed fiberglass gel-coat separates from the thin luan plywood within the wall. Delamination can happen from strain on the walls of your RV, but it’s more likely to occur after a water leak.
Warning: RV water damage is the biggest downfall of RVs, and needs immediate attention!
The moisture seeps in and sits, slowly breaking down the adhesives that hold the layers of your wall together. As a result, the affected area tends to have a warped or bubbled look.
How to Check for Delamination on Your RV
What should you be on the lookout for when checking for delamination? First, take a walk around the outside of your RV and run your hand along the walls. Pay special attention to the areas under windows and other seams, as these can be the culprit of most RV leaks.
Do you feel any bubbles or waviness? Can you push on the wall and feel it pop in and out of where the layers used to be? If so, this is a clear sign of delamination.
Delamination can affect either a large area or only a tiny portion of the wall, but either way, you’ll want to find the source of the leak and make sure it’s stopped completely.
Pro Tip: Found a leak around your RV window? This is How to Replace Your RV Window Seals.
Tips to Stop RV Delamination
Once you find the delamination, it’s time to figure out how it happened. Did it occur below a window that cracked or had pealing seams? Does it begin on an edge where your roof meets a wall? You likely need to reseal a seam, and it’s your job to find it.
Once you’ve found the source of the leak, it’s time to invest in a suitable RV sealant. There are plenty on the market to choose from, and some will be better or worse, depending on the location of your leak.
If your leak is along a window, edge, vent, or another seam on the side of your RV, a non-leveling lap sealant is best (such as Dicor Non-leveling, non-sag lap sealant). If your leak is on a flat surface on your roof, we recommend an excellent sealant tape or self-leveling lap sealant.
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Once you’ve resealed the damaged area, we recommend treating all the other seams, as well. After all, if one seal is cracked and leaking, the others may be in bad shape, too.
Fixing Delamination on Your RV
Now that we’ve discussed how to stop delamination let’s explore how to fix your RV walls for good.
How to Fix Delamination
To get your RV walls back to normal, begin by purchasing a good quality epoxy resin and hardener, such as the West System’s 105 Epoxy Resin and 206 Slow Hardener. Once you have this, you’ll need a long plastic or wooden dowel, an injector and tube, a clamp, and plenty of wood for bracing and pressing.
Next, remove any edging, compartments, and windows surrounding the delaminated area. You’ll want plenty of access to the inside of your walls.
Connect your injector and tube to the dowel to create a long, rigid injecting tool that can enter the delaminated layers. Then, create a mixture of 5 parts resin and 1 part hardener and begin inserting the epoxy mixture within each layer, starting from the bottom and working your way up.
Once you’ve inserted the epoxy mixture into all the delaminated layers, use your clamp and boards to press the wall together, sealing the fiberglass and luan together once again.
The more surface area you can push, the better. This will help flatten the walls and return them to their original state. Leave this makeshift press on for at least one day, allowing your adhesives to cure fully.
For a fantastic tutorial, check out this video on Youtube.
How Much Does It Cost To Fix RV Delamination?
The cost of fixing RV delamination depends on whether you’re fixing it yourself or bringing your RV to a shop.
If you’re going to DIY this project, you could spend around $200, depending on the supplies you have at home. If you let the professionals handle it, the cost could reach well into the thousands.
Should You DIY or Call a Pro?
Should you try and fix delamination yourself? This depends on how comfortable you are working on your RV. This is not an entry-level project by any means. However, if you’ve tackled DIY jobs before and feel like you’re up for it, we say go for it.
On the other hand, if you’re feeling nervous at the thought of trying to fix it yourself or don’t have the time or energy to take this on, make your life easier and throw money at the situation. Sometimes letting the professionals handle it is the correct answer.
Pro Tip: Want someone to do your repairs for you? Join the debate on Mobile RV Repair Service vs. RV Service Centers: Which Is Better?
Should You Buy a Camper With Delamination?
This is a tricky question, and a newbie in the RVing world may think that the obvious answer is a flat no. But in reality, most fiberglass RVs experience at least some delamination in their lifetime.
Should you let slight delamination under the passenger-side window keep you from purchasing your dream RV at a great deal? Not necessarily. If the leak hasn’t caused extensive structural damage and you properly stop the leak, there’s a good chance your rig will hold firm for many years, even with a small amount of delamination.
If you’re unsure, don’t do it. Especially if you feel the RV is priced too high or if the delamination covers a large area. You want to drive away feeling good about your purchase, not thinking about all the repairs you’ll have to make once you get home.
Don’t Be Discouraged By Delamination
If you’re in the market to purchase a used fiberglass RV, chances are you’ll run into the issue of delamination. This typically happens when water seeps into the inner layers of the walls, creating a distorted look on the outside.
Luckily, delamination is not a death sentence. There are ways of stopping it in its tracks and even repairing it yourself. However, while it may not be a huge deal in some cases, buying a used RV with delamination isn’t always the best choice.
Tell us, under what circumstances would you buy an RV with delamination? Let us know in the comments below!
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