Delamination is where a wall or roof that’s made up of distinct layers begins to come apart. When they do so, some layers can expand creating visual bubbling, waves, or bulges on the surface. This is evident mostly in older RVs, campers, and other recreational vehicles.
If your RV or camper currently has this problem, then you may wish to know how to repair delamination on RVs?
Can RV Delamination Be Repaired?
Can you fix delamination on an RV? It is possible, for sure.
But it won’t create a perfect wall that looks like the motorhome or towable has just been driven off the showroom floor. With that said, can it improve appearances when resolving the issue? Absolutely.
It’s worth pointing out that it’s not an easy repair job. Depending on how extensive the delamination is, it will require several days. Also, these either must be dry weather days or an overhead cover available to protect the RV or camper from the rain.
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How Much Does It Cost to Fix RV Delamination?
The cost to fix RV delamination is largely dependent on how many sections or panels are affected by it.
It will be necessary to pick up a few items as an RV delamination kit of sorts. How many are purchased depends on the extent of the deformation. The approximate cost for this type of kit can initially reach $80-100, but with larger sections in need of repairing, then the costs could be $200-400 or greater.
An RV delamination kit usually includes:
- Mixing cups
- Epoxy resin (in a tube)
- Hardener solution
- Painter’s tape
- Wooden sections for bracing
- Long tubing (plastic)
- Syringes (plastic)
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What Causes Delamination on RV?
Delamination in a sidewall or elsewhere has multiple possible causes.
One of the main ones is water damage from either the interior or exterior.
Another cause is an exterior impact (theoretically it could occur inside from overly enthusiastic kids’ playtime too). When a wall has sustained a solid hit or three, any wood, Styrofoam, or other material inside the wall can become damaged or dislodged.
Also, if the bonding agent is not exceptionally durable or the camper or motorhome is older, then it may not be highly effective now. In which case, one serious hit to the wall could begin the breaking down process.
And sometimes, it’s just a combination of several of the above possibilities working against you.
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Delamination on Camper
Campers and to a lesser extent, trailers too, are often made with a fiberglass outer shell.
Internal moisture levels, particularly with campers that tend to be less well insulation, are a significant problem. The less well-made or lower cost the camper was, it’ll have less insulation, and use inexpensive construction materials that affect its durability. Campers don’t have anywhere near as long of an expected lifetime as motorhomes (trailers fare a little better but not by that much).
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Impact of No Regular Heating and/or High Humidity Levels
With the fiberglass shell on a camper, they hold up pretty well if there are no accidents over the years. Therefore, it’s mostly a problem of previous owners not keeping the camper insulated, heating inside regularly, or being in a humid environment.
Failing to heat the camper to eliminate moisture or to use a dehumidifier allows moisture inside the sub-structure. Whether that’s through condensation on the walls or simply from cooking meals inside and not properly venting the moisture with a roof fan, it all plays a part in how soon delamination with your camper becomes an issue.
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Cracks to the Fiberglass Body Are Worrisome
The older the fiberglass and the bumpier the terrain that the camper is expected to travel on, the likelier that stress fractures will appear.
These cracks, when not managed right away, allow for moisture to enter the exterior cavity. This includes rainwater, humidity in hotter climates, and early morning dew.
How to Repair Delamination on RV
Like with any RV exterior wall repair, it’s necessary to work through it step-by-step. Use the list of required items mentioned earlier to perform the task.
Here are the steps we’d suggest to repair RV wall delamination:
Confirm Where There’s Delamination
Look around your RV to be sure where there’s delamination that requires repair.
Bear in mind that repairing multiple panels will quickly become overwhelming. It’s much better to come up with a plan to repair a single panel or section, before stripping down the next one to begin work on that.
Use Tape Around the Spots That Need Work
The light levels change throughout the day. Right now, it might be easy to find all the delaminated areas, but later when the sun is shining brightly, or low in the sky, the situation may be different.
Therefore, use painter’s tape to surround each designated spots that require work.
Access the Delaminated Sections
Gaining access behind the outer surface of the wall is the hard part. Depending on whether the delamination is located, some trims, windows or doors, or edging might need removing to finally access the wall panel and the troublesome section behind it.
Examine the Layers
Once the outer panel is removed, it should be possible to review the multiple layers beneath it.
Certainly, you’d expect to see clear evidence of some delamination present. However, don’t assume that all the visible layers each have delamination. That won’t likely be true at all. Look at each layer to see for yourself where some gaps or bubbles require filling with an epoxy solution.
Create the Correct Epoxy/Hardener Blend
Set to work creating a 3-5-ounce batch mixture of epoxy and hardener together.
Avoid mixing a larger batch because it will harden and become unusable, thus wasting the material. The repair process involves using it, then creating a new batch, and then using that. So, don’t rush it, otherwise, you’ll run out of supplies before the repairs are completed. Doing so will also increase the cost of the repair when further supplies are required too.
Get the Injector Ready
The injector needs filling with the epoxy right before you’re about to apply it.
The plastic tube needs to go in the epoxy mixture. Then use the plastic syringe used to extract it.
Get Positioned Correctly
Get the injector in the correct position. Place the syringe appropriately too.
Depress the plastic syringe to spread the epoxy/hardener mixture behind the wall and inside the delaminated layer that’s being treated. Withdrawn the injector and syringe while going along the interior wall section until all the appropriate areas have been given epoxy.
Apply Pressure Immediately
Provide pressure to the surface to encourage the layers to reconnect and bond together through the epoxy solution. Doing so will help the epoxy to seal the gap before the epoxy hardens too quickly.
Use a Clamp to Assist in the Bonding
The wooden clamps should be moved across to cover the depressed wall section enforcing the bonding. When using clamps this way, it makes it less likely that the bonding will fail, and the layer pop open again.
Continue with the Process
Do it again until all layers are filled, and then move to other areas within that paneled section to treat them too.
Secure the Clamps
The clamps must be secured properly in place.
A typical bonding agent requires up to a day to cure 100%, so clamps give the wall the best chance to seal up completely.
Repeat Until All Sections Are Treated
Continue with the sidewall delamination treatment until it’s done.
Putting the RV Back Together Again
Once you’re fully satisfied that all the RV walls have been treated, fixed, and the bonding agent given sufficient time to complete its bonding process, it’s time to seal up the RV again.
Refit all the parts like the doors, windows, trim, and so on. Be sure to reseal the doors and windows against water intrusion when doing so too.
Fixing Delamination on Camper
Solving delamination on a camper is not much different from a motorhome, or a travel trailer.
Accessing behind the fiberglass shell will be a tricky bit. Camper owners may need to research how best to do so for their particular model without damaging it.
Came must always be taken with fiberglass material to avoid denting it. So, the hardest part with a delaminated camper is gaining access to the walls to perform the repair.
However, the process for fixing delamination in a camper is otherwise the same as with a motorhome.
Is RV Delamination Covered by Insurance?
Whether a motorhome, trailer, or camper, delamination is not always considered coverable by RV insurance. It depends on the extent of the insurance policy coverage.
The reality is that it mostly affects older RVs and campers. So, from the perspective of the insurer, it’s not caused by an accident and is more like wear and tear due to age.
Does RV Insurance Cover Water Damage?
Fully comprehensive RV insurance does include some aspects unrelated to accidents. Water damage is sometimes included, as is hail damage, and other potential issues too. Failing to reseal seams on the camper or RV can allow water intrusion that leads to delamination. Therefore, the fault may be subject to dispute.
RVers with older motorhomes or a camper owner must look carefully at any insurance policy including the exclusions, to determine if their home on wheels will be covered, or not.
Should I Buy a Camper with Delamination?
Following on from the previous points, is it sensible to buy a camper with delamination?
While the surface area of a camper compared to a travel trailer, fifth wheel, or motorhome is smaller, it’s more at risk from delamination issues. Campers simply aren’t built to last as many years as an RV, all other things being equal.
If you’re getting a bargain because of this obvious issue, are prepared to fix it, and possibly have previous experience doing so, buying an affordable camper might be a good move. However, with serious delamination, there’s a point where the moisture damage could affect the structural integrity of the camper.
The moisture problems that caused delamination in one corner are suggestive of other hidden problems too. Also, if it becomes a project that’s too overwhelming or you don’t have time for it any longer, then the camper will be much harder to sell.
Regardless of whether delamination is only present in one corner of a single panel or it’s all over one side of the camper or motorhome, it’s no 5-minute fix.
There are plenty of RV repair workshops prepared to perform this type of detailed work. They’ll also fix campers and travel trailers with delamination too. While it’s not a game-ender for RVers, delamination problems are no joke either.