Are you considering buying a second-hand RV or camper with delamination issues? Before you make a purchase, it’s a good idea to understand delamination and what RV delamination repairs entail.
To help you out, we’ve put together everything you need to know about delamination, including the causes, how common it is, repair tips, how much it costs to repair, the pros and cons of DIY repair, and finally, preventative delamination repairs you can do.
But before diving in, let’s look at delamination in more detail.
What is RV Delamination?
Delamination is a structural flaw in an RV’s exterior fiberglass or gel coating. It entails separating laminated layers, which could be the finishing coat on a substrate or multiple layers laminated together to form a thick panel.
Delamination can happen on the sidewalls, roof, and floor – essentially, any panel alongside a seam. A sign of this can be bubbles near the roof’s windows, doors and edges. However, it can also start at the center if there are stress cracks large enough to let water through.
What Causes Delamination on RVs and Camper Vans?
Water is the leading cause of delamination in an RV. It can penetrate laminated panels through:
- Cracks or tension breaks on the fiberglass coating.
- Tears or loose rubber tubing that are meant to seal the roof’s seams.
- Tears or loose rubber tubing that are supposed to seal the edges of the glass windows and door frames.
The panels used to construct an RV’s body typically consist of layers of exterior and interior luan plywood, fiberglass coating, and styrofoam spot-welded or glued into an aluminum frame. When water finds its way between these layers, it can dissolve the wood glue or other adhesives used to laminate the substrates together. As a result, the layers become detached from one another, leaving a space between each detached layer.
This explains the “bubble” effect often used to describe delamination. The separate outer layer creates a hollow bulge or wave on the surface of the wall, ceiling or floor. Pressing on it feels like pushing on a giant bubble. Over time, the water inside the bubble contracts and expands, worsening the delamination.
How Common Is RV Delamination?
Delaminated panels are more common among old RVs, so you must consider the extra cost of RV delamination repair when buying used recreational vehicles.
Delamination can also happen to relatively new units if:
- They were poorly maintained.
- The seams weren’t inspected or resealed at least once every five years.
- They underwent rapid and extreme temperature changes, which can weaken the adhesives used for the laminates.
- The previous owners live in a place that gets lots of rain every year.
- The previous owners noticed stress cracks too late.
- The previous owners used the wrong sealant to touch up old roof sealants.
Camper Delamination Repair Tips
Fixing delamination on RV units is not just to improve an aesthetic flaw but to prevent severe structural damage. In extreme cases, the loosened layers could shake loose when the RV is on the road.
Here are two ways to fix a delaminated RV panel:
- Stripping and Reconstructing
When the delamination area has expanded, and the separation is severe, there’s no other alternative than to strip away the layers and replace the damaged ones with similar or alternative material.
- Delamination Repair Kits
If the separation is still minimal and repairable, it might be possible to use a delamination repair kit. The point of this kit is to glue the separated layers together, applying adhesive to the hard-to-reach areas using syringes and rubber tubing. You will have to remove the exterior fiberglass layer to reach the luan plywood and foam and glue them to the aluminum frame.
The Advantages and Disadvantages of DIY RV Lamination Repair
Now let’s talk about the pros and cons of fixing delaminated panels so that you can decide whether or not you should buy a used travel trailer with delaminated panels in need of repairs.
- As discussed earlier, purchasing a second hand travel trailer is far more affordable than buying a new one. The cost of repairs could still be substantially lower than purchasing a brand-new RV.
- Depending on the degree of delamination, it is a relatively easy and quick fix. This is especially true with a delamination repair kit.
- If the delamination is severe, the process of stripping and reconstructing might be too difficult to do on your own.
- Depending on the degree of damage, fixing this yourself could be a temporary solution to a much bigger problem.
- If done without a professional, you face a high risk of inconsistent adhesive application and missing spots, which can continue to cause delamination.
- If done incorrectly, you could be in for much bigger problems, such as structural damage. In this case, you may as well have bought a new RV because of the costs that may arise.
On that note, buying a used RV with delaminated panels may not be as cost-effective as you think. Although you can save a few hundred dollars with the initial purchase of a second-hand RV, in the long term, you may be paying out a lot more than it’s worth.
How much does it Cost to Fix Delamination?
Here’s another important consideration when you’re contemplating buying a used trailer. A DIY delamination repair kit typically costs around $100 to $300. The price will depend on how much adhesive you need, so you might have to buy an extra kit.
Your best bet is to hire professionals for repairs to strip the separated panels and replace the damaged layers. A complete wall replacement will be more expensive, so it’s best to chat to your RV repair specialist to get an idea of costs.
Preventive Repairs May Save Your Used Travel Trailer
Suppose you found a used RV still in excellent condition but is already showing early signs of delamination. Is it still a worthwhile investment? The answer could be yes – but only if the separation is minor and can be prevented from worsening.
In cases like this, you can use an affordable repair kit to re-glue and reseal the cracks on the fiberglass coating. Alternatively, you can hire an RV repair specialist to repair the delamination to ensure it is done correctly.
You can get additional years out of your second-hand RV by doing immediate, preventive repairs on minor delamination, as well as timely maintenance inspections for the rest of the vehicle.
So, as you can see, it would be best to decide based on the pros, cons, and costs of owning a second-hand travel trailer with delamination issues. Hopefully, this blog will help you make the best choice.
If you have already found a used RV to consider, get in touch with the Coach Specialists of Texas. We offer pre purchase inspections, professional diagnostic services as well as repairs and renovations. The team will be happy to help you whether you need a consultant or an RV repair specialist.