All RV models are unique but share similar attributes, such as the materials they are made from, the paint used on them, and standard design features. This means that all RVs are susceptible to some of the same potential problems, including delamination, which can be quite serious.
So, what exactly is ‘delamination’ on an RV?
Delamination on an RV refers to the separation of the outer layer of the laminated walls from the inner layer, causing a visible bulge or bubble on the exterior of the vehicle. This can compromise the structural integrity of the RV and requires professional repair to prevent further damage.
If you are new to the world of RVs and are unsure of what delamination is, let’s explore this relatively common issue on RVs, learn what it is, how to identify it, what you can do to realistically prevent it, and whether or not it can be repaired. RV delamination can be serious, but there are ways to mitigate it.
Further Defining ‘Delamination’ On An RV
Delamination on an RV is the worst nightmare of many RV owners. This problem is more common than you would expect. Delamination can be impossible to fix, and it can cause serious harm, even though it is entirely preventable.
RV delamination refers to the separation of the outer and inner layers of the RV walls, chassis, trim, seals, paint, or gel coating. Delamination is literally when two materials glued or bonded together become unstuck and separate from one another.
Most modern RVs are made from a combination of fiberglass and plywood. Some have exterior coatings, such as gel coatings, that form a protective barrier from the elements.
Within the layered walls of RVs is insulation and other materials that maintain the structural integrity of the vehicle, as well as keep the interior of the RV insulated from the outside.
Delamination typically occurs when an RV is not properly maintained. The main cause of delamination in RVs is due to water leaking between the layers of the walls, separating the dissolving solvents and making space for air bubbles to form.
The water can also cause the plywood walls to rot, grow mold and bacteria, and disintegrate, further worsening the delamination.
Water can seep in through roof leaks, broken or old windows and door seals, or through damage and cracks in the RV’s bodywork.
If an RV becomes old and weather-worn, it may develop cracks in the finish that let water through. RVs commonly develop roof leaks, which allow water to run down the walls of the vehicle, eventually finding a weak point to enter the wall layers.
If the RV is damaged and the bodywork is punctured, it can leave a gap large enough for water to get in and leave nowhere else for the water to go but to soak into the walls.
All of these scenarios are common causes of delamination in RVs.
In short, delamination on RVs is when the layers of the walls separate, weakening the structure of the RV and creating an environment for mold to grow while creating areas of damp and foul smells. Delamination leads to the walls rotting away and destroys the exterior finish of the RV.
Is RV Delamination Serious?
RV delamination is relatively common, and it is something that most RV owners will have to deal with at some point, but is delamination really that serious for RVs?
RV delamination is very serious. This type of damage to an RV can be very subtle at first and can go unnoticed for weeks. If it is not addressed as soon as it occurs, delamination can cause irreparable damage to an RV, which has been known in some RVs being completely scrapped.
Delamination can severely damage the structure of an RV, it can drastically diminish its value, and it can make an RV entirely unusable. Delamination can even cause the growth of harmful mold and bacteria that can make people sick if exposed to it for too long.
There are very few potential RV problems that are as serious as delamination. If you own an RV, or if you want to buy one, it is critical that your vehicle is inspected very regularly for potential causes and signs of delamination so that the issue can be dealt with as rapidly as possible to avoid ruining the RV entirely.
Can RV Delamination Be Prevented?
RV delamination is very serious, and it can take an RV off the road, but are there any methods for preventing it?
Delamination can be detrimental for all RVs, but it is also highly preventable if you maintain the RV well.
The best way to prevent RV delamination is to ensure that the vehicle is properly sealed with an exterior coating that is reapplied every few years and to ensure that all exterior seals on windows, doors, and sunroofs are properly functional.
Any cracks, damage, or breaks in the exterior of the vehicle should be sealed or repaired immediately, and the RV should not be left to the elements for extended periods.
If you only use your RV annually, inspect it regularly and try to keep it sheltered from the weather as much as possible.
Maintaining your RV well is the best and only way to prevent delamination. Prevention is always better than repairs concerning RV delamination, and preventing this issue is significantly less expensive than repairing it.
Can RV Delamination Be Repaired?
If RV delamination is so serious, and if it can occur so easily, is there a way to repair it if it does happen to your vehicle?
If you do find delamination on your RV, repairs must be made as soon as possible. Delamination can occur without being visible, in which instance, the damage may already be extensive.
Repairing delamination is very challenging. There are some home repair kits that can stop the spread of delamination and seal the damage, but they only work if the problem is found very early.
If the damage has progressed further than a home repair kit can fix, the only option is to hire a professional repairer who understands the issue and how to make the appropriate repairs.
RV delamination repairs may be as extensive as replacing an entire wall of the vehicle, but this is sometimes the only option.
RV delamination is a serious issue, but it can be avoided if you take good and proper care of your RV. When delamination occurs, it is critical to repair it as soon as possible.
If your RV suffers from delamination, you will know it by ripples, cracks, warps, or swelling in the walls of the vehicle. If you notice these signs in your RV, the problem may already be too far progressed to repair.
David is an accomplished mountain endurance athlete who has completed over 25 ultra marathon races (follow on Strava). He is most proud of his finish at The Drift 100 – a high elevation, 100 mile winter foot race that zigzags along the Continental Divide in Wyoming. In the future he hopes to compete in the ITI 350 and ultimately the full 1,000 mile Iditarod Trail Invitational that follows the same path as the historic dog sled race.