How to Fix Delamination on An RV

RVs allow us the comforts of home while exploring the open road. But their complex systems require proper care for lasting performance. For boondocking or long trips, fresh and wastewater tanks should be adequately sized. And fuel capacity enables long hauls between fill-ups. But another key system needing attention is exterior walls. Over time, outer fiberglass can delaminate, or separate from wall frames allowing costly damage. 

While intimidating, with determination fixing delamination is possible. In this article, I’ll explain how to identify failing areas, make repairs to restore integrity, and provide future prevention care. Even for vehicles with widespread issues, many restoration options exist. A little diligent effort goes far to regain roadworthiness.

In the end, tending promptly to delamination preserves RV investments for more years of comfortable travels ahead. With some patience and the right techniques, your home on wheels can confidently hit the road again. Equipped with key insights here, you can diagnose issues, enact repairs, and prevent recurrence.

How to Fix Delamination on An RV

What is RV Delamination and Why Does it Happen?

RV delamination occurs when moisture works its way through tiny cracks or unfinished seams in the exterior shell. Over months or years, the infiltrating water erodes the strong adhesive bond between the fiberglass outer layer and the wall framing. As the bond fails, air pockets appear causing the outer wall to bubble or wrinkle. In severe cases, entire sections of the fiberglass can completely detach and fall off – leaving underlying wall insulation exposed. This not only causes cosmetic damage but also leads to potential wall structure failure. Taking prompt action at the first signs of delamination is key to halting the deterioration and avoiding larger compromised areas that require extensive repairs down the road. 

Definition of delamination

Delamination refers specifically to the separation of the fiberglass exterior layer from the wall substrate as moisture penetrates the delicate hidden seams. This causes surface rippling and bubbles as well as wall weakness.

Causes of delamination

Common causes are cracked caulk seals allowing moisture intrusion, unrepaired wall damage that leaves gaps for water to infiltrate slowly over time, and long-term exposure to humidity or standing water that erodes the outer wall bonds.

At the very first signs of delamination bubbling or soft spots, it is essential to act quickly to avoid further damage spread!

Signs that your RV is Delaminating

Visually inspect the exterior fiberglass shell carefully, especially around edges, seams, and joints for rippling or bubbles under the paint. Soft spots when pressing gently can also indicate pockets of trapped moisture.

Staining inside from moisture leaking through compromised outer walls is another clear red flag. If caught early, delamination spread can be minimized more easily. But once started, decisive action is needed to halt deterioration before entire wall panels fail.

How to Stop RV Delamination

Filling in the Gaps with Glue: A useful temporary intervention is to inject expandable glue into gaps and voids through small drilled holes. This can block moisture penetration progress while more comprehensive repairs are planned. It buys essential time to prevent the spread of hidden damage. But full fixes will still be required in already delaminated areas.

How to Fix RV Delamination

Addressing delamination involves a systematic approach. Here are the key steps:

A. Injecting Epoxy Resin: Inject specialized 2-part epoxy resin into the delaminated area to restore the bond between layers.

B. Clamping the Area: Clamp rigid backing boards over the damaged outer wall layer until the injected epoxy thoroughly hardens to rebond the fiberglass layer.

C. Sanding and Smoothing: After the resin cures, sand and smooth the area to cleanly blend with surrounding intact fiberglass. Match surrounding paint to hide any remnants of damage. 

How to Patch Delaminated RV Walls

Cutting Away Delaminated Sections: Carefully remove damaged sections, ensuring a clean and precise cut.

Measuring and Cutting Patches: Accurately measure and cut patches for damaged areas to facilitate a precise and effective repair.

Gluing/Welding/Riveting Patches: Secure patches into place using suitable methods like gluing, welding, or riveting.

Sealing Patched Areas: Seal the patched areas thoroughly to prevent water intrusion and future delamination.

How to Replace Exterior RV Panels

For whole damaged outer wall panels:

Removing Large Damaged Sections: Remove large damaged sections meticulously to prepare for replacement.

Custom Cutting New Panels: Craft replacement panels with precision, ensuring a seamless fit.

Installing Replacement Panels: Securely install replacement panels, paying close attention to alignment and structural integrity.

Sealing Seams Thoroughly: Thoroughly seal seams to prevent water intrusion and potential future delamination.

How to Prevent Delamination in the Future

Beyond diligent repairs where issues occur, preventing delamination long-term relies on conscientious care:

A. Regular Inspection of RV Walls and Siding: Regularly inspecting RV walls fiberglass shell periodically for early signs of surface rippling or bubbles appearing, preventing extensive damage.

B. Proper Maintenance and Sealing of RV Exterior: Routine maintenance, including sealing exterior surfaces, is essential for preventing water entry points.

Using Protective Sealants/Paints

Consider adding protective paint sealant layers which flex with expansion and contraction motion over years of use to avoid new crack formation.

C. Avoiding Exposure to Extreme Weather Conditions: Avoid unnecessarily exposing RV sidewalls to extreme environments – like extensive direct sunlight, standing water, or deicing salts which can accelerate hidden damage processes.

With attentive preventative exterior inspection and maintenance as part of regular RV care, potential moisture entry points can be sealed quickly at first signs of concern before major underlying deterioration.

How Much Cost to Fix Delamination?

Fixing delamination on an RV can cost different amounts depending on how bad it is. Here are some simple explanations:

  • DIY Kits:
    • If the problem is small, you can buy a DIY kit for about $50 to a few hundred dollars. These kits have things to stick the layers back together.
  • Professional Help:
    • If the damage is big or affects the structure, it’s better to ask a professional. They might charge a few hundred to several thousand dollars. The cost depends on how bad it is and what materials your RV is made of.
  • Replacing Panels:
    • Sometimes, if a lot is damaged, you might need to change whole parts. This can be very expensive, maybe even thousands of dollars.
  • Paying for Work:
    • The person fixing your RV might charge $50 to $150 or more for each hour they work.
  • Extra Costs:
    • Remember, there could be more costs, like storing the RV while it’s being fixed, getting it to the repair place, and buying any extra things needed for the repair.

Your Queries and Answers

Q1. What is the best epoxy for RV delamination repair?

A2. Special 2-part injected epoxy resins designed for RV exterior wall repairs bond reliably even on damp underlying structures. Brands like ProFlex RV Flexible Epoxy allow solid repairs.

Q2. Is repairing delamination worth it?

A2. Fixing delamination properly preserves RV investment and ensures many more years enjoying travels rather than replacing the entire rig. So the effort is usually well justified.

Q3. Can heat cause delamination?

A2. Excessive or uneven outer wall heating can thermally stress bonds leading to worsening of existing trouble spots. Proper repairs and keeping RVs out of extreme heat is wise.  

The Sum Up

RV delamination, born from unseen moisture damage, is conquerable. Swift intervention, effective repairs, and consistent maintenance bring these vehicles back to a stable, reliable state. With patience, delaminated RVs can return to the open road, ensuring carefree journeys for years.

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