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RV Delamination – What It Is & How to Fix It

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Published : March 15, 2023
Delaminated RV left abandoned
The walls of your RV are like a sandwich of materials. RV delamination occurs when the layers separate. This not only looks unsightly, but it can destroy your RV over time, and it can be costly to fix. It is a problem no RV owner wants to face, and if you have a trailer that is beginning to show this problem, you need to know what to do about it.

How Are Your RV’s Walls Built?

The first thing you must understand is how the walls of your RV are constructed. Your RV is made from an outer sheet of fiberglass and a closed-cell rigid foam that serves as insulation. A robot applies glue and then passes it into a vacuum chamber where all the layers fuse together. The materials used for the layers differ from manufacturer to manufacturer. Some have a thicker fiberglass outer layer and thick foam, while some might have a thin outer shell or less insulation. High-quality laminate can have as much as a two-inch foam core. Some laminates must be cured before the RV can be assembled, while others do not have a cure time. All these layers are bonded to a substrate that is either Azdel composite or lauan plywood. Sometimes, the fiberglass is bonded to heavy-duty cardboard. Gel coats include polyester, vinyl ester, modified acrylic, epoxy, phenolic, and urethane. As you could expect, lauan and cardboard would not be expected to hold up to changes in moisture and humidity.  Some manufacturing processes use glue and a pinch roller, while others use glue and a vacuum. Vacuum-bonded walls tend to last longer, but any RV wall can delaminate. The quality of the material used and the method used to construct the walls determines how resistant to delamination it will be under harsh weather and temperature changes.

What Is RV Delamination Caused By?

Delamination is one of the most noticeable symptoms of RV water damage. If your motorhome was flooded, you could expect and prepare for the appearance of bubbles or ripples on the RV’s exterior.
    • Another great enemy of your RV walls, besides water, changes in the weather. The more your RV is exposed to extremes in hot and cold or different moisture ranges, the more likely it will be to delaminate. How well it holds up under harsh weather conditions is determined by what the layers are made of and how thick they are.
    • Aside from changes in temperature and weather, your RV can also delaminate when exposed to certain chemicals or road salt that reacts with the outer coating and causes it to fail.
    • A failed seal or physical damage to a wall that lets water in can also cause delamination and the wall to fail.
    • Sometimes, delamination is due to sun exposure breaking down the fiberglass, sealants, or outer gel.

How Common Is RV Delamination?

The question of how common delamination is depends on many factors, the most important being the quality of the materials in the walls and the process used to bond them. Delamination used to be a problem many RV owners faced, but improvements in construction and the fiberglass bonding process have reduced the problem. However, even though newer RVs are less likely to delaminate than older ones, the delamination problem still exists. Therefore, you should still be concerned about delamination, even buying a new RV. The best advice is to research and look up any complaints about the manufacturer or model you plan to purchase.

How Does RV Delamination Looks Like?

The delamination process causes unsightly bubbles or wrinkles in the outer wall of your RV. These bubbles and defects in the outer layers allow more water to enter the walls and cause more damage. Eventually, if it gets bad enough, it can cause your roof, flooring, or walls to fail completely RV delamination is more common than RV manufacturers would like to admit. Unfortunately, it can begin as something small and unnoticeable, only becoming apparent when it is too late to fix. Therefore, you should carefully inspect any used RV you plan to buy for delamination or have someone knowledgeable inspect it. Even small areas can quickly become large unless they can be repaired soon.

How to Repair Delamination on Your RV

When determining how to fix delamination on camper walls, you must first evaluate how bad the damage has spread.
    • You can purchase an RV delamination repair kit if the area is small. If the RV does not have water damage and the delamination has been caused by a failure of the adhesive, these kits are more effective in repairing the problem.
Kits are only designed to repair a small section and might not work if the water damage is extensive. Repairing your RV properly can take several days to do the job right. There is a lot to learn, and doing the job wrong can cause even more damage.
    • You might have to build something to brace the wall and put pressure against it while it cures or repaints it. Fiberglass repair takes special skills and special tools. Your skill level and whether you have access to everything you need should be a consideration when deciding to fix your RV yourself or have someone else do it.
Another consideration is that RV repair kits involve solvents and harmful chemicals. Also, not all kits will work on every material used to make RVs. For example, you have to get the right kit for your wall type, and you might need to invest in special safety equipment or tools. This can add to the cost of the RV repair significantly, which in the end, means a cheap kit might not be so cheap.
    • If you are inexperienced or do not know how to fix delamination on your RV, consulting an expert is a good idea. In addition, you will want to seek professional repairs if water damage has already occurred or the area is large. A professional will also know how to locate the cause of the damage, so it does not occur again or worsen once the repair is complete.
The advantage of hiring a professional is that they are more likely to repair the damage successfully. They also know the tricks of the trade and how to seal everything properly so the repair will last. You can drop it off to them and pick it up when you are finished, which helps save time. Of course, someone who does this for a living is the best choice for the job, but they might not come cheap.

How Much Does It Cost to Fix RV Delamination?

Unfortunately, fixing RV delamination can be expensive to repair. The RV delamination repair cost could sometimes include replacing an entire wall, roof, or floor. At a minimum, this will take a couple of thousand dollars out of your pocket. The kits to repair your RV can cost anywhere from $100 to $500, and there is no guarantee they will work. This is especially true if you are not familiar with the process. Another option is to call a professional, and the cost for this begins at around $1,000.

Does RV Insurance Cover Delamination?

The answer to this depends on many factors.
    • The first is whether the RV is still under warranty.
    • The second is whether the damage resulted from a manufacturing defect or a failure on the owner’s part to maintain the RV properly. For example, if the damage was caused by weather and the RV was not stored in a way that protects it, the insurance probably will not pay.
If you believe the damage is due to an error on the manufacturer’s part, you must be prepared for a challenge. Manufacturers and insurance companies will try to get you to back down and pay for it, even if it is a known issue with that model. However, in many cases, insurance will not cover the cost of repairing delamination unless you can prove the issue is a failure of the bonding agents or their application. Challenging an insurance claim denial can be difficult, and you can usually count on paying for it yourself. However, this brings up the next question.

Is It Worth It to Repair Your Delaminated Trailer?

There is no easy answer to this, but if the damage is small and has not spread, it might be worth getting a repair kit and doing it yourself. If you are uncertain, it is always best to consult an expert. Once the damage has become extensive, RV delamination repair is seldom worth it. Your rig’s age and resale value are factors you need to consider too. Delamination will devalue your motorhome; if it is already damaged, you can expect to get less. This type of damage is a serious issue, and if you consider selling it to get a new RV, savvy buyers will look for delamination symptoms before purchasing.

How to Protect Your RV from Delamination

Can RV delamination be stopped? The best way to prevent delamination is prevention. Will delamination spread? The answer is yes, so it is important to fix any small delamination areas as quickly as possible. The good news is that, in many cases, RV delamination can be stopped with preventative measures.
    • The best thing to do is to prevent damage to the outer shell. This means fixing any existing leaks or breaks in the outer wall. In addition, it would be best to inspect your RV anytime there is a possibility of damage from a tree branch, scratch, or hail storm. Anything that damages the outside of your RV could cause delamination.
    • Inspect your RV regularly and look for any soft spots, bubbles, or signs of leaks around seams. If you see water damage on the outside, you should get it fixed as soon as possible so that it does not cause delamination. You should also look around any windows or doors for signs water has seeped in and is beginning the delamination process.
    • Prevent water from leaking into the walls in the first place. This means inspecting the seams and resealing every seam every two to five years. Then, you should remove the old sealant, clean the seam, and apply the new sealant. You might have to do this more often if you live in a humid climate.
    • Store your RV properly. The best place to store your RV is in a garage, preferably one that is climate controlled. Storing your RV outside uncovered is inviting the inevitable as cold temperatures and water will eventually degrade the seals.
Investing in a cover can help if you have to store your RV outdoors. A cover can also help to protect your rig from harmful UV rays. Inspecting your seals when the weather turns warm and repairing any winter damage is important.

What Do You Do with a Delaminated RV?

Delamination can be a serious problem. It can cause the wood to rot and threaten the structural components of your RV. Moisture in walls can also encourage mold growth and cause a health hazard. Paint and gel coat repair is another concern. This requires special equipment and the use of harmful chemicals. Selling the RV to someone who wants to use it becomes less of an option as the damage spreads. However, if it is already too late for your RV, it might be time to consider selling it to a junk RV buyer and using the cash to get your next rig. Delamination is devastating to an RV owner. The best way to prevent this unfortunate situation is to do regular inspections and fix any damage as soon as you discover it.

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