Hanging Things on RV Walls using Pop Rivets

TheRVgeeks Installation, Repair 19 Comments

We demonstrate how to hang things on the interior walls of an RV. Just about all motorhome, travel trailer and fifth wheel walls are the same thin material that isn’t strong enough to hold wood screws. And without access behind the wall panels, there’s no way to use bolts, since you can’t tighten down the nuts. And velcro only works for really lightweight items.

3M Command hooks are good for items up to a certain weight, but what about when you want to attach something heavy… or permanently?

One solution: Pop Rivets. We like them for many installations compared to molly bolts or collapsible wall fasteners because of how small they are.

At the beginning of the video, you can see the limited amount of space we had to work with when installing the fire extinguisher mounting bracket. We were able to get several rivets into a very small area, providing enough strength to make sure the mount wouldn’t pull off the wall when grabbing the fire extinguisher.

Thanks to our good friends Pat & Rita for allowing us to drill holes in the walls of their Winnebago motorhome to demonstrate how to do this. We’ve also installed things with pop rivets many times in our Newmar Mountain Aire and before that in our Fleetwood Bounder Diesel. Be sure to confirm that all methods and materials used are compatible with your particular RV.


Featured & Related Products:



We're handy RVers, not professional technicians. We're happy with the techniques and products we use, but be sure to confirm that all methods and materials you use are compatible with your equipment and abilities. Regardless of what we recommend, consult a professional if you're unsure about working on your RV. Any task you perform or product you purchase based on any information we provide is strictly at your own risk.

We sometimes receive products for evaluation at no cost, and The RVgeeks are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. But our opinions are our own, you won’t pay an extra penny, and we only link to products we personally use, love and can recommend to friends with complete confidence.


Comments 19

  1. Thank you for this. Would you be able to say how much weight you’ve successfully hung using pop rivets?
    I’m thinking of mounting a set of speakers to the wall and each weighs about 4lbs.

    1. Post
      Author

      Hi Jon… the heaviest item we’ve mounted using pop rivets was probably about 2-3 pounds. But the amount you could feasibly support would depend on a couple of factors:

      1. How many rivets would you be able to get into the wall, to help distribute the load?
      2. What type of rivets you use (there are “load spreading” rivets that expand differently, helping to distribute the weight they are carrying over a larger surface area)?
      3. Are you mounting just to the wallboard? Or is there a possibility that you could attach to a structural element in the wall?
      4. How far off the wall will the object stick out? (i.e. does it have a lot of leverage, where the center of gravity of the weight of it is able to apply more outward force on the rivets?)

      So based on all of those items, we’d want to use as many load-spreading rivets as we could, would want to try mount the speaker at a spot where we could be sure it was attaching to a structural element, and would probably reinforce the installation with some industrial-strength velcro on the back of the speaker to help carry some of the weight so the rivets aren’t holding it all.

      It’s possible that, even with all of that, the vibrations of driving will, over time, weaken the attachments and cause the speakers to fail.

      Hope this helps!

  2. We just moved in to our RV this week, and I’m in the process of replacing all the valences with curtain rods. Ran into several problems with different approaches to attaching the rods to the walls (no studs, 3M velcro fail, etc.)…then…ran across this video (again, we’ve been watching you for a year an a half and totally forgot about this). You just saved my bacon…I now have a whole new plan of attack.

    We also made use of your light in the water bay when the Northwest decided to have some freezing overnights this past week. Thanks so much and keep up the good work!

    1. Post
      Author
    2. I am interested how that turned out for you because I am currently facing a similar situation attempting to replace the standard window pull down blinds with a curtain rod system but I am unsure of how deep I must drill the pilot hole and then how large of a rivit is necessary . I believe i was able to find out myself ( the hard way ) that my thinking that the rivit would penetrate all the way beyond the outer walls to be secure but seeing how I am unable to even find a rivit of such length I doubt that this is the proper way… any thoughts ?

      1. Post
        Author

        Hey Ryan. In case Brian doesn’t get an email letting him know you’ve replied to his comment, here’s a couple of thoughts.

        First, a lot of RV walls are a sandwich of thin luan (inside wall), foam block insulation, and fiberglass (outside wall). So to get the rivet to work, you really only need to drill the pilot hole through the luan inner layer (usually 1/8″ to 1/4″ thick). When the rivet gets pulled, it will flare out inside the wall… pushing the foam block insulation away and securing itself to the luan layer.

        Second, since that luan layer is fairly thin (i.e. not that strong), you want to be sure you’re not putting too much weight on it in too small an area. So we’d recommend using Load Spreading Rivets (like these on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2VZjfuZ) that will spread out even more inside the wall (like a Molly Bolt). Just choose the correct diameter rivet to fit through the opening in the hardware you’re trying to mount.

        Third… you ABSOLUTELY DO NOT WANT the rivet to extend all the way through your wall to the outside!!! Not only would it require an impossibly long rivet… but it would create yet another opening in your RV that would need to be sealed to prevent water penetration.

        Hope this info helps!

  3. Nice video, great idea! We just got our rig and we were pondering this exact question! Thank you very much.

    1. Post
      Author
  4. The problem with pop rivets is, if you ever have to remove something, you have to drill them out and that can be a pain. It I want to install something on my walls that might some day have to be removed I use molly bolts. Here is a link for the type I use. http://www.mutualscrew.com/product/powers-2100-18-extra-short-polly-hollow-wall-anchor-18-to-114-wall-thickness-186023.cfm?source=froogle&gclid=CjwKEAjwutXIBRDV7-SDvdiNsUoSJACIlTqlS0bg4tBBcGGqaTtZ3HBKxFtId6Xo-CdvDkDkEx4WxhoCgRzw_wcB
    Now I really like that pop rivet gun with the swivel head, it does have it’s place. I gotta find me one of them

  5. Newby here. About how thick are typical travel trailer walls? How do you decide what size/length pop rivet to use? I want to install a curtain rod over one of my bedroom windows to hold a wall hanging, the weight will be distributed over the length of the rod.

    Thanks for your information!

    1. Post
      Author

      Hi Susan! As we’ve only ever installed pop rivets in two different RV’s (both motorhomes), we’re not sure about wall thickness in various types of rigs. But based on our limited experience, we’d have to say “fairly thin” is a safe bet. Newmar is fairly high on the RV food chain, and the walls are luan that’s probably about 1/8″ thick. It’s strong enough to hold fairly light objects, but the heavier something is, the more holding power will be needed.

      Besides the central vacuum installation we featured in this video (which was sitting on the floor, so not much stress on the rivets), we also installed a wire rack on the bathroom wall of the same motorhome (a friend of ours Winnebago). That rack holds about a dozen rolls of toilet paper, and it is still hanging tight with just the four pop rivets we used.

      We’d suggest that if the rod has multiple mounting holes on each side (3 or 4 vs 1 or 2) you can hang a bit more weight on it, and be fine with pop rivets. If there are only one or two mounting holes on each side and/or the weight of the wall hanging that will be hung from the rod is considerable (more than a few pounds), we’d go with something stronger than pop rivets, such as wall anchors / toggle bolts / mollies, which are available at any hardware or home improvement store. The larger area on the back of those types of mounting devices will hold a larger weight than a pop rivet.

      One note though…. toggle bolts / mollies, etc, are spring loaded, and therefore may not work in exterior walls, since the foam insulation in the wall would likely prevent them from springing out after inserting them into the hole. In this case, pop rivets are best. You can determine the length/depth of rivet needed by drilling the first hole. That will allow you to see the thickness of the wall. The odds are good that about a 3/8″ rivet depth will be the sweet spot (the wall of course is thinner than that, but you need the extra river depth to allow it to spread out behind the wall. The diameter of the rivet will be determined by the diameter of the holes in the mounting brackets. The rivets should be as large around as possible and still fit through the holes, and of course you’ll drill the size hole required to accommodate them.

      Hope this helps!

  6. I would like to hang some wire shelving (closet maid type) in my “pantry” cabinet. Do you think pop rivets would be able to hold these shelves with food or other items on them. I’m also looking to add a draw or two. Thanks in advance.

    1. Post
      Author

      We would not recommend pop rivets for supporting any real weight. If you’ll be using these shelves for cereal or crackers or other lightweight items, they should be fine. But any real weight, like a shelf full of canned goods, is a “crashing sound” waiting to happen while driving down a bumpy road. Not sure of anything strong enough to hold real weight on typical thin RV walls. Maybe walls anchors. You might be better off with adjustable shelves… the type with metal bars on each side that have movable clips for setting the height. Our friends whose RV was featured in this video asked if we would also install a wire rack on their bathroom wall to hold toilet paper. It holds about 8 rolls, and it’s been up for years with no problem, held up by about 4 pop rivets as I recall. But toilet paper isn’t too heavy!

  7. Would a pop rivet hold a TV? I’m looking to install a TV mounting arm in my Motorhome that will allow us to rotate and swivel the TV for best viewing. It will be a smaller TV probably 22 in.

    1. Post
      Author
      1. Thanks for the reply. I have a Zircon Stud Sensor e50 that works well in my home, but when I tried it in the two openings in my Motorhome it did not detect any studs. They are just a box made into the kitchen cabinets and in the bedroom closets that a TV would sit on with a strap to hold a “thicker” TV as opposed to a flat screen one. So, I’m now thinking about bolting a mounting arm in the cabinet to hold the TV. But any other suggestions would be greatly appreciated. This is our first Motorhome/RV so I am constantly trying to lean as much as possible about how to do modifications.

        1. Post
          Author

          Hmmmm… good question, Todd! We’ve never tackled mounting anything of any real substance to the walls in our RV… so we don’t have any first-hand experience we can draw on to provide you guidance. Gut instinct says that you’re probably going to need to devise some sort of wooden bracing… to help distribute the weight of the bracket & TV while also providing something solid to mount the arm to.

          We’re going to have to defer to others on this one… and suggest that you might want to post in the forums on iRV2.com ( http://irv2.com/forums ). It’s free to join and post your question, and there are probably plenty of people out there who have already done exactly what you’re looking to do.

          Sorry we can’t be of more help… but best of luck!

    1. Post
      Author

      It’s not quite that dire! lol If you decide to remove it, or want to use some other type of fastener instead, just drill the head out. The back of the rivet will fall harmlessly inside the wall, and you can remove whatever you had riveted on. Of course there will still be a hole in the wall, but that’s true of whatever type of fastener you use.

We'd Love To Hear From You... Leave A Comment!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.