Bubbles, waves, and blisters… If you’ve ever seen them on the sides of an RV’s wall, you’ve witnessed RV delamination.
RV delamination is BAD. It’s one of the most important things to avoid when shopping for a used rig. It’s also a crucial issue to tend to immediately if you find signs of RV delamination on your own RV.
But what exactly is RV delamination? What causes it? Can it be prevented? How it is repaired?
And what’s the big deal about delamination in the first place?
We’re answering all of these important questions in today’s post, so let’s get right to it.
What Is RV Delamination?
RV wall delamination appears as bubbling, blistering or waves – a sort of convex air pocket – usually noticed on the sidewalls of the exterior or sometimes the interior walls of fiberglass walled RVs.
RV delamination occurs when the fiberglass outer layer (or the gel coat layer) on the RV separates from the backing layer — generally plywood or luan.
When moisture finds its way into that space (and it will), it will accelerate the speed of the delamination process — the buckling of the fiberglass or gel coat.
What Causes RV Delamination?
Delamination is caused by failure of the agent that bonds the fiberglass or gel coat layer to the backing material.
This generally occurs when an RV roof leaks and water makes its way down to the styrofoam insulation and wood under the RV’s fiberglass or gel coat exterior.
Once this happens, the exterior layer pulls away from the substrate (again, usually luan or some other type of lightweight plywood), and the damage spreads.
This is most often the result of a lack of proper RV maintenance.
It’s also possible for tiny cracks to occur from stress or aging, or due to a manufacturing defect. But water intrusion is not only a common cause of delamination, but it’s the factor you can most easily control (think routine roof inspection & maintenance).
What’s the Big Deal About Delamination?
Delamination causes wood rot and a buildup of moisture within the layers. This not only damages the substrate and insulation, but can also damage the structural integrity of the wall.
Moisture between the layers can also result in mold buildup that could become a health hazard.
How Can I Prevent RV Delamination?
RV sidewall delamination can often be prevented by meticulously checking and maintaining the sealants on your RV’s roof.
This is why we often post about the importance of avoiding RV roof leaks. It’s why it’s so important to inspect your sealants regularly and use the correct one (Dicor Self-Leveling Lap Sealant, ProFlex Clear Sealant, or Eternabond Tape) for each application.
For detailed information, see our post on how to choose the correct RV caulk for the job.
It’s important to remember that over time exterior seals on your RV may break down due to exposure to the elements and age. Sealants will eventually dry out and crack, allowing moisture to seep into your RV.
See our post on the best RV roof coating products if your entire roof needs to be redone.
Is Delamination Covered by RV Insurance?
It’s unlikely that delamination caused by a leaking roof will be covered by RV insurance. That’s because it would be considered to be due to a lack of maintenance.
In some cases, the cost to fix RV delamination might be covered under the comprehensive portion of your RV insurance. However, you’d likely need to show that the delamination didn’t occur due to shoddy maintenance practices (again, a failure to maintain sealants).
Again, we can’t stress enough how important it is to periodically inspect your roof and maintain or replace aging or damaged sealants.
Can RV Delamination Be Repaired?
Delamination can and should be repaired as soon as possible to stop the process from becoming a runaway train and overwhelming the integrity of your RV.
Repair costs vary based on the extent of the damage, running anywhere from several hundred to thousands of dollars. If part or all of an external wall needs to be removed and rebuilt, the costs can really soar.
Minor damage could potentially be repaired using an RV delamination repair kit with epoxy resin and hardener like this:
- Thin Consistency, Injectable Epoxy Glue For Panel Delamination Repair
- Bonds to Wood, Plastic, Metals, Fiberglass (Azdel, Filon, FRP) Materials
Our friend Brian of RV with Tito repaired his RV wall by himself. It was quite a process, but he did a great job. If you’d like to see how he did it and what’s involved, check out his video:
Have You Dealt With RV Delamination?
If you’ve dealt with the issue of RV delamination, we’d love to hear from you. How extensive was the damage and how did you deal with it? Are you satisfied with the results of the repair? Leave a comment below and let us know.
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