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Ask Dave: Does extreme heat make my RV’s wallpaper wrinkle?

Dear Dave,
Does extreme heat from the sun make my RV’s wallpaper wrinkle? —Jana

Dear Jana,
Yes, extreme heat can cause the interior “wallpaper” in an RV to wrinkle.

The sidewall of your rig is typically laminated with a one-piece outer fiberglass skin, 1/8” luaun wood panel for backing, aluminum framework with block foam insulation inside the openings, and another 1/8” luaun panel with wallpaper. The wallpaper is applied by the panel company such as Patrick Industries. When I was at Winnebago we used BP Paneling and Pluswood.

Unlike residential wallpaper, RV interior panels do not use a paste, rather an adhesive on the back side of the wallpaper and pressed at the factory. Some interior panels have an embossed texture that is an actual print. However, if yours is wrinkling, it has wallpaper.

The worst thing that can happen to almost every component in an RV is temperature changes and moisture. As the outside temperatures reach 80, 90, or 100 degrees, it’s not uncommon for the inside temperature to be 20-30 degrees higher. Then add humidity to the equation and all the materials expand and contract, and usually at different rates. The adhesive used on the wallpaper of your interior paneling can actually melt and become pasty again and sag. It’s a problem with not only the wall panel, but more often with the ceiling fabric, which can be a padded vinyl or fabric material. The weight of the material makes it separate from the paneling.

Keep in mind we keep our homes climate-controlled all year at about 68 degrees, so we don’t see this situation. However, visit a house that has been sitting vacant and with everything shut off, and you will see the same thing with wallpaper, and especially paint and drywall.

You can fix the wallpaper

There is a fix, if you have the patience and a little DIY ability, depending on the severity of the wrinkling and if the paper actually got creased or has tears. The panels come in 4 x 8 foot sheets positioned vertically. So you should see a seam every four feet with what we called a batt strip or seam tape. This covers the gap or seam between the two panels. I would start by using a heat gun on low setting so as to not burn the paper and heat the wrinkles. Then use a rubber or soft plastic squeegee typically used in body shop work. Gently move the wrinkle to either the top or side, which will push the air as well. You might need to remove the seam tape to move the material past it or loosen a cabinet. Typically the material has stretched a little and you will have extra material that can be trimmed off.

In some situations the adhesive is no longer bonding. Then you will need to pull back the material and apply a spray-on adhesive. Stretch the material back in place and use the squeegee to reapply it.

Use a needle if the damage to the wallpaper is small

If some of the wrinkles are small or there are just bubbles and in the center of a panel, you can use a needle to poke a pinhole in the middle and force the air out with the squeegee.

If you do need to remove the seam tape and cannot reapply it, most home improvement stores have a variety of styles and color that would match close. In that case, I would replace all the seam tape in the room with the new style to make it match.

Another option is to use white, paintable door and window silicone in the seam and scrape all excess off the panel. Let it dry and then use an artist’s brush to paint the silicone the base color of the existing panel. Then dab some on the other colors, which will help make it blend.

Dave Solberg is a leading expert in the RV industry and author of the “RV Handbook” as well as the Managing Editor of the RV Repair Club.

Read more from Dave here

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Diane Tricomi
3 months ago

I find here in Arizona, That when storing my RV, a bucket or two of water inside on the floor help’s keep moisture in the inside to help with wallpaper and rubber gasket’s . IT WORKS !
just remember to refill after 20 to 30 days if RV is not being used,