RV Doctor: What to do about RV siding delamination

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Dear Gary:
I have a 2004 RV with a wood frame. Last summer I noticed what I believe you call “delaminating” on the front section. The camper’s exterior fiberglass appeared to be rippling. I suspected this was related to a leak so I resealed the entire front of the RV. Recently, during a heavy rainstorm, I found some water in a closet which verified there was in fact a leak and also that I didn’t catch it when I resealed the RV. If I can get the leak to stop will the “delaminating” continue? Can you repair “delaminating” without peeling back the entire exterior? If I get the leak to stop, will problems continue (dry rot, etc.)? Am I in deep trouble or what? —Dennis D.

Dear Dennis:
In many cases, wood frame construction is relatively easy to fix in the event that there is any damage to the structure. You are correct in that the leak source must be identified and stopped before repairing the damage. If you are having a problem finding the leak, carefully and thoroughly inspect all moldings, fixtures, window frames and lights. Reseal any areas that look questionable, even if you do not find any breaks or voids. To be 100 percent sure where the leaks are located, check out this short video. (For leak testing locations, click here, rather than the website address in the video.)

Stopping the leak is the important first step, but delamination usually occurs only after the underlying wood and framework have become saturated with moisture. Even after stopping the leak, the wood can stay wet due to the absence of airflow and further damage could result.

RV-ext.-skin----Bunzer-RVT-757Some people claim you can inject glue behind the delamination and stick it back down. Typically this is a waste of time and effort, as you cannot get glue to stick to old adhesive and wet wood for very long no matter what you use. Also, there is no opportunity to repair any underlying damage or even time to dry the wood effectively.

If delamination occurs and the area of the damage is small compared to the size of that section, a good body expert can repair the damage with a patch. In your case of delamination on the front of an RV, I would recommend replacing the entire front, as it is a relatively small area and the cost to replace versus repair (if the damaged area is small) is insignificant, especially when you consider the integrity of the repair. Replacing the entire front is guaranteed to be a more robust repair than a patch.

A patch is also not an option if the damaged region spans a significant area. The repair process involves stripping the moldings and other fixtures, and removing the fiberglass panel from the wood frame. The insulation is removed in order to dry the wood frame and interior wall panel. This drying stage is very important for proper repair. Any water-damaged wood framing is replaced, new insulation installed, and the wall material replaced with new, including any backing that was used on the original.

In the case of a patch, it is done the same way except only the damaged portion of the fiberglass is simply cut out. Then the framing is dried and repaired. A new section of fiberglass is inserted into the cutout and the joints finished with fiberglass cloth and painted. This is a relatively complex repair job and I don’t recommend you attempt it yourself. Seek out an RV repair facility experienced in collision repairs. The job should not be overly cost prohibitive, since a front wall is not a large area to repair; however, such things are subjective!

gary-736Read more from Gary Bunzer at the RVdoctor.com. See Gary’s videos about RV repair and maintenance.

##RVT935

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Bill
8 months ago

Gary –

Right up front, your response says “… the leak source must be identified and stopped before repairing the damage. If you are having a problem finding the leak, carefully and thoroughly inspect ….” Of course it is true that the first step is to find the leak, but finding it by visual inspection is a pretty iffy proposition. For example, it is easy to miss a spot in a seam where a bead of caulk has lifted a bit, especially on a roof seam. There are many other ways for a leak to occur, but you get t he idea.

Professional home inspectors who specialize in locating heats leaks from houses use what’s called a blower door. It is basically a big high-volume low-pressure fan that is mounted temporarily in a window or door frame. The fan pressurizes the house just a bit, and the inspector goes outside and uses an infrared camera to find places where warm air is leaking out. In the case of an RV, you might use a blower door, and substitute soapy water for the camera. Wherever there is a leak, the soapy water will blow bubbles on outside wall. This is the same technique you use to find leaks in your propane connections.

Few of us own a blower door, But perhaps it would be useful to call in a home inspector, rather than trying to eyeball a persistent leak ourselves.

Bill

Ed D.
8 months ago

Our very first RV was a 2006, Class A, Georgie Boy. It had delamination on the Slide out that was really noticeable. I took it to a Dealership in Deland Florida, (Southern RV) and it just so happened that they had a Technician on their staff that was very good at what he does. He now owns his own RV repair Business in Debary, Florida, “KA RV Repair”. I believe in promoting competent, trustworthy shops.
Anyway, he actually removed the Mouldings, removed the entire panel on the slide out, replaced the rotted wood, reglued the Fiberglas sheet and we never had another problem again. He did a superb job and it was under $300.00. But if you know you have experienced a leak, do not seal the leak without getting a damage assessment done by a competent, reliable, RV Technician first! You will only be asking for trouble down the road.

Mike
8 months ago
Reply to  Ed D.

I will get in touch with him ,I have a 08 four wind that has delam would love to get it fixed