How To Repair Travel Trailer Walls
12/5/2022 – Good Sam
As a responsible travel trailer owner, you already know there’s more to the experience than the fun it provides you and your family. There’s upkeep, maintenance, improvements, and care required to keep your travel trailer at its best.
And some projects require quite a bit more effort than others—including wall repair.
Whether you bought a new or used travel trailer, at some point, you might need to repair or replace the walls due to water damage, delamination, ordinary wear-and-tear, or cosmetic damage. And many RV owners now tackle this issue on their own rather than fight to find a repair shop with open availability.
Just as with your personal car or truck, you’ve invested a lot into your travel trailer already. And you shouldn’t approach any DIY project haphazardly, especially if it involves an exterior structural component like walls.
Here are some tips to consider as you debate whether or not to attempt a travel trailer wall repair on your own and what it might involve if you undertake this in the future.
The good news: you won’t be the first to try to tackle a DIY wall repair for your travel trailer. In fact, the pathway is marked by others who have paved the way.
There’s a wealth of information and resources available to those who want to try their hand at a DIY wall replacement and repair project. This can help you save money in the long run instead of paying for professional service (which, these days, can be tough to come across).
There’s also a certain satisfaction you get from learning about your travel trailer’s inner workings: how it was manufactured, how the components work together, and what the best methods are to repair or replace damaged or outdated walls.
Travel trailer walls are an especially interesting component to repair for a couple of reasons:
- They are considered load-bearing but have lightweight capacity; typically, they are constructed with 2-inch by 2-inch lumber. Or, strong enough to bear the roof’s weight, but maybe not strong enough to mount a 60-inch TV.
- They are weatherized with fiberglass siding on the exterior, but a small leak can easily compromise the particleboard within. Travel trailer walls are built with lightweight material to improve fuel efficiency, so even small amounts of moisture can cause delamination or structural compromise.
- Depending on your RV’s age, wall repair could include upgrades to improve its value. As RVs become more modern, there are better options for insulation, paneling, electrical (12-volt), and fasteners. For example, some RVs were manufactured with building staples instead of finish nails.
DIY projects like repairing travel trailer walls are popular among enthusiasts who pride themselves on self-sustainability and innovation. Those who have gone this route before will outline the tools, steps, and processes for repairing your walls.
Note: many DIY practitioners are somewhat limited because they show the process for their specific trailer model. And the steps vary depending on the age of the trailer, how extensive the damage is, and how modernized the trailer is (electrical, types of materials, manufacturing techniques).
But don’t let the model type deter you from taking a gander at your own travel trailer. Some basic, universal steps include:
1.) Assessing the problem – Many problems can create the need to repair your walls, and assessment should be the first step. A bulge in the wall might be the first sign of delamination or water damage. Assess from the interior as well as the exterior. Identify all related problems: electrical, cosmetic, structural, etc.
2.) Defining the scope – Once you’ve opened the wall, see how far the moisture has spread, for example, and take inventory of what needs replacing. But also take note of what will be affected by replacing damaged materials. For instance, will electrical need to be disassembled? If removing windows, will you need to replace sealant? Do you require insulation?
3.) Tools & Materials –It’s mostly your decision on the specific materials you use, but maintain consistency with the manufacturer’s materials for cosmetic and structural purposes.
- Electric or compressed-air nail gun
- Pry bars and nail and staple removers
- Interior paneling and ?-inch plywood (optional)
- Sealants, insulation, and weather stripping
- Particleboard, 2-inch by 2-inch lumber, fiberglass, etc.
- Eye protection, gloves, xacto knife or box cutter, and cutting tools
4.) Deconstruction – Your first steps will involve carefully dismantling the existing wall structure. Identify damage, retain all screws and fasteners, and take photographs as guidelines for reconstruction. Identify and mark any electrical wires.
5.) Reconstruction –In exact detail, follow the directions that come with the type of paneling you purchased, and ensure that everything is properly sealed and insulated to protect from additional problems further down the road. If at any point you question your ability to reconstruct portions of the wall properly, don’t hesitate to take the time to get professional help to make sure the job is done correctly.
6.) Detailing –The leading cause of wall damage is moisture, and whenever you work on your walls for repair reasons, you risk creating more leaks or moisture access. Ensure you take the proper steps to weatherize everything, including watching (and listening) for any leaks when your trailer is exposed to rain or water.
Before you complete any purchases or become dead-set on completing your travel trailer wall repairs yourself, take inventory of the costs for both professional help as well as DIY. Many repair shops are increasing prices due to high demand and short labor. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still try to get a ballpark quote on what a repair would cost.
You can certainly do DIY upgrades, but you’ll want to make sure those modifications don’t render your motorhome ineligible for extended warranty coverage.
Your best bet? Get in touch with your extended warranty provider and get solid answers before completing any modulation or repair to your RV or travel trailer’s walls. Make sure you have a good idea of the actual work you’ll complete—especially electrical—so they can provide accurate information regarding your warranty and if any work might disqualify your coverage.