Wall Construction - Information Overload at Dealership!

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jdcml

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Clermont, FL
We are actively searching for our semi-regular TT for normally 2 but occasionally 4 with older teens. We went to try and look at floor plans and quickly determined what we liked and didn't like in various models. We spent some time with the sales person at the local dealership walking through a few different models we started to narrow down.

One model we liked was a Viking (but I'm seeing some other sites with quality concerns). He said that this model was stick built with insulation in the walls and individual aluminum panels attached on the outside. He listed some benefits of this design being easier to repair if there is an issue as opposed to a laminated wall. If a leak develops it isn't absorbed but can potentially drain between the outer skin, and the wall and a few others that honestly started to get cloudy. I assume that any potential leak would likely get whicked up by the floor which would negate the 'drain between the skin and wall' concept.

He also mentioned another that we were looking at was a laminated wall with the otter shell, some foam insulation, and the inner wall. He promoted how durable they were by literally punching the inside of an exterior wall with no issues. He said a challenge with that wall is that if a leak were to develop and become an issue, or say something damages the wall, the entire wall would need to be replaced at a significant cost.

He mentioned another build type had lauan and while light weight would suck water like a sponge if something where to happen and repairs are difficult because it is also a version that has been laminated together.

Any insight on pros and cons of various wall types? The stick built that can be repaired does sound good, but wondering about the durability when towing and subject to travel conditions. My 'guess' is that we would probably rarely travel more than a couple hundred miles from home base.
Our very first TT was used - and it was sold because it had a leak... we learned that the hard way and it was one that had the luan, foam board, and then the outer skin and we were really limited on being able to repair it at all and finally sold it after we found the extent of the damages :cautious:.
 

Mark_K5LXP

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Reparability of any construction type isn't the item of discussion, it's the integrity of the unit that prevents a leak in the first place. None of the construction types are easily or inexpensively fixed, so to go down the road of selling one over the other as a 'feature' to me is a red herring.

Mark B.
Albuquerque, NM
 

donn

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By stick built I'm assuming you mean wood construction vs aluminum. Wood has been used since day one in RVs. It's cheap, durable and offers decent Insulation value. Aluminum is more expensive, but rot proof. As far as I know all RVs are laid floor first with everything else hung onto outriggers bolted through the floor. Most all low to mid priced RVs will be wood framed. Once you get to medium to upper end units you will see aluminum. Although you will also find wood in some high end units. Do yourself a big favor, STOP! Stop looking at new, instead look for a gently used trailer that will fit your needs. Generally speaking first time buyers last less than 3 years in their first, if that long. So why throw away your hard earned money in depreciation.
 

Utclmjmpr

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Also stop,,,stop listening to sales people who have never been in the construction trades or any where near it.. As one person put it MALARKY!!..
Not only have I been in construction but a licenced general contractor AND a previous sales manager,, so know both sides of that issue..>>>Dan;)
 

Gary RV_Wizard

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Only the cheapest units are the proverbial stick & tin construction, and even that is changing because wood has become so expensive. I'd avoid wood framing if I could simply because of the wood rot potential, but maybe wouldn't consider it a show-stopper if the rig was otherwise perfect for my needs.

Luan plywood is commonly used as a backer or liner for laminated fiberglass walls and also in ceilings and sometimes in interior wallboard (vinyl-covered luan panels). It's maybe a bit more water-absorbing than other woods, but if you are getting water down through the walls the difference is probably academic.

Next thing, the sales guy will be bragging about the holes in the floor that let the water run out. Right?
 

jdcml

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Clermont, FL
So after doing even more looking and research I guess the clarification is aluminum siding as opposed to fiberglass. Maybe making that distinction would change the conversation?

For whatever reason, the ability to take a couple of panels of siding off and replace those as opposed to an entire fiberglass wall does seem to make sense. We were at a large super center in the shop and there was one fiberglass with the entire back wall removed. Sure, the HOPE is that you never worry about water penetration or repairs.

Other pros and cons of aluminum and fiberglass?

Looking at a Forest River Grey Wolf or possibly a "Coachmen" Viking both have aluminum siding.
 

Gary RV_Wizard

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Aluminum RV siding comes in two forms - flat sheets and corrugated. Per the FR website, the Grey Wolf appears to be available with either corrugated aluminum panels or with laminated fiberglass walls (Black Label Edition). Viking is corrugated aluminum only. I could not determine if the wall framing in Grey Wolf is wood or metal, but Viking appears to be wood (based on one photo).
 

SeilerBird

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I have owned many RVs, As, Bs, Cs and currently a fifth wheel. I spent a lot of time shopping for each one. I have never spent one second worrying about the construction of the walls.
 

scottydl

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^^ I was in the middle of typing the same thing as SeilerBird. I woudn't make wall materials a dealbreaker either way. Doing lots of research is great, so I'm not downplaying that aspect of your journey or questions here. But my recommendation is to buy the RV that (1) meets your needs with size and floorplan, (2) meets your budget that you can afford, and (3) is in good working condition with no major problems (if buying used), and (4) has the creature comforts and options you want. If you perform the basic annual maintenance which includes roof inspection, and apply a protective layer like Eternabond tape over all the seams -- chances of leaks will be substantially reduced.
 

jdcml

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Clermont, FL
I have owned many RVs, As, Bs, Cs and currently a fifth wheel. I spent a lot of time shopping for each one. I have never spent one second worrying about the construction of the walls.
Easy enough! Maybe it was just something that one guy at one lot was focused on and it got me sidetracked. I guess it’s reasonable to assume it isn’t going to rack or buckle in transit and it’s engineered properly! 🤣🤣
 

SeilerBird

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The last class A I bought was 15 years old and had a lot of delamination on one side. And I mean a lot. Never bothered me at all. When I parked it so the delam side was facing the sun the bubbles got larger and in winter they shrunk.
 

Mark_K5LXP

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Fiberglass gel coat requires maintenance (buffing), aluminum skin generally just needs wash and wax. Aluminum does corrode when exposed to constant moisture, so under trim and exposed edges it will get ratty after a while. Fiberglass will take a bit of an impact (branches, etc) but aluminum will dent and stay that way. Either one turns to poop if they get wet. Bottom line is what everyone else is saying, there's no clear winner in terms of longevity or reparability. Most important is floor plan, if the unit isn't functional for you it wouldn't matter how it was built. Frankly I think RV construction practices in general are abhorrent but they're all that way. There's a reason RV's depreciate the way they do - they're not durable. So at the end of the day you have to decide that the end is more important than the means, you pays your money and takes your chances. With any luck it will last as long as it needs to and the mission is accomplished.

Mark B.
Albuquerque, NM
 

OldMarine

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they're all junk! lol...get what you like, enjoy the hell out of it, don't worry about how it was built, they are all built like cr*p...use it a few years, then sell it to someone and give them a great deal.
 

tc tom

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If your handy and a do it your selfer I would stick with the wood frame. I have had travel trailers for over fifty years. I'm not sure if the manufactures do it intentionally but RV's are built to leak. The only exceptions generally are Airstreams and the solid fiberglass units like Casita. The leaks are usually under the aluminum molding used at the edges to cover the joint where the wall and roof meet or on the corners. the other area is round openings in the walls like windows. From my experiance the main reason is the use of butyl tape caulk. The only thing that compresses that caulk are the screws in the molding every 8 to 10 inches. many times the tape never gets a tight seal because the molding in not stiff enough to compress it between screws. Over time water will weep in. Also water can weep in around the head, down the screw shank and past the tape. Aluminum framed. What that usually means is that the RV has laminated walls. The only aluminum is around the profile of the trailer. The only studs are one on each side of the door and in each corner. There are no studs in the walls. There are a few floor joists and a few ceiling rafters. Usually one about every 8 ft. With a laminated wall, depending on the size of the water damage, the wall loses it's structural integrity. It's really tough to regain that integrity with a repair. At least with wood frame the rotted part can be removed back to good wood and studs can be replaced. Just my two cents. Hope this helps and happy camping, Tom
 
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