If you’re in the market for a camper, you’re probably familiar with the feeling of being neck-deep into RV research. From floor plans and features to basic construction and siding options, there’s a lot to consider.
RVs come in all shapes and sizes, each with its unique features and construction. When it comes to the exterior walls or siding of your camper, two primary materials come to mind: aluminum and fiberglass.
However, not all aluminum and fiberglass RVs are the same. Some RVs feature corrugated aluminum (wavy siding), while others have smooth aluminum (think Airstreams).
Similarly, fiberglass RVs may have either laminated or molded fiberglass exteriors. Each option presents its own set of advantages and disadvantages.
To make an informed decision about which type is best for your camper, let’s dive deeper into these materials.
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Aluminum Frame with Fiberglass Exterior
An aluminum frame with a fiberglass exterior is one of the most common types of RV wall construction, prevalent in many modern RVs.
The manufacturing process involves constructing the structure, installing insulation, and then attaching the exterior panels using adhesive and screws.
This type of construction is known for its durability and lightweight nature.
Benefits of Using Aluminum Frame with Fiberglass Exterior
One significant advantage of this type of construction is its resistance to water damage. The use of an aluminum frame instead of wood makes it less susceptible to mold and rot.
In addition, any water damage is often easy to spot due to delamination, where the layers of the RV wall separate, creating a wavy or warped look. This early detection can be crucial in preventing further damage.
Corrugated aluminum siding is incredibly common in the world of RVs.
They are often referred to as “sticks and tin” campers due to their construction, which typically involves a wood frame, fiberglass or foam insulation, and aluminum panels lining the exterior.
While they may have a reputation for being made with lesser-quality materials, they do offer several benefits.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Corrugated Aluminum
Corrugated aluminum RVs are generally lighter than fiberglass ones, making them more fuel-efficient. They are also less expensive due to lower construction costs, making them more affordable for many potential RV owners.
Furthermore, repairs tend to be easier as individual panels can be replaced if damaged.
On the downside, corrugated aluminum tends to dent easily, and it may affect the RV’s resale value negatively.
Despite these drawbacks, it remains a popular choice due to its affordability and repairability.
Smooth aluminum is another popular choice for RV siding, especially for those seeking that classic Airstream look. However, it does come with its unique set of pros and cons.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Smooth Aluminum
The sleek, shiny exterior of smooth aluminum RVs is undeniably attractive.
However, it is also prone to dents, particularly from hail storms or low-hanging branches.
In terms of insulation, the inner and outer aluminum shells contain a layer of insulation, but these RVs are not as energy-efficient as other types.
Laminated fiberglass is one of the most common types of RV siding, particularly in modern RVs. They are often associated with a smooth and sleek aesthetic, which has contributed to their growing popularity over the years.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Laminated Fiberglass
Fiberglass RVs are renowned for their durability. They don’t dent as easily as aluminum and age well, often maintaining their structural integrity even with surface wear.
However, they are generally more expensive than aluminum RVs due to higher manufacturing costs and are slightly heavier, requiring more powerful tow vehicles.
Molded fiberglass is another viable option for RV siding, often found in motorhomes and similar trailers. Like laminated fiberglass, they offer a sleek and stylish exterior, but with some key differences.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Molded Fiberglass
While yet to be covered in detail, molded fiberglass shares many of the qualities of laminated fiberglass. It offers a great balance of durability, aesthetics, and resistance to water damage but usually comes with a higher price tag.
Additionally, these RVs might not be as energy-efficient as their “sticks and tin” counterparts.
Choosing the Correct Siding for Your RV
The choice of siding material for your RV depends on various factors, including your budget, desired level of maintenance, aesthetic preferences, and the type of camping or travel you plan to do.
For instance, if you’re on a tight budget and plan on performing basic repairs yourself, corrugated aluminum may be the most affordable and repairable option for you.
If you value a classic look and don’t mind the potential for dents, smooth aluminum can provide that sleek aesthetic.
A laminated fiberglass is a durable option that ages well, but it comes with a higher price tag and requires a more powerful tow vehicle.
Molded fiberglass offers similar benefits to laminated fiberglass but at an even higher cost. Consider your priorities and budget when making your decision.
Factors to Consider in Choosing RV Siding Material
Determine how much you are willing to spend on your RV siding. Corrugated aluminum is the most affordable option, while molded fiberglass is typically the most expensive.
Consider how much time and effort you are willing to put into maintaining your RV siding. Some materials, like corrugated aluminum, may require more frequent repairs and touch-ups.
Decide on the look you want for your RV. Smooth aluminum provides a classic, shiny appearance, while laminated and molded fiberglass offer a sleek, modern look.
Consider the type of camping or travel you plan to do. If you anticipate encountering hail storms or low-hanging branches, you may want to avoid materials prone to denting, such as smooth aluminum.
If energy efficiency is important to you, you may want to choose a material with better insulation properties, such as laminated or molded fiberglass.
Keep in mind that heavier materials, like laminated and molded fiberglass, may require a more powerful tow vehicle.
By considering these factors, you can make an informed decision and choose the right siding material for your RV.