Are you in the market for a camper? If so, you’re probably neck-deep into RV research, including their basic construction and the various types of camper siding options.
If you’re just beginning your search, however, you might be wondering: What is RV siding made out of?
RV siding is typically made out of either aluminum or fiberglass; and while these are the most common materials used, not every RV is made the same. Fiberglass RVs are made from both laminated and molded fiberglass, while aluminum RVs can be made from corrugated or smooth aluminum.
RV siding material is an important aspect of your search, but it’s not the only element to consider.
So before choosing RV siding, it pays to do a little research on the different types of materials used to construct the exterior walls of your camper and learn about their costs and benefits, and ultimately – which RV siding is best.
Choosing The Correct Siding For Your RV
Welcome to the amazing journey of RV construction; hold on tight, there’s a lot to know!
This is mainly because there are SO many RVs out there to choose from. Lucky for us, there truly is an RV for everyone with many different options for floor plans, features, and of course – siding construction.
As mentioned above, the two main types of camper siding materials are aluminum and fiberglass.
And yes, you can side your RV with just about any material out there: wood, vinyl, steel, etc.. however, you won’t really find those siding materials at a traditional RV dealer.
Indeed, there is a reason why aluminum and fiberglass are so popular: they are both lightweight and durable.
Nevertheless, not all aluminum-sided and fiberglass-sided RVs are similar.
Some RVs have corrugated aluminum (think: wavy siding) while others have smooth aluminum (yep, you guessed it: Airstreams). Likewise, fiberglass RVs are made with either laminated fiberglass or molded fiberglass.
These include most motorhomes, as well as Scamps, Casitas, and other similar trailers. And of course, each option comes with its own list of advantages and disadvantages.
Next, we’ll dive into the four most common types of RV siding construction: corrugated aluminum, smooth aluminum, laminated fiberglass, and molded fiberglass.
Let’s get started!
Different Types of RV Siding Options to Consider
Below are the four different types of siding that are typically used in RVs. While each one has its pros and cons, it’s important to remember that they are used for a reason.
Whether you choose an aluminum-sided RV or a fiberglass one, you can rest easy knowing that they are tried-and-true materials trusted by RV manufacturers throughout the years.
1. Corrugated Aluminum
RVs with corrugated aluminum siding are extremely common, and chances are, someone you know probably has one.
They are typically cheaper than fiberglass RVs because they’re less expensive to make. Even so, it takes more man-hours to build one of these rigs because of their construction.
In fact, RVs with corrugated aluminum siding are referred to as “sticks and tin” campers because they’re built similar to a house.
They typically have a wood frame, fiberglass or foam insulation, and aluminum panels lining the exterior.
Unfortunately, these rigs come with a reputation of being made with lesser quality materials; however, RVs with corrugated aluminum siding have many benefits.
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons.
Example of an RV with Corrugated Aluminum Siding: The Forest River Cherokee Grey Wolf 26DBH Travel Trailer
2. Smooth Aluminum
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of smooth aluminum siding? Airstreams, of course! And Wally Byam knew exactly what he was doing when he founded the iconic company in 1931.
Airstreams are made from a riveted aluminum shell, an aluminum frame, and spray-on insulation.
This allows them to be both light AND indestructible. The body of an Airstream will not rot if left sitting for years in your backyard – there’s no wood in the structure! (Okay, there is wood in the subfloor, but that’s to be expected).
While Airstreams are the most emblematic of the smooth-sided aluminum RVs, they are definitely not the only ones ever made.
You also may recall seeing different vintage trailers with smooth aluminum siding, as they were very popular at one point.
Example of an RV with Smooth Aluminum Siding: The Airstream Classic Travel Trailer
3. Laminated Fiberglass
Laminated fiberglass is one of the most common types of RV siding; especially in modern RVs.
In fact, if you see a camper or motorhome going down the road with smooth sides, it probably has fiberglass walls.
RVs with fiberglass walls have grown in popularity – mainly because they look so good.
They don’t dent as easily as aluminum and they hold up well as they age. Yes, you may see some cracked decals, but the structure behind it remains solid unless heavy damage occurs.
These RVs are usually made with an aluminum frame, and the walls are constructed with laminated fiberglass, luan wood, foam insulation, and another layer of luan for the inside wall.
If made well, this construction is very durable and lightweight. Moreover, because the frame is aluminum instead of wood, it will withstand water damage better than corrugated aluminum RVs.
In fact, you’ll probably be able to spot water damage pretty quickly. A sure sign that moisture has made its way into your walls is delamination, which happens when the layers of your RV wall separates, creating that wavy or warped look.
Example of a Laminated Fiberglass RV: Jayco Eagle HT Fifth Wheel
4. Molded Fiberglass
These RVs are very recognizable and are made by molding fiberglass into two sections and then sealing them together to create the outer shell.
The interior is then lined with insulation (a space-age “bubble” insulation or foam), and then an interior wall material such as cloth or another layer of fiberglass.
Molded Fiberglass RVs are unique because they don’t need a frame; the molded shell is sturdy enough to hold itself up (with some supports).
This construction provides both advantages and disadvantages when it comes to weight, durability, and size.
Example of a Molded Fiberglass RV: Oliver Legacy Elite
So, Which Camper Sliding Material is Better?
It’s tempting to say one material is better than the rest (and I definitely have my own opinions).
However, the best camper outer wall construction is going to differ for everyone.
For example, someone who doesn’t want to blow their budget on a rig they will only use occasionally may opt for a corrugated aluminum RV, while a full-timing family may opt for a large rig with laminated fiberglass sides.
Likewise, a retired couple may enjoy the durability and low maintenance nature of molded fiberglass campers.
Another point worth mentioning is: It’s all how they’re made!
If you search long enough, you’ll find laminated fiberglass RVs that are poorly made and corrugated aluminum RVs that are extremely well built.
Therefore, comparing one material to the other is just one aspect to consider when deciding which RV is best for you – and usually, you get what you pay for!
Now we want to hear from you! Which type of RV do YOU think is best?