Water damage may creep out unexpectedly, leaving you no other choice than to immediately take measures. But having never done any RV projects in your life, you may not know how to replace RV wall paneling.
Below, we’ll provide you with in-depth guidelines on how to replace your RV wall paneling and how to make sure that you are doing it efficiently.
How to replace RV wall paneling
Outline of RV wall paneling replacement
Before we dive deeper into the process of RV wall paneling replacement, let’s have a look at its outline. There are plenty of things to talk about, and we think that a general overview will help you grasp this material better.
So, this is what the panel replacement process generally looks like:
- Identify your problem. Do you want to improve insulation, redesign your interior, or repair a wall damaged by a leak?
- Assess the condition of the wall. Regardless of what your plans are, you may need to do more repair or replacement work than you’d expect. Or maybe even less.
- If there is water damage, dry the wall completely.
- Do the necessary measurements. For all the parts you will be replacing – be it just the panel or parts of the wall’s frame – do accurate measurements to determine what you will need for the repair.
- Make a material & tool list for your project.
- Choose and buy materials for the repair.
- Cut and shape the materials properly in accordance with the measurements you’ve done previously.
- Install the new materials, trying to replicate the original wall layout as closely as possible.
Now, let’s investigate each of the steps in depth.
Identify the problem
So before you go out to get any materials or start ripping away walls, you need to understand what is wrong with your current setup. Do you want to change the entire interior design because you don’t like it? Or maybe you’ve had a leak and there’s a rotten wall that needs to be replaced?
Once you understand what is actually wrong with your RV’s wall paneling, you will be able to come up with a plan. This is key because without a plan, your actions will be frantic, and you may waste much more time and money on replacing your RV’s wall paneling than necessary.
When dealing with RV wall paneling replacement, there are plenty of variables to consider, including:
- Is there any damage to the internal structure of the RV’s walls that you want to deal with?
- How big is the area that you want to remodel?
- What will you be replacing? Will it be just the paneling or maybe also the insulation? Or maybe you want to add some structural integrity to the RV’s walls?
Once you have an idea of what you want, you will be able to move forward more effectively.
Assess the condition of the interior
Whether you want to remodel the interior of your RV or wish to replace a rotten wall, you need to do some reconnaissance work in order to assess the condition of the interior. Even if you want to just replace the paneling, you may need to do more because of unknown damage in the RV’s walls.
Needless to say, to assess the condition of the wall’s internal structure, you will need to tear the wall apart.
When you are dealing with leaks, there may be some exterior water damage visible from the outside. But, depending on certain factors like how long the leak has been there, the damage may actually go deeper than anticipated.
If you know that there is indeed a leak in your RV, it is a good idea to, first of all, seal the exterior in order to prevent further damage to the walls. Water is like cancer to an RV, and it spreads across the entire paneling rather easily, damaging everything on its way.
Once you’ve isolated the wall from outdoor elements, it is time for you to have a look at its internal condition. Water might have affected not only the exterior panel but also the entirety of the wall’s internal structure, including the insulation and its frame.
Needless to say, you need to remove all the furniture and appliances that block your access to the wall. In addition, if there is any piping or wiring running through the wall, you will need to remove or reroute them temporarily.
When dealing with leak damage, RVers tear into the wall until the rot ends and the good wood starts –everything up until the good wood needs to be completely replaced. Depending on the damage, this may include the outside paneling, the insulation, or maybe even parts of the RV’s frame.
Also, be ready to examine not only the walls but also the roof and the floor. Leaks most often come from the roof, and you’ll obviously need to identify where a leak comes from and determine whether there is damage to the roof. As for the floor, given enough time, the water might have reached the flooring and damaged it as well.
Now, what we’ve written above applies if you do know that you have water damage. But what if you just want to do remodeling and don’t expect to deal with any leaks?
Well, to be safe, we’d recommend you to thoroughly examine the insides of the wall after removing the paneling anyway. If there aren’t signs of water damage on the paneling from outside, it doesn’t mean that there have been no leaks – it may be that not enough time has elapsed for the symptoms to move to the paneling and become.
Unexpected water damage has the potential to turn your surface remodeling project into a costly repair involving the deep structures of the RV’s walls. And to prevent further damage, it is essential that you identify any water damage at this stage so that you can prevent disastrous consequences in the future.
But if you aren’t dealing with any leaks, you won’t have to dig deep into the wall, unless you are also planning to improve the insulation or maybe reinforce the wall. You just need to remove the unnecessary layers and then start measuring what you will need for the repair.
Dry the wall completely
If your wall has been damaged by water, there is one more step you will need to take before starting to take measurements. If you leave the wall wet, the moisture will most likely damage the new paneling as well, making all your repair efforts pointless.
Here’s what you can do to dry your RV’s wall structure:
- Open all the doors and windows to improve ventilation in the RV.
- Blow fans on the wet area.
It can take quite some time for the wall to dry completely. You should probably expect to wait for at least a day, maybe up to a week, depending on how deep the water damage is. No matter how long it takes, do make sure that the wall structure is completely dry before moving to the next step.
After drying, some RVers also use CPES (clear penetrating epoxy sealer) to reinforce the wood. If you do wish to reinforce the wall’s structure, consider using CPES in your project.
Do the measurements
By now, all the structures that need replacing have been removed, and you can do all the measurements to then make a list of materials necessary for your project.
You may be wondering why do the measurements so late into the repair process. Well, until you’ve removed everything that will be discarded, you can’t really know what exactly you will need to replace, especially if you dealing with water damage.
Now, what to consider when doing all the measurements?
Generally, RVers try to replicate the original wall & paneling structure designed by the RV’s manufacturer. You should do so as well, unless your goal is to reinforce the interior wall structure or improve the insulation.
When doing the measurements, consider the windows, cabling, appliances, and other things that may impact the size or shape of the wall panel. Obviously, you will need to then cut and shape the material in accordance with the layout of your RV’s wall.
Also, it is a good idea to double check all your measurements so that you don’t make any mistakes when preparing your materials for installation.
After you know exactly how much material you will need, it is time for you to start making a material and tool list. And one of the main steps to take when replacing your RV wall paneling is to choose a replacement panel.
It should be mentioned that there aren’t really any strict guidelines you must follow in terms of material choice. You are free to choose whatever you like and/or find suitable for your needs. But generally, RVers go for the materials used in the RV originally.
If you are working on a small area, then you probably should go for a panel that looks identical or at least similar to the rest of your interior. You may go for the exact same material or choose something else. Just make sure that the new piece fits the rest of your RV if that’s important to you.
If you are doing a complete remodel of your RV’s interior, then, from the point of view of design, it doesn’t really matter which material to choose. You will have more choice since you won’t be restricted to the rest of your RV.
A thing to consider is whether you are going to paint the new panel or not. If you are going to apply paint to it, then it doesn’t really matter what material to choose since you can easily make it look like the rest of the interior.
If you need to replace the insulation as well, you should go for the same kind of foam used by the manufacturer original, be it glass wool, Styrofoam, or anything else. Of course, if you have some specific needs, choose accordingly.
If you are dealing with only a single wall, there isn’t too much point in adding plenty of insulation to it. It won’t make a difference since other walls in the RV will still have weaker insulation. If your goal is to specifically improve insulation in the RV, you will need to add insulation in all the walls.
If you need to replace any internal wall structures, you should again go for the material – or at least, a close material – that was used originally.
By the way, when buying materials for the repair project, get more than you actually need and more than what you have measured. If you make a mistake, you would want to have some spare material to work with.
What tools you will actually need will again depend on what kind of repair you will need to do. But generally, the things that are needed are:
- A pry bar to remove old wall structures.
- A drill to make holes in the material for screwing.
- A screwdriver to drive in screws and fixate the wall, as well as maybe to remove your RV appliances.
- A wood cutting tool to shape the materials according to the layout of your RV.
- A sanding tool to make the new panel flush with the old ones.
This should suffice if you just want to replace your wall panel, but, depending on your needs, you may need some additional tools for your repair project.
Prepare the materials for installation
Now comes the time to use all the measurements you’ve done. Before installing the new stuff in the RV, you need to shape them so that they correspond to its internal layout.
If you have the necessary tools and skill, you may do the cutting yourself. Otherwise, you could address a professional, but you will need to provide them with all the measurements of your RV.
Install the materials
The final step of your RV wall panel replacement project is installing all the stuff you’ve prepared. Given that you’ve done all the measurements properly, you shouldn’t have any issues with this step.
Essentially, you are repeating everything you’ve done when removing the panel, only in reverse order. Again, try to replicate the original design of the wall. If you haven’t yet begun your project, consider taking some photos for reference in the future.
When installing the wall structures, make sure to screw them in place tightly. Ensure that there is no wobbling anywhere. For additional support, fixate the panel to the RV’s frame beams with screws.
In the end, if you follow these guidelines, you should be able to make a panel that is no worse than the original one.