To replace your motorhome’s interior walls with something more suitable to your tastes, you need to know what are RV interior walls made of. Your knowledge of RV wall panels can set you on an exciting journey of discovery.
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What Materials Do RV Manufacturers Use for the Interior Walls
Manufacturers of recreational vehicles, campers, motorhomes, and trailers use different materials for their wall paneling. Mine has medium density fiberboard or MDF. It is a lot easier to work with. I also find it more affordable, especially when replacing damaged panels.
Of course, MSF is not the only material you can have on your RV interior walls. Let us examine all three paneling products.
Self-professed DIYers like me already know what composite plywood is. Even if you are not a handyman, I am sure you are already familiar with this type of RV walls material, which looks like real plywood on RV interior walls.
Composites consist of several pieces of ultra-thin wood sheets glued together to form a thick and large sheet. The unique composition gives composites exceptional strength, almost impervious to accidental dents and making interior walls durable.
I also like the more natural look of wooden interior wall materials. Wood grain makes the motorhome’s interior look more polished, classy, and elegant. You can also hang things on a wood board.
This material is also one of the easiest to work with. I have a friend who has composite plywood in his RV’s interior panel, and it was a breeze applying decorative wallpaper. Much of this has got to do with wood’s porous nature, allowing the paper to bond exceptionally well.
Painting over it is also as effortless as you can imagine. Unleashing your creativity and imagination is a breeze if you have this material in your RV interior surface.
The only issue I have with this RV interior wall material is its water damage proneness. A splash of water can soften the wood fibers, leading to a reduction in the plywood’s structural integrity.
As you may have guessed, moisture trapped in wood also favors mold and mildew growth. I have yet to meet someone who loves the musky odor of moldy furniture and fixtures.
You can find composite plywood products in many mid to high-end RVs.
Medium Density Fiberboard
As mentioned, I have this material in my RV. It helps keep the motorhome’s production costs down while also facilitating ease of construction because of MDF’s lightweight nature. It also does not break easily.
Unlike plywood that requires several thin wooden sheets, medium density fiberboard only uses two wood veneer sheets. These panels sandwich the middle layer consisting of glued sawdust, giving it lightweight characteristics.
Aside from being lightweight and affordable, MDF boards are also flexible and versatile. Skilled handymen can easily cut patterns or shapes from MDF, allowing them to create fascinating designs in their RVs.
You can also paint your favorite color on it, giving your RV a more vibrant interior look. Applying decors and wallpaper is also a cinch. Hanging items, such as portraits and family photos, is also a breeze.
My only worry about MDF is its durability. The glue holding the sawdust inside can deteriorate over time. I found this out first-hand, requiring me to replace my RV interior paneling in no time.
Vinyl is one of the most common materials for RV interior walls, especially entry-level motorhomes. It is an affordable option for budget-conscious folks. Vinyl is also the lightest and easiest to install if you do not mind having a plastic cover the entire wall.
Walls made of vinyl feature synthetic compounds, mainly plastics. Its low-cost nature also makes motorhomes more affordable for many families, allowing them to discover the joys of RVing. You can cut vinyl panels into different shapes.
Vinyl wall materials also come in varying thicknesses, colors, textures, and shapes. It will be fun putting these panels on your RV interior sidings. You will also never worry about water damage or mold growth.
The downside is that most vinyl materials last only a few years, two years on average. The good news? It is more affordable than other walling materials, so you can replace the entire thing and never worry about your budget.
How Thick is the RV Wall
Your RV’s wall is thinner than what you have at home. Local building codes recommend an interior partition thickness of 4.5 inches. These walls are what you find on room dividers. The walls forming the perimeter of your home will require a thicker measurement, 6.5 inches to be precise.
Now, it would be irrational to observe the same panel thickness standards in your motorhome. Doing so will reduce the overall living space (as if it is not already claustrophobic enough for some people).
As such, RV makers design their walls between two and two-and-a-half inches thick. We are talking about the depth of the partition from the exterior surface to the interior face.
Using a thick trailer walls material can increase the wall’s overall thickness. Composites and MDF are thicker than vinyl. That is why many first-time camper owners prefer vinyl because it optimizes the motorhome’s living space.
However, using ultra-thin RV interior walling products can also affect your RV’s insulation and soundproofing. If it is too thin, heat or cold from the external environment can enter the motorhome’s interior easily. You may also have issues with noise coming from the outside of the vehicle.
If you ask me, I find these issues unacceptable. I would want my ride to be as comfortable and peaceful as possible. I would like to stay warm and toasty when it is freezing outside and cool when it is blistering hot outdoors.
What is the Typical Design of a Motorhome Wall
Motorhome walls are similar to the walls of any building, such as houses, dorms, offices, factories, and others.
It follows a typical three-part design that consists of an exterior panel (facing the external environment) and an interior surface (facing the building’s inside). Between these panels is an insulating material.
RVs often feature outer walls made of aluminum, composite materials, or fiberglass. For example, Airstream is famous for its aluminum exterior walls, while others can feature composites or fiberglass.
Motorhome insulating products can be rigid foam (for budget and entry-level vehicles), spray foam, or fiberglass (the most common). These components provide the much needed insulation for your motorhome, keeping you cool on hot days and warm on cold nights.
Insulating compounds vary in their R-values. For instance, Four Seasons motorhomes have R-values greater than 10. Other campers may only have a maximum R-value of 5. Here is a tip. The higher the R-value, the better is the RV’s insulation.
Forming the RV’s inner layers are vinyl, MDF, or composite plywood. Your choice of inner wall material can impact the wall’s insulation capabilities.
Can I Use Other Materials for My RV’s Interior Walls
Are you wondering if you can use other materials for RV walling? The answer is yes. However, I still recommend using the same materials as what you already have in your motorhome. For example, if you have vinyl sheets, you can replace them with several sheets of stylish plastic.
RV owners with MDF or composites should always go for high-quality products and not cheap wood. If you scrimp on your budget, you might have issues with a roof leak or camper interior walls that last only a couple of months.
It would be best not to get interior RV walls with a budget friendly price if you cannot ascertain their durability and insulation. It is always wise to remember that your RV needs proper insulation and soundproofing, especially if you are in a busy public park.
If you purchased a used RV, you may want to replace its dilapidated plywood walls with more advanced and more durable camper walls. Whatever walling product you use, it must be lightweight, durable, and has excellent insulation and soundproofing characteristics.
Can I Give My RV Interior Walls a Paint Job
Most RVs do not come with the kind of motif we want. That is why many motorhome owners want to give their RV walls a much-needed aesthetic upgrade.
The good news is that composite plywood and MDF interior wall products are easy to paint. You can also apply your decorative cover if you want.
Some paints also work on bare metal, giving you more leeway in your imagination and creativity. You can cut several sheets of wood into certain shapes and place them on your RV siding or roof.
An RV’s interior walls are important in giving you a much cozier and comfortable place to live in when on a road trip. Learning what are RV interior walls made of will help you decide how to improve your motorhome’s interior décor.
If you have to replace your RV’s panels, it would be best to stick to the original. If you have to change it altogether, It is best to remember the product’s lightweight characteristics, insulation and soundproofing capabilities, ease of installation, and durability.