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Old 02-02-2012, 03:23 AM   #1
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Which is better: wood/siding or alum/fiberglass construction?

Looking for opinions on which construction method is the best - wood framing and siding, or aluminum framing and fiberglass sides? Have concerns with issues such as delaminations (and cost to repair!), insulation and sweating, integrity for offroad/dry camping escapades (which will be the majority of it's use). What else should we be considering? Looking for a used '04-'09 35' bunkhouse travel trailer. Thanks for your reasoned opinions!
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Old 02-02-2012, 05:02 AM   #2
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I owned a couple campers for a long time and they were constructed of wood with aluminum skin. Leaks and dry rot are the bane of that kind of construction. I now own a Class A motor home with fiberglass exterior and aluminum framing. It's true that fiberglass is sun-sensitive over time and is not scratch proof on those trips off the beaten path. Sweating on the interior can be controlled by keeping roof vents open. I like the insulation in my rig, which is far superior to the insulation on the camper rigs.
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Old 02-02-2012, 11:44 AM   #3
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Then there's the molded all-fiberglass trailers. Built like a fiberglass boat with no additional frame. Usually very small, very lightweight, aerodynamic, more expensive, repairable, not very well insulated, usually not sold through dealers, and hold their value well. (See Casita, Scamp, EggCamper, Escape, Big Foot, and Lil' Snoozy.)
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Old 02-03-2012, 01:45 AM   #4
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What type of construction is best

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Originally Posted by Yarcola View Post
Then there's the molded all-fiberglass trailers. Built like a fiberglass boat with no additional frame. Usually very small, very lightweight, aerodynamic, more expensive, repairable, not very well insulated, usually not sold through dealers, and hold their value well. (See Casita, Scamp, EggCamper, Escape, Big Foot, and Lil' Snoozy.)

No, I'm looking for a larger, more conventional tow trailer such as the Keystone Outback/Sprinter. The Sprinter can be had in either construction method. Any more experienced opinions? Thanks!
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Old 02-03-2012, 05:24 PM   #5
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I've owned 3 DP Class A motor homes in the past 15 years. I do realize that there have been cases with spider-webbing, cracking, and delamination on fiberglass walls on motor homes over the past several years. We have never seen anything like that on any of our units. Personally, I would not buy ANY RV, regardless of which style, unless it was aluminum framed with laminate fiberglass walls. I've seen too many cases of leaking roofs, wall joints, etc, on wood framed RV's. They don't take it well as you know, wood rots when it's continually getting wet and that is not a pretty sight when it comes to an RV!
Fixing spider cracking, delamination, etc is a breeze compared to trying to fix 2x2 or 2X4 rotted wood structure!
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Old 02-04-2012, 09:17 AM   #6
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Owning a commercially made trailer (s) and having built small TDs & TTs in the past ... I now lean more towards the “Cargo" trailer construction , with less wood and replaceable panels over a metal frame ... that, sprayed inside with a generous layer of styrofoam for insulation and overall shell integrity ... Nothing to Rot or de-laminate .. no place to leak (foamed) ... Cargo trailers do seem to live well Outside with Minimum maintenance , unlike the commercial RV TTs which seem to like to live at the dealer's.

But as with all RVs , the Quality of the materials and the Workmanship makes it a Good or Bad trailer ... One that will live happily in your driveway for many years with little attention , or one that will be at the dealers for repairs every couple months (read: Money Pit )
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Old 02-04-2012, 09:49 AM   #7
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There are all kinds of variants - we've owned 3 wood-framed Jaycos. The Cardinal pop-up was wood framed with aluminum exterior. The 2 Designer 5th wheels were wood framed with "hung" fiberglass gel-coat exterior walls. We never had a problem with any of them, and wood framing has some advantages to aluminum - not as susceptible to screw pull-out as aluminum, the framing isn't susceptible to metal fatigue or heat-affected zones, better insulating qualities, etc. The potential problem with wood framing is, as others have said, water intrusion and rot. Wood framing also tends to be a little heavier. (By the way, because of marketing pressures, not technical problems, Jayco went to aluminum framing in the Designers starting in the 2001 model year. Some other manufacturers have made this switch as well. The consumer didn't want wood, so they had to change.)

Our current 5th wheel is aluminum framed with hung fiberglass gel-coat exterior walls. We haven't had any problem with it in 7+ years of ownership, either.

As an aside, many of the top line full-time 5th wheels used wood framing - a few still do. Others have switched to aluminum.

It's really a case of "ya pays yore money and ya takes yore choice." Good luck with your decision, whichever way you go.


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Old 02-06-2012, 12:42 AM   #8
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There is more to the quality of construction rather than type. I have owned a wood and alum TT for 13 years before a leak in a clearance light caused some problems. I had no problems with that TT. My next TT was laminated wall with no internal framing - just an alum frame around the outside of the walls another clearance light leak coupled with a sealent failure on the roof caused the entire front end to need replacement. My current TT is wood frame, with filon exterior and fiberglass batt insulation. It is now going on its 7th season with no signs of leaks.
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Old 02-06-2012, 02:56 AM   #9
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After seeing the effects of wood rot in a few boats I have restored I prefer the aluminum frame. The problem is, wood rot is a cancer that doesn't stop just because you found the leak. Once rot starts the only way to stop it is to cut it out. Preventative maintenance on keeping the RV sealed and not waiting until you see the damage from the inside is key. If you keep it sealed properly wood will last longer than you do.
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Old 02-06-2012, 08:08 AM   #10
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.... but there’s so much “preventative maintenance !!! Unless you keep it indoors ... The way trailers are made today , on a price point rather than Quality , it becomes a “job” taking care of them if stored outside ...

Love your RV, store it in a Garage ...
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Old 02-06-2012, 08:24 AM   #11
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Why don't they use pressure treated or some other water resistant wood? Our last counter top was made of particle board, something that scared me until they showed me a piece that had been floating in water for a few months - still looked like new. The same thing happened with some MDF based flooring my son was installing - I took a piece of it and put it in a glass of water and a week later it hadn't been phased. Why don't they use treated materials like this in RVs and boats? (Of course I know the answer, cost and not so many repeat customers.)
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Old 02-07-2012, 05:47 AM   #12
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Why don't they use pressure treated or some other water resistant wood? Our last counter top was made of particle board, something that scared me until they showed me a piece that had been floating in water for a few months - still looked like new. The same thing happened with some MDF based flooring my son was installing - I took a piece of it and put it in a glass of water and a week later it hadn't been phased. Why don't they use treated materials like this in RVs and boats? (Of course I know the answer, cost and not so many repeat customers.)
Easy enough, laminates and fiberglass will not stick/adhear to pressure treated lumber.
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Old 02-07-2012, 07:17 AM   #13
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They could make some attempt to waterproof the roof and floor at LEAST ... My TT roof is 3/32” of the cheapest plywood I’ve ever seen ,with a thin
“membrane “ that looks like a really cheap (THIN) fuzzy backed dollar store tablecloth ... even a tiny limb will tear it ... The floor is really bad (cheap) OSB and soaks up water like a sponge ... Both have caused problems already ... a simple waterproofing treatment at the factory would have prevented all this , and also prevented Jayco from selling me a new roof for $5K ... (almost a third the price of the entire trailer ) They saw me coming ...

All about PROFIT now ... It’s NOT your Grandpa’s RV anymore ... my dealer even had the nerve to call my TT “disposable “ ... Sorry , but for we in the 99% , nothing this expensive is “disposable “ ...
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Old 02-07-2012, 07:47 AM   #14
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My TT roof is 3/32” of the cheapest plywood I’ve ever seen....
The moral of that story, as I've said before, is that ultralight TTs (regardless of manufacturer) are lighter and cheaper for a reason. They're decontented, and lighter, thinner materials are used to get weight and cost out. Caveat emptor!


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