I have renovated two RVs completely. After tearing down every wall we found that some walls are there for a reason!
People like to improve and update their RVs. When we remodel RVs and campers we need to make sure we do not weaken the structure.
Do RVs have load bearing walls? RVs do not have load-bearing walls but a wall may have been put in place to reduce flexing in the RV. Extra care needs to be taken before you consider tearing down an interior wall. Interior walls may have vital components inside of them that you’ll want to avoid damaging them.
This means that even though the wall is not load bearing, it is a structural wall that needs to remain in place.
Let’s dig a little deeper and see what you need to take into consideration.
What should I worry about when removing an interior RV wall?
Interior RV walls may hold your plumbing, your HVAC, and even some electrical components.
If your interior wall has any of these components, you’ll want to make sure you avoid damaging them during the demo.
To do this, start by turning off your electrical system as well as your HVAC system. This is done both for your safety as well as the safety of your RV.
Next, if you’re connected to a water source, you’ll want to turn that off as well.
Once the water connection has been turned off, run the remaining water through your pipes. It would be unfortunate if your wall demo ended in a flood.
Now that everything has been turned off, you’ll want to carefully cut a hole into the wall.
This hole will provide a window into the wall so that you can see if there is anything you need to avoid.
Continue to carefully remove sections of the wall until you are satisfied that there isn’t anything that can be damaged.
If there are pipes or electrical items within the wall, you’ll need to decide what to do with them. One option could be to cancel the demo altogether. Since you’ve started with a small hole, you’ll just need to patch that one hole to get everything back to normal.
Another option would be to reroute the plumbing or electrical system.
Just be careful to test everything before you start running a water connection back through any pipes.
As we stated earlier, your interior RV wall may have been put into place to reduce the amount of flexing on your RV.
You won’t be able to tell this just by looking at it. To be on the safe side, you may want to contact the RV’s manufacturer and ask them whether or not it is safe to remove the wall.
Exterior Load Bearing Walls
Your RV’s exterior walls are load bearing.
However, this just means that the walls hold up the structure of your RV. Essentially they were built to be strong enough to hold the roof up.
What this means is that your RV isn’t necessarily built to bear the load of anything else you may want to put on your RV.
It also means that you may not be able to mount any additional items to your load bearing walls either.
An RV is not built to the same standards as a house.
In fact, an RV’s walls may only consist of 2″ x 2″ thick pieces of lumber. A 2″ x 2″ board simply wasn’t designed to hold up a camper roof as well as your 50″ television screen.
RV walls might not be able to support the weight of a person on top of the roof either. Some RVs can support a person on top and some cannot. Also, even RVs that were originally built to withstand someone walking on the roof will not always function as they were meant to.
All it takes is a small amount of water to leak into the ceiling for a roof to become too soft to stand on.
The best piece of advice I can give you is to never treat an RV’s load-bearing walls in the same manner that you treat a home’s load-bearing walls.
Camper Wall Construction
Camper walls can be constructed in a multitude of ways. Here are a few common ways in which a camper wall is constructed.
Some campers are built using a fiberglass mold.
These camper walls are 100% fiberglass and resin. Removing this type of wall can be difficult as you’ll need to have some fiberglassing skills to repair any sort of damage that might occur during the demo.
If you do decide to tear this type of wall down, you may find something as simple as a grinder or Dremel may do the trick.
Another wall you may run into is an aluminum camper wall. This could be built using an aluminum frame with aluminum sheeting applied to it or it could be a combination of an aluminum frame and wood or fiberglass.
You’ll find that this type of wall can often be the most difficult to remove as it is usually welded into place. In order to remove an aluminum wall, you’ll need some sort of metal cutting blade. If you’re doing the job without any power tools, you’ll most certainly want a hacksaw.
Wooden camper walls
The most popular type of camper wall is a wooden one.
Exterior wooden camper walls are usually made of 2″ x 2″ lumber. Interior wooden camper walls are typically framed out using 2″ x 2″ or 1″ x 2″ lumber.
They can also be unframed pieces of plywood that are affixed to the ceiling and the floor.
This is the easiest type of wall to remove as you may only have to undo a few screws to get the wall to come out.
Another thought to keep in mind is that exterior walls will most likely be filled with insulation. Fiberglass insulation can be itchy and it can irritate the lungs of many people. If you’re working on an exterior wall, you may want to make sure you’re wearing a mask or a respirator.
This is doubly true for those of you working on repairing a wall with water damage.
The mold may have already settled into the walls of the camper and you’ll want to avoid breathing in any mold spores that may be disturbed during your repair.
Camper Wall Repair
Some people want to know if their RV walls are load bearing because they want to know if they can repair them on their own.
A camper wall is often easy for the DIYer to work on. The easiest and most common RV wall to repair is the wooden one. Often times, you’ll only need to replace a few boards.
If the outer skin is damaged, just cut out the section of wall that is damaged.
Do a square or rectangle cut around the damaged area and then cut a new piece to match. Just leave room around the support beams so that you’ll have something to mount to.
Since the wood you’ll be mounting onto is not very thick, it is best to just use staples or glue when putting it back on. Screws can be used, but only if you pre-drill the wood first.
Fiberglass walls can be repaired with replacement glass and some Bondo. Small patches can be done with any fiberglass automotive kit you can find. For large walls, you may want to invest in some stronger fiberglass fabric.
One section at the time
I have been renovating a tiny camper and a slightly bigger RV. We were very careful to remove one section at the time and it went very well.
Just go slow and do small sections at a time.
Fiberglass resin hardens quickly and if you try to do too much at one time, you’ll just end up wasting resin.
Aluminum wall repair can be difficult.
If the aluminum sheeting is held in place by rivets, you’ll need to drill these rivets out to remove the sheeting. For actual wall frame damage, you may need to do some bending or even some welding.
Unfortunately, aluminum tends to be the most difficult metal to weld and it requires a more expensive type of welding machine.
If you’re looking for an excuse to learn to weld, repairing an aluminum camper wall may be the ideal project to start with. However, I wouldn’t recommend investing in welding equipment just to fix a camper wall.
Aluminum welders will cost you at least $700.00 and you’ll have to spend many hours learning how to operate it. In this case, it may be less expensive just to hire a person who specializes in working on aluminum framed campers.
An RV does not have any load bearing interior walls.
However, the walls may be a structurally important part of the RV. Especially to keep it from swaying and to ensure a good and safe construction on the road.
Also, the walls may hold important elements of the RV such as the electrical components, the plumbing, and even parts of the HVAC system.
It’s possible to remove RV walls and to repair them yourself. But you need to examine them first.
The difficulty of the project will depend on the type of wall you have, your skill level, and the items you find within your RV’s walls.
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Morten is the founder of GoDownsize. He has filmed and interviewed people living in tiny houses and RVs since 2011. He grew up on the coast where his dad took him boating from a young age. He has completely rebuilt two RVs in which he travels with his family for months at the time. Read more about Morten here.