The body of an RV or a motorhome is responsible for protecting the passengers from the elements. And frankly speaking, this outer body is probably what makes a camper feel like a camper. Whether you want to build your chassis, or you’re merely curious about what you have over your head, it’s worth knowing what Motorhome bodies are made of.
In terms of materials, most RV or recreational vehicles use a combination of aluminum and steel for frames. As for the exterior, it’s a choice between wood, fiberglass, or aluminum, depending on how heavy you want it to be.
Every material has its pros and cons that are further influenced by the design of the chassis. There are also insulation materials and materials used for the underbelly. Certain materials tend to perform better than others under specific circumstances. In the later sections of this article, I’ll try to go over each of these to give you a clear idea of motorhome body materials.
RV Frame Materials
I decided to go with a structural order to explain each material and features. The frame is the first thing that is built for a Motorhome body. This chassis acts as the skeleton that everything else is built around. It also needs to support the weight of everything you’d end up putting in your RV. So, the two most important qualities it needs to be durable and lightweight.
There are two popular choices for the material used in building a chassis. You could either have them from aluminum or steel. Though, in recent years most RV manufacturers give you a mixture of both aluminum and steel for the framing. Aluminum is much lighter while only slightly behind in durability. But aluminum is usually quite a bit more expensive than steel.
Wood frames tend to be a lot cheaper than metal frames, but they usually tend to weigh more overall if you want to make them as sturdy as possible. In a way, the manufacturing process is similar to how you would build a standard house.
So, the frame materials need to check three things,
- It needs to be durable.
- It needs to be lightweight.
- It needs to be sturdy.
The floor is a very important part of an RV. That’s why there are also quite a few layers that go into making a complete flooring. First is the metal floor panel. It’s the basic flooring structure that sits at the bottom of your RV. It’s usually made from aluminum or steel.
Now there are quite a few options to choose from while building the proper floor for a motorhome. You could leave it as is and slap a carpet on top of it, you could choose between one of many types of insulation to put there, or you could put on a whole new layer of flooring altogether. Most RV’s that come out from a manufacturing facility will have insulation.
For floor insulation, you could choose between fiberglass insulation, foam, or even polyurethane. These go directly over the metal flooring. You then place wood panels over them, usually screwing them down.
Foam and plastic tend to make too much waste material. So, I favor Earthwool underfloor insulation. It is a lot more sustainable material, and you could recycle it just fine. And it is a lot cheaper compared to the other options.
Vinyl is also a popular option for flooring, albeit a bit new. The good thing about vinyl is that it is easier to install than other traditional floorings. Vinyl is also a fair bit cheaper than most other flooring materials, so it’s an option to think about if you are on a budget.
Most motorhome walls are made with aluminum because of its lightweight and high durability. It acts as the base for wall structure, and you would hardly ever see any RV with just these walls. That is because most people would put at least one layer of insulation over them.
And there is wood wall paneling that goes in the interior to give it a more rustic look. But most modern manufacturers try to give it a more modern feel by adding foam and plastic. Sometimes they even use top quality leather to do the interior.
Composite plywood is a great option for insulating the walls of your RV. They work great at keeping the elements out, but they can be tricky to install properly. Composite plywood’s only drawback is that it is highly susceptible to hydro damage. So, if your van has a roof leak, then the rainwater can eat away at the boards.
No matter how the interior looks, there is always at least some form of insulation between the metal frame and the decor. There could be rigid foam insulation, Styrofoam, or even fiberglass insulation for the walls.
Usually, the outside portion of the walls needs to be covered in reflective paint to have a more stable inside temperature. Sometimes people use glazed wood paneling on the outside to make it look fancier. It’s worth noting that wall setups are not made with strength in mind. The most important factor is the insulation it provides from the elements.
Shading you from rain, snow, and sun isn’t the only thing that manufacturers think about while designing a roof. As an RV owner, you most likely know that a lot of things are attached to the roof and the side walls. So, the roof needs to have a strong enough structure to hold quite a bit of the weight.
If you look carefully, you’ll find that most RVs come with a trussed roof. That is responsible for giving it that curved look that makes it look more like a house. But it has a more practical application in the fact that this curved structure makes rain and snow slide off more easily.
RV roofs are made a lot more like a standard house roof. There are the arch style frames that are placed side by side to create the base. And then it is topped off with either aluminum sheets or other insulative material. Most manufacturers generally tend to make the frame out of aluminum or Wood.
A Perfectly designed aluminum roof frame would last more than twenty years without facing any integrity issues if the rest of the paneling is done by an expert. Aluminum is flexible and durable, so repairing it is also easier.
Wood, on the other hand, is a whole different story. Wood is not as durable as aluminum or other alloys. But it is more lightweight than aluminum frames used for making roofs.
Wooden frames tend to have a shorter lifespan than aluminum, and if not designed or placed by an expert it doesn’t last long.
Most people would put a layer of whatever insulation they have on their walls on the inner side of the roof as well. But depending on where you live and how extreme the weather is, you might end up putting additional layers of insulation over it.
That’s basically what each part of a motorhome body is made of. There are exceptions, however, as different companies tend to use different materials. Also, many people while doing DIY restoration projects or something of that sort can get creative and use all sorts of materials that weren’t mentioned in this article.
That said, I hope this article was helpful to you for knowing what motorhome bodies are made of. Thanks for reading till the end. Have a great day.