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exterior - Laminate vs aluminum siding?

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I'm looking at buying a TT and I noticed there are two choices for the exterior old school wood frame aluminum siding vs laminate aluminum frame? is one better than they other? I live in the desert and the TT will be exposed to high heat and a lot of sun I worry about de-lamination/fading on the outside

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Welcome to the Escapee forums! Good of you to join us and we will do our best to help when needed.

 

Each of the methods has it's advantages. Most fiberglass sides are laminated and are made up of layers of wood, foam insulation, and an outer layer of fiberglass with the framework of the sides imbedded into the lamination's. This method has the highest rated insulation value in the RV industry. This type of wall structure is generally stronger and more durable but they can be subject to problems if moisture gets into the wall or some other thing causes delamination.

 

The aluminum is nearly always in strips of aluminum siding that are attached to the framework of the RV wall by staples or something similar. This type of wall usually has fiberglass insulation and is not as well insulated as the laminated walls. But it does weigh less and it is more easily repaired if it should be needed. Weight it the main advantage of this method and it is the reason that so many ultra light RVs use it. As one who has owned both and currently has the aluminum siding, I can verify that insulation value is lowered.

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I have had delam problems with two trailers so when I traded in our fiver I opted for the aluminum siding. Kirk is absolutely right about the differences. You also won't find any upscale trailers with aluminum because it is now only used on the more basic models. But I like the aluminum for its non-lamination. I've owned aluminum sided trailers off and on for 40 years and never had leak or moisture problems on any of them. Sure wish I could say that about the Filon ones.

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Thanks for the info I'm leaning towards the aluminum I think it will do better in the heat as far as delamination also like the lighter weight I have a 2015 a Tundra with 9800 towing but I want to be buy a trailer like the EVO 2360 dry weight 5300 I would like to error on easier tow

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I have had aluminum siding and the issues were only with the wood framing (it was a 1976 Shasta). I also had a Fiberglas laminated motorhome (1994 Airstream Land Yacht) - and had delamination. I acquired had my older Airstream in 2011 from someone who was hanging up the keys and have not had any issues. There is nothing to delaminate and I stop for service at the factory in Jackson Center OH on my way to/from AZ each winter. There are several brands like the Airstream, such as the Avion, Streamline and the Travelux - all aircraft design construction. All of them can be serviced at the Airstream factory service center in Jackson Center OH.

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a1, does the Airstream use wood or aluminum frames? I'm thinking aluminum. I know they use fiberglass insulation, right? My dream trailer...

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All Airstream and similar construction are aluminum framed. The only wood is the subfloor and cabinets. The insulation is fiberglass. Those manufactured up until 1993 were the narrow bodied ones, and from 1994 they make the wide bodied ones (except for the single axle ones and those for the European market). Prior to 1994 the frames for the shell were made with multiple sections of 1-piece of U-shaped channel; from 1994 on, they are being made of 2 pieces which are riveted together at the top for the small narrow body models and for the wide-body models there is a 3rd piece riveted in. Those manufactured prior to 1983 had a lighter weight main frame, which became a bit of a problem for the 31-ft trailer with the rear bathroom. The extra weight in the rear did cause frame separation which required reinforcement. There is a free factory tour available every working day at 2:00 pm from the service center. Free coffee and cookies!

See

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Free coffee!! Hey, I'm in. To take a tour of many of the RV manufacturers plants is on my kick the bucket list! Don't know if I'll ever get to do it, but sure would like to.

 

OP, laminate vs aluminum, that is the question. The answer? I think to just find the trailer that you really like, and get that one, whether aluminum or laminate. If well taken care of, it'll last. That means keeping water out. Our Aerolite is 17 years old, many thousands of miles, nary a problem so far. Like I said, my dream trailer would be an Airstream. I just have to find a place that gives top dollar for old used hind legs. :)

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some of the laminate is over wood but much of it is over an aluminum frame. My Georgieboy way a laminate sided unit but had an aluminum frame sides and top. Gotta check.

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As one who has owned both and currently has the aluminum siding, I can verify that insulation value is lowered.

 

Kirk, can you give an idea of the comparison?

 

I don't need full all-season capability, but I know I'll run to occasional overnight freezing. I'd like to stay in New England into late fall, for example.

 

But I'm also concerned about the potential for expensive repairs. I hope to keep it for more than a couple of years. Apparently no matter how careful and vigilant you are, stuff can eventually happen. It sounds like glass sides can be much more expensive to repair, and there's no foolproof way to prevent delamination. Also, if there's localized water damage under the skin, it seems like aluminum has lower repair costs. Aluminum framing seems even more advantageous.

 

My budget will probably top out at the Nash level, which are wood frames. So I'm going to have to compromise something, I'm trying to evaluate the tradeoffs. Wood frame and glass sides sounds like the most expensive combination when major repairs are needed. I can probably afford an aluminum-frame model from one of the national brands, but I'd probably have to sacrifice on insulation.

Edited by bobk3d

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The only way that I know of to compare is to compare the listed R values of each type, but that is only part of the story on the ability to keep an RV warm in cold weather or cool in hot weather. A major factor is also the amount of outside air intrusion into the RV and that varies widely from brand to brand and even models of the same brand. I do not know of any aluminum side RV that has dual pane windows and that too plays a major part in keeping temperatures as you want them.

 

I think that you are putting too much into the repair costs of the fiberglass wall RVs as proper maintenance on one of good quality construction will prevent water intrusion problems. We lived fulltime in an RV with fiberglass sandwich wall construction for nearly 12 years and owned it for 14 years. It was only undercover the last year we owned it and twice for a couple of months when we had a cover over a volunteer site. We were not completely leak free as I did have to repair two different window leaks and one skylight leak but none caused any permanent damage because the manufacturer had applied a sealant to the raw edges of the sides where they cut the holes to install the windows, so there was no water penetration and I did all leak repairs very promptly. Most problems that RVs have from leaks are not so much because the leak happened but rather because the leak was not promptly repaired in a proper manner. The reason that most RVs today use the laminated construction is that it gives you a better insulated wall that is stronger and more durable. The reason that a few RVs still use aluminum is to save weight mostly and in some cases also cost as that type of construction is generally less expensive as well.

 

The question of interior temperature is as much one of the quality of the RV as anything else. Most ultra-light RVs are not of the highest construction standards, and mine is no exception. To save weight they usually have little or no insulation in the floors as well as fiberglass in the walls and ceiling. Over time, fiberglass will begin to compact and to leave gaps with the vibrations from travels so in most cases it does not retain its insulating value as well as the foam sandwich type of construction.

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Thanks, Kirk, very helpful.

 

Aside from the Nash line, one lightweight I've found is Starcraft Autumn Ridge, which offers an insulation option with R-values around 20; they can be ordered with glass or aluminum sides, and thermal pane windows are optional. Maybe there's some R-value trickery involved, but those are the highest numbers I've seen. A few others simply specify foam block insulation, but that might be all I need.

 

It sure takes a lot of searching to ferret out all the construction details

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Another well built 3 season trailer is the Canadian triple E. Good insulation and dual pane windows which really helps. Not sure if they make aluminum sided or not. There are dealers for them in the US.

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Our first rig, a 5th wheel was a Holiday Rambler Alum-lite. It had solid aluminum exterior (not the "siding" look in strips)

it was a 2000, we purchased in 2007 and kept it until 2013. It was well insulated, well constructed. Its only issue in appearance was that the painted finish was starting to powder. The interiors was solid and wore very well.

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We have a 23' 2003 Komfort TT with no slides that has aluminum siding over a welded aluminum frame. We've never had any problems with the siding or the frame. We've full-timed in the TT for over 8 years and have over 100K miles on the trailer. It has traveled the haul road from Fairbanks, AK to Prudhoe Bay over hundreds of miles of rough gravel road. We spent a summer in Scottsdale, AZ (medical reasons) and the single AC was able to keep us comfortable even when the daytime temps were over 110°. Friends had to leave the area with their very expensive MH with two ACs, laminate siding, and slides. We spend winters in an area that occasionally sees temperatures as low as the mid 20's and have not had a problem keeping the inside toasty warm.

 

I don't know what the R value of the insulation is but it works good enough for our purposes.

 

---ron

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On ‎10‎/‎3‎/‎2015 at 0:50 AM, bobk3d said:

Thanks, Kirk, very helpful.

 

Aside from the Nash line, one lightweight I've found is Starcraft Autumn Ridge, which offers an insulation option with R-values around 20; they can be ordered with glass or aluminum sides, and thermal pane windows are optional. Maybe there's some R-value trickery involved, but those are the highest numbers I've seen. A few others simply specify foam block insulation, but that might be all I need.

 

It sure takes a lot of searching to ferret out all the construction details

This was one of the "advertised" features about the Autumn Ridge series that caught my attention as well.  We just purchased a 2015 245DS with the Climate Package.  It is stated to provide R-24 floor, R-19 walls, and R-22 roof.  What's interesting is that this series of TT's are available in both aluminum and composite sidewall construction and there is no mention as to these insulation values being different depending on sidewall material. Since there is no standard industry test used by RIVA for validating these claims, I'm simply hopeful it's better than average.

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I've been in RV's for over thirty years.  I speak from personal experience, here:  I had a Class C delaminate while I was driving it!  This happened on the driver's side, so I watched, in anguish, as the wall right behind me peeled back.  I was able to pull over and put a few bolts all the way through, from the outside to the inside wall, and made the next one-hundred miles, back home, without further incidents. I sold that unit for about what I had paid for it, with total honesty about the issue.  I believe the buyer wanted it for parts.  I have never had any problems with my aluminum sided RV's, and I've had two of those. I'm getting ready to buy my third.  As long as I can keep the exterior walls clean, and do roof maintenance on a regular, yearly schedule, I will always take aluminum over fiberglass. I have never had any problems with staying as warm or cool as I wanted to, year-round, in my aluminum sided travel trailers. 

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