What Is RV Paneling?
If you’ve ever looked inside an RV you’ve probably noticed that the paneling used inside is different on the ceiling than the walls.
RV ceiling panels are often made of FRP or PVC. It’s lightweight, moisture resistant, and is white without needing to be painted.
RV wall panels are usually made with thin plywood or MDF (medium density fiberboard) with wallpaper stuck to it. For higher end campers you will sometimes find vinyl paneling used on the walls as well.
The ceiling probably also has a base layer of plywood as well but they have added the vinyl or PVC paneling over it.
So why would you need to get your hands on some RV paneling?
Mold and water damage is the number one reason people need to replace the walls or ceiling in an RV. It’s a problem that needs to be taken care of right away before more than just the paneling needs to be replaced.
It’s also common for camper paneling to get a little beat up from things falling during travel. Accidents happen and in a small RV, it’s easy to accidentally bump into things and break them.
Or you might just be remodeling an old camper or even building one inside of a van or school bus.
Whatever the need is this post is just to help you understand how simple RV paneling is and give you some ideas for what to use to decorate the new panel once you’ve nailed or stapled it in place.
Where To Buy RV Wall & Ceiling Paneling
The Hardware Or Lumber Store
If you are looking to replace the wall or even ceiling paneling in your RV 1/8 inch plywood, utility paneling or MDF boards from your local hardware store is going to be a good place to start.
For the ceiling you can normally find some FRP board at hardware stores as well.
They often have larger board sizes and some places will even cut the panels to size for you.
A thin lightweight board that’s stapled to the wall studs or ceiling supports is really all the inner walls are made of. The most difficult part about installation will be cutting out areas where there are cabinets or windows.
Getting large paneling online can be a bit of a challenge since many online retailers often charge high shipping rates for the size of RV panels you are going to need.
Large hardware stores with online shopping like Home Depot and Lowes are a good place to start.
Shiplap is another fantastic way to replace the paneling in an RV without having to get a large board to cover the studs in the walls or ceiling.
This Timeline Shiplap (click to view on Amazon) uses 3/16 inch thick MDF boards that are 72 inches long and 5 inches wide to create a lightweight and realistic looking shiplap that is pre-painted white.
If you are replacing the entire ceiling or walls of your camper and want an option that can be secured directly to the studs this is a great way to do it.
It’s going to look awesome and you don’t need to track down any 1/8 inch plywood to put up first.
Because of the small boards, you are putting together like a puzzle it’s also easier to fit around cabinets and windows.
How To Install RV Paneling
Most RV paneling is stapled directly to the studs in the walls or the support beams on the ceiling. If you look close you can often see the putty they used to try and cover the staples.
Some RV manufacturers don’t even go that far. They just staple up the panels and leave it at that.
If you are planning on covering the wood RV paneling with some wallpaper or vinyl panels nailing or stapling the panels directly to the studs will work just fine.
If you are installing a shiplap like the one linked to above you will also be able to nail it directly to the studs just make sure you put the nails on the part that will be covered by the next board.
How To Make The New RV Paneling Look Good
RV Wall Panels
Once you’ve replaced the wooden part of the RV wall you are going to need to get some paint, wallpaper, or vinyl paneling to make it look good.
If you are repairing some mold damage and need to replace just a section of wall paneling a good way to do it is to replace the section that was damaged and to use a brick (click to view on Amazon) or wood panel (click to view on Amazon) peel and stick wallpaper to make it look like an accent wall so you don’t have to repaint or wallpaper the entire camper.
Another more modern option that works well on camper walls and the ceiling is 3D PVC panels (click to view on Amazon). These are often sold in large squares and you can either glue or nail in place.
Most RVers prefer using wallpapers and stick on paneling over paint because it’s easy to install and doesn’t require multiple coats of special paint that can stick to the wallpaper on the original RV wall paneling.
RV Ceiling Panels
The 3D PVC paneling I linked to above works well for camper ceilings as well but you can also go vintage and use ceiling tiles like these (click to view on Amazon).
If you want to follow the trend even more you can even go with the famous copper version (click to view on Amazon).
It looks amazing inside of campers and it’s a great way to add a little flair to your RV.
It even goes well with the common brown interior older RVs normally have.
It’s a simple way to make things look a little more stylish and if you needed to replace an RV ceiling panel anyways because of water damage from a leaky skylight or vent it’s a great upgrade.
Frequently Asked Questions About RV Paneling
What materials are used for RV walls?
Normally you will find that your camper’s walls are covered in 1/8 inch plywood or birch board that has a thin layer of wallpaper on it.
It’s lightweight and easy to stick wallpaper too, that’s why it’s the most common type of paneling found in a camper.
How thick is RV paneling?
RV paneling is normally only 1/8 an inch thick.
It can seem thicker if there’s another layer of PVC or vinyl paneling on it but most companies keep the wall and ceiling paneling very thin to save on material costs and weight.
How do you install RV paneling?
Installing RV paneling is fairly simple. You just need to nail or staple it to the studs or ceiling supports that are already there.
The hardest part is cutting out the spots where windows and cabinets are.
You also want to be careful and keep and eye out for any electrical wiring or pipes in the walls.
How do you repair a rotted RV wall?
If it’s just the camper wall paneling that’s been affected you just need to remove the entire piece and then some to make sure all of the mold has been taken out.
Go to the local hardware store first and see what size of 1/8 inch plywood they have. Cut out the paneling in your RV to match the width and length of the new piece.
If the studs are still in good shape you can scrub off any mold on them, let them dry for a few days, and add some mold treatment (click to view on Amazon).
If the studs are rotted they are going to need to be replaced as well.
If you don’t get all of the mold it will just keep coming back. It might seem like a lot of work but it’s worth it to get it all out the first time.
After nailing in the new wooden panel you are faced with two options. You can remodel all the walls in the camper to match the new wall or just turn the new panel into an accent piece.
Patterns like brick (click to view on Amazon) make it seem like the different color and style was done on purpose.
This works especially well if you are replacing the back wall in an RV.
Do RV walls and ceilings have studs?
Yes, they do.
Inner walls are always going to have wooden studs but if it’s an outer wall the studs may be made of aluminum or steel depending on what kind of camper trailer or RV you have.
Ceiling studs are normally wood but there can be a few steel supports mixed in as well.
What Is FRP Paneling?
FRP stands for fibre reinforced plastic.
FRP paneling is thin and lightweight boards made with polyester resin and reinforced with fiberglass.
These kinds of panels are popular to use for the ceiling paneling inside campers because it’s already white, it’s very durable, lightweight, and easy to install.
Have any more questions about RV paneling? Leave a comment below.