Learn all about insulating the RV underbelly and installing insulated RV skirting to protect the RV undercarriage from the elements.
Most RVs are not designed for extreme temperatures. So when you decide to camp at an unusually cold place, you need to make sure your RV is properly insulated to survive the dipping temperatures. When it comes to insulation, one of the most important and slightly overlooked parts of your RV is its underbelly. It houses important components like plumbing lines and wires that can easily get damaged from the cold.
This is where RV underbelly insulation can really help you out. But how do you insulate your RV underbelly? and what is the most effective way to keep the RV undercarriage safe? Read on as we explore different methods of RV underbelly insulation including different RV skirting ideas and how to skirt an RV for winter.
Why is it Important to Insulate RV Underbelly?
Many important RV components lie underneath your RV including propane lines, water lines, black and gray water tanks, and more. Here are some of the reasons why it is important to insulate RV underbelly:
Protect plumbing lines by preventing water from freezing inside the pipes
Prevent cracks and leaks in wastewater tanks caused by extremely cold temperatures
Improve water heater efficiency by keeping the water warm as it moves inside the pipes
Prevent valves and fittings from loosening and dripping water
Keep the RV floor warm and cozy
Prevent rodents or insects from getting inside the RV
Save the money you would spend on propane or electricity for heating and cooling RV
Stop road salts and grime from corroding the underflooring, wiring, and metal components of the RV
Many RVs come with pre-installed underbelly insulation. However, it is difficult to ascertain the type and thickness of the insulation material installed as the underbelly is protected by a thin protective film called coroplast. The coroplast is usually installed on the trailer’s frame by some simple screws or other attachments. You would need to remove this layer to find what's underneath. It is generally not recommended to remove the coroplast yourself (especially if you are a new RV owner).
Types of RV Underbelly Insulation
Your RV's underbelly can be insulated and protected from the elements in many different ways. However, there are two basic types of RV undercarriage insulation based on how they are installed and the type of protection they offer.
Permanent RV Underbelly Insulation
Temporary RV Underbelly Insulation
Permanent insulation refers to the types of insulating materials you can install inside your RV undercarriage to ensure that all nooks and crannies are fully protected. This type of insulation requires removing the coroplast and other RV components to install the insulating material. Permanent RV insulation solutions are recommended for full-time RVers who camp in colder climates and travel often. It is recommended to get professional help to install this kind of RV underbelly insulation.
Temporary RV undercarriage insulation refers to using methods like RV skirting to keep the cold at bay and protect the components installed under the RV. This insulation method is more popular among seasonal RVers or full-time RVers who don't travel that often. You can easily DIY RV skirting and there are many different types of RV skirting available in the market.
How to Install Permanent RV Underbelly Insulation
It is generally recommended that you get professional help for installing permanent RV underbelly insulation. However, if you decide to do it yourself, here is a simple plan you can follow:
Measure and Examine the Underbelly: The first step is to examine the RV underbelly for cracks and leaks. Your RV may be losing heat because of these and if you find any, you need to repair them first. Once you have examined (and repaired) the underbelly, measure it to ascertain what kind of insulation you will need and how much of it do you need to buy. Measure both the length and width of the underbelly to get the right size.
Detach Important Components: The next step is to carefully remove and detach all the important RV components inside the RV undercarriage. Start by removing the coroplast (you can keep it aside to re-install it later or replace it if it is damaged). Then move on to detaching all the piping and wiring. Note: Make sure to take pictures of the underbelly before removing the components so you know which wire or pipe goes where.
Insulate: Once all the components are safely out of the way, install your insulation. You will be installing the insulation in the openings between the joists so make sure to measure them correctly before installation. If you're using fiberglass rolled insulation, you can choose to cut solid chunks of the foam to install it or cut it into smaller pieces. If you're using rigid foam or spray foam, make sure you are covering each surface evenly, and don't forget to layer fire-resistant sheeting between the layers of foam. Once you are done installing the insulation you can use additional seams and caulking to seal the insulation in place.
Re-Attach Components: After installing your insulation and securing it, re-attach all the pipes and wires you removed. Refer to the pictures and labels you kept before to make sure you connect everything properly and in its right place.
Seal and Clean: As the last step use seam to cover the pipes and prevent leakage and add a suitable fabric such as Tyvek to cover the underside. Re-attach the coroplast on top and clean everything thoroughly to make sure there is no debris or dirt left stuck in the underbelly.
What is RV Skirting and Does it Work?
RV skirting is one of the most popular ways of insulating the RV underbelly temporarily. We say temporarily because the skirting needs to be installed every time your park your RV and then removed and stored when you hit the road. An RV skirt is installed all around your RV to shield the undercarriage from the effects of the elements. There are many different kinds of RV skirting available in the market, each with its own set of pros and cons.
But does and RV skirting really work? The short answer is Yes, it does. A good RV skirt can keep the components installed on the undercarriage of your RV safe from harsh weather and it is also a good way to control the temperature inside your RV. However, not all RV skirts are made the same and they are not meant to be a permanent RV insulation solution.
Types of RV Skirting Materials
RV skirts can be made of many different kinds of materials. Here are some of the more common ones:
Vinyl RV Skirting
There is a great variety of RV skirtings made of fabric but vinyl RV skirtings are the most popular out of the lot. This is because they are cheap, easy to DIY, and can be stored and reused for ages. You can custom-fit them to your trailer, fifth-wheel, or camper. However, custom vinyl RV skirtings made by professionals can be really expensive and vinyl skirtings take a lot of space to store. Heavier vinyl skirtings can also add to the overall weight of the RV.
Plywood RV Skirting
You will find many RV skirtings made of different kinds of woods in the market but plywood RV skirtings are the most common. Plywood is easy to source and cheap, you will have to cut it into shape and its installation takes some skill but plywood skirtings are a great choice for insulating stationary RVs and trailers. We say stationary because you will have to remove the skirting and store it once you decide to move and since plywood is heavy and can get dirty and damaged overtime, this is not a good option. An upside to plywood skirting is that you can then store camping gear and other toys under the RV safely.
Foam Board RV Skirting
Foam boards are another inexpensive material used to make RV skirtings. They are also easy to install and don't require much skill. However, they are not environmentally friendly and are a single-use skirting option. While foam board RV skirting is cheap, buying and installing it frequently can cause the cost to add up.
If you're parked around a place that has easy access to staw or hay bales then they can act as an inexpensive RV skirting. All you have to do is line the hay bales around your RV and you're done. However, straw and hay bales can attract mice and other insects. Also, hay bales are susceptible to catching on fire spontaneously so they aren't exactly safe.
Just like vinyl, tarp is also an inexpensive material used for making RV skirtings. Tarps are easy to source, durable, and reusable. You can also find insulated tarps that can help in RV temperature control. However, cutting and installing tarps is a time-consuming process that requires skill and the right tools. Insulated tarps can be expensive and just like vinyl RV skirts, tarps can be heavy and take up a lot of storage space.
Just like hay bales, you can also use blocks of snow to insulate your RV underbelly temporarily. Just pile a bunch of snow around the RV using a shovel and it will keep the underbelly safe. You can also use a rigid foam board skirting underneath the snow to really insulate your RV. But just remember the ambient heat of the RV can melt the snow overtime so you might need to keep repeating this process for the duration of your trip.
RV Skirting Solutions
There are many ways to install RV skirting on your motorhome, here are some of the most popular ones.
Custom RV Skirting
You can get customized skirts made for your RV by going to a professional and getting your RV custom-fitted. Custom RV skirts are usually made of vinyl and you can choose how many slides you would like to cover your RV. Most professionals would measure your RV first and then make bespoke skirting panels that will fit your RV like a glove. But just like any professional service, custom RV skirting is expensive so make sure your investment is worth it.
AirSkirts are an innovative inflatable RV skirting solution. The skirt is made of inflatable tubes that can be filled with air using a pump. As they inflate the tubes create a snug fit around the contours of your RV insulating it form the cold. AirSkirts are available in a number of different sizes and each kit comes complete with everything you need to install it. They are reusable and can be stored withing your RV when not in use. The downside? AirSkirts can be expensive and they take up a lot of storage space.
EZ Snap RV Skirting
EZ Snap RV skirting offers a custom fit without the hefty price-tag. You can find EZ Snap RV Skirting kits in a number of different sizes. Once you receive a kit you have to cut the skirt and install it yourself but don't worry, there are tons of helpful videos up on the EZ Snap website to help you out (and as the name suggests these are easy snap RV skirts). The skirtings are made of Diamond Weave™ premium skirting vinyl that has all the strength of vinyl but is half the weight. The 5th wheel RV skirting is said to last 6-8 years in extreme weather.
RV WindSkirt is a canvas-based tarp skirting that is easy to install and is cheaper than EZ Snap RV skirting. The skirting is only available in two sizes but can be customized to fit most RVs. It is designed in a way that the top of the skirt connects to the body of the RV while the bottom hangs low to the ground making a seal between the ground and the RV. Velcro straps attached at each panel of the skirt make it easy to connect and install as per your requirement. RV wind skirting is great for cold weather provided the area isn't too windy.
DIY RV Skirting
Of course you can opt for buying the materials yourself and installing a homemade RV skirting at a fraction of the cost. If you choose RV skirting made of fabric you can easily install grommets, velcro straps, or suction cups to attach the panels to the RV. Vinyl and canvas RV skirts can be held down by stones or rocks places around the RV. Plywood or foam board skirting can be cut and attached to the RV with aluminum tape. You can also use hay bales or snow to protect your RV's underbelly.
How much does it Cost to Skirt an RV?
Skirting an RV can cost anywhere from $100 to $3000 and up depending on the type of RV skirting you choose and how you install it. Custom RV skirt fittings are more expensive than DIY RV skirting kits. High-quality vinyl skirts cost more than simple plywood ones. You can get away with using hay bales and snow as skirting in which case it will probably cost you nothing but these are temporary solutions that are very rarely effective.
What is the Best RV Skirting for Winter?
Choosing he best RV skirting for winter depends on a number of factors:
Where do you plan to camp? If you're planning to boondock in snowclad mountains you need heavy-duty insulation to protect your RV underbelly. A custom vinyl skirting will be your best bet. If you're planning a winter road-trip around an area that doesn't get a lot of wind or harsh weather you can use plywood skirting.
How long do you plan to park your RV? Foam board and plywood skirtings are great for trailers and RVs parked in one place for a long time. Choose tarp or vinyl skirtings if you plan to travel a lot.
What is your budget? Custom vinyl RV winter skirting costs more than DIY RV trailer skirting. When budgeting for RV skirts don't forget to factor in installation and maintenance costs. For example, while foam board skirts are inexpensive, buying them again and again can drive the cost up.
Do you have the right skills and tools? There are many DIY RV skirting kits available in the market. However, if you're not someone who is handy with tools then don't go down that route.
The Last Word
It is important to properly insulate your RV underbelly when travelling to places with cold weather. A properly insulated undercarriage not only protects essential RV components like pipes and tanks but also helps keep your RV warm. Choose an RV underbelly insulation method that suits your RV, your budget, and your travel plans.