Not all caravans are created equal. In fact, there are several different methods of construction when it comes to building your new caravan – and, as we’ll see, some construction methods are better suited to last.
With our rough terrain, offroading and long-haul distances in Australia, it’s important that your caravan can stand up against whatever adventure you face. Your caravan is essentially your home away from home – you need it to be reliable and to keep on keeping on, no matter where your adventures take you.
Whatever your preferred style or layout of caravan, it’s important to also understand the different construction methods that are used, and choose a caravan that has been built to last.
Our workshop is the largest caravan repair facility in WA, so we’ve seen underneath and inside the walls of almost every make and model of RV! Let’s take a look at some of the common ways of building an RV in the Australian caravan industry:
Stick and Staple
The stick and staple method may be quite popular among some caravan brands, as it’s a quick and cheap method of construction.
The stick and staple method takes a timber frame, with tin or aluminium cladding on the outside, held together primarily with glue and staples. This method has been popular among manufacturers over the decades, due to the fact that it’s cheap and economical to build and relatively strong.
The downside, a stick and staple van is very heavy – especially when compared to their modern counterparts.
One of the biggest drawbacks from the stick and staple method is that the caravan can be prone to rot. Timber has no tolerance for water, so if the van ever leaks, it can cause massive damage. With movement over time on uneven or corrugated roads, slight gaps can form between the sheeting, allowing moisture to soak in and cause frame rot. It doesn’t take long for rot to set in – we’ve seen it happen over and over to vans only a few years old!
Proper sealing can help prevent leaks, but even then, sealants have a shelf life. To avoid water ingress, stick and staple vans need to be re-sealed.
What’s more, over time and with movement, the joins and staples can loosen, weakening the design (especially as it then exposes the internals to the elements). The joins and staples don’t handle offroading particularly well at all.
While the stick and staple method may seem attractive due to the speedy, often affordable construction, the construction quality is generally quite poor. Due to the weakness of a timber frame and it’s tendency to rot, stick and staple caravans just aren’t built to stand the test of time as you tow them on your travels.
Aluminium is strong and lightweight, making it an attractive material to use for the construction of caravans. Aluminium frame construction methods generally stand up better than the stick and staple method – but just to complicate things further, there are a few different styles of aluminium frames to consider.
Part Aluminium Frame
Some caravans are constructed with a part aluminium frame connected to timber components. But, due to the use of timber, there are the same drawbacks as the stick and staple method. Timber is prone to rot if left unattended with any exposure to moisture. Part aluminium frames don’t travel as well as full aluminium frames.
Welded Aluminium frame
These caravans are lightweight and not afraid of water, making them an attractive choice over the stick and staple method which relies on timber. Wiring is easy through insulated grommets, and the design fundamentals are of a high quality.
Unfortunately, the welded joins do not provide optimum flexibility, which can often lead to cracking on uneven or corrugated roads.
Riveted Aluminium Frame
In this method, aluminium frame sections are riveted together, making it a light option and allows for flexing as the caravan travels over rough terrain. These caravans aren’t afraid of water, and the strong design leads to a high quality of build.
This method can be more costly, but the strong steel chassis offers a lightweight and high strength caravan construction solution. Check out our Pro RV caravans to see why a riveted aluminium frame is a solid choice.
Overall, aluminium is more costly than timber as a raw material so an aluminum frame can come with a higher price tag, but with its superior strength and water resistance, it’s much more suited to the job.
CNC Routed Structural Marine Ply
This method uses the ‘jigsaw method’ to create interlocking structures with millimetre precision. This is a very clever design, and the use of a computer-controlled cutting machine offers a perfect build every time. The marine grade materials offer excellent water resistance to avoid the issue of rot as experienced in the stick and staple method.
In our experience, the marine grade ply method is the strongest caravan design and most robust build, though they are heavier than caravans with an aluminium frame. Check out Wonderland RV to see the jigsaw wall construction method in action.
Choosing a new caravan is an important decision – you want to make sure your RV is reliable, trustworthy, travels well and will last no matter which adventures you undertake. While stick and staple method caravans may seem affordable, economical to build and are popular amongst many manufacturers, the timber frame is prone to rot, leading to the need for costly repairs or your van being out of use.
Aluminium frame RVs and those made from CNC routed structural marine ply are more durable, reliable and are built to last – everything you want in a caravan. To find out more about the different construction methods of caravan frames or to find the best style for you, get in touch with our friendly team at RV Solutions or explore our caravan sales Perth showroom today.
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