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Exterior Detailing
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Bonding Fiberglass Siding, Styrofoam, and Plywood with Contact Cement
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Back in the day RV manufacturers used high-performance contact cement to build RV wall and roof structures. Contact cement is a “solvent-based” adhesive system which is chemically different than “reactive chemistry” adhesives like epoxy. When bonding two parts together, the contact cement is applied to both surfaces, the solvent is allowed to evaporate, and the parts are pressed together. An immediate, permanent bond is formed when the two adhesive-coated surfaces make contact.

This worked great for years. However, due to rising costs and pressure to remove solvents from facilities, manufacturers moved towards other adhesive technologies such as reactive hot melt glue.

At this point it is worth noting that typical wall delamination, as has been observed in RV’s across the board, is generally not related to the wall manufacturing bonding process, rather, delamination typically happens in the plywood used by RV manufacturers. When moisture finds a way into the wall it can dissolve the water-based glue used to make the plywood at the plywood factory. The plies in the plywood separate resulting in delamination of the plywood which shows up as a bubble on the side of the RV.

Contact cement is a viable wall building adhesive, however not just any contact cement works. This is due to temperature limitations. Consumers are price sensitive, and typical residential or commercial building components are not subjected to the 140F temperatures an RV wall or roof can reach.

To our knowledge, only contact cement manufactured by Stabond Corporation is time-tested and proven to hold up on RV’s. Stabond was used by the RV industry for years and is still used by repair shops. The Stabond T440C product is used to bond the fiberglass skin to the plywood backing. The Stabond E-183 product is used to bond Styrofoam to plywood. Each product is specific to the substrates being bonded and cannot be interchanged.

One of the challenges of the contact cement is that the bond is immediate. You get “one shot” to get it right, there is no opportunity for adjustment. Epoxy-based adhesives such as the Composet CompoBond® RV Panel Repair Adhesive is more friendly in this aspect, but the CompoBond® requires building a clamping fixture and extended cure time.

The Stabond contact cement should be applied with a siphon-style paint gun, which requires a good-sized compressor. Personal protective equipment including a respirator is mandatory, as well as having advanced fabrication and application skills.

DIY’ers building tear-drop style campers, and RV owners making repairs or re-siding their rig are using Stabond. RV Repair shops also use these products in their body shop repair facilities. While not readily available through typical big box building material suppliers, the Stabond products are stocked and available through Composet Products L.L.C. The website is www.rvroofandwall.com, where they specialize in exterior repair products for RV’s, and offer customer technical support on the products they sell.

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