How to (Safely and Securely) Mount Things on Your RV Wall
Ahhh, RVing. If you're the adventurous type, it's a great way to enjoy summer. But how do you make the inside of your RV your own? How can you hang pictures and mementos on such thin walls? How can you avoid hitting an electrical wire or plumbing pipe?
What Are Your RV Walls Made Of?
The most common type of wall in an RV is simply 2x2 framing with foam insulation and paneling on top. I don’t think I have to tell you that having such a thin wall makes it hard to fit in all the wiring and plumbing. What's even harder is knowing where all that stuff is and where it's safe to hang something.
Another way some RV walls are made is through bonding all the layers together. The framing, interior wall, insulation, and exterior wall are built like a layer cake. Each layer has strong adhesive inbetween. Then all the layers are put on top of each other and pressed together to make one panel that is later assembled into an RV.
Interiors can also simply be fabric-covered Luan plywood substrate. (If you want to know what Luan looks and feels like, just go to the lumber area of a home improvement store.) Luan is extremely thin and very lightweight, which makes it ideal for an RV wall -- the lighter the weight of your vehicle, the less gas your RV will consume. Luan provides a smooth surface for fabric to adhere to. The downside is that because its thin, it's difficult to hang things on. Luan is a midgrade plywood and splits easily.
Other Things That Can Hamper Your Hangings
Besides the thinness of your RV wall, it's very difficult to find where a stud or plumbing might be. Unlike houses where studs have a standard 16” on center interval, the studs in RVs don't have regular intervals. The studs in RVs may not even run vertically--sometimes they're horizontal. This is because of the way the plumbing and wiring are in the wall. The builders have to run the framing studs to accommodate them.
Hanging Devices to Avoid
I personally think it's not a good idea to use screws or nails to hang things. Mainly because I don’t like putting permanent holes in walls that would be impossible to repair if you changed your mind. Another good reason is because of the thinness of RV walls. You could hit something in the wall or even go all the way through to the outside of the vehicle. Yikes, what would you do then?
You could use a stud finder, but remember that most RV walls are glued together, and stud finders need screws or nails to work. You could also use the old fashioned way to find a stud or pipe by tapping on the wall with a hammer and listening for a sound difference. A deeper sound "could" be a stud. But keep in mind you will still be taking a chance.
The only time I would use a screw is if I'm sure I'm not going to run into anything inside the wall and only if the item I want to hang is too heavy (like a paper towel holder) for alternatives. If you can’t find a stud, then at least use plastic wall anchors, and use the smallest possible screw for the job. As a side note, always pre-drill where you want the screw to go. You will avoid splitting the Luan or paneling with this tactic.
I would stay away from nails altogether. With screws you can control how deep you go, but with nails, one swing of the hammer could send it all the way through the wall.
If you're like me, you don’t like a lot of rattling while driving. I like to take down the pictures and miscellaneous hangings to eliminate the noise. When I get to my destination, I re-hang everything that I took down before driving. It only takes a few minutes (it’s not like doing it in a large house) and it’s only a matter of hanging a towel on a hook and hanging a few pictures in their predetermined areas once you arrive at your destination.
For pictures, I use double-sided Velcro. One section of Velcro stays on the wall, and the other section stays on the back of the picture. One, two, three…you are done! Velcro comes in a variety of thicknesses, strengths and colors. The downside: if you ever upgrade to a nicer RV, it can be difficult to remove the gummy deposit that the Velcro leaves behind, and you will not be able to re-use the wall piece of Velcro.
For towels, washcloths, etc, I like to use Command hooks. They are easy to use and easy to remove if you decide you want to put a towel somewhere else or sell the RV. They come in a variety of sizes, colors, and finishes. I have even found metal-looking Command hooks that look like the real thing. If you look at the package carefully, it usually tells you how much weight they can hold.
If you have a shower area in your RV, think about using suction cup hooks on the smoother walls or even on the windows. An over-the-door towel rack works pretty well, too.
Now you know that there are several options to hang things on your RV walls. First think of how heavy the object you want to hang is. Then think of where you want to put it, and which hanging device you want to use. Now go decorate!