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This was the second year we made our own RV skirting out of billboard tarp vinyl for a winter spent in living in our fifth wheel in cold weather, so I thought I would do a blog post to show how we made it.
To read about other ways we prepare our RV for winter, click here.
RV Skirting Options
After researching the options available for skirting our RV, we found they pretty much boiled down to these:
- Custom RV skirting – Some companies will come to you, and some require you to travel to them. Either way, this option is probably the best quality, but it’s also typically the most expensive.
- EZ Snap RV skirting – This self-installed skirting kit is popular with many RVers, but reading about it left me wondering if I could make the same thing myself at a cheaper price.
- DIY skirting made from various materials including:
- Plywood or particle board – Sturdy and warm, but not easy to install, remove, or transport.
- Foam board insulation – Sturdy and warm, easy to install, could possibly be transported, but not very environmentally friendly and can look tacky (some RV parks won’t allow it for that reason).
- Plastic – Cheap, but not as sturdy. Also not very environmentally friendly, and installation presents some challenges.
- Vinyl – This is what I ended up choosing because I hoped to be able to re-use it, and because it’s the time-tested choice of most professional skirting companies.
What type of vinyl is good for RV skirting?
Some RV owners use insulated tarps to make RV skirting. At first I was thinking along the same lines, that thicker is better. But in the end, I chose to use 11 mil billboard tarp vinyl (these are actually recycled billboards!) after realizing this was the same type of vinyl used by many custom RV skirting companies. I also learned that the insulation actually comes more from trapping air underneath the RV than from the thickness of the vinyl, and since insulated tarps are more expensive and much heavier, I decided the thinner vinyl would be fine.
However, my experience is mainly with temperatures below freezing and above zero; if you will be RVing in a climate where temperatures stay in the single digits and below for extended periods of time, you may want to consider a thicker material (insulated tarps or even the foil-backed foam board, as shown in the video at the bottom of this page).
Update 3/5/2019: This winter we stayed in a mobile home park that did not allow vinyl skirting, so we used foam board to skirt our RV instead. Scroll to the bottom of this page to see a video of how we made our foam board skirting, which cost us around $120.
How We Made Our Vinyl RV Skirting
Below are the supplies we used along with what we paid for them at the time (prices may have changed since then of course). Click the name of each item to see where to purchase it.
- Billboard tarp vinyl – enough to skirt our 38 fifth wheel, including the gooseneck and three of its four slides: $92.27 (We used 11 mil weight vinyl purchase from BillboardTarps.com.) To figure out how much vinyl to buy, I measured the total distance around the RV (including slides and gooseneck) as well as the height from the ground to the top of where the skirting would need to come, and then I looked for a tarps in sizes that could be cut into the sizes we need without wasting much vinyl.
- Brass tarp grommets & grommet tool. This set came with 500 grommets, and that was way more than enough. Last year we didn’t use a grommet tool, just a tool and dye and hammer, and the task was much more difficult and time consuming. This handheld grommet punch made this job one thousand percent faster and easier. Both the grommets and grommet punch cost us $42.48
- Steel tent stakes. We ended up needing about 75, which cost around $30.
- Clear adhesive hooks. We used 65. The best deal I have seen is this 40-pack, so to get enough for the project at the time we did it cost $37.98.
- One garment bag (optional) – will explain later! – $10.72
- Duct tape (I already had this)
Total for the project: $213.45
Update 10/23/2018: I have bought this style of adhesive hook many times for various projects, but this particular 40-pack that I bought last year (and linked to above) included a few hooks that had the hard plastic part of the hook pop off the adhesive backing after several months of use. This never happened to me with other brands, so now I avoid the hooks with a clover shaped plastic part and only buy ones with a round shape. I haven’t found any round ones at such a good price, but all of the round ones I bought 2 years ago are still holding strong. You could also just take your chances with the economy pack and just replace any hooks that break.
We didn’t do as good a job of making the skirting last year as we did this year (we improved on our design this year), and by the end of the winter last year’s skirting was really worn and muddy, so we threw it away and planned to have professional skirting made for us this year. I got a quote from a local guy for around $1,600. If you’ve priced professionally made trailer skirting, you know this is a great deal.
But the more we got to thinking about it, the more we started thinking about how much money we would save if we made our own again, so we decided to give it one more try. We are so glad we did, because our homemade skirting turned out so well that feel completely content with it and no longer wish we had professional skirting.
The Installation Process
This is what the billboard vinyl looks like all laid out. It literally used to be a billboard. The black side is the back; the other side of this piece had a Cracker Barrel billboard printed on it.
The first thing we did was to cut the vinyl into the sizes we needed. Calculate and measure carefully! “Measure twice and cut once,” as they say. Last year I made a few mistakes in my calculations and we ended up having to order more vinyl, which meant paying double in shipping charges. The vinyl cuts easily with scissors.
Below you can see the adhesive hooks on our RV leftover from last year. When we put them on I wasn’t thinking about how the ones on the sides of the slides would interfere with bringing the slides in. We haven’t brought the slides in since we moved to this location, but when we do we will obviously need to remove those hooks.
A word about hook removal: These hooks are extremely sturdy. At one point over the summer I thought I might as well remove all of the hooks since we were planning to get professional skirting (so glad I didn’t), and I had to use pliers to pull one off. I was so difficult to remove I gave up on the project at that time. However, once the hook was removed, there was no damage or residue left behind on the fiberglass part of the RV. I haven’t yet pulled off any of the ones that were stuck to the decals or to the gold painted fender area, but since some duct tape we pulled off the gold area took some of the paint with it, I am afraid these hooks may do the same. We don’t plan on pulling them off though.
Update 10/17/19: Well, plans change, and after three years in our RV, we’ve settled in a house again and are in the process of getting our RV ready to sell, so last Sunday we removed all the hooks. We used an inexpensive heat gun and a plastic putty knife and were able to remove all of them in a couple of hours. We will probably need to go back with some Goo Gone to get some of the residue we missed. Also, there were a couple of places where we accidentally chipped the paint while scraping off the residue, so be forewarned. All in all the hooks were a good option for us for what we needed, but I probably wouldn’t put them on a brand new RV.
If you’re thinking about doing this project but don’t like the idea of using hooks, I have seen some people who used heavy duty Velcro instead…but I don’t really see how that would be any better since it is also adhesive. It is also more expensive than the hooks. It does have the advantage of forming a seal all along the top of the skirting, whereas our skirting has small gaps at the top that may allow some of the warm air to escape – not an issue for us in Kansas City, but it might be for someone farther north.
Update 10/4/18: I had an idea that I believe I will try next time we need to use skirting (not sure yet if we will use skirting this winter as we are currently in Texas). Rather than stick adhesive hooks directly to the sides of our slides only to have to pry them off again next time we need to pull our slides in, I believe I will use acrylic mounting tape to stick the same hooks to the slides. This tape stays put in cold weather (as I explained in this blog post) yet it is very easy to remove. I might even suggest trying it for all of the hooks if you’re concerned about the hooks being difficult to remove later, especially since the clear hooks do turn yellow in the sunlight over time.
Some people have also made their own vinyl skirting and hung it with adhesive snaps. That many snaps are kind of pricey (IMO), but that is an option, though not without some problems to anticipate. I am thinking about ordering some adhesive snaps for the area covering our propane tank access doors, though.
Last year we originally tried hanging our skirting with heavy duty suction cups, but even with following all of the instructions for using them (cleaning the area, applying in temperatures above freezing, etc.) they wouldn’t stay stuck. I was very glad to find the adhesive hooks we ended up using.
This is why you don’t use duct tape on your RV, learned the hard way. We used Gorilla duct tape for some of the tricky spots last year, and to tape foam board to the bottoms of our slides (which made a big difference in the temperature of our slide floors). If I need to use tape on my RV in the future I will use foil HVAC tape as it can withstand any temperature and supposedly comes off cleanly.
Here’s what the skirting looks like hung from the hooks with a grommet. We folded the top of the vinyl over about four inches to make it sturdier and make it look neater.
Below is a photo of last year’s skirt-making process. First we taped the skirting in place temporarily and marked the places where we needed holes, then we took it down and used a hammer to punch the holes using the small inexpensive tool that came with the grommets we purchased last year. It took a long time, and that was only doing grommets along the top – we weighted down the skirting on the bottom last year instead of staking it down. The weights we used weren’t very efficient, though, and we were constantly having to fix and adjust the skirting after a windy day. Sometimes this new skirting still comes unhooked in a few places and has to be rehung after very strong winds, but it does a much better job of staying put.
And here is my husband using the grommet punch this year. It was so much easier as we were able to just go along punching holes as we hung it – no marking or measuring required. I wondered if it would be hard for me to use the punch tool since my hands are smaller, but I have no problem using it; it doesn’t require more than a normal amount of hand strength.
Update Spring 2018: Over the course of this past winter, a few of the grommets pulled out of their holes and a few ripped the vinyl. That didn’t happen the previous year, so I’m wondering if the handheld grommet punch didn’t always cut through as cleanly or close as tightly? Anyway, most of them held up just fine, so to remedy the situation I plan to use black Gorilla duct tape to cover and reinforce the torn places and then redo those grommets. To prevent this from happening, I would suggest that you really make sure your grommets are tight, and possibly reinforce the holes with a piece of black duct tape before you punch them.
After we got the skirting hung along the top, we went around the bottom punching holes and pounding in tent stakes.
We cut and folded the skirting to go around vents and other things we didn’t want to cover.
For the seams between pieces, this year we just overlapped them by several feet. Last year we tried using Gorilla duct tape to tape the seams together and it did not stay. It ended up coming untaped, blowing around in the wind, and making a sticky, dirty mess. Overlapping it seems to work fine since it is fastened at the top and bottom, but if you are concerned about making a tight seal you may want to find a different way to join the seams. I planned this particular seam to be at the spot where our sewer hose connects so that it can be easily unhooked if we need to access that area.
The part pictured below is kind of ugly. I forgot when I was measuring that there would be a white pipe sleeve along the edge, so I didn’t end up having enough to fold over for that short piece.
Going around the stairs was kind of tricky. I ended up taking the vinyl across the front underneath them, and then added a second piece to line the area behind the steps, hung from adhesive hooks from the steel frame.
I actually decided to use a heavy duty clear shower curtain (which already had grommets!) weighted down with a few bricks instead of tarp vinyl to line the area behind the steps because our cat loves to play under the RV, and this lets a bit of light in. He also likes having this little spot under the stairs as a place to jump in and hide if something scary like the garbage truck shows up.
He can slip underneath the RV there too, which I know means our skirting isn’t 100% sealed, but as I mentioned earlier this doesn’t matter too much in our climate; we mainly just need to block the wind.
Here’s what the front part looks like.
To access the front storage area without having to remove the skirting, I decided to add a zipper (an idea I got from the EZ Snap skirting website). Instead of buying an expensive long zipper, though, I decided to surgically remove the zipper from an inexpensive garment bag. This is an extra long garment bag designed for wedding dresses.
I ended up cutting more off the sides until I had about six inches of plastic on either side of the zipper. I should have trimmed a bit more; I think about two inches on either side of the zipper would have looked better. Just enough to have something to stick tape to.
Then I taped the zipper to the back of the skirting using extra wide Gorilla duct tape.
Next I cut a hole in the front of the skirting over the zipper.
And now I have a zipper opening for my skirting.
ETA spring 2018: Unfortunately, the garment bag plastic didn’t hold up to cold weather. It became brittle and tore to shreds. To fix it, I plan to cut off all of the plastic and attach the fabric of the zipper directly to the billboard vinyl.
Here is my RV all ready for cold weather!
Update: I came across an RV owner named Rob Dodd who used the adhesive hook and billboard vinyl skirting technique, and his skirting turned out so great that I wanted to include some of his photos, along with a few additional ideas he shared:
Idea #1: Rob used sandbags ordered from Amazon and filled with sand from a local supplier to weight down the skirting if you’re on a concrete pad and can’t use tent stakes. He did this and says his skirting was able to withstand a wind gust recorded nearby at 52 mph without even budging!
Idea #2: Rob used snaps and a snap tool to attach the skirting pieces to each other. I love this idea and may do it to attach my front piece to my side pieces if the duct tape I used in one place ends up coming undone. If you don’t mind screwing into your camper, you could also use screw-in snaps to hang the skirting…personally I was too afraid I would make a mistake and end up with a bunch of holes in the wrong places to try that.
Idea #3: Rob avoided the tricky issue of how to skirt around the steps by folding in his steps and covering them up and building these steps using free pallet wood instead.
I think Rob’s skirting looks really sharp!
I just had to add this idea from fellow RV owner Guy Hoffman. I actually wish I had made my skirting go up high enough to cover my storage bay doors and done something like this for access.
If you have any questions for me about our skirting or any additional ideas to share, please leave a comment!
Update 3/5/2019: As I mentioned at the top of this blog post, this year we had to use foam board to skirt our RV because the mobile home park we are in now doesn’t allow vinyl skirting. The project was actually easier and cheaper than the vinyl skirting ($106 plus tax for materials) and we like how it ended up looking. The only downside is that it’s one-time use only, and not very environmentally friendly. 🙂 We made a video to demonstrate the process as we made the skirting, which you can watch below:
Click here to read about the other ways we prepare our RV for winter!
For more winter RV tips, check out my Winter RVing Resource Page: