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Ashley Mann spent three years living full time in a 38-foot, 5th-wheel RV with her husband Josiah and their cat, Kitty. Her favorite thing about RV life is the challenge of finding the perfect way to organize a space, and she loves seeing all the creative and clever ways people come up with to customize their RVs.
Living in an RV in extreme cold can pose unique risks and challenges. From frozen plumbing to trying to keep the camper warm, you can spend a lot on repairs and heating bills. Even a four-season RV can feel drafty when temperatures dip below freezing! There are many things you can do to successfully prepare your RV for winter camping. One of the best things to do is insulate the underbelly of your RV with RV skirting.
This is why skirting your RV for the winter is essential in protecting plumbing and lowering heating costs.
How do you insulate the underbelly of an RV?
RV skirting is the use of material to block cold air from blowing underneath your camper while trapping warm air. If you are trying to figure out how to insulate your RV systems from freezing temperatures or keep your RV underbelly and floors warm, RV skirting is the answer.
In this guide, we will review the best skirting options, their cost, and installation. Skirting can be expensive, so let’s first determine if your RV needs a skirt.
Do I Really Need RV Skirting?
If you’re wondering if RV skirting is really necessary, here are three questions to help you determine your answer:
- Is your RV drafty? If you struggle to stay warm when RVing in chilly weather, skirting can help cut down on drafts. Especially if you notice the floor if your RV feels cold, skirts will mitigate that cold.
- Will you be using your RV plumbing in freezing weather? If you’ll be using your RV shower, sink, or toilet in temperatures below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, you need to make sure all water lines, pipes, and plumbing system components are protected from freezing. Otherwise, you can simply winterize your RV plumbing system for cold-weather storage.
- Is your RV a four-season model? Campers that are designed to be used in cold weather may have a plumbing system that is protected from the elements. Check for an enclosed underbelly and water connections and a heated storage bay under the RV. If your RV has these features, you will probably be fine without skirting. But may want to skirt your RV if you’ll be living in it all winter in order to save on heating costs.
- Are you concerned about staying warm during a loss of power or keeping cold air out of your RV? These are two very legitimate concerns. Skirting prevents cold air and wind from blowing underneath your RV. This will make your RV floors colder and create a draft in your RV. The air under your RV is trapped under the skirt and will stay warm (relative to the outdoor temperature). Skirting can make a significant difference especially if you lose power in a storm and will prevent heat loss.
RV Skirting Options
RV skirting includes anything you might use to protect the undercarriage of your RV. Your options range from spending thousands on a custom skirting option to spending $100 on a DIY option.
There are the most popular options:
- Custom vinyl skirting. Usually attached to RVs using T-style twist locks/turn buttons, boat snaps, a channel system, Velcro, or adhesive snaps. Made to fit your RV and usually installed by the company that makes it.
- Self-Installed vinyl skirting. A more affordable compromise between custom and DIY, where the company you order from provides all the materials you need to make and install professional-quality skirting yourself.
- Inflatable skirting. A recent addition to the RV skirting market from a company called AirSkirts. This doesn’t fasten to your RV, making it one of the easiest skirting options for RV owners. Instead, it stays in place with pressure against the bottom of your camper, keeping you extra cozy inside.
- DIY skirting. Options include the following:
- Make your own vinyl skirting out of tarp vinyl, clear plastic, or recycled billboard vinyl. (Tutorial here)
- Foam board insulation skirting – the most popular and possibly the cheapest DIY skirting option. (Tutorial here)
- Skirting made from Reflectix – a less common choice due to reasons I’ll discuss later in this article.
- Plywood or particle board skirting – a popular choice for RVers parked in a permanent location.
- Hay bales – Used as skirting by some RVers, though it’s not recommended due to the risk of fire.
Throughout the rest of this article, I’ll discuss the pros and cons of each of these options in more detail.
What R-Value Do You Need?
Some people wonder whether they need to pay attention to the R-value of the material they use to skirt their camper.
R-value is a number that indicates how quickly heat will pass through the material—higher R-value means slower heat transfer. You can read more about it in this article about RV insulation.
It’s important to note, however, that the primary function of RV skirting is to trap air underneath your camper. This creates an insulating layer of air that will be warmed through convection by contact with the bottom of your camper. This warmed air will then be held in place by the skirting instead of being blown away by the wind.
For that reason, the thickness of the material you use to skirt your camper is not as important as sealing any gaps that would let the wind blow through and allow the air to escape.
Even thin plastic or vinyl can keep the space under your camper above freezing as long as it prevents airflow.
However, in climates where temperatures stay below zero for days on end, a thicker type of skirting may be a good idea. A few feet of snow piled around the base of your camper will do a great job of this also.
Option #1: Custom RV Skirting
A custom RV skirting company measures your RV, makes vinyl skirting to those exact specifications, and then installs it for you, either at their shop or on-site at your location.
Custom RV skirting usually starts around $1,500 and can easily cost over $2,500 for big 5th wheels.
For that reason alone, you may already be looking for an alternative solution. After my first winter making my own skirting, I understood why some people pay the high cost! A custom, reuseable skirt is a great option if you’re planning to live through years of winters in one location.
Pros of Custom RV Skirting
- The convenience. Skirting our 5th wheel always took me and my husband at least a full weekend of work. Then another full day at least in the spring to take it down and put it away. This would not have been practical if we had needed to move or travel more often.
- The appearance. It’s hard to make DIY RV skirting look as nice as custom RV skirting. With custom skirting, you’ll be able to choose a color that matches your camper, and it will lay nicely with clean lines and no gaps. Let me tell you from experience, measuring and cutting vinyl to fit every odd angle and height is complicated. It’s easy to make mistakes that require patchwork. Leaving the work to a professional can result in a neater finished look.
- Fewer objections from RV parks. Some RV parks don’t allow you to use RV skirting, and some only allow professionally made skirting. The better your skirting looks, the less likely you’ll be prohibited from using it.
- Less damage to your RV. If you’re installing your own snaps or adhesive hooks to hang your skirting, you may end up with damaged paint and holes in your RV. You’ll get this with custom skirting also, but professionals are less likely to make mistakes.
- You can re-use it each year. This is the main reason people who frequently RV in cold climates often choose professionally made RV skirting. The cost of buying new materials to make your own skirting each year can add up over time. When we made our own vinyl skirting, I intended to reuse it the next year, but by the end of the winter, it was destroyed. Many of the grommets had ripped out so we ended up throwing it away and re-making it the next year. We did a better job the second time. Over the course of three years, we spent over $600 on our skirting. If I had known that upfront, we might have chosen to spend just a little more to have it made for us once.
- Better accessibility. Because the skirting is custom to your RV, you can ensure that storage doors and hoses are accessible. (This can be significantly harder with cheaper DIY options.)
- More environmentally friendly. RV skirting made from foam board insulation, plastic, or plywood often ends up in the trash at the end of the winter. Buying your skirting just once creates less waste.
Cons of Custom RV Skirting
- The cost – it’s usually the most expensive option for skirting an RV.
- You may have to travel to where the company is located. If you don’t happen to live near a custom RV skirting company, you may have to transport your RV to wherever they are located to have your camper measured and fitted for skirting. Some RV skirting companies allow customers to camp on their property. Others will let you send in your measurements and ship the skirting to you to install yourself.
- You may have to put it up yourself. Having your skirting made for you will save you hours of labor, but you will still likely have to spend time putting it up each time you use it. For some, the labor may not be enough to justify the extra cost.
- May hurt RV trade-in value. Some skirting requires you to screw snaps or some other type of hardware into your RV exterior, which can be detrimental to your camper’s value. However, not all professional skirting uses screws and some DIY alternatives can cause damage to your RV’s exterior as well.
Where to buy custom RV skirting
Here are a few custom RV skirting companies that may be in your area.
- CustomSkirting.com – This company uses an aluminum channel system attached to your with silicone adhesive to hang the skirting. This creates an airtight seal along the top of the skirting with no need to drill holes in your RV exterior. They are located in the Black Hills near Rapid City, South Dakota, and service the upper Midwest region around the state. Most of their clients stay in their FHU RV park while their skirting is being made. But they also travel to install skirting on-site in certain areas of the U.S. depending on a few factors. They offer a financing option to allow you to spread the cost out over monthly payments.
- TheSkirtingCo.com – This company will make and install skirting for you. Or if you want to save money, they will sell you the materials so you can make your own skirting. Their skirting is attached using a channel/rail system. This is a good option especially if you’re in a remote area with no skirting companies nearby.
- RVSkirting.com – This family-owned business is located in Colorado and will travel throughout the state and occasionally to bordering states. They also allow you to camp on their property if you travel to them. Their skirting is sewn by hand and hung using turn locks.
- CustomCanvasUnlimited.com – This RV skirting company is located in Murray, Utah, and serves customers in Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, and Nevada. They also use twist-locking hardware to hang their skirting and sew a chain into the bottom edge of the skirting to weigh it down.
If you Google “Custom RV Skirting Near Me”, you may find other companies in your area.
Self-Installed Custom Skirting
The perfect cross between the benefits of custom trailer skirts and the lower cost of DIY skirting is self-installed custom skirting. I’ve mentioned this a couple times already.
In this case, you find a company like EZ Snap Skirting or The Skirting Co. and buy the materials you need to successfully make and install your own skirting. They have a process that works and will support you to make sure you end up with a result you’re happy with.
This is a great way to avoid the stress, hassle, and risk of having to figure out everything on your own.
Both of these companies will allow you to skirt most RVs for around $1,000.
As I mentioned earlier, I ended up spending around $600 over three years on RV skirting materials, so if you’re planning on using skirting for several years, I would definitely compare these options with the DIY route.
EZ Snap Skirting
When you purchase the EZ Snap skirting system, the company sends you a roll of vinyl and all of the hardware you’ll need based on the size of your camper. Then you do all the measuring, cutting, and installation yourself.
They offer three options for the hardware used to hang your skirting: screw-in boat snaps, adhesive snaps, or a combination snap that screws in but is also adhesive (to prevent rusting). They recommend using pipe clamps to attach your skirting to PVC pipes along the bottom to weigh it down, as seen in this photo on Instagram of an RV skirted with EZ Snap skirting:
To be completely honest, when I priced EZ Snap skirting for our 38-foot fifth wheel, I didn’t like the price tag. It felt expensive considering the amount of work I would need to do. That’s why I ended up making my own DIY skirting, which cost $800 less.
However, I have talked to many RV owners who chose EZ Snap skirting and were happy with it.
The Skirting Co. (Formerly RV Skirting Pros)
The Skirting Co. offers unique RV skirting kits and professionally or self-installed options.
- If you live in one of the Midwest states within their service area, they will travel to you and install your skirting for you.
- If you live out of their service area or want to save money, you can travel to their location in Indiana to have them install your skirting.
- If you want to save a lot of money, you can purchase all the materials from them and install your skirting yourself.
Their skirting attaches uniquely to your RV through the use of a Keder-style awning track. It sticks to your RV with heavy-duty adhesive tape and only requires screws on the sides of your slide-outs. That way you can easily remove the awning track to bring in your slides.
Even if you opt for DIY installation, The Skirting Co. does a lot of the work for you.
Instead of just sending you a roll of vinyl, they pre-cut the vinyl into 8-foot panels with the Keder cord used for hanging the skirting already sewn into the top edge. The adhesive tape is already measured and stuck to the awning track. All you have to do is peel off the backing and stick the strips to your RV!
I am honestly impressed with this system. As someone who spent a lot of time trying to figure out a way to hang RV skirting that minimizes damage to the RV, this system is smart. In retrospect, with the time and cost of making my own skirting three years in a row, I would go back and choose the one-time purchase from The Skirting Co over the DIY options—especially if you know you’ll spend multiple winters in your RV.
While it is more expensive than DIY vinyl skirting, the installation method and quality of materials are superior. The vinyl is heavier (the billboard tarp material I used wore through in some places). And the attachment method is easier to install and does a better job of sealing off the RV.
RV Wind Skirt
I did want to mention one other type of RV skirting that you can purchase and install yourself. It’s the RV Wind Skirt.
This skirting option was originally designed to solve a problem with blowing desert sands. But it can help reduce heat loss and protect RV plumbing in cold weather as well as prevent sun damage to your tires in hot weather.
The material is thinner and lighter weight than most vinyl skirting, which means RVers spending winter in extreme cold might want to look for a more heavy-duty option. But for occasional use, it would be much easier to store and transport.
This skirting is hung with snaps, but you may be able to use adhesive snaps instead of the screw-in ones they provide.
Pros of Custom Self-Installed Skirting
- Cost is cheaper than custom skirting that is installed by companies.
- Shipped directly to you. You don’t need to travel to get this skirting installed or pay installation fees.
- Reusable. Custom skirting is ideal for being reused year after year for full-time RV dwellers.
- Better insulation. Companies like The Skirting Co. offer high ratings of insulation than DIY options.
- More efficient. Because of the custom fit on RV skirting kits, they may be more efficient at keeping your RV warm throughout the winter by ensuring no cold air enters the undercarriage of your RV. Custom fits are harder to achieve with a DIY option because there are so many nooks, doorways, and stairs to cut your skirting around if you do it yourself.
Cons to Custom Self-Installed Skirting
- Self-installation. While this is a factor in cutting costs, you’ll still spend a lot of time installing the skirting yourself—especially with the EZsnaps option.
- Damage to RV exterior. This is really a concern for all types of attached skirting, DIY or professional. Attaching anything to the exterior of your RV can cause damage to the paint or walls. Moreover, screwing anything into the RV can affect your resale value.
- Cost is still more expensive than DIY options.
Inflatable RV Skirting
AirSkirts are a unique type of RV skirting that stands out as the best option for people who travel frequently. It can be taken down and put up quickly.
This type of skirting consists of long, narrow cushions made from heavy-duty, puncture-resistant vinyl that take the shape of the bottom of your RV as you inflate them with electric air pumps, conforming to and filling space around pipes to protect them from freezing.
The skirting doesn’t attach to your RV but is held in place by pressure, meaning you don’t have to use any screws or adhesives on your camper’s exterior.
One thing I wondered about when I first saw this type of skirting was whether sharp edges under an RV might puncture it. But a representative of the company I talked to told me the vinyl is very sturdy. Think of what Zodiak boats are made from! But on the rare occurrence that a puncture occurs, a patch kit is provided.
The really cool thing about this skirting is how easy it is to take down and put up compared to any other type of skirting I’ve ever seen. Even if you use snap-on skirting, you have to go around the bottom staking it down. This skirting installs itself.
This makes it ideal for people who need to move or travel often and aren’t planning to stay in one place all winter. If you’re a full-time RV traveler exploring winter temperatures, this would be my #1 recommendation.
Here’s a video that goes into more detail about Airskirts:
Just for Fifth Wheel Goosenecks
Before I start talking about ways to make your own skirting, I want to mention this fifth-wheel skirt. Making skirting to cover the space under our fifth wheel hitch was the hardest part of making our own skirting, and it also required a lot of expensive material.
Plus, I was never able to come up with a really good way to leave easy access to the space underneath.
If I had known about it at the time, I would have just purchased a pre-made fifth-wheel skirt like this one and made the skirting for the rest of the camper. It even has zipper doors for storage access that are way better than the ones I tried (and failed) to install the first time I made RV skirting.
Cheap DIY RV Skirting Options
The above options can be rather expensive, especially if you’re only needing to skirt for a single winter. Let’s explore your cheaper, DIY options.
Make your own vinyl skirting
As I’ve mentioned, I made my own vinyl skirting two years in a row. During the first year, I made countless mistakes. In the second year, I used what I learned from the previous winter to make even better vinyl skirting, but still made a few mistakes.
But to know if it’s right for you, let’s look at the pros and cons.
DIY Vinyl Skirting – Pros
- You can save money buying the materials directly from the suppliers. Our vinyl costs were under $100.
- You can design your own system for hanging and weighting the skirting that works best for you.
- If you choose to use recycled billboard tarps (pictured above), you’re helping the environment by reusing vinyl.
DIY Vinyl Skirting – Cons
- It’s a lot of work—not just physical work, but mental work—figuring out exactly what sizes and shapes of vinyl to order to fit around all of the slide-outs and areas of different heights.
- It’s easy to make mistakes when measuring and cutting that can end up being costly if you have to order more materials and pay shipping charges again. Don’t ask me how I know…
- The quality is only as good as the materials you use. Our first year making our own skirting, the grommets we used rusted and some of them ripped through the vinyl. We also tried using black Gorilla tape to join the panels. It didn’t stay and left sticky residue all over our skirting. Also, some of the billboard tarp material that the wind kept blowing up against sharp corners of our RV wore thin and needed to be patched. We ended up throwing it all away after our first winter and starting fresh the second year.
If you buy skirting materials from a skirting company, you’re less likely to make mistakes that could end up wasting money or damaging your RV.
- We used heavy-duty adhesive hooks to hang our skirting in order to avoid drilling holes in our RV. These worked great, but they were very difficult to remove later. We ended up buying a heat gun to speed up the process. In a few places, we accidentally damaged the paint while scraping off the adhesive.
- Cutting the tarps and adding the grommets took a long time. If I had it to do over, I would buy higher quality tarps already cut to the sizes I needed and with grommets already added.
If you’re looking for an affordable DIY option, you can follow my tutorial on DIY vinyl skirting here.
Skirting made from insulated tarps
Some RVers choose to use insulated tarps to make their skirting in order to increase the R-value.
Insulated tarps are very expensive, though, so for a big fifth-wheel or Class A motorhome this would not be my first choice. There are better options for the cost. Also, we found our non-insulated vinyl skirting to be just fine for the winter weather we experienced.
Some RVers put a space heater under their RV with a thermostat that will kick in if the temperature under the RV drops below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Of course, using an electric heater while RVing would be at your own risk.
Reflectix RV Skirting
Reflectix is another material some have used to skirt their campers.
Like any material, it does a great job of preventing cold air from blowing under the RV. But the reflective material is meant to deflect heat and Reflectix is expensive. It would be expensive to install and better for keeping out heat than trapping heat.
Some RV parks probably wouldn’t allow the typical silver-colored Reflectix to be used as skirting due to the appearance, but there is a kind that’s white on one side that would look nicer.
One concern I would have with using Reflectix is that it tears more easily than vinyl once punctured. For that reason, it seems like it would be difficult to hang and stake or weigh down.
Plywood RV Skirting
Plywood is another material that is fairly cheap and provides reliable protection against cold winds. While it wouldn’t be practical for an RVer who changes locations, it would be a great long-term solution for a stationary RVer because it could be painted to match your trailer.
In extreme cold, plywood could be lined with Reflectix or reflective foam board insulation to increase its heat retention. It would also provide a place under the RV for storing things like lawn furniture, outdoor toys, and garden equipment if you were to install a hinged door on the side.
Using Hay Bales as RV Skirting
Every winter I see some RVer on Facebook talking about using hay bales as skirting.
While they do a good job of insulating, they attract mice and pose a risk of fire. Damp hay bales can become very hot inside and spontaneously combust.
One RVer who shared his hay bale skirting on Facebook said he didn’t have any problems with mice or fire, but that he still wouldn’t recommend using hay bales as insulation and planned to find a better solution for the next year.
Skirting an RV with Foam Board Insulation
Rigid foam board insulation is by far the most common DIY material used for skirting a trailer or motorhome.
It’s one of the cheapest options by far (we skirted our 38-foot fifth wheel with foam board for just over $100) and does a great job of insulating in temperatures well below freezing and even below zero.
It is also fairly easy to install, which you can see here:
I was really surprised with how nice it ended up looking. We chose foam board that was white on one side and silver on the inside and used white duct tape to connect the panels to each other. This gave it a nice clean look.
It was also very sturdy, once I came up with some good ways to anchor it at the bottom (which I talk about in this tutorial).
Since we stayed at the same spot for almost a whole year, we left the skirting up through the summer. It stayed cool underneath the RV and we figured it would cut down on the cost of air conditioning. We would have used it again the following winter if we hadn’t ended up selling this particular RV.
The downside to foam board skirting in my opinion is that it is really only good for one winter. Most people just throw it away after winter is over and buy more the next year if they need it, which means it’s probably the least environmentally friendly option.
I was hoping to recycle our skirting after we took it off our camper, but the only place I could find that accepted styrofoam for recycling wouldn’t accept our skirting because of the plastic film covering it on both sides.
Which type of RV skirting will you choose?
Questions about the best RV skirting for you? Drop them in the comments and I’ll happily weigh in!
If you’ve skirted your RV in the past, I’d like to hear about your experience with the type of skirting you used if you’d like to share your experience in the comments below!
For more cold weather tips, check out these other articles: