Having a shower in your RV is great. There’s no lining up for the public showers at a campground like your tent based travelling peers, no need to spend hours dirty, hot and sticky to you make it to a hotel like those who travel in cars on their vacation. All you need to do is head to the back of your rig and you can take a nice warm (or cold) shower and emerge clean and refreshed for the next leg of your adventure.
Yes, having an RV shower is great! But you do need to take care of it, otherwise it might become a problem rather than a perk.
One question that some new RV owners have is are the walls – and the floor – of their RV shower waterproof? Or do they need to waterproof RV shower walls themselves? And if they do, just how do they do that? These are the issues we will look at here.
The answer to this question is the subject of a lot of discussion – and more than a little disagreement – in many RV communities and on lots of RV forums. Technically RV shower walls are waterproof, or so the manufacturers often say – and an RV owner does not need to do anything to them.
A different school of thought exists though, one that says that often RV shower walls – especially in older RV showers – are water resistant at best, and will benefit from additional waterproofing.
Some RVs – usually older models, or models that have been modified by a previous owner – have walls throughout, including in the shower – that are constructed using a material called Lauan, or Luan (it can be spelled both ways.)
This is a type of plywood that comes from the lauan tree, which is native to the Philippines and other countries in Southeast Asia. It’s a relatively tough and good looking choice but it’s also a very reasonably priced one, which is why it’s often a popular choice for use in an RV.
When it is used in an RV shower, luan wood is usually covered with paper and then treated. However, while it is water resistant when finished, it really isn’t waterproof.
Why are waterproof RV shower walls better
An RV shower is not like the shower you have at home. It’s not as powerful, and the limitations of your onboard water tank, combined with a lower water pressure, means that RV showers are usually just a few minutes long.
Even so, there’s plenty of water involved.
We mentioned that some RV shower walls are considered by most to be water resistant rather than waterproof. The difference between the two terms is that unless the walls are waterproofed they are still susceptible to rot caused by moisture and they are likely to crack more easily.
The solution? Most experts say that installing a new shower surround will not only add walls that you can now be sure are waterproof but is also a great way to update the look of an existing RV shower.
This is a job that you can tackle yourself if you have patience and are willing to put in four to five hours of DIY work. It’s not a project you will want to undertake when you will be using your RV soon, but as a weekend job during your RV’s ‘off season’ it’s something well worth considering.
To help you understand what installing a new RV shower surround involves we have put together this step-by-step guide.
How to install an RV shower surround
- Turn off the water supply to the shower and bleed out any remaining water
- Remove the shower head
- Measure and mark the placement of the water hoses
- Cut the required holes (carefully)
- Test place the shower surround, primarily to make sure that you got the cut outs right.
- Apply a liberal coating of Gorilla Glue to the back side of the shower surround. Pay special attention to the edges, as this is where you want the best adhesion.
- Place the RV shower surround back in the shower. Use you paint roller to ‘smush’ the glue into the wall.
- Add screws at equal intervals to secure the RV shower even further
- Add painter’s tape all around the edges of the shower surround and then leave everything to dry for 24-48 hours.
- Once everything is dry, remove the painter’s tape.
- Caulk around all the edges.
- Replace the showerhead and water line.
- Test that everything is working
- Enjoy you new waterproofed RV shower
Prefer a visual?
This video offers a good overview of the process we just described.
Extra Installation Tips to Keep In Mind
Your RV shower is an important part of the RV experience. It’s one of the big reasons that people choose RV camping over tent camping. So if it no longer works properly your camping trips just won’t be as much fun.
An improperly installed RV shower surround is susceptible to leaks, and leaks, even small ones, can lead to major water damage over time. The biggest mistake that DIYers make when installing a new RV shower surround is that they rush, and in rushing they miss things. Take your time and if you run into trouble, there’s no shame in turning to a professional for help!
There are lots of RV shower surrounds to choose from. They are all waterproof, so that is a consideration that can be taken out of the equation at this point. What you do need to keep in mind as you shop are basics like size, color, price and function. If you are shopping online – which is very convenient – reading customer reviews can be very helpful.
Many of these are very detailed – RV people love to share their knowledge – and not only give you an insight into how good the product is but also the actual installation process itself.
Don’t Be Too Cheap
No one likes to spend more money than they need to, and there’s nothing wrong with shopping around for the best deal. But don’t go too cheap.
Cheap, bargain basement materials often result in a shower that is not as functional as it should be and in the case of RV shower surrounds a poor quality one can make things worse instead of better.
Waterproof RV shower walls FAQs
What are the advantages of waterproofing your RV walls by installing a new RV shower surround?
There are a number of advantages. In terms of practicality a new RV shower surround, with its nicely waterproof walls will help ensure that the structure of your RV is not compromised by water damage. Fixing water damage can be a difficult and costly project, so avoiding it is a must.
From a visual standpoint, a new RV shower surround will improve your RV bathroom’s overall decor and when shopping for the right shower surround, you’ll find that some come with features like a built in soap holder, grab bars and other extras that can make showering in your RV a nicer experience overall.
How do I make sure that the RV shower pan is waterproof to the surround?
Caulk the edges carefully and liberally. To avoid spoiling the look of your newly waterproof shower, make use of a clear silicone caulk.
How much does a new RV shower surround cost?
The cost of a new RV shower surround does vary considerably depending on the model you choose.
A very basic choice can be purchased for as little as $150-200, while higher end options, including some that allow you to add shower doors, will cost more, up to $600, and call for a more complicated installation process that you may need to get help with.
Are skylight shower walls waterproof?
Skylight RV showers are a newer innovation, but the skylight does not have much to do with the shower unit.
Instead it is mounted above it to add extra light. It’s essential that this be waterproof so that it does not allow rain in. RV skylights need to be fitted carefully and it may be a job best left to the professionals.
Can I paint my RV shower surround and still keep it waterproofed?
You can, if you use a waterproof shower paint. This can actually be a great way to add additional visual decor appeal to your RV bathroom, as most shower surrounds do only come in white, beige or bone.
While you can buy standard paint that is applied with a paintbrush many people choose a spray paint instead.
This can be easier to apply more accurately and allow you to make sure that all the little nooks and crannies are covered and painted. And the paint will add an extra layer of waterproofing too, something that some campers see as another bonus.
How to avoid yellowing RV showers
Once you have a waterproof, more efficient shower maintaining and caring for it properly is a must if you want to prevent yellowing.
Here are some helpful tips for doing just that.
Clean Your Shower Carefully
Every shower, whether it is in your home or in your RV, needs to be cleaned regularly in order to remain white. But you should be careful when choosing cleaning products. Use mild detergent products and don’t use a cleaner with harsh bleaches.
Keep Your Shower Cleaner Between Showers
Invest in a between shower spray like Scrubbing Bubbles Daily Shower Cleaner. This is a spray that is designed to be spritzed on shower walls and the RV shower pan after you have taken a shower that uses the remaining steam to clean it gently. This means that you will always get into a fresh shower and it will make cleaning the shower a chore you need to do less often.
If you want to add a little spa feeling to your RV shower experience try a specialist daily shower cleaner like Method Daily Shower Cleaner which contains soothing eucalyptus, which is very relaxing and will even help clear a stuffy nose!
Keep an Eye on Your Caulk
Caulking does not last forever. Even the best caulk will wear over time. If you allow caulk in your RV shower to wear away, then the shower may start to leak. Keep an eye on the caulking all around your RV shower and touch it up as needed to keep leaks at bay. If you do need to recaulk make sure that you choose a silicone based waterproof caulk, as these last the longest and provide a great seal.
Owning an RV can sometimes seem like a lot of work, but we think that in the end all that work is worth it.
This is true of taking the time to make sure your RV shower is in the best possible shape. After all do you really want to stand in that line for the showers at your favorite campground? The thing to remember here is that almost all RV shower walls come waterproofed already.
Or cut short your off road boondocking adventures because you need to shower? Of course you don’t!
If you have plastic like paper on your shower walls, you may want to remove the original plastic wall and install a better one.