The Age Old Debate: Wood -vs- Aluminum

Since the late 1980's when manufacturers began utilizing aluminum frame construction, consumers have been debating the virtues of aluminum -vs- wood framing in recreational vehicles.

Regardless of opinion, one thing for certain is that those who have switched to aluminum frame construction have sure done a great job of marketing it's percieved benefits.  Therein lies the problem...  As with most marketing campaigns, the consumer only hears one side of the story.

You've no doubt heard all of these benefits in favor of aluminum construction:

  •  Aluminum is lighter 
  • Wood rots and aluminum doesn't 
  • Aluminum studs don't bow 
  • Aluminum is stronger than wood 
  • Wood is old technology, aluminum is new technology.

Let's seperate some of the fact from fiction in this debate.  I'll begin by stating that Peterson Industries could switch to aluminum frame construction with little inconvenience, and for approximately the same money as our current wood built coach.  So, it certainly isn't because of any construction restrictions that we choose not to switch.  Why then?

Excel is the last of the high-end wood framed coaches, and we choose to be for good reason.  The single most important reason is that a large number of our family members choose to live in their Excel full time or extended part-time.  If your lifestyle falls into this cateE Crestgory, one of the most important factors is to be comfortable in both weather extremes.  

I stand confident when I tell prospects that Excel is the best insulated trailer in the World!  Period!  The reason I say this is that we are the ONLY company who offers a guarantee IN WRITING that none of our water system, including water lines, holding tanks, and water tanks will freeze up all the way down to MINUS 10 DEGREES! 

"Not going there!" you say?  Don't forget that insulation works both ways.  If we can keep you that warm in the winter, just think how cool you'll stay in the summer.  

Minus Ten Degree GuaranteeWood is a natural insulator, while aluminum frame coaches transfer the cold from outside to inside, thus allowing condensation to form when that cold outside air meets the warm, humid inside air.  It really doesn't matter how thick your aluminum wall stud is, it can be the standard 1 1/2" stud, 3", or even 6" (For illustration only) and whatever temperature the outside of that stud is, it's going to be the same temperature as the inside, next to your paneling.... creating condensation.

Isn't wood heavier than aluminum?  Of course it is.  But if you actually look at the amount of studs it takes to build an RV, assuming those who build with aluminum use the same amount of studs, the actual difference in total weight is approximately 350#, depending on coach size.  While it's true Excel units are a bit on the heavy side, the major factor to our weight difference is our construction of the best built frame in the industry.  Our frames are made "in-house" using 8" or 10" box tube, not I-beam or C-channel.  Our frames are heavier but we certainly won't apologize for that.

Wood rots and aluminum doesn't!  Of course it's hard to argue with that one.  We have found the secret to this age old delema is to keep the water out.  With today's one-piece fiberglass sidewalls, one piece EPDM rubber roof, 2 piece gel-coat fiberglass roof, combined with the best sealants ever, keeping the water away from wood isn't as hard or tricky as it once was.

And, after all, even the aluminum framed coaches have wood panel ceilings, walls, and plywood (or Sawdust board) floors.  Once water breaches the exterior, even they have problems.

Aluminum is stronger than wood!  NOT!  Try screwing cabinets and overheads into aluminum studs.  Many manufacturers who don't care to have their overheads come loose from the wall insert wood inside of the square aluminum tubing in order for the cabinet screws to hold in the stud since the thin aluminum won't support them.

The next time you consider aluminum or wood frame construction, I hope you think back to this information and find it useful in making an informed decision.  I often share a thought with people to make them think...For those of us who live in homes built in extreme climates (It's going to be high of 6 degrees in Smith Center, KS. tomorrow)... how many of us live in wood framed homes? Mine was built in 1916 and is still holding up well.