Composite Panels FAQs

Where are the Composite Panels made?

Our Suppliers are all high quality Australian businesses making panels for the caravan manufacturing trade. They are located in different States with Kit A produced in SE Queensland, Kit B in Melbourne and Kit C in Northern NSW. The panel kits differ in pricing, their components and methods of production so we can normally supply a kit to suit most projects and also most budgets.

Does DIY Caravans ship composite panels?

Composite panels are not suitable for general freight since they are often large and need to be handled with care. DIY customers collect their panel kits from the chosen Manufacturer when they are ready for despatch. Some clients use the chassis or truck body they are going to be assembled on, others hire a trailer or light truck. Each time we can be sure the panels will arrive at their destination damage free and in a cost-effective manner.

What is the lead time for a Composite Panel Kit to be manufactured?

As a made-to-order item there is a lead time for the manufacture of Panel Kits. Panel Kits with XPS cores – ie Kit B and Kit C – generally take 4-5 weeks from Order and Panel Kit A a little longer at 7-8 weeks.

Is the cnc cutting of the panels included in the cost?

All composite panels are made to order using core material and fibreglass skins that are larger than your panel sizes. The cutting of the perimeter of the panel is included in the cost of the panel.

If you require further cnc cutting of the panel – eg window and door cut-outs – this will normally be priced as a separate item called ‘Profile cutting’ and is calculated per metre. Where possible we will try and also include this in the cost of the panels.

What do you mean by an Insertion?

When we refer to a panel insertion we are referring to a product that is between the 2 skins of the composite panel. It may be a conduit for cables or a product for adding strength or improving screw purchase. The panel core has to be cut to allow for the insertion and it has to be installed as part of the manufacturing process. The choice of insertions will depend on the type of Panel Kit you select. Click here for more info on Panel Insertions.

What is the difference between using Aluminium or the fibreglass pultrusion as Insertions in the composite panels?

Fibreglass pultrusions are generally more expensive to buy and install – and have the benefit of not transmitting heat (or cold). With aluminium insertions it can act as a cold bridge and cause slight condensation on the inside of the van if the ventilation is poor.

Fibreglass is likely to be stronger than aluminium and both products act as a conduit for running cables through the composite panel. Aluminium will provide better screw purchase though you can use special ‘banana’ rivets if you need to attach items into a pultrusion.

Aluminium inserts cannot be installed using the Hot-Melt process as used in the production of Panel Kit B . It requires the vacuum bagging technique and can be installed in Panel Kits A and C.

Pultrusions are available as either 50x25mm or 38x25mm (depending on supplier) whereas Alumiuium is available in a larger range of sizes from 25x25mm  to 50 x 25mm.

Do you need pultrusions for attaching an awning? I intend to attach an awning similar to the Dometic PerfectWall which is fastened to the caravan at the top.

If you are using the aluminium DIY joiner system to join the composite panels together, there will be one length along the top of the wall panel and you can attach the awning to this joiner. If your awning has legs the base of the legs can also be attached to the floor joiner running along the bottom of the side wall panel.

If you are using another method to join the panels together, then we suggest you will need panel insertions at the attachment points strong enough to support the extended awning.

How do you join panels at an angle other than 90 degrees?

Many projects involve panels being joined at different angles – for example where the vertical front joins a panel at an angle or where you have a rake in the rear wall. If you are using DIY Panel Joiners to join the other panels you will need to mitre carefully the aluminium panel joiner to the angle required. The process below can be used to trim the join between the panels for most angles.

1. Firstly ensure the panels are cut to the right size which is the longer dimension. Now you will need to cut the inside skin and mitre the ends so they fit reasonably tight along the edge of the join – both on the inside and outside skins. Always try a sample to check how far in to cut the inside skin – and then using a sharp knife you will be able to cut the mitre to the correct angle.

2. Cut a strip of 2mm aluminium say 70-80 mm wide off a 2400 long sheet and fold it along the centre line to the same angle as your panel join.

3. Cut the length as required and then powder coat the folded aluminium strips the same colour as the panels – usually Pearl White.

4. Using construction adhesive such as Fixtech attach one length of folded aluminium to the inside skins and one length to the outside skins. Tape or prop to hold in place overnight – no need for screws etc but ensure the adhesive has good coverage and forms a watertight seal on the outside. Finally wipe excess glue off with white spirit – no need for sealant.

How do I cut the kerfing slots for rolling the panel round a radius?

Some customers choose to cut the kerfing slots on the inside of the roof panel when they get it home to avoid the risk of damaging this largest panel in transit and handling. The following steps are a guide how to do this.

  1. Mark the area of the panel on the inside skin where the slots are to be cut. The panel will clearly need to be upside down for this process. It is a good idea to mark this area say 20-30mm past the edge of the radius section to allow the roof panel to ‘bed in’ well on the sidewall panels when you lower it down.
  2. The ideal saw to use is one with a guide and a vacuum facility – see image below. Appropriate PPE will also need to be worn. The blade should be a good quality aluminium blade with a width of approx 3mm.
  3. As a guide we would only cut the slots to a depth of 50-60% of the panel thickness. This leaves a good depth of the core intact to support the external skin. So for a 29mm panel try a depth of 15-17mm for a start.
  4. Always do a test on a waste section of panel first before cutting the roof panel.
  5. The spacing between your cuts will depend on the radius to which you intend to roll the roof. Again as a guide rolling a 500mm radius would work out approx 12-15mm between slots. A trial on a waste panel strip will confirm what the slot spacing will be – the goal is that the inside skin does not quite touch the adjacent cut strip. A tighter radius will require the slots to be closer together.

Once the slots have been cut you will need to be careful how you rotate the panel and handle it prior to lowering it on to the sidewalls. Try to keep the panel straight at all times (perhaps with a team of 6 people and some timber supports) and do not let the external skin bend the wrong way as this may cause damage to the external skin.

Cutting the slots in the roof panel to create a rolled roof design