Homebuilt Teardrop Trailer 10: Exterior Aluminum Skin

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Part-10-Homebuilt-Teardrop-Trailer-Build-JournalThis post is part of a series documenting our homebuilt trailer, covering the exterior skinning of the teardrop trailer. Please scroll to the bottom of this post for links to previous articles.

I mentioned it in an earlier post, but will say so here again; we had talked about only skinning the exterior of the teardtop trailer with wood, rather than doing the aluminum. While it would have saved some money up front, it would have been a much larger maintenance commitment long-term, because wood needs way more love and upkeep than metal. (Duh.)

One of the first things was logistical; how to get the sheets of aluminum home so we could put it on the trailer. After much discussion, we rented the cheapest trailer from U-Haul, and it was a perfect $20 solution to get our stuff home.

Teardrop Trailer Exterior Skin

01 teardrop trailer aluminum in trailer

Jamie found a sheet metal supplier about an hour away, so he went down and back in a single day; he purchased .04 thick brushed aluminum; two sheets of 4×8 for the sides, and a single sheet of 5×12 for the top.

A scary thing? A 12 foot long rolled up piece of aluminum held closed by strapping, and then having to cut said strapping.

02 teardrop trailer aluminum skin roll

I was fully prepared for it to basically explode open, but it didn't and we survived the unrolling process. *whew*

03 teardrop trailer aluminum skin opening

I feel like I've said it before about other steps, but this was a very dramatic day in construction. I had expected it to take more time than it did, but we actually knocked this part out in about a half a day!

Step one was the adhesive; using a roller, we coated the wood of the trailer and the siding with contact cement. We bought a gallon to be sure we had enough; we had leftover, but I don't think we have enough leftover that we could have gotten away with only a quart. Maybe two?

Jamie clamped two small guides to the bottom edge of the trailer, so could rest the siding on it as we slowly pressed it down, working our way up.

04 teardrop trailer aluminum skin uncut

(Don't forget to drill holes for wiring! Youcan see our porch light wires sticking out in the above photo)

Once it was fully adhered, we ran our hands over it to help force out any bubbles that may have been left behind.

05 teardrop trailer aluminum skin from galley uncut
07 teardrop trailer aluminum skin cutting down

Next was to trim the excess aluminum. I don't have photos, because I was needed to hold the piece that was being cut off, to keep it from getting in the way or falling and hurting Jamie while he was cutting.

Jamie used his trusty router with a  trim bit with guide like this one. While there were a few moments of roughness getting started, once he was underway, it went smoothly. Safety warning! There are tiny, sharp, hot bits of aluminum curls flying around when you do this! Keep children and animals away, and wear face protection and long sleeves and shoes and pants.

10 teardrop trailer aluminum skin trimmed door


We did each side completely; cutting out the hole for the door involved drilling a hole in one corner and using that as the start point for the router to cut through. Again, it's important to have a second person there to hold the piece as it's cut, so that it doesn't fall and injure anyone or get bent somehow.

Side one nearly done!

06 teardrop trailer aluminum skin through door

Once the main cutting is done, you're ready to apply the trim. We used aluminum RV trim for a watertight seal, and a finished look.

09 teardrop trailer aluminum skin trimmed down

Once everything was attached, we got to do one of the coolest things ever. You know how, when you buy new electronics, there's that thing plastic coating to protect the screen? And it's so pleasing to pull it off?

Peeling that plastic off a whole the exterior of a teardrop trailer is like a million times more satisfying! For REALS.

max and jamie peeling plastic


max peeling plastic

And that's the overview of the whole build!

Next post: Door construction

Previous posts: Planning & Framing | Walls & Interior Skin | Galley Counter & Flooring | Insulation | Interior Ceiling & Fan | Exterior Wood Skin & Sealant | Hatch Construction | Child's Hammock Bed | Galley Design (and Redesign)

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  1. Can you comment a little on the weather seal between the top sides and roof? I think you mentioned using some “rv trim”, but I imagine there was a liberal use of silicone as well?

    ALso worried about the seal between he roof and the galley hatch.

    Also (also) how hard was it to find the right pneumatic hatch holder upper (piston thingy)?

  2. Teddy, The trim that I used was similar to this: Link
    I used putty tape between the trim and the wall and under between the hurricane hinge (waterproof hinge) and the wall. I hope this helps. Good building!

  3. Thanks for posting all the steps of the process!

    I’ve been sort of obsessing on building one of these to pull behind my motorcycle. After reading this, however, I think I’ll wind up building one for the whole family.

    I’m also interested in your galley and on the mattress you used inside.

    Great build!

  4. Thank you for the write up. Was wondering about the roof edge and door trim. How difficult is it bend the trim around the curves without kinking it?

    1. Not too bad, just go slow and take your time. We used hands; tried using a rubber mallet, but hands worked better. Good luck!

  5. Excellent job, both on the trailer and the blog! Looking forward to seeing pictures of the finished project.

    Where did you buy the 5×10 utility trailer?

    I will hopefully be building my Tear Drop this winter, as soon as I complete the 12′ Pelican sailboat I’m now building.


  6. Where did you source the aluminium skin, and what’s the grade of the material? I just started a teardrop build and am looking for 5′ wide sheets. Thanks! Nice job on your teardrop, it looks great!

    1. Hi Brian,
      It’s mill-finished aluminum, and he found it locally to us, at a place called South Bay Metals in Gilroy, CA. Let me know if you need more info and I’ll get my husband to comment! LOL

  7. Will you by chance tell us how much the aluminum skin cost ? I was wondering how I would end up finishing my trailer but I think I’ll use this aluminum too.

    1. Hey Harrison, I’m waiting for my husband to let me know how much the aluminum was, so I’ll get back to you. I’ll tell you this: We were torn between the wood (a look we love) and the aluminum, but decided that the up-front investment of the aluminum was worth it because of the ongoing maintenance we’d have to do with the wood, refinishing it and everything.

  8. great build. I am just starting my own build. I bookmarked your first post. I’m sure I will be referring to it in the furture.

  9. I love reading your post on this! My husband and I are currently doing our own build! We’re currently fitting The Galley and I’m incredibly nervous for building the hatch as well as skinning the top in aluminum. We aren’t doing the sides as I’m going to do a two tone wood and painted look on the side. Any recommendations on either of those two topics? We aren’t following a plan exactly so we’re going to have to wing it and I’m scared of destroying it haha

  10. Hi!
    I’m building my tear drop and I was curious which molding you used that was able to bend that much?


  11. Hi
    I’m wanting To build a teardrop camper that isn’t too heavy. I’ll be pulling it with my Goldwing SE 1500. Do you know what the teardrop weight is of the camper? .You guys did a great thing.

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