RV Roof Repair and Maintenance
Picture this: you dig out your RV keys and head over to the storage lot where you have it parked. You reconnect the battery (because you read Harvest Hosts’ blog post about properly winterizing and storing your RV), check the fluid levels, and go to start it up when you hear an ominous dripping sound. The roof has sprung a leak! You’re kicking yourself for not paying extra for the covered storage.
Sometimes, despite our best efforts, mishaps can happen. Over time, RV roofs can become damaged by the sun. This dries out the material and causes rips and tearing that lead to leaks. This particularly tends to happen around air conditioning units, ladders, and vent fans. Then, when winter comes along, moisture runs into the cracks, freezes, and expands the crack. Most RV repair shops can charge upwards of $10,000, depending on the extent of the damage. Harvest Hosts has your back. Below we’ll discuss how to repair and maintain your RV’s rooftop to avoid costly service appointments.
There are different techniques, budgets, and preferences to repairing a leaky roof. These factors depend on the owner’s preference and the extent of the damage. Another important factor is the experience level of the person performing the repairs. If you plan to repair your roof yourself, don’t bite off more than you can chew, so to speak. Large repairs can sometimes require many people to assist, but small repairs can be completed in just a few hours.
First and foremost, always take caution when ascending onto your RV’s roof. If your RV has a ladder, always use that. If your RV does not already have a ladder, the roof may not be suitable for walking on. To prevent injury, always research your specific RV before attempting. Your RV’s manual is a great place to start.
Next, you must establish what type of roof you have. Performing preventative maintenance or making an actual repair will require you to know what type of roof your RV has. Roof types range from rubber to fiberglass, aluminum, canvas, or vinyl.
Performing preventative maintenance on your RV can save you lots of money in the long run. This also ensures that your RV is in tip-top shape and prevents costly repairs from raining down on your vacation plans- literally! Be sure to add preventative roof maintenance into your regularly scheduled RV care plan. Taking your RV out of storage or removing the cover requires a roof check. Covers can sometimes lead to a development of mildew due to lack of air circulation. Every time you wash your RV, you should check the roof as well.
Rubber roofing comes in two different varieties: EPDM and TPO. Both require slightly different maintenance. Like we said above, always refer to your manual for specifics regarding your RV.
Rubber roofing is one of the most popular choices with RV manufacturers. Rubber roofs should be cleaned at least four times per year depending on use. When storing your RV, use a cover to prolong the lifespan. Never use cleaners that contain petroleum solvents, harsh chemicals, or anything citrus-based, as these can damage rubber roofs. A general cleaning recommendation is to use a medium-bristle brush with a non-abrasive cleaner. Good old warm, soapy water with some elbow grease can remove most dirt. There are also specific cleaners made for rubber roofing. These can be helpful for mildew, sap, or other stubborn stains. Just be sure these cleaners are compatible with your rubber roof type before getting to work.
To stay ahead of any potential issues, a rubber roof coating can be applied atop of your current roof each year. This strengthens your roof and maintains its waterproof and weatherproof integrity.
This is the second most popular roofing type among manufacturers. A vinyl roof is similar in care to a rubber roof. Be sure not to use any petroleum solvents, harsh chemicals, or citrus cleaners in order to avoid damaging your roof. Warm, soapy water and a medium-bristle brush can be used for cleaning purposes.
Picture the classic Airstream trailers. These roofs require the least amount of maintenance. You’ll want to regularly wash and clean the entire exterior, roof included. Airstreams specifically have a clear coat on the outside, so be sure that any products you use won’t strip that off. You can use warm, soapy water or wax and polish, going with the grain of the Airstream to avoid scratching it.
A good practice is to coat your aluminum roof with a protectant. Dicor manufactures a product just for RV metal roofing that inhibits rust.
Unless you own an Airstream, your RV’s body is most likely made out of fiberglass. This material is lightweight and requires very little maintenance. If your RV is stored outside year-round, it’s best to maintain your fiberglass roof every three months or so.
Maintenance for your fiberglass roof can be performed while giving your RV its regular bath. After washing the outside, your roof will need to be waxed and polished. These products strengthen the outer gel coating which protects your roof from the elements.
Some pop-up campers and modded vans have a canvas roof. These are generally very straightforward and don’t require much maintenance. However, canvas can be easily torn. Occasionally the seams will come loose, or a small leak will occur around a seal. Check your canvas regularly to stay ahead of any possible leaks. If your canvas is ripped, there are repair patches that can be purchased. If a seal is leaking, use caulking to repair it.
Anytime you are performing preventative maintenance on your RV’s roof, check the seals around all the openings and raised areas, including the ladder. The seals can be touched up with caulking yearly, or sometimes it is best to remove the old seals and replace them all together. The approach would depend on how often you take your RV out. Remember, it’s always better to stay ahead of any potential issues. This applies to any type of roofing.
Another great tip is to apply a protectant to your RV’s roof. Depending on the type, there are different products to purchase. After cleaning your RV, apply some protectant to ensure your roof is as strong as possible and to keep it looking shiny. A roller is the preferred method of application for most RV owners. Be sure to allow your protectant to cure before running the air conditioner or exposing the roof to rain.
Making repairs yourself can sometimes void a warranty if you have one. Utilize your RV’s manual or contact either the dealership or warranty company to cover your bases. Sometimes a roof can be too damaged for self-repair. However, if you’re able to make the repair yourself, it can save you money in the long run and you’ll learn a new skill along the way.
Fix a small leak on a fiberglass roof.
Generally, fiberglass roofs only start to leak when they have sustained significant damage. They can also develop leaks around installed items, such as air conditioners or satellite dishes. To repair a significant hole in a fiberglass roof, you must first take the proper safety precautions. You’ll need a respirator mask and safety glasses, as well as a die grinder to grind down the damaged areas and smooth them out. Thoroughly clean the area, and then apply resin. Sand it down, and then apply a gel coat that matches the surrounding area on your RV’s roof. If done properly, this should keep any additional water from entering the RV.
Fix a small leak for vinyl or rubber roofs.
A cheap and easy method to fix vinyl and rubber roofs involves using an elastic roof patching compound. If a hole is large enough, users can also bolt down a thin layer of aluminum sheeting and then seal it with the compound. Clean the area first and then remove any previous patching compound, if applicable. Coat the area with the compound and sand it after it dries. Always use steel screws and bolts to ensure your repairs hold up. Roof patching compound can be applied over any screws or bolts on your RV’s roof to prevent them from leaking. Keep this in mind for any future renovations or additions you may perform.
Repair your aluminum roof.
Aluminum roofing commonly becomes damaged due to denting. These roofs can also spring a leak around windows or any other raised areas, such as air conditioners. The best solution for repairing these is to use household roof coating. A popular brand is Kool Seal. Be sure to pick up the gray variety and not the white. Kool Seal is also known to repel the sun and cool your RV more efficiently.
Patch small tears with tape.
Different types of tape work on different types of roofs and tears. Almost every situation is unique. Some popular brands include CoFair Quick Roof, Gorilla Patch, and Flex Seal Tape. Fiberglass roofs require a special fiberglass repair tape. One product, called Eternabond, is highly recommended for any type of roof. It comes in different sizes to handle different size tears. It is one of the easiest tapes to install and repels UV rays so it lasts longer. Before using any sort of tape, always thoroughly clean the area around the tear. Ensure the area is dry before applying the tape, according to the instructions.
RV roofs are often out of sight and out of mind for most RV owners. This can often lead to leaks and holes that could have been prevented with a little TLC. Just like any other aspect of your RV, performing regular preventative maintenance is necessary and can save you a headache in the long run. This will allow you to hit the road road worry free and head to your next Harvest Hosts destination with ease.
Have you performed any roof repairs on your RV? What additional maintenance do you recommend to keep your rooftop in shape? Feel free to share in the comments below!
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We agree with the experts who say that an RV roof should be cleaned and inspected at least annually. Cleaning the roof makes it easier to inspect and make minor repairs before they become leaks. While major leaks or repairs should be made by a professional RV shop, many smaller ones can be fixed by the owner. We have an older RV with a rubber roof that was starting to leak in some damaged areas. Replaced some caulk around the AC and vents and recoated it myself two years ago with products I found online and it has been good since. Still have some product left. It’s RV roof magic.
I have repaired several roofs over the years. I use a process that when I’m done you will never have to caulk seams or around the openings again. The roof is a coating, with spun flux a very strong fabric like material embedded in the final coating, used to reinforce the edges to help protect the rubber roof from tears. If you have questions you can contact me at [email protected] thanks.
Hey Ralph! Sounds like a great process. Thanks for the info!