Taking Care of Your RV's Roof
What’s your favorite part of RV ownership? Is it the escape it offers from the cold, hard ground and an old sleeping bag? The ability to move your campsite and all your gear with the turn of a key? Or is it having climate-controlled comfort just steps away from the brutal mid-day heat or a surprise thunderstorm?
Regardless of your RV’s best quality, few things can put a damper on your enjoyment of your camper more than a leaky roof — or the price of getting it fixed. Learn how to keep your RV’s roof in pristine condition, and how to fix any minor damage it might endure.
RV Roof Types and Regular Maintenance
If you’ve got a pretty old RV, its roof might be metal. More common than metal roofs are fiberglass and rubber tops. If it’s a rubber roof, it’s almost certainly made from EPDM (ethylene propylene diene monomer) or TPO (thermoplastic polyolefin). Metal, fiberglass or rubber roofs all have their own distinct characteristics and should be maintained and cared for appropriately.
Metal. For a wide variety of reasons such as weight, heat absorption and price, metal roofs have long been out of style. However, if you happen to own a recreational vehicle with a metal roof, you can still effectively maintain, seal and repair it without incurring massive cost.
Metal roofs are generally easier to take care of than their fiberglass and rubber counterparts, but they do require a simple cleaning once or twice a year to remove materials that might be harmful to its integrity. To clean the roof, use a simple cleaning solution such as a car-cleaning soap you’d find at most automotive shops.
Fiberglass. Although sometimes heavier and oftentimes more expensive, fiberglass roofs do have the benefit of being more easily cleaned than rubber roofs. A simple scrubbing with water and a basic automotive cleaner or fiberglass-specific soap, plus a rinse, will keep your roof in excellent shape and prevent deterioration.
EPDM. These kinds of rubber roofs are incredibly durable, are easily cleaned and are much lighter than metal. While certain protectants and sealants are recommended for metal or fiberglass roofs, you don’t necessarily need one for your EPDM roof. These kinds of roofs are designed to last a decade or longer, but do require more yearly cleaning than other roofs.
To maintain the EPDM’s stellar resiliency, consider cleaning your roof at least four times per year. When cleaning, only use very basic cleaners such as laundry detergent or another simple soap, and be sure to rinse the roof thoroughly. Use of any abrasive cleaners, such as acid- or petroleum-based soaps, can severely damage your roof and reduce the value of your RV substantially.
TPO. Similar to EPDM, TPO roofs are easier to clean than their non-rubber counterparts. Regular cleaning, without the use of abrasive cleaners, is necessary to protect the life of the roof. TPO seams are generally stronger than EPDM seams, making it much more resilient to abrasion. However, once those seams are damaged or worn, they are more expensive to seal than other seams.
Inspecting Your RV’s Roof
In coordination with the regular cleaning of your RV’s roof, you should consider inspecting your roof for imperfections at the same time. Proper and periodic inspections will allow you to catch any sort of roof damage before it leads to any leaks or other interior damage of your vehicle. And when you do happen to come across any damage on your roof, fixing it early will cost you much, much less than it will a couple months down the road.
Get on the roof. Before propping up a stable ladder against the RV and making your way up to the roof, look to your RV’s manual for specific guidelines for getting up there. While fiberglass and rubber-based roofs often may be able to be walked on, metal roofs should not be walked on without the aid of a large board or wood panels to help distribute your weight evenly.
Make sure to check your shoes for anything lodged in your soles that might cut or damage your roof prior to accessing it.
Check the seams. Look along the edges of the roof, where it’s connected to the body of your RV, and see if there are any cracks, tears or cuts in the material that could lead to a leak. If your RV has a skylight, air conditioner or any other attachment to the roof, check the seams and any other spaces where water might be able to enter.
Look for holes or punctures. Falling branches, hail or other unfortunate gifts from Mother Nature could damage your RV’s roof, so make sure to look for any damage on it as a whole.
Check your interior. Even if you can’t initially see any damage on your RV’s roof, you should check your walls, corners of cabinets, and any other inlets for any bubbling or water that may have entered from the outside. If you do find anything that might indicate a leak, such as bubbling wallpaper or wet spots, re-check your roof for the source of the problem.
RV Roof Repair
So, you’ve found a leak — don’t worry, you can fix it! And so long as you’ve caught it early in the game, it won’t cost you an arm and a leg. If you have found a leak and have noticed considerable interior damage, consult your local RV dealer for next steps on reversing its effects.
For fiberglass or metal roofs, consider purchasing roof-sealing tape to block the leak at its source. While you’re at it, you can reinforce other seams with the tape to prevent further leaks and give a uniform look to the roof’s edges.
For rubber roofs, you can seal a leak with roof-sealing tape and cover the entirety of the roof, including the patched area, with a special sealant that will help prevent further leaks. Look for sealant that is specific to your type of roof to efficiently and effectively keep your RV cabin dry.
Worried about covering your RV from any other unavoidable issues? Take a look at what kind of protection American Family Insurance can offer you and your favorite home on wheels. For more specific details on your RV-specific policy, get in touch with an agent and find the best way to protect your investment today.