How to Repair RV Roof
One of the fastest ways to lose hard-earned equity and cause new RV prices to plummet is to neglect roof inspections and repairs. Unless regularly inspected for roof damage, small issues can turn into big, costly ones in record time. Learn how to nip those RV roof repairs in the bud to protect your investment for years to come.
Beware of Potential Damage
The biggest cause of damage to an RV roof is water.
Once rain or melting snow gets into the seams of the roof, it can cause damage to insulation, wall panels, and even rots the interior framework. A wet environment promotes mold and a musty odor inside the RV.
If an RV is exposed to frigid temperatures and ice, the risk for water damage increases. As water freezes, it expands, which wreaks havoc on the seams of the roof. Ice and freezing temperatures also cause cracks, allowing for even more water to seep into the seams and inside the walls of the RV.
After a storm or a thaw after a cold spell, inspect your roof. Repair damage immediately.
Most RV manufacturers build roofs out of rubber due to its cost-effectiveness, low weight, and durability. While rubber is the most common, roofs also come in vinyl, aluminum or fiberglass.
While rubber RV roofs are the most popular, they require more frequent cleaning and maintenance. At a minimum, inspect and clean a rubber roof at least four times per year.
How to Repair RV Roof
There are two types of rubber roofs:
EPDM is a synthetic rubber membrane. An EPDM roof is durable and practically maintenance-free. A good cleaning every so often usually keeps it looking good. It doesn’t require any type of surface re-coating or UV protection and lasts for about ten years after installation.
Over time, an EPDM roof will develop a “chalky” appearance, which is normal. The chalky look is actually a protective barrier preventing the rubber from breaking down. The chalkiness is due to oxidation of the outer layer, which protects the underlayer of the roof.
The other type of rubber roof is made of a material called TPO. A TPO roof is more rigid and appears more like plastic than rubber. It has a shinier appearance.
TPO does not oxidize over time and therefore, does not take on a chalky appearance.
To maintain a TPO roof, periodic cleaning with mild soap and water is all that is required. Much like an EPDM roof, a new TPO roof lasts for approximately ten years.
Both types of rubber roofs will eventually need a sealer to prevent or take care of minor cracks or other imperfections.
EPDM coatings and Dicor are both highly recommended for repairing and re-sealing rubber roofs. EPDM sealer is mixed with an activator prior to application. Dicor requires at least two coats, after applying primer. A roof kit is an all-in-one solution to repairing or re-sealing a rubber roof.
Use a self-leveling sealant for even coverage of all joints and seams. Read all instructions to make sure the product is made for use with a rubber roof. Never use petroleum-based, citrus or harsh cleaners or chemicals because it will cause irreversible damage to the rubber roof.
Before the popularity of rubber, metal was the standard material used to construct RV roofs.
A residential roof sealer works well for sealing and repairs. If structural repairs are needed, use seam tape. This is heavy-duty tape, like duct tape only stronger. Once the seam tape is in place, coat with sealer and let dry.
Older RV models may have a fiberglass roof. This type of roof, much like an EPDM roof, will oxidize, losing its shine. A fiberglass roof has a gel coat, topped by a clear coat. A good coat of wax, buffing and polishing will help restore the luster to your fiberglass roof.
If repairs are necessary:
- Spread a generous amount of sealer over the damaged area
- Place fiberglass tape over the area
- Cover completely with another coat of sealer
Sealants and Solvents
An RV manufacturer or product reviews from other enthusiasts on RV Finder are the best sources when looking for product recommendations for sealants or solvents that are safe and effective at repairing and restoring any type of RV roof.
For rubber roofs, a sealant compatible with the roofing material is needed. A rubberized leak stopper works well for rubber roof repairs because it seeps into cracks to form a permanent bond with the RV frame.
Be sure to seal the sides of the roof for extra protection against leaks. Pay special attention to areas around vents or antennas on top of the roof. All seams should be coated in sealant for extra protection.
Key features of an RV roof sealant:
- UV resistant
- Water resistant
The cost of the proper materials to clean and seal an RV roof won’t break the budget and are well worth the time and money spent. All prices are approximate.
Cleaning solvent = $30
Seam tape = $20
Rubber roof sealant = $30-$100/can
Dicor = under $15/caulking tube or $70/gallon
EPDM sealant = $300+/5 gallons
Fiberglass roof sealer = $70/gallon
Roof sealing kits = $100-$250
- Regardless of the type of RV roof, begin with a thoroughly cleaned roof.
- When cleaning, be especially careful around cracks or tears because you could make them worse.
- Make small repairs as needed; completely re-seal roof every five years.
- Be generous with sealer; using a bit more is better than not using enough.
- An RV cover can help protect and prolong the life of your roof.
- Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines regarding cleaning, product recommendations, and procedures for sealing. This is not just to comply with your warranty but helps prolong the life of your RV roof.