The quickest way to lose all that hard-earned equity in your RV is assuming the roof over your head will last forever without any maintenance at all.
The truth of the matter is that water damage is the leading cause of major repairs in all types of RV’s.
When water from rain or melted snow seeps through a seam, you’ll quickly end up with ruined insulation, damaged wall panels, and even rotted framework.
Some nasty types of mold like to grow in areas that have suffered water damage as well.
The time to take care of water leaks is well before they actually happen.
Be Proactive – Fix RV Roof Problems Before They Get Out of Hand
It’s not only the summer rain that leads to water damage problems.
If you live or travel with your RV around most of the US in the colder months, you’ll have to deal with the normal freeze / thaw pattern.
Unlike most other materials, when water freezes it expands.
This expansion can enlarge seams and cracks on your roof, creating a pathway for water to enter your RV.
To prevent damage from this freeze / thaw cycle, you’ll have to do two things:
- Inspect your RV roofing material well before freezing temperatures hit
- Quickly repair your roof with appropriate sealants and techniques
RV Roofs Aren’t All the Same
RV roofs come in an assortment of materials, and each must be attended to in a different way.
Does this make life difficult if you’re worried you’ll apply the wrong material? Not if you follow the information described in this guide.
A good rule of thumb is that if the product is designed to be used on your sticks and bricks home, you probably shouldn’t be using it on your RV.
So before you buy a 5 gallon bucket of a tar-based silver-colored roof coating, beware…
It’s a huge mistake that will most likely reduce the resale value of your RV.
Rubber RV Roof Maintenance and Repair
Rubber roofs are generally dependable and long-lasting, but you’ll need to understand the difference between the two main types of materials to ensure proper care.
You may think that since your local home center sells rubber roof membranes for homes, they’ll carry supplies that are designed specifically for your RV rubber roof, right?
Most RV manufacturers use one of two types of rubber roofing material: EPDM and TPO. Let’s take a look at both.
EPDM Rubber Roofs
EPDM roofs are usually maintenance free for at least the first ten years after they’re installed.
Contrary to popular belief, there isn’t too much you need to do with an EPDM rubber roof – other than maybe wash it down with soap and water every once and a while.
However, use of any harsh chemicals or petroleum-based products on an EPDM rubber roof will cause irreparable damage.
Making a mistake here could get expensive real quick. The last thing you want to do is replace your rubber roof.
PRO TIP: If you’re buying a used RV that has a rubber roof, check to see if it looks swollen, uneven, or loose. If you notice any of these issues, chances are good the previous owner used petroleum-based products on their EDPM roof – find a different RV!
Over time the surface of the EPDM will develop a chalky look to it, and you may get some white streaking down the side of the rig from EPDM residue washing off the roof when it rains.
The chalky look is normal and this layer actually protects the rubber roof from degrading beyond a certain point. The chalky layer is oxidized EPDM, and it protects the unoxidized EPDM beneath it, sort of how the outer layer of dead skin cells protects our body.
But EPDM does have a useful lifespan, and eventually it will require either replacement or re-sealing.
If you’re noticing deterioration, you might want to consider sealing it up using a couple of different products.
Whichever product you use, be sure to read the directions carefully to make sure it’s designed for an EPDM roof. The good news is that if you’re a handy person, resealing your EPDM roof is quite similar to sealing an asphalt driveway.
If you choose to use Dicor, you’ll need to apply two coats of it AFTER using the company’s cleaner / primer. EPDM Coating’s roof sealant on the other hand requires a mixed in activator to prep the sealant.
Here’s a couple of videos showing how to apply each type of product.
How to apply the Dicor EPDM coating:
How to apply EPDM Coating’s Liquid Rubber. Note, Liquid Rubber requires a catalyst while the Dicor EPDM coating doesn’t:
TPO Rubber Roofs
TPO roofs are made of a different material than EPDM roofs. TPO has a shiny look to it and is much more rigid than EPDM. It’s less rubbery and more plastic-y.
TPO, unlike EPDM, won’t oxidize and get a chalk-like outer surface.
An occasional washing with some mild soap and a mop is all that you’ll need to do to care for a TPO roof. A few products that I’ve seen used are Protect-All Rubber Roof Treatment, Mop & Glo, and Murphy’s Oil Soap. The Murphy’s Oil Soap will help keep the TPO membrane ‘moisturized’ according to one manufacturer, Alpha Systems.
These washings are mostly to make the surface look better, and won’t make the TPO roof last any longer.
You can read more about the technical differences between EDPM and TPO roofs here.