Did you know that water damage can reduce your RV’s value? Just a small amount of water can wreak havoc on your roof faster than you can say “oops, I think I just brushed against that low-hanging tree branch.”
Whether caused by rain, a torn membrane, or a leaky seam, roof damage on your RV requires your regular attention. Fortunately, you can take care of regular RV maintenance — and certain simple repairs — yourself. Read on to learn more about DIY RV repair for a damaged roof.
Types of RV Roofs
Before you embark on a DIY RV repair project, identify the type of roof on your vehicle. Each has its own maintenance and repair requirements.
Let’s start with rubber, the most common material used on RV roofs. Two types of this lightweight, cost-effective material dominate the market: EPDM (Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer) and TPO (Thermal Poly Olefin).
How do you tell the difference? EPDM roofs take on a chalky, streaky appearance. This is known as oxidation, and it’s actually a design feature that helps prolong the life of the roof. In contrast, TPO rubber roofs don’t get chalky, and aren’t as slippery EPDM roofs.
Fibreglass roofs incorporate a waterproof membrane. Like EPDM roofs, they tend to oxidize over time and are slick when wet. Fibreglass roofs are smooth, inflexible and very hard.
Aluminum RV roofs are relatively rare. They’re low maintenance and durable, but are susceptible to damage from the elements.
Rubber RV Roof Maintenance and Repair
For the first 10 years after manufacture, both EPDM and TPO rubber roofs tend to require little maintenance other than regular soap and water washings. Avoid harsh chemicals or products that contain citrus, petroleum or other solvents. With proper care, rubber RV roofs may last up to 20 years.
At least twice a year, include a roof inspection in your RV maintenance to-do list. Carefully inspect all seams and openings where water may be more likely to seep through, such as around vents or AC units. When moisture gets into a seam or crack and freezes, it expands, allowing more water to seep in or mold and mildew to grow.
When it’s time to reseal the roof, choose the right product for the type of rubber you have. Start by cleaning the roof, carefully scraping off any debris, and allowing the rubber to dry completely.
Apply rubberized leak stopper over any tears, rips, cracks or problem areas. Then apply sealant evenly over the roof, paying special attention to anything that pokes through the roofs, such as vents or antennas, as well as seams and joints.
Fibreglass RV Roof Maintenance and Repair
To keep your fibreglass roof tight, remove any old sealant that’s come loose. Use a hand scraper to scrape away any loose product so you can effectively reseal cracks and seams.
If your roof had a gel coat on it at one time, you may notice oxidation. Regular applications of wax can help reduce a chalky appearance and keep the roof clean. You can wax and buff by hand, or use an electric buffer to save time.
To fix cracks and leaks, carefully clean the surface with acetone. Next, apply layers of fibreglass mat and resin to the problem area, allowing the resin to dry completely between layers.
Once the repair has hardened, sand the repair area with fine sandpaper until smooth. Then apply a gel coat to seal the repair, followed by a coat of wax.
Metal RV Roof Maintenance and Repair
To maintain a metal RV roof, regularly remove damaged or loose sealant. (You can leave the old sealant in place, as long as it’s intact.) Use seam tape, caulk, and flexible sealants to fix small cracks and repairs.
Every five to 10 years, metal roofs benefit from a complete resealing. Choose a sealant that’s made for metal RV roofs; some products are even designed to keep the inside of your RV cool, giving your AC system a boost.
Performing regular maintenance will keep your RV going strong — and help maintain its value — for many years. While some RV roof repairs are DIY-friendly, it’s best to leave major repairs to the professionals. Consult with a technician, mechanic or specialist if fixing your roof damage is outside your DIY abilities.