Hello everyone. I hope you have all had an exceptional summer creating memories as you’ve travelled to your favourite spots or, found new destinations to explore in your RV.
Today, as the title suggests, I want to talk about “How to avoid costly RV roof repairs”.
Many of us RV owners, (me included), tend to overlook or forget to check certain things to do with our RVs. One of those that gets overlooked the most, I think, is the roof on our RV.
During the walk-through of our trailer, one of the things our dealer made clear to us was that the most uncared for part of an RV is the roof. It’s up on top of the RV and, you know what they say, “Out of sight, out of mind”.
An un-maintained roof is the #1 major cause of water leaks. It ‘s subjected to heat and cold, UV rays, rain and snow and dirt that wants to invade our home away from home. Then there is the occasional run-in with a tree branch which is sure to cause a tare of some kind
He also told us that, if we looked after and maintained our roof on a regular basis, it would go a long way in extending the life of our RV as well as the rest of the trailer/motorhome. So, I want to offer up some helpful tips for maintaining the roof on your RV.
Now, I just want to clarify that I’m not saying that we all neglect our roofs but, If some of you are like me, (there are others like me… isn’t there), we probably don’t give the roof on our RV the proper kind of attention it needs. We might give it a quick look at it at the beginning of the season but how closely do we actually check it? Most of us probably don’t check it very often throughout the year either.
Truth be known, I have been one of those “Out of sight, Out of mind” kind of guys ????. But, I have come to realize that the roof membrane is a very important part of our RV and it really does deserve more attention than it gets so, I check it at least 4 times a year and sometimes I’ll even check it “Just because”.
Doing regular maintenance will help protect your roof and your investment so you can get many more years of reliability from your RV which translates into many more memories and adventures.
First Things First
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So, without any further rambling on, let’s look at some maintenance tips that will help your RV roof to last longer.
Regular Maintenance is the Key
1. First and foremost it is important to check your RV roof several times a year. This is necessary in order to find signs of wear and tear…a tear from a branch when you were parking at a campsite or seals and calking that may be pulling up or coming off allowing for the possibility of water to enter your RV. If everything checks out then it’s OK to go ahead and clean and protect the roof.
You don’t have to get up onto the roof to do a general check. A step ladder that is high enough (8 feet) to allow you to be two steps for the top (safety first) and still see the roof clearly would be enough to see if there are any issues around the outer edges. To check the vents, the TV antenna, around the air conditioner you WILL have to get on the roof (wear soft shoes or bare feet). You may have to remove some covers to get a good look underneath.
I also found that a couple of pieces of 1/2 inch plywood, about 2 feet by 4 feet were helpful to walk on. Just make sure that you sand all the rough edges so you will not poke holes in the roof membrane. I have done this and found that the stiffness of the plywood is great for creating a solid platform for walking.
Do this check at least twice a year (4 times would be better).
2. It’s important to keep the roof clean and conditioned. The dirt you see on your roof may not just be your everyday dust and dirt. The air is full of a lot of stuff and some of that stuff is acid rain. It’s not something that happens fast but this acid rain can, over time, break down that rubber and cause it to crack, letting in water. Keeping the roof clean should take care of the worries associated with the dirt and grime.
Again, before you start cleaning your roof, make sure you check your owner’s manual and determine
- First: the type of roof you have and
- Second: what the correct type of cleaner is for your situation.
Manufacturers don’t all use the same materials on the roofs of their RVs.
Manufacturers use a few different roof materials when constructing their RVs, materials such as aluminum, fibreglass, metal and a couple of different types of rubber: EPDM – Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer and TPO -thermoplastic polyolefin which is a synthetic rubber.
If you can’t find the information in your owner’s manual, you can also consult your RV Dealership for the correct cleaning solutions for your RV. They have a wide range of cleaners, protectants and, sealers that are compatible with many types of RV roofs.
The one I use is called “Protect All – Rubber Roof Cleaner“ from Thetford Corp. which can be found on Amazon. I purchased mine from my dealer so, you probably can as well although it may be more expensive from the dealer.
Above all, DON’T use any cleaner if it has abrasives, petroleum solvents or if they are citrus-based, on a vinyl or rubber roof. Using bleach is a definite NO-NO as well. Bleach is corrosive and may cause weak spots in the roof material. these cleaners shouldn’t be used on vinyl-covered components either.
Another tip is to use a medium bristle brush on a pole. Putting it on a pole will save wear and tear on your back.
Thetford also makes “Protect All – RV Rubber Roof Treatment” which conditions and protects the roof from UV Rays, anti-static and repels dirt. This should be used after each wash for added protection.
3. As you are cleaning the roof don’t forget to rinse down the sides of your RV. This will keep the cleaning residue off your decals and paint so they won’t be damaged.
One method that was suggested was to use plastic drop sheets to wrap your RV by taping off around the roof edge. Don’t use duck tape, it will leave residue behind and it’s hard to clean up. Use a waterproof masking tape that’s easy to pull off when you’re finished.
Wrapping your RV is probably going to be more work that just rinsing when your done but, it was suggested as a way to keep the dirt and soapy residue off the sides so I thought I should at least mention it. I would do the rinse and it would save time and a little money as well.
While you are up there cleaning the roof, make sure to remove any leaves that may be stuck in the air conditioner and any debris that may be in the narrow gutter on the sides of the roof. This brings us to our next step and that is:
4. You’ve checked for wear and tear, cleaned the roof and, allowed it to dry thoroughly. Now is the time to apply a rubber roof conditioner or, if your roof is a few years old, you may want to apply a rubber roof sealer. If you choose to use a sealer, this should be one that is self-levelling. Here is a video from Dicor, that explains how to do the job correctly.
I did see one comment below this video where the fella complained about seeing bubbles on his roof after about two months of storage. Kind of makes me wonder if the roof on his RV was completely dry. If there were un-noticed damp spots when the product was applied, that would probably explain the bubbles. So make sure your roof is totally dry before you apply.
Again, as I mentioned above, you should ask your RV Service Technician about what they recommend as their best choice of product for this step. Many of the products used to clean and seal RV roofs have UV protective additives in them to help protect against the sun’s rays and give longer life to the roof.
5. Lastly, if it is at all possible, keep your RV covered. This is especially important if you are going to store your RV outdoors for a long period, IE. over the winter months. Covering your RV will help protect it from the harsh winter weather.
Left exposed to these elements WILL produce ware and tare and shorten the life of the roof. Covering your RV also helps protect against the damaging rays of the sun which can also speed up this process.
You may choose to use a tarp but make sure that you leave enough space for air circulation. If your RV roof is wet when you put a tarp on it, the moisture build-up will cause mould and mildew stains which will damage your roof membrane over time.
My recommendation would be to purchase a real RV cover. They are made specifically for the purpose of keeping the elements off your RV as well as providing adequate ventilation. Yes, they are a bit pricy but the object here is to make your RV last.
I just remembered, when we purchased our last Travel Trailer, the dealer actually included a cover as part of the deal. This may be an option for you as well if you are a first-time buyer. Check it out.
Well, that about does it and, you know, doing frequent inspections of your RV roof really will save a lot of grief and unwanted expenses down the road and, yes, it takes a little hard work. But, by taking these steps, you will ensure that your RV will not only be in the best condition for many years but, you will also have peace of mind and many more memories down the road.
So, I hope this post has been helpful and you have enjoyed reading it and, as always, If you have any comments or questions you can leave them in the comment box below. I would love to hear from you and will respond to everyone who leaves a comment.
Here’s a link to another video about another product called EPDM COATINGS.
Just scroll down a bit and you will see the video.
In the meantime, I hope you all have or, have had, amazing adventures this past season. Safe Driving and perhaps we will meet somewhere.