The Do-it-Yourself Basics of RV Roof Repair – Many people find the idea of a life on the road to be glamorous; new experiences, friends, and memories all seem like great reasons to pick up and go traveling! For those who can afford it, RVs are the perfect way to be at home on the road. Unfortunately, the day-to-day necessities of maintenance and repair can be less exciting, so read up in order to get them over with as quickly and efficiently as possible.
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RV roof maintenance is generally a simple process of keeping the roof free of environmental inconveniences like bird droppings, tree sap, and fallen leaves. Most manufacturers recommend cleaning RV roofs four times a year to avoid the build-up of debris and residues. More serious problems generally occur when maintenance is not kept up; in these cases UV damage may lead to cracks and gaps in the structure of the roof or roof underpinnings. Water from rainfall or condensation may then seep into these cracks, leading to dry rot and other problems requiring RV roof repair.
Rubber Roof Problems
Most modern RVs are built with a special roofing-grade rubber called ethylene propylene diene monomer (EPDM). This rubber is not related to the latex rubber normally referred to by that name; it is tougher and designed to last for at least 20 years. The material is often backed by a 10 to 12 year guarantee, and manufacturers say that UV damage is not a significant concern. However, customer opinions tend to range from very positive to very negative, and rubber roof problems can include cracking, staining, scratches or surface damage from trees, and leaks.
RV roof repair is rarely an issue with older RVs, which are generally made of fiberglass or aluminum. These materials are quite resistant to wear and tear, and require only occasional maintenance. However, their brittle surface can be more vulnerable to certain kinds of cracks and impact damages; in addition, fiberglass roofs may suffer from continuous UV exposure. There are various types of sealants and tapes available to temporarily patch or restore these areas, but in general older RV roof repair may be more expensive than that of EPDM roofs.
The most common materials used to repair both rubber and aluminum or fiberglass RV roofs are caulk, rubber sealant or coating, and a special kind of tape designed to be used in RV roof repair. For cracks or leaks in EPDM roofs, the most common solution is to coat the entire roof in a weather-resistant rubber sealant. This prevents further water damage, and many brands can extend roof life for up to four years per coating. If dry rot has set in to the roof, RV roof repair becomes more difficult; it may be necessary to remove the roof and cut or scrape out the rotted areas, rebuilding the framework and insulation of the roof from the inside.
With a bit of planning and the right tools, life on the road doesn’t have to be a hassle. Take good care of your RV, and that care and responsibility will prevent the need for additional repairs in the future.
Putting Together an RV Roof Repair Kit
It’s not terribly difficult to get started with home RV repair; most handy types should be fully capable of doing the necessary maintenance and repairs to keep a vehicle in top condition. However, there are certain tools that every handyman or handywoman should have in an RV roof repair kit. It’s not impossible to conduct RV Roof Repair without them, but these items really smooth out and speed up the process!
Eternabond is considered the #1 repair tape when it comes to roofing, and will work on EPDM rubber roofs as well as aluminum and fiberglass varieties. Its powerful adhesive will permanently seal up cracks and damaged roof areas, making it a great option for those moments when a tree branch mauls an RV’s rubber membrane or UV damage cracks the fiberglass on your favorite old trailer. It is flexible, and will expand and contract appropriately in hot and cold weather conditions, so there’s no need to worry about it cracking like the very product you want to repair!
FlowSeal Self-Leveling Caulk
Mildew-resistant and designed specifically for RV and motor home repair, the main selling point of this Dyco product is that it is extremely flexible and can be applied in a variety of different ways. It can be painted on with a brush, so need not be limited by the scope of a caulking tube, and is extremely weather resistant. It’s a good product for sealing the edges of vent openings and other areas that may shrink or leave space for water to seep into over time. A self-leveling caulk is liquid enough that the force of gravity will level it before it sets, so proper application is no problem.
This RV roof repair kit essential is basically a liquid version of the ethylene propylene diene monomer rubber that RV roof membranes are comprised of. This makes it an amazingly useful addition to any toolkit, as it can be used to reinforce an RV roof before or after repairs with what essentially amounts to a new coat of the roof itself. It is self-adhesive, seamless, and requires no pre-coat of primer before application. Use liquid roof to spruce up an older EPDM membrane or to smooth over the obvious tapes and caulks of repair jobs.
Some non-commercial products are also quite useful. A long wooden plank is helpful to have when conducting RV roof repairs, as it can be placed across the wooden beams of the delicate roof structure to evenly distribute the weight of the person standing on the roof.
This reduces the risk of falling through and damaging the very structure you hoped to repair! Latex or vinyl gloves can be good to have when applying sealants, as no one wants to rubberize their own hands while patching up a roof; a builder’s ladder is also useful to have, as many rear-mounted RV ladders are light-duty and may break with heavy use.
With the right tools and know-how, most people will be able to use an RV roof repair kit to keep their vehicles in great condition for years to come. There’s no reason not to get decades of use out of a properly maintained RV!
RV Roof Repair Tips and Maintenance Tricks
RV ownership is a popular hobby, and each enthusiast has his or her own style when it comes to repair and maintenance of the beloved vehicle. Some folks swear by particular brands, while others have developed their own repair techniques. While it would be impossible to ask every owner for advice, some of the best RV roof repair tips and tricks have been shared below.
“Nothing will do an RV in quicker than water damage,” says Chris from VA, and many other RV enthusiasts agree. Cracks in rubber roofs and siding or caulking can allow water to leech into the rafters of an RV, leading to stains, mildew, soft spots in the roof, and eventual dry rot and decay. If you don’t want the smell of mold to ruin your trip, keep a trained eye out for cracks or roof damage from trees, and patch it up with a rubber based sealant and Eternabond tape. RV hobbyists swear by this tape, as it’s an extremely effective patching agent.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with a light dusting of snow decorating your RV in the winter season, but heavier loads can damage the integrity of the roof or even cause it to collapse – not the best holiday gift of the season! Some RV owners use expensive snow-removal kits, but it’s fairly simple to remove snow without anything special. Simply use the small ladder attached to the side of the vehicle to climb up to the top of the roof, and then gently push snow off with a plastic shovel or broom. One of the most important RV roof repair tips: NEVER use a metal shovel, as it may puncture your roof.
Vents and Ducts
Jean and Ray from Ontario, Canada, recommend taking what’s left of your old rooftop vents when you go to replace them – there are four or five different manufacturers, and not all brands will fit the same RVs. “We learned that the hard way!” says Jean. Another RV roof repair tip is the addition of a Maxxair or similar brand vent cover to protect small plastic and metal parts from the elements; this makes it possible to leave the vents open during rainstorms, cooling the interior air of the vehicle without causing water damage or staining.
In the event that a passing tree gouges a hole in your rubber membrane, or a vent seam’s caulk dries out and disintegrates, never fear! Dyco sealing caulk is one of the best kept secrets of the community; though it goes on a bit runny, this allows it to be spread over a large area, and it will set to a hard, permanent rubber as it dries. Never use silicone caulk to seal vents and seams, as it’s not designed for compatibility with the EPDM rubber material of RV roofs. Another product, called Liquid Roof, is a good repair option when a large surface area requires sealing.
There are many RV roof repair tips out there so don’t let your exploration stop with this article! Ask other hobbyists and travelers for their ideas on your next vacation – you might be surprised at what they’ve come up with!
The Top 5 RV Roof Repair FAQ’s
Some issues come up more frequently than others during repair projects, and it can be helpful to have the necessary information to address them consolidated in one place. That’s why this RV roof repair FAQ should be as important a part of your toolkit as EternaBond or Liquid Roof!
Question #1: What’s the White, Chalky Stuff on my Roof?
Many people are taken aback to find a white, chalky substance coming off the roof of their RV or motor home, and immediately fear UV damage or some kind of disintegration process. Never fear! EPDM roof manufacturers report that this is a normal part of the aging process for rubber membrane roofs, and that it will not affect the integrity of the material in any way. Only about 5% of the rubber will be lost during the aging process, making it a very minimal issue. Four seasonal cleanings a year are recommended to prevent chalking rubber from staining the sides of an RV.
Question #2: How do I Repair the Cracks in My Roof?
This depends to some degree on the type of crack or damage that needs repairing, but most problems of this variety can be addressed with Eternabond seam sealing tape. It’s a strong, permanent self-adhesive tape designed to seal up holes and keep rubber, aluminum, and fiberglass roofs watertight and rot-free. For large numbers of very small cracks, when it would be inefficient to use tape for each one, a coat of the flexible rubber-based Liquid Roof may be a better choice. Just paint it on, using a bit extra in order to fill in all the little cracks, and your roof will be as good as new!
Question #3: What can I Use to Seal RV Vents?
Self-leveling caulk is the quick and simple answer to this RV roof repair FAQ. Dyco makes a good product, but there are probably less expensive options available as well if you’re willing to do a bit of research. Essentially the caulk will go on a bit runny and then firm up after it’s settled into the cracks and seams around your vents – there’s no need to smooth it out, as gravity will do the job for you. Make sure that the vents being used are the right brand for your RV; there are four or five different vent manufacturers carried by RV stores, and not all of them will fit every vehicle.
Question #4: Do RV Roofs Require UV-Resistant Protection?
In short, the answer to this RV roof repair FAQ is no for aluminum and rubber membrane roofs, and maybe for fiberglass roofs. Although some owners feel better after applying a coat of UV protective sealant to their EPDM roofs, manufacturers say that this is not necessary, and that simply cleaning and maintaining an RV is enough to keep it in good condition.
Aluminum roofs are metal and thus highly durable and mostly unaffected by the sun. Fiberglass, however, does tend to crack and discolor after years of UV rays, and may benefit from some UV protection. Ultimatey you want to store your RV in a metal building.
Hopefully this collection of RV roof repair FAQ’s will help those looking for quick and easy answers to their minor repair questions. More in-depth and specific answers should be acquired from a manufacturer or RV salesperson, however; these people know the ins and outs of the business and will be able to give advice tailored to your specific situation.
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