RV roofs are the most neglected part of your RV because the owner does not always see them. Unless you intentionally climb the roof of your RV, you cannot always assess the condition it is already in. More often than not, it is only when there are water leaks do we give attention to the RV roof. Repairing water leaks tend to get quite expensive and so it is vital that RV roofs get resealed in parts where water leaks are common, such as the edges of the roof vent.
How can RV roofs be resealed? The process of resealing your RV roof is as follows:
- Identify the RV’s roof type
- Visual inspection of your roof
- Prepare the materials you need, such as sealant
- Clean the roof
- Apply the sealant
- Let the newly applied seal cure for 30 days.
In this article, we will go through the simple but very delicate process of resealing the roof of RVs. By following the suggested procedure, your RV’s roof will be in good condition for the next five years or more. There will also be a discussion on the costs you will have to spend in resealing your RV roof and why it is still cheaper to reseal than wait for it to incur more damage.
Step 1: Identify your RV’s Roof Type
There are four different types of RV, namely EPDM Rubber, TPO Rubber, Fiberglass and Aluminum.
Each of these types of RV roof has different pros and cons. But for the purposes of the discussion in this article, we will point out the significance of knowing what type of RV roof you have before you reseal them. RV roof maintenance varies from type to type, so before you even start, you should check your owner’s manual.
EPDM Rubber RV Roofs
The first type of RV roof is EPDM Rubber. Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer or EPDM is a membrane-type rubber used for flat roofs. Once you have identified that your roof is made up of EPDM Rubber, you will need to understand EPDM roofs are lightweight and can easily be punctured by debris like rock, or even heavy rain. So if you have been traveling through areas where rocks or sediments usually drop into, such as roads beside mountains, you might want to check your RV roof more frequently.
EPDM Rubber is the least expensive RV roof there is, and therefore, you will need to compensate for its conditioning. To determine if your rubber roof is made of EPDM, open the hatch inside the RV that connects to the vent above. Then check for the section of the roof that is stapled to the sides of the vents opening. If one side is white or dove colored and the underside is black, then it is an EPDM Rubber.
TPO Rubber RV Roofs
The second type of RV roof is the TPO Rubber roof. Thermoplastic Polyolefin or TPO is a type of single-ply rubber roof. This is a reflective type of roof and is generally difficult to install. TPO Rubber roofs are also prone to seams and cracks on the side of the roof, which is why it is required to have a laminate cover. So if you have a TPO Rubber roof, instead of worrying about punctures on the roof, you will need to focus your attention on the seams of the roof, which may allow water if neglected.
The third type of RV roof is known to be the most preferable to campers due to its durability, strong resistance to fire, rot, and rust, and for being lightweight. Fiberglass roofs are, however, not heat resistant.
So you should not be concerned much in resealing your fiberglass roofs every three years or five years, compared to other types. But despite being a durable roof type, due to its low heat resistance, allowing it to bask under the heat of the sun without cover will likely result in early resealing, as thermal splits may occur on the roof.
This is the rarest of the RV roof type. It is the most durable of all and is touted for its longevity. Aluminum RV roofs are even resistant to tree limb piercing and fire. It is also resistant to friction from the motion of the RV. Owning one may not result in frequent resealing.
However, it still has its own disadvantages. Aluminum roofs are not heat resistant, so it is susceptible to thermal splits that would require sealing. Also, this type of roof will hide its weakened hole areas and seams due to its seemingly indestructible appearance. So you will still pay attention to your RV roof even if it is Aluminum.
Step 2: Visual Inspection of the RV Roof
Now that you have identified your RV’s roof type, it’s time to do some visual inspection. Visual inspection of the roof is vital because it will determine which parts of the roof is in dire need of resealing. Furthermore, it is better to reseal areas that may likely allow water to leak in before they actually do.
The areas that are generally susceptible to leaks are the vents, the front corners, and the back corners of the roof. Your RV roof is supposed to flat, and therefore, if you see a mound or peak on the supposed to be a flat surface, it most probably contains water inside. You will then need to determine the source of the leak before it causes more damage and becomes more costly.
The bases of your radio antenna and tv antenna are also prone to leaks that may allow water to enter. You may also want to inspect the standing brackets of your solar panels. Look for hairline cracks that may allow water to get inside the old sealants you have applied.
Previously sealed areas are also prone to leaks if the material used to seal it has already become deteriorated. Therefore, before they totally give away, you will need to reseal them immediately. These areas are easy to detect because they usually are brittle and hard.
You should do a yearly visual inspection of your RV roof in order to detect possible areas that require resealing. Do remember to be careful in climbing your roof for your inspection. Climbing your roof also gives you an idea of how durable your roof still is.
Step 3: Prepare Your Needed Materials
Now that you have inspected your roof and have determined the areas you will need to seal. It is time for you to prepare the materials you will need. In resealing your roofs, it is advisable to organize the necessary materials first before beginning.
Sealants or Caulks
The most important material to have in resealing your RV roof is the sealant itself. There are a wide variety of roof sealants to choose from. But for purposes of resealing your roof, it is better to have both self-leveling sealants and non-leveling sealants. Each type of sealant has an appropriate application.
Self-leveling sealants are to be used in the flat surfaces of your RV roof. This is because of their trait in leveling on their own. Simply put, once applied, it will horizontally spread without the assistance of any tool.
Non-leveling sealants or non-sag sealants are to be used in vertical surfaces and overhead surfaces. You cannot apply self-leveling sealants on vertical surfaces such as the sides of your RV’s roof. Non-sag sealants are designed for this purpose instead of the Self-leveling sealants.
Roof cleaners are needed before you start sealing because it will be very difficult to apply seal while the surface of the roof is dirty. There are RV roof cleaning solutions available in the market that you can buy. Aside from using the cleaner before starting to seal, you will also, later on, need it after the sealant has been cured for 30 days.
This will only be needed after the sealing has been done and after the sealant has been cured for 30 days. The roof coating is essential because it will protect your roof from the sun’s UV rays. Maintenance is better than a repair, and so always apply new roof coating once the sealing has been finished.
The use of caulking guns will allow you to apply the caulk or sealant properly and efficiently. It would be very difficult to apply the seal without a caulking gun. Caulking guns are readily available in hardware stores near you.
These are used as a substitute for sealants whenever signs of leak occur during your travel. Using bond tapes, you can easily and immediately seal leaks on your RV roof without applying sealants that would sideline you for days due to the curing period. However, the use of bond tapes should only be temporary. After your travel, make sure to remove the bond tapes and seal them appropriately with a sealant.
Basic Hand Tools
Just to be more efficient, make sure to always bring your basic hand tools such as pliers, screwdrivers, and rollers. There will be times that you would need to open vents and other attached areas to check for signs of water leaks. These basic hand tools will prevent you from accidentally destroying your RV roof.
Step 4: Clean The Roof First
After preparing the needed materials and equipment, start to clean the surface of your RV roof. You must clean the roof first before applying sealants as it is very inefficient to seal with dirt and dust on the surface of the roof. In areas that will need sealing, dirt will also be present, and so you definitely do not want to include that dirt in the seal.
If the old seals on your roof are dry and brittle, they may already be allowing water to leak in. Remove and scrape off these old seals with a flat knife or chisel to replace them with a new seal. Be careful in removing old seals as you may accidentally scratch the surface of the roof.
You may use a water hose in cleaning the roof, but it is advisable that you use RV roof cleaning agents. A clean RV roof would be better to seal and maintain than a dirty one.
Step 5: Apply Your Sealant
Now is the part where you actually apply the sealant to seal areas where water may leak in. Start with the areas that would require the application of a self-leveling caulk, like the edges of vents. Start applying evenly on the edges of the vent before proceeding to put seals on top of each screw head. Proceed to do the same with the base of TV/radio antenna and the standing brackets of your solar panels.
Then proceed to the areas that would need a non-leveling, non-sag sealant. Start with areas such as the edges of the RV roof where water may leak in. Always try to apply evenly to make sure no water can enter.
Step 6: Let The Sealant Cure
The applied sealant is not automatically 100% waterproof, so you must put on the RV cover or, if possible park it where it is shaded from the rain or the sun. Under normal circumstances, it would take 5 minutes for the sealant to skin over. You must protect the newly applied sealant from the rain for about 4 hours, because only by that time is it waterproof.
The curing process should last up until 30 days later. So just to maximize the effectiveness of your applied sealant, avoid using your RV until the curing process is 100% finished. Weather factors such as rain, wind and dust particles may affect the curing process and may reduce the waterproofness of your newly applied sealant.
The Costs of Resealing Your RV Roof
Being proactive in resealing cracks and seams over your old sealants saves a lot of unnecessary expenses. Repairing a damaged RV roof is very costly, and so you should watch out for leaks that may allow water to come in and further damage your RV.
A reputable lap sealant, such as Dicor, will cost just around $32 for each pack of four. You probably will not use much of your sealant, especially if you’re just spot-sealing. Bond tapes will just cost you $45 for every 4 x 50 inches. A regular caulk gun will only cost around $27. These items can be reused multiple times.
As for roof coating, a gallon from a reputable brand would only cost around $50. Same with the other materials mentioned, you will be using less than one gallon, so you certainly will be having excess for future use. A 32 oz roof cleaner will only cost around $15. So to avoid buying always, it would be better to buy in bulk.
So in actuality, the cost of resealing your RV roof will be roughly 45 Cents per square foot of Rubber RV Roofs. Fiberglass and Aluminum Roofs are even cheaper at 18-21 Cents per square foot. To avoid wasting money, always store your equipment and materials properly so you can use them next time.
A one-stop-shop for these materials would probably cost you around $120-170. The materials bought will probably be good for 5 years. Buying in bulk will be better for owners who have more than one RV.
- Sealant – $32.00 per pack
- Roof Cleaners – $15.00 per 32 oz
- Roof Coating – $50.00 per gallon
- Caulking Gun – $27.00
- Bond Tapes – $45 for every 4 x 50 inches
Total Cost: $169.00
In summary, detecting areas that require resealing is crucial in preserving the condition of your RV roof. The process is not even that complicated. You will just need to be very attentive to details such as hairline cracks visible on your old sealants. More often than not, you only get to reseal your RV roof once every 3-5 years. Sealants in the market are very durable from cracking, but nevertheless, after time, you will need to reseal just to make sure.