If you are wondering “how to fix a leaking camper roof?” You must know that leaks and water damage are a major issue in the motorhome industry. Owners have struggled with maintaining their motorhomes’ roofs for years, and since they are responsible for preventing leaks and subsequent repairs, it’s critical to know how to avoid them in the first place.
Motorhomes are mobile homes that must endure not one, but two earthquakes and a hurricane when they travel down the road. Put your home on a trailer and drive it 50 miles down some of our rougher roads and interstates to see what’s left. A motorhome has to withstand a continual barrage of weather, as well as the elements, while remaining light enough to drive on the street lawfully and yet cheap and pleasant for the end customer.
Roofing is the place to start. Roof maintenance and repair on motorhomes is similar no matter what type of roof it has, but various techniques are used depending on the sort of roof.
Keeping the roof clean is a must, and ensuring that the seams and sealants are in good condition is an ongoing job. The sealants must be examined for gaps, separations, and cracks, as well as being reapplied if necessary to avoid leaks. The most obvious way to keep your motorhome’s warranty in force is to have it serviced as needed. Some vehicle manufacturers even demand that this maintenance be done every 90 days to maintain the guarantee.
RV Roof Types
Cleaning the roof entails the use of a specified roof cleaning product for your motorhome’s roofing material. Motorhome roofs are made of fiberglass, thermoplastic polyolefin (TPO), aluminum, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), or ethylene propylene diene monomer (EPDM). TPO is the most popular today, followed by EPDM and other types of polymers.
Any substance that is suitable for the motorhome’s side walls may be used to clean fiberglass and aluminum roofs. The seams are the most essential factors to monitor in terms of maintenance. One of two meay be used to seal seams on these roofs. Some contractors use self-leveling sealants. Self-leveling sealants are available in a caulk tube and may be used with almost any commercial product, such as C-10, Geocel Pro Flex, or Dicor, although it’s always preferable to stay with the same sealant as the original equipment manufacturer (OEM).
The most popular product is sealant tape, such as EternaBond’s. The tapes are extremely durable and have an elastomeric sealant, also known as a micro sealant, that basically creates a permanent seal on the seam. However, if the tape is not applied correctly, this may occur. Some lesser-known brands on the market might fail because the tape skin separates from the sealant. When these tapes are properly used, they can provide long-lasting protection. They may be applied to a variety of surfaces as long as the preparation is done correctly, including prep work and utilizing a roller to activate the sealant once the tape is put down.
Roofs made of TPO, EPDM, and PVC must all be treated differently because the manufacturers have sealants and cleaners specifically suggested for their products, which should be used for optimum effect.
A warranty is included on many of these roofs, which sounds wonderful, but the fine print must be understood and followed to gain the most from it. The warranties cover only the roof membrane, not the seals, installation, or underlayment; and if the roof is not properly installed or maintained, the warranty will be invalid.
It’s recommended that you clean EPDM roofs with a roof cleaner and sealer, as the material naturally ages, resulting in a white film that comes off the roof, causing black streaks on the sides of the motorhome.
This streaking is doubly ironic, since one of the main selling features of early EPDM roofs was their lack of black streaks due to oxidation on aluminum RV roofs. Cleaning and protecting your RV’s roof is a must during the spring, summer, and fall. Cleaning products that are designed to clean as well as protect against UV damage help prevent water stains on the surface of your RV’s roof by cleaning away algae while also providing a protective layer.
Some stronger cleansers can be used for thorough cleaning; however, never use citrus or petroleum-based cleaners. For additional product information, contact the roof manufacturer or go to the website.
Membrane roofs, such as EPDM and PVC, are membrane roofs that are built of a type of plastic. The advantages of these roofs include their light weight and the fact that they do not deteriorate like EPDM roofs do. The texture of the membrane is frequently apparent, with an alligator-like feel to it (versus EPDM, which is smooth), suggesting that your motorhome has a TPO roof.
TPO is available in a variety of colors, as are its sealants. Dicor and Alpha Systems produce TPO roofs, while sealants geared toward their products are marketed by other manufacturers. (PVC, which is mostly an aftermarket product, advises customers to utilize only its branded sealants from LaSalle Bristol.)
When unsure, contact the motorhome maker to learn more about the roofing material used. Then you may look up the roof manufacturer’s website for care instructions as well as information on which servicing products are available for that product.
This is the best way to go since some roofing materials can’t be identified until the membrane’s underside is looked at. (Hint: to view the underside of the roof membrane, remove the trim from a crank-up roof vent. When the roof is put in, an “X” is usually cut in the membrane to reveal the opening, and four-triangle flaps will be attached.)
The seams must be maintained at all times. Roof seams are typically found in the front and rear corners of the roof, down the sides along the rain gutter if you have one, or wherever else there is a termination and around every appurtenance on the roof, including roof vents, antennas, plumbing vents, and other features. Clean and inspect these seams at least four times each year carefully. If you detect a leak, investigate it as soon as possible and address the problem, stopping the leak if possible and drying out the affected area to minimize harm.
Finally, membrane roofs are more prone to puncture or tearing than metal ones, so if you suspect your RV’s roof has been damaged, get up there and have a look. When working on an RV roof, exercise extreme caution, especially when your ladder is in good shape, the roof is dry and sound enough to support your weight, and you’re not doing any type of work that might cause damage. If something tears the roof’s membrane while you’re on the road, it’s wise to bring a roof emergency repair kit with you so you can make repairs quickly. Dicor offers a roof patch kit, and EternaBond is an excellent option for long-term use.
Never use a silicone-type sealant on a motorhome roof, or any other sealant from your local hardware store or home center. These are suitable on the sides, which we’ll examine later, but they’re not appropriate for RV roofing materials and will separate from the roof, making effective roof sealing impossible.
There are a number of firms now providing fresh, properly installed liquid roofing, such as RV Armor and RV Roofing Solutions. If you’re having trouble with your roof, these types of roofs might be ideal for you. These technologies aren’t the same as those canned liquid roofings sold at your local RV service center.
Lee Thaxton, owner of RV Armor, explains that the firm covers the existing roof and seams with a commercial-duty roof in two days. It’s a rather delicate procedure that transforms a leaky, maintenance-requiring roof into a properly sealed, long-lasting one for the life of the RV.
The liquid-acrylic roofing supplied by RV Roofing Solutions, according to the firm, prevents roof leaks and the need for caulk.
Sealing the insides of a motorhome’s walls, as well as the exterior, may be required from time to time to prevent water-related damage. Some RV makers have discontinued butyl or putty tapes for sealing windows and doors, instead relying on a foam gasket tape that is more vulnerable to leaking in certain situations. They’ll use silicone caulk to seal the foam tape around each window, door, or extrusion.
A good-quality pure silicone caulk, such as GE Silicone II Window and Door, or a comparable high-quality product, can help to keep these areas sealed. Use no latex caulking. Clear is the greatest option; if you want to go brighter, add some color. Other sealants, such as Geocel’s Pro Flex, a polymer-based sealant or Sikaflex 221, a polyurethane product frequently used by RV manufacturers, can be used for the side seams on your motorhome. When applying these sealants, you must have more expertise and attention.
Clean the surface to be caulked thoroughly, removing as much loose caulk as possible. Non-marring automotive scrapers, available from hardware stores like Harbor Freight, might also be used to help with this process.
Cut a tiny bead of silicone from the end of the tube. After caulkging the seam, lightly mist over the bead and surrounding area with a tooling fluid composed solely of water and a small quantity of dish soap in a spray bottle. Use a caulk tool to finish the job by dressing the bead, and then when it’s dry, you’ll have a beautiful professional-looking seam.
If your motorhome has front-facing windows and complicated seams, for example, Class C cabovers, it will require more seam treatment and maintenance over time. The side-roof-termination seams that extend the length of the unit, as well as awning bracing on the side walls, are two common leak locations that are often neglected.
It’s critical to maintain your motorhome on a regular basis, whether it’s for work or pleasure. To prevent difficulties later on, follow a regular maintenance plan, whether it’s for full-time living or vacationing in a motorhome. Water damage can be prevented by spending some time checking the seals on your motorhome.