Spending a little time where the sun does shine will prevent bigger problems later on
You know it’s up there — a silent sentinel that protects you and your family. It speaks to you on rainy days and can roar in a hailstorm. It’s your RV’s roof, and as long as it keeps the inclement weather out, you probably don’t think about it much. But just like the rest of your RV, the roof requires regular maintenance to make sure it works as intended and lasts for many family vacations to come. The ravages of the sun, combined with dirt, acid rain, bird droppings and other natural enemies will eventually cause sealants, even the roof itself, to fade, harden and crack over time.
The good news is, there are a lot of things you can do to protect it, maintain it and even repair it yourself. A good rule of thumb is to get up on the roof before and after every travel season, and give it a thorough cleaning, followed by a conditioner/protectant. Inspect the sealant around every roof vent, skylight, antenna, etc., and pay special attention to where the roof material meets the front and rear caps. Any sealant that is cracking or lifting needs to be carefully scraped off and replaced.
Now the prospect of scraping and sealing all these areas on your trailer’s roof may seem daunting, but just remember: you don’t have to do it all at once, on the same day, or even in the same week. Scrape and seal one roof vent, then work your way to the others. Before long, the roof will be clean, leak-free and ready for another season.
To get some tips on how its done, we talked to two experts who know a thing or two about RV roofs: Joey Lux of D-Lux Detailing, who specializes in RVs, and C&S RV Service Center, both of Ventura, California. Joey demonstrated the correct way to quickly and easily clean an RV’s roof, while the guys at C&S gave us expert tips on how to reseal problem areas. Most of the issues related to RV roofs are associated with the common EPDM rubber material, but TPO and fiberglass roofs require similar care.
For this article, we concentrated mainly on roof vents, but other components on the roof can be repaired in kind. Just remember to take your time and be patient, and leave no edge or screw head uncovered. Your roof will thank you.
1) Keep the tip of the pressure washer a good 8 to 10 inches from the surface, passing it back and forth constantly. You can easily see how quickly and effectively it will remove ground-in dirt, but it can also damage the roof or seals if you place the nozzle too close to the surface or concentrate it in one area for too long.
2) Once done spraying an area, use the rubber roof cleaner of your choice and start scrubbing.
3) Before and after. What a difference!
4) You could use a mop to apply rubber roof protectant, but Joey says this wastes a lot of product. Instead, he recommends using this smaller head, designed for washing windows. It spreads the protectant evenly and leaves the product where it belongs — on the roof.
5) The sealant on the roof of this RV was long overdue for replacement. When scraping off old sealant, push the putty knife in and lift carefully. Don’t try to scrape in the same direction as the putty in an effort to remove the putty more quickly — it’s easier to snag the roof that way. When in doubt, use a plastic scraper.
6) Work the blade carefully along the mounting flange until the edge touches a screw head, then rotate the blade around it and lift. It may also be easier for you to open the roof vent during this step.
7) Here is the vent with the sealant completely removed from both the rubber roof and the mounting flange. Wipe the area down thoroughly with mineral spirits, and you’re ready to start resealing.
8, 9) Use Dicor Self-Leveling Lap Sealant in a caulking gun. First, apply a nice bead where the mounting flange meets the roof, then come back and apply a second bead on top of the flange, making a loop around each screw head. It is not necessary to smooth the bead with a putty knife; the self-leveling action of the product will produce a smooth, uniform bead after only a few minutes.
10) The vent is now properly sealed and will remain leak-proof for many years to come.
11) EternaBond tape is another great solution for repairing damaged or problem areas. The roof on this particular trailer had numerous soft spots, so, although the membrane was still in good condition, there was another problem: The flexing roof caused the aged sealant to separate, creating the potential for leaks. Instead of lap sealant, the decision was made to fix the problem permanently with EternaBond.
12) Measure and cut the first piece of EternaBond tape, placing it over the mounting flange and butting it up against the vent. Leave enough extra tape on either side of the vent so the pieces placed on the sides will overlap the front and rear.
13, 14) Here’s a great installation tip: Peel off a small section of backing first and push the end into place. Then, as you lay the tape down, pull the backing away as you go. This way, you can still lift and reposition the tape if necessary. Once EternaBond is down, it is almost impossible to remove in one piece, so this technique can save a lot of trouble.
15) Here, the EternaBond tape has been applied to all sides, but we’re not done yet.
16) All gaps are then sealed with lap sealer for extra insurance.
17) EternaBond is great stuff, but it comes in a big roll, and it’s not cheap: a 4-inch by 55-foot roll costs more than $50. For small gouges, cuts or tears in a rubber roof, consider an RV roof repair kit like this one from Quick Roof.