Many forget about the roof on their camping trailer or RV because it is out of sight, and thus, out of mind. Care and maintenance to your RV’s EPDM rubber roof though is very important, as any leaks can quickly cause extensive damage, and in many cases, cause damage so bad that it’s unrepairable. RV’s are made of WOOD, not steel like automobiles and trucks are. Many ignore the roof until it’s too late!
It is recommended to get up on the roof or your rig at least every few months and just inspect things. make sure nothing has punched holes in the roof, or any other parts are broken, leaking or other issues have cropped up.
If you see any cracked or damaged covers or other roof parts, be sure and replace them. There are two easy way to tell if the covers are in need of replacing. First, if they are discolored, like the dome is on the right. Second, gently press on the pieces. They should be slightly flexible and not make any splitting / cracking noises. The plastic should be slightly flexible. If not, it’s ready to be replaced. In this instance. the hatch on the left was replaced recently. The dome on the right has aged, but is in good enough condition that it doesn’t need replacement right now, but will be soon.
This is what it looks like on the top of my 12 year old Palominio camping trailer. It’s pretty dirty and in need of some work.
The first step is to clean it up. It is recommended to clean the roof about once a year minimum, maybe more in dirtier conditions, like if the camper is parked underneath trees. Trees drop all sorts of junk and there’s not enough sunlight to dry it out, so mildew can develop.
The roof can be cleaned with laundry detergent and water. Simple Green also works good, and is a cleaner I like to use for all sorts of stuff, but I chose to use this stuff that’s specifically made for the chore because of how dirty it was. I am also preparing the roof for more work. A scrub brush and a hose are needed to scrub the grime and crud off. Don’t forget to do underneath of things on the roof, like the edges of the air conditioner where pine needles and tree debris can collect.
Do NOT use powerful cleaners that are strong acid or alkaline, like bleach, ammonia, or window cleaner. Also, do not use abrasive cleaners like Comet, Ajax, or automatic dishwasher detergent.
Here it is all cleaned up….it looks only a little bit better…there’s lots of mildew up there. This roof needs more work, and for that reason, I’m going to get some more sealant up there.
Before sealant though, we need to caulk! See all these joints with this rubbery stuff all over them. It’s all cracked. It’s not leaking, but if not taken care of, this stuff will eventually harden up, break up and it will start leaking:
Don’t use just any old caulk from the hardware store though…It has to be specifically made for rubber roofs. This is the stuff I used. It’s available at any RV shop.
I just took the stuff and smeared it down with my fingers, making sure it covers all the old caulk and fills in the cracks and gaps. Get each and every spot where there’s caulk. It took only 1 tube of the stuff for my camper, but a larger one will most likely need 2.
Next step was to paint the roof with the rubber roof sealant. This is a latex rubber based paint that is very thick…much thicker than regular latex paint for your house. It took only one quart of the stuff, but I did it in two coats. Larger campers will need a gallon.
Here’s the roof all finished up! good to go for another 10 years or so…as long as it’s inspected and cleaned frequently.