Complete RV Roof Guide

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Considerable thought goes into protecting the walls and other areas of an RV, yet it’s the RV roof that’s the most vulnerable location. Water ingress has the potential to cause substantial moisture and property damage. Cleaning, maintaining, repairing, and sometimes replacing the roof membrane, are necessary to avoid this outcome.

Fortunately, depending on the type of RV roof that your motorhome, camper, or trailer has, many solutions are available to maintain, fix up, or replace it should it currently be in poor shape.


RV Roof

Our related articles on RV roof maintenance, repairs, and replacement:

> How Often Should You Seal Your RV Roof?

> Can I Use Flex Seal on My RV Roof?

> RV Fiberglass Roof Repair

> Does RV Insurance Cover Roof Damage?

> How to Protect RV Skylights from Hail


RV Roof Materials

Whether you’re dealing with a motorhome, a travel trailer, or a small teardrop camper, their roofs and roofing materials will vary.

It’s not possible to simply say that all campers have a fiberglass roof, or all Class-A motorhomes are sporting a TPO rubber roof.

If the roof type is not already known, it’s necessary to investigate and determine what type of roof your RV has. That way, should you ever need to repair it, or even replace the RV roof entirely, the next step will be clearer.

RV Roofing Materials: What is the Best RV Roof Material?

Here are the four types of roofing materials used:

1. EPDM – The acronym means Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer. It’s a rubber compound that’s laid on an RV roof as a waterproof membrane. EPDM materials are typically only used on flat surfaces, so if your RV doesn’t have a flat roof, it’s unlikely to use this type.

2. TPO The TPO means Thermal Poly Olefin. It is another type of rubber roof. This is quite common including use on non-flat RV roofs too. These are listed separately because their maintenance requirements are a little differentiated from each other, so care must be taken here.

3. Aluminum It’s possible to own a trailer or camper with an aluminum roof. They’re quite unusual and stand out in a crowd. Airstream is the most common brand that still uses aluminum for its roofs. This type doesn’t require as much maintenance to ensure it remains watertight. With that said, it adds extra weight to the trailer or camper’s structure compared to rubber roofing materials.

4. Fiberglass Finding a camper with a fiberglass roof isn’t too unusual. Often, they’ll have a fiberglass body and simply continued the same materials across the roof for a consistent finished appearance. Like aluminum, fiberglass does add extra weight to the structure compared to a TPO or EPDM RV roof. Fiberglass is easier to maintain, which explains why a significant percentage of camper owners prefer it.


What Type of RV Roof Do I Have?

How to Identify the Type of RV Roof

Here are few tips to help you to narrow down the type of RV roof on your motorhome, camper, or trailer:

EPDM Rubber Roof

An EPDM roof is usually either white or a faded white color if it’s older.

Whilst it’s durable, it can sustain punctures to the roofing material. However, it’s affordable to repair using adhesive, latex tape, shingles, or a liquid EPDM roofing solution to seal part of the roof that has marks, gaps or has thinned out.

The roof may have been installed as a single rubber sheet in the factory. But the roof can be repaired using tape, adhesive, or a pourable liquid roofing product over the years to address water leaks. Therefore, it can begin to resemble a bumpy, rather than a smooth surface, the older the RV gets.

TPO Rubber Roof

A TPO roof is also likely to have a white or pale appearance, subject to staining from the elements over the years.

The rubber used is a single ply. Rolls of TPO are not as wide as with EPDM. Because of this, there will be additional seams between each section of laid RV roofing material. This makes these rubber roofs more vulnerable to seam cracks that can be a tell-tale sign when trying to figure out which type of rubber roof you have.

Furthermore, TPO roofs require a laminate surface cover on top of it. Also, thoughts relating to the rubber’s thickness aren’t indicative either way as some TPO materials are thin and others thicker, but their durability isn’t directly affected by these differences.

Also, bear in mind that TPO rubber can be stuck on using adhesive or fastened to the roof. Also, don’t be surprised to see welding indications to secure it around standard roof fixtures too.

TPO vs EPDM RV Roof

Aluminum Roof

Aluminum roofs are shiny and distinctive. Whilst it’s possible that a travel trailer or a camper is made from another type of metal, it’s pretty rare.

With heavier metals, you’re likely to spot additional beams on either side of the roof to provide support for the RV’s structure too.

Also, it’s worth noting that the aluminum is often thin and doesn’t have tremendous strength to it. So, if you’re planning to install solar on your roof, be careful not to fall through it. Certainly, do question whether the roof can support such an installation including a rack, bracing, solar panels, and all the fittings.

Fiberglass Roof

Fiberglass is not often used solely for an RV roof; the body of the trailer, camper (or even an RV) will normally be made from the same material. It would be unusual to have the RV body produced using different materials and paired with a fiberglass roof.

Typically, it’s the smaller campers or trailers that can be found using fiberglass. In which case, they’re entirely produced using this material with the camper’s roof being seamless from top to bottom.

Fiberglass is usually a combination of glass fibers and synthetics. It is likely smoother to the touch and less prone to cracks, unlike other roof types. It is also toughened, rather than soft like some EPDM roofs.

High environmental heat can cause a fiberglass roof to split open. If purchasing an RV or camper with a fiberglass roof, inspect it for heat-related damage.

RV Roof Maintenance

RV roof maintenance shouldn’t be ignored and then the roof is expected to never leak for many years.

Instead, it requires periodic preventative measures, the occasional repair to remain in good condition, and sometimes adding new coating layers (on rubber roofs) to protect it.

How Often Should You Seal Your RV Roof?

Even if you don’t currently have any water leaks, aim for a minimum of once a year.

For effective RV roof maintenance, there are different steps to take depending on whether you want to prevent a possible future water leakage problem inside your RV or plan to overlay the current roof with a new protective, waterproof layer.

Here are the steps:

RV Roof Sealant

Whether it originates from the seams between layers of TPO, the original EPDM roofing material that’s proving troublesome, or heat-related damage to a fiberglass roof, sealing it up is worth doing. Gaps between roof fixtures and the roof itself can pose regular problems when roof sealant fails.

Even if you don’t currently have any water leaks, it’s far better to apply an RV roof sealer all along the seams because the factory sealant won’t last indefinitely. Completing this task annually on a sunny day goes a long way to warding off future water leaks from a strong storm that pummels your roof for days.

Dicor is well-known in the industry as an RV roofing specialist. They provide RV roof caulking – think of it like the caulking that goes between your bathroom tiles or window frame in a home – to seal it up. Their lap sealant product comes in a convenient tube and is designed for EPDM rubber and as a TPO roof sealant, plus also fiberglass and aluminum too. Also, it works on vinyl, wood, and other materials, so it’s a great go-to sealer for RV owners.

Here is the recommended Dicor Self-Leveling Lap Sealant product:

Dicor Self-Leveling Lap Sealant – 501LSW-1 (4 Pack)

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RV Roof Seam Repair

After a Dicor sealant has been applied and allowed to dry, it’s possible to use a special seam repair tape to cover over the affected roofing area.

RV roof seam repair tape is designed to be airtight and waterproof once in place. Also, it has the durability to better withstand overhead tree branches scraping the roof while driving beneath it.

Potentially, RV owners can choose between a sealant like Dicor or a tape. Using both is also possible too.

Here is the EternaBond Roof Seal product that’s considered excellent for covering over wayward seams or troublesome seals:

EternaBond RoofSeal MicroSealant UV Stable Seam Repair Tape – EB-RW040-50R (White, 4″ x50′, 35 mil Total Thickness)

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RV Roof Repair

Damage can occur to an RV roof, such as a hole in the roof or minor damage. These might be caused by a tree limb in a storm or one scrapping along the roof due to insufficient clearance.

Proper RV roof repair materials are required to complete appropriate fixes; alternatives not designed for RV roofs risk damaging it.

Rubber Roofs

Repairs can be performed using a self-sealant and/or sealing tape for minor abrasions and cracks that can be filled in and sealed successfully.

However, sometimes the rubber has come away completely or been torn off from one spot on the roof. For an EPDM RV roof repair, a patch is useful to cover the affected area. This can prevent needing to replace the entire protective rubber membrane. Try this patch in that case:

Dicor EPDM Roof Patch – 533RM-6

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Aluminum Roofs

Aluminum is a thin metal. It’s also not tremendously strong either.

Whilst it can usually withstand weather conditions, standing on it could potentially cause it to break at the point of weakest resistance.

Repairing a hole in an aluminum roof is not minor. Likely it will require new sheets of aluminum to be added and welded to the roof to create a proper seal. A specialist workshop that’s familiar with RV aluminum roofs will likely be required.

Fiberglass Roofs

Fiberglass roofs are strong enough that it’s rare to find one with a hole needing a roof repair.

A premium epoxy product is best to seal a hole in the fiberglass. Repairs can include wraps and other solutions too.

Fiberglass repair is well developed due to the frequent use of this material in the marine boating world. Therefore, it’s not as difficult as it sounds to repair a hole in a fiberglass RV roof.

RV Roof Coating

Beyond fixing any seams and cracks with either sealant or tape, a roof can reach a point where it could benefit from or require a new RV roof coating.

RV roof coatings apply to rubber-based roofs where the compound has begun to grind up or otherwise show signs of wear. At this point, it can look ‘bitty’ or feel rough to the touch. When this is visible across the majority of the roof, then an RV roof coating may be needed to protect it from further erosion.

What’s relevant here is applying an appropriate roofing coating to your RV’s roof. If using something that’s a mismatch, then it could potentially damage it. Therefore, know the type of roof that you have first to ensure you select an appropriate RV roof coating product for that type. We cannot stress this enough!

For example, for EPDM rubber roofs, the Heng’s Rubber Roof Coating is popular. It doesn’t get harmed by UV rays and will adjust with the movement of the roof to avoid further cracking.

Heng’s Rubber Roof Coating for EPDM Roofs – (2 Gallons)

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There is also the Dicor EPDM Rubber Roofing System that claims it works for all types of rubber roofs. We haven’t tried it on a TPO rubber roof yet, but the product’s container confirms that it’s, “Also suitable for TPO roofing.

Dicor White EPDM Rubber Roof Coating – RPCRC1 (1 Gallon)

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How to Clean Your RV Roof

Cleaning your RV roof is no small matter. Here are some initial tips by roof type:

Rubber Roofs – They’re a little bit bouncy with some give when walking over them. They also can scuff if they’re older and showing signs of age.

Aluminum Roof – A little bit of a concern due to not being very strong, so heavy-set RV owners may wish to ask their partner to hop up on the roof. We kid you not!

Fiberglass Roof – As long as you don’t start jumping up and down on it, it should remain strong and tough. The only concern is that it’s slick. If water is sprayed on the fiberglass roof, you could slide off it unexpectedly!

Can You Walk on the Roof of an RV?

Yes, you can.

However, the outer sides are the safest. The further in toward the center, the weaker it will be because the outer walls of the RV aren’t holding the roof up.

RV Roof Cleaning 101

Rubber Roofs

As you might expect, with a rubber roof, it requires special cleaning. You cannot spray water or soapy suds on it and expect a good result.

Special cleaners are available to handle either an EPDM or a TPO roof (or both from a single product). These are RV rubber roof cleaners, and the directions should be followed exactly to avoid damaging the roofing material.

Unlike some other rubber roof cleaners, this Dicor Rubber Roof Cleaner is said to play nicely with both EPDM and TPO roofs.

Dicor Rubber Roof Cleaner – RP-RC-1GL (1 Gallon)

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Aluminum and Fiberglass

Cleaning a fiberglass or aluminum roof requires a detergent that’s either milder or watered down to avoid being abrasive.

Cleaning these roofing types doesn’t require special cleaning solutions. However, they can be slippery on the surface once wet, so be careful not to fall off. Extreme care must be taken when cleaning a fiberglass or aluminum/metal roof due to this.

Also, it’s important when using an extendible roller that it doesn’t have any residual dirt or grit on it. Otherwise, this could potentially scratch the metal or fiberglass surface.

The Complete Solution in One

If looking for an all-in-one package to fix up your roof, some manufacturers have thought of that for you.

The RV Roof Renew Kit from Dicor is the perfect solution for any RV owner:

Dicor RV Roof Renew Kit – RP-RRK-30

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RV Roof Replacement

For clarification, when referring to an RV roof replacement, we’re not usually talking about literally cutting out the roof, all the supporting structures, and replacing it. Instead, it refers to replacing the roofing membrane on an existing roof structure.

The RV roof replacement materials that are required depend on the type of roof.

The most replaceable are rubber roofs. Here are two RV roof kits that might be ideal if you’re looking to replace the entire membrane and aren’t clear on everything you’ll require in an RV roof replacement kit.

Here are the best RV roof replacement options:

EPDM RV Roof Kit

Given that EPDM roofs are extremely popular in the RVing community, it’s possible to replace these with a new EPDM membrane when the current one has seen its best days.

The one shown below includes a fixed-size EPDM membrane, self-sealant, putty tape, and adhesive too.

RV Camper Rubber Roofing from Class A Customs. White Textured EPDM with Install kit – CAC-E85X15-K (8.5 ft Wide by 15 ft Long)

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TPO RV Roof Kit

Replacing a TPO roof membrane is possible with the necessary products.

For instance, this TPO RV roof kit includes a new fixed-size TPO membrane, putty tape, an acrylic adhesive for TPO rubber, and multiple tubes of self-leveling sealant too. Everything needed to create a new TPO roof on your camper, trailer, or motorhome.

RV Roof Replacement Cost

The RV roof replacement cost for a rubber roof depends on how large the camper, trailer, or motorhome is. Roof kits are sold by size with larger membranes potentially costing double or more.

An RV roof replacement cost over a limited area such as 8.5 feet by 15 feet using a rubber membrane, self-sealant, putty, and other necessary products can cost $200 to $400+. The quality of the rubber can vary, so it’s good to purchase an RV roof replacement kit that’s well regarded.

Most RV roofs are expansive. Larger roofs require many rolls of rubber membrane, self-sealant, adhesive, etc. These costs begin to quickly stack up relative to roof size differences. One of the benefits of living small is lower costs for replacement materials and so it is for an RV roof.

For typical RV roofs, the full RV roof replacement cost could stretch from $8,000 to $15,000 depending on various factors.

With professional RV roof replacements, especially for Class-A motorhomes and large toy haulers with large roofs compared to a teardrop camper, these can be unduly costly due to labor costs.  

Can I Replace My RV Roof Myself?

Absolutely.

Know that it’s a significant job. It is not something that will be completed in an hour or so. It will require a significant amount of time to complete it and do it right.

Moving the RV under an overhead cover to avoid rain reaching the roof is a good idea. A workshop, family member’s garage, or other suitable location is best.

How Long Does an RV Roof Last?

Proper care and maintenance of an RV roof are required, otherwise, it will last fewer years.

Sealing the roof annually and sometimes adding a new layer of roof coating, where possible, will support a longer life.

Here is a rough idea about how long different RV roof types last

How long do rubber roofs last on RVs? An EPDM or TPO rubber roof can last at least a decade and often longer.

For fiberglass roofs, they’re mostly found on inexpensive campers. As such, the life expectancy is closer to 10 or so years.

Lastly, with aluminum roofs (and other metals), it could provide 10-20 years of life.

Closing Thoughts

Knowing the type of RV roof that you have is essential to making the correct roof maintenance decisions. Once you’re clear on the roof type – including which type of rubber with TPO or EPDM roofs – then locating the products needed to clean, maintain, repair, or replace the roof becomes easier.

Regular maintenance of an RV roof is within the grasp of the majority of owners. It should be performed annually to keep the roof in good working order. Doing so will allow it to last longer than it otherwise would by several years. It also indirectly protects your belongings inside the RV too.

Also, as a reminder, care must be taken with fiberglass and metal roofs to not slip off them; they can be slippery especially when wet from rainwater or when being cleaned.

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