Top Shape: How to Seal Your RV’s Roof

Top Shape: How to Seal Your RV’s Roof

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It’s every RVer’s worst nightmare: a tiny roof leak that goes undetected for months, surreptitiously causing mold and rot until it reaches your RV’s interior. Water damage can destroy not just your belongings but your RV itself, so prevention is imperative. The best method for this depends on your roofing material – read on to learn how to repair, seal and maintain each type of roof!

Metal Roofs

Top Shape: How to Seal Your RV’s Roof

Most older RVs have metal roofs; if your RV is from the ‘80s or earlier, chances are it’s got a metal roof. To see if it’s time to reseal your metal roof, check it for flaking or peeling. If you can chip or tear off pieces of old sealant, the roof is due for a new application.

Resealing a metal roof is a lot like repainting a wall: the first thing you need to do is remove any loose flaps of sealant. You can use a hand scraper tool to gently pry up any flaky areas and the old sealant should come right off. Only remove the sealant that’s already peeling; if it’s still adhered to the roof, leave it be.

Once the old sealant is gone, you’ll need to give the roof and seams a thorough cleaning. You can sweep off dust and debris with a broom before scrubbing with a wet rag and some dish soap. Pay special attention to the seams around antennas, vents and screws – the tiny crevasses around these seams are the most common leak sources, plus they collect a lot of dirt!

Now it’s time to apply the new sealant. Use an elastomeric sealant designed specifically for metal roofs as other types of sealant won’t work as well, if at all. You can coat the entire roof or just the seams; whichever you choose, it’s best to apply the sealant with a paintbrush rather than a roller.

The sealant should dry within a day or two. Once it does, it’ll protect your metal RV roof from leaks and water damage for the next five years or more – a pretty valuable payoff for a pretty easy task!

Fiberglass Roofs

White camper's roof

Fiberglass RV roofs are rarer than metal or rubber roofs. They’re found mostly on vehicles from the ‘80s and ‘90s, though there are a few modern RVs that sport them as well. There are a couple of options for sealing your fiberglass roof; before beginning, contact your RV manufacturer to find out if one is preferable over the other.

The first fiberglass roof sealing option is a self-leveling sealant. It comes in a tube similar to caulk and is used in much the same way. Before applying it you’ll want to remove any loose sealant with a hand scraper and scrub the roof seams with a wet cloth; you don’t need to use any detergent.

Self-leveling sealant is only applied to seams: around screws, vents, antennas and other gaps. Insert the tube into a caulking gun and apply a steady line of sealant around these areas. If you’re having trouble getting the sealant into small gaps, you can put on a rubber glove and push it in with your finger.

Option two is a canned sealant formulated specifically for fiberglass RV roofs. As with self-leveling sealant, you must first remove any old sealant flakes and give the roof a good scrubbing. Use water and dish soap to clean the roof if you’re using canned sealant.

Once the roof is clean you can apply the fiberglass sealant with a paintbrush. Pay special attention to the roof seams and any areas where the coating appears particularly worn. Read the instructions for your particular sealant carefully, as some products require additional preparation, such as sanding before they can be applied.

Rubber Roofs

Most modern RVs have rubber roofs, which come in two varieties: EPDM and TPO. Both types more durable and require less maintenance than metal or fiberglass roofs. EPDM roofs should be resealed every 15 years or so and are more common than TPO roofs, which should never need resealing.

Regardless of type, a rubber roof’s seams and joints are its most vulnerable points, so you should inspect them regularly. If you notice any broken or eroded seals, you can repair them with a tube of self-leveling sealant.

Remove any loose pieces of sealant with your fingers only – don’t use a hand scraper on rubber roofs as this can damage the protective coating. Give the area a scrub with a wet rag, let it dry and then apply the sealant with a caulking gun. If necessary, put on a rubber glove and use your finger to work the sealant into any tough-to-reach gaps.

If you have an EPDM roof that needs a new coating, you can purchase a can of sealant formulated specifically for EPDM. You’ll need to read the instructions for your chosen brand of coating; some require the roof to be cleaned with a special chemical before applying, while others need to be mixed with an activator immediately before use. After prepping the roof, you can apply the coating with a brush or a roller.

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