Most RVers Will Eventually Need to Access Their RV Roof
If you own an RV, sooner or later, you’re probably going to ask yourself, “Can I walk on my RV roof?” You may need to check equipment, reseal a skylight, or determine if that large branch you drug down the top of your RV did any damage. Roof maintenance is critical to keeping your RV watertight and free from damaging leaks. Below are some things to consider when answering whether you can walk on an RV’s roof?
Structural Integrity and Safety
There are two aspects to this question. One is an issue of structural integrity, and the other is a matter of safety. Regarding safety, some RV roofs are designed to be walked on. They feature non-slip surfaces built right into the fiberglass cap and a convenient ladder pre-installed to provide easy roof access. Some of these RVs even provide a low roof rail near the ladder to help people safely climb onto and off the roof.
Ladder Provides Access to the Roof, but Safety is a Concern
Some RV camper vans have a ladder to the roof, but less for walking on the roof. Van ladders typically just provide access for stashing and securing gear on the top of the RV. Unfortunately, not all RVs are designed for safe walking on the roof. Many RVs have arched and no skid-resistant surfaces, so the roof can be very slippery, especially when wet. There may be times when it’s necessary to access even these more dangerous roofs. Those doing so should be extremely cautious because it could result in a fall and debilitating injury. Many RVs are more than 13 ft high and falling from that height could easily result in a serious injury.
Strength of the Roofing Materials
In addition to the RV roofs being high, unlevel, and slippery, they may not be made of the strongest material to support the weight of people walking on the roof. My first RV had a fiberglass roof but when someone was on the roof, you could see the ceiling in the RV depress with every step. It was unsettling to see that, and it made me wonder about the roof’s structural integrity. Was it designed to withstand the added weight and the concentrated pressure of footsteps? If so, how much weight would it support? This is generally the second question an RV owner may ask after thinking, “Can I walk on my RV roof?” How much weight can the roof support?
Drivin’ and Vibin’ recommend that you, “Consider the age of your roof and know that it may not be as strong as it was the day it rolled out of the manufacturer’s plant. If you’re towing an older RV, watch for any signs of weakness in the roof.”
Weight Limit Engraved on the Ladder
The question regarding walking on an RV roof should be directed to the manufacturer of your specific RV since some types of RVs like pop-up trailers, R-Pods, teardrop trailers, and truck campers might not support a person’s weight. Additionally, the shape of some RVs can make walking on the roof difficult, even if it can support the weight. But even larger fifth wheels, travel trailers, and motorhomes may have weight restrictions applicable to their roofs. One way to get a preliminary idea of the weight limit for any roof is to inspect the built-in ladder. Most RV ladders have a weight limit engraved somewhere on them. On our motorhome ladder, the weight limit is engraved on the underside of one of the rungs and is visible from the ground, once you know what to look for.
It is generally assumed that the weight limit of the ladder is transferrable to the roof, as well. If your ladder has a 250-pound weight limit (common on most RV ladders) then it’s safe to assume that the roof will support at least that same amount of weight. If the ladder will support 300 lbs., then the roof will also support 300 lbs.
Consult the Manufacturer for Roof Weight Restrictions
This is fine for RVs with attached ladders installed by the manufacturer but many RV models don’t have a ladder. Without the ladder, there’s no obvious way to determine the roof’s weight limit. It’s prudent to check with your RV manufacturer to confirm if the roof will support your weight. This is especially true for those RVs without a ladder.
Room For Interpretation
Additionally, there’s always room for interpretation, even when the ladder provides a reference for the roof’s weight restrictions. Clearly, the ladder weight limit is applicable to one person, but what if multiple people climb onto the roof? Is the entire roof’s structure compromised by having the combined weight of multiple people? What if each person’s weight is concentrated on a different section of the roof? Based on my experience and observations, more than one person can be on the roof simultaneously. Still, it’s certainly not an ideal place to party. Prudence would recommend limiting the frequency and total weight on the roof.
Conclusion: Walking May be Fine, but a Rooftop Tailgate Party is a Bad Idea
We’ve all seen pictures of the infield of a NASCAR race with multiple RVs clustered together and dozens of people sitting in lawn chairs on the roofs of those RVs. But just because we’ve seen RVs used that way doesn’t tell us if any of them were damaged by that use. The bottom line is at some point you may need to climb onto your RV roof to maintain it or repair a skylight, roof vent, or air conditioner, but making it a destination is outside the scope of how it was designed.
The best way to accurately answer the question “Can I walk on my RV roof?” is to contact your manufacturer for guidance. Still, if you intend to park your RV in the infield at a NASCAR race and haul your friends, beer, and barbeque up on said roof, you should probably increase your liability insurance as a safety precaution, even before consulting the manufacturer about the use restrictions and weight limits.