Your home-away-from-home provides all the camping amenities you want and a sturdy roof over your head. While you can see and use your favorite amenities every day, like a 3-burner high-output range or a beautiful bathroom vanity, you don’t often see your RV’s roof. It’s easy to forget that it’s even there, until the dreaded day that it starts leaking right into your master bedroom. Out of sight, out of mind is not a good motto to live by when it comes to RV roof maintenance. Don’t neglect the care that your RV’s roof needs to stay clean and in tip-top shape. Maintaining your RV’s roof is easy with the right tools and know-how. Invest a little time in caring for your roof and it’ll thank you ten times over by sparing you expensive repair bills.
Types of Roofs
There are three different materials that RV roofs are made out of. Older RVs typically have metal roofs, while most newer RVs are constructed with fiberglass or rubber roofs. Fiberglass roofs are molded onto the top of the RV. It’s good to keep a fiberglass roof waxed so that debris, dirt, or anything else that lands on it will slide right off. Rubber roofs are made of a substance called Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer (EPDM) that is stretched across a wooden base. It is generally made to last 20+ years and usually comes with a 10-12 year guarantee (depending on the brand of RV).
Cleaning an RV Roof
The safest way to clean an RV roof is to do it from a ladder. While climbing onto the roof offers easy access and a great view of the entire roof, it puts you in danger of slipping on the wet and soapy roof and falling to the ground. Invest in a long-handled brush that you can use to reach across half of your RV’s roof when you’re standing toward the top of a ladder. Before you fill up your bucket with warm suds and get your brush all sudsy, first spray the entire roof with a hose to get any leaves, sticks, and dirt off before you wash it. Once it’s all cleared of debris, you can start scrubbing it. Metal, fiberglass, and rubber all wear and weather differently and so you should approach their maintenance in different ways. Let’s break it down by roof type:
Metal roof: Metal roofs are really quite simple to clean. Just wash and wax it a few times a camping season with regular car wash/wax solutions. This will help eliminate the black streaks that sometimes run down the sides of RVs from dirt and debris on the roof.
Fiberglass and Rubber roofs: Murphy Oil soap is a popular cleaning choice for fiberglass and rubber RV roofs. It doesn’t contain any harsh chemicals that can damage a fiberglass or rubber roof. Concentrated rubber roof cleaners are also available at RV and marine stores, and some RV owners prefer to use granular powder cleaners, such as Bon Ami and Bar Keeper’s Friend, to help get out tough stains on their fiberglass roofs. Work in small sections from the front of the RV to the back and rotate the brush in a clockwise motion as you clean. Rinse each section as you finish it.
Once cleaned, rubber roofs don’t typically need a protective coating added to them. However, if you treat a rubber roof with a protectant, dirt and grime will come off more easily in subsequent washings.
Fiberglass roofs are a little more high maintenance than rubber roofs. Fiberglass can oxidize over time. The surface of your RV will start to appear chalky and will even slough off a fine white powder. If your RV is showing signs of oxidation, you should apply a protectant to it, but only after you remove the surface oxidation. To do this, apply a cleaner or restorer wax to the roof in small sections. Let the abrasive wax dry and then buff it out. Your roof will look shiny and clean! For a protectant, there are many choices out there for RV owners, ranging from pretty inexpensive to pretty expensive. Keep in mind that the more you spend, the more protection you get. Meguiar’s, 3M, Collinite, and Griot’s Garage all offer great protectant products.
Repairing an RV Roof
The only time you’re probably going to have a good view of your RV’s roof is when you’re up on a ladder cleaning it, so take this opportunity to inspect it for any rips, tears, cracks, or caulking separation. Even though most rubber roofs come with a 10-12 year guarantee, branches and other sharp objects can easily tear a rubber membrane. Fiberglass roofs can develop thin, hairline fractures. And there can sometimes be issues with caulking around RV add-ons, such as A/C units, TV antennas, and other roof-mounted items. If you find a problem, don’t sweat it! There are many products on the market that will help you repair your RV so that it’s (almost) as good as new!
Dicor makes a line-up of roof repair materials that includes Self–Leveling Lap Sealant, Non-Sag Lap Sealant, Self-Adhesive Patch, DiSeal Tape, and more. EternaBond also makes permanent and hassle-free repair materials such as the Roof Seam Eliminator, AlumiBond, RoofSeal, EternaCaulk, EternaBond Tape, and more.
When it comes to maintaining your RV’s roof, regular cleaning and inspection is key to avoiding larger problems. Try to clean the roof 3-4 times per season. If you often park under trees, especially ones that drip sap, wash it even more frequently. In the end, if you take care of your roof, it will take good care of you.