The majority of RV damage is water damage from leaks as a result of lack of maintenance.
RVs have an inherent flexibility to them and flex to absorb the variable road conditions upon which they travel. This means that soft flexible sealants are required at the seams where major pieces of the coach meet.
When you take all this into consideration, the RVs we have do a pretty good job at keeping out the elements, but will only do so if maintained properly.
Water kills RVs. Over time, most RVs exposed to water intrusion will rot and fail in one way or another, not to mention the fact that the moisture can lead to problems like mold and mildew.
Take extreme care when working on the roof of an RV, especially when wet.
First, you need to know the type of roof you have on your RV.
EPDM is the rubber roofing seen on most RVs and is usually pure white with a black bottom layer. EPDM weathers causing a white powder to form as it ages in the sun and if you rub it with your hand you will get it on you. EPDM is smooth to the touch.
TPO is basically a plastic and comes in several colors and has a textured surface. TPO doesn’t weather the same way EPDM does, so you won’t have the white powder that gets on you when you work on the roof. Because TPO is a plastic, the roof is the same color all the way through. TPO roofing is glued down to the roof decking in the same way that EPDM is, but using a different adhesive.
Cleaning starts with your RV roof, because whatever lands on your roof eventually ends up everywhere else on the RV.
Cleaning a TPO roof is pretty easy. Use a non-abrasive household cleaner, such as Top Job or Spic-N-Span, and a medium-bristled scrub brush. Do not use any harsh or highly-abrasive products during cleaning.
EPDM roofing should be cleaned with a rubber roof cleaner and conditioner, several of which are available commercially through your RV parts supplier. These cleaners and conditioners not only wash away the excess ‘white powder’ from the membrane, but also seal the membrane and reduce the formation of the powder (weathering) from UV and environmental exposure.
CAUTION: DO NOT use cleaners or conditioners containing petroleum solvents, harsh abrasives, or citric-based cleaners on either roof type. You may cause irreparable damage to your roof and may void your warranty.
RV roof seals are often covered in one of two types of sealant materials. First, and the most common is a liquid self-leveling sealant appropriate for the type of roof upon which it is being applied. Second, is a tape product with a super tacky sealant attached to one side and a white plastic or metallic tape on the other.
WARNING: It is imperative that you use a compatible sealant for the roof you have. EPDM and TPO sealants are NOT interchangeable. NEVER use silicone sealant on the roof of an RV. Silicone is NOT compatible with most RV roofing sealants, and doesn’t have the performance properties needed to properly seal the RV.
When inspecting the roof look for tears or holes. Beware of small slices that can allow water intrusion. Get any holes or slices repaired immediately.
Self-leveling sealants are used around everything that goes through the roof, including antennas, vents, and the terminations at the front and back of the roof. Look for peeling, cracking, or openings in the sealants and if found should be cleaned, dried, and resealed. If you believe moisture and dirt have penetrated the sealants, they should be removed and replaced.
If you keep on top of all the seals on your RV (not just the roof) you’ll do a lot to help maintain the long-term value of your unit.
Don’t let leaves, pine needles, and other debris collect on the roof of the RV or the slideout toppers. This debris holds and wicks water into lesser protected areas of the roof causing extreme damage. Installing slide toppers keeps this debris off the slide out roofs and out of the slide out seals and keeping the rest of the roof clean and debris free.
With a little bit of work and care your RV can provide you with many years of enjoyment, as well as maintain its value much longer for when it comes time to… you know… trade up!
Hey, we all do it!
A bad day cleaning the RV roof—is better than a good day—working.