I wrote this article a little over a year ago and as I had just checked out my own RV roof recently, I thought it would be a good idea to bring this post back again.
Well, I think my headline says it all. The number one failure of most RV owners is a failure to inspect the roof of their rig on a regular basis. That is all it takes to prevent major water leak damage. And believe me, water can quietly do some unbelievable damage to our rigs.
Lets start by understanding a couple of things up front, no matter whether you bought a base-line level travel trailer or a top of the line Class A Motorhome, they are all built with the same basic materials. Unfortunately the good stuff from Mars has yet to arrive so we are stuck with materials derived from Mother Earth. Most RVs have some type of metal structure that serves as the base frame of the unit, upon this will normally be flooring consisting of plywood or waferboard material. Either is strong stuff until it comes in contact with water, then all bets are off. Enough water and you end up with something on the level of wet bread. The sides of the RV will be constructed of a lighter weight metal framing with some type of luan covering, sometimes a plywood derived paneling might be in place too. The roof is also constructed of this lighter weight metal framing and covered with luan again. Now, over all of these wood surfaces and depending on where it is used, you will have carpeting, wood/tile flooring, the walls will have some type of wallpaper type covering and the roof will be covered with either a plastic, fiberglass or rubber type of material. The interior or ceiling can have something like the wallcovering or a plastic headliner. So what this really ends up being is a unique situation where water can actually enter the RV unnoticed. It can work it’s way through outside cracks to wick its way into ceiling, walls or flooring. Normally, you don’t really notice until either the outer wall covering deteriorates and starts peeling or you notice a soft spot in the ceiling, wall or floor. By that time, you have some serious damage and don’t kid yourself. While it is repairable it will also be expensive and if it is bad enough it might just be the death of your RV.
So back to the roof. About every 6 months you need to walk the roof of your RV (and please take all proper precautions) and take a good look at the seams, the condition of the roof, check the vents, caps and A/C covers – any of this plastic stuff can “look” okay but touch it and it can fall apart. Most of the plastics will last about 5-6 years in the sun before becoming junk. If you find damage, first thing is to get it covered up to stop any additional water damage. Cover it with a cheap tarp, plastic or something to stop water. And get it repaired as quickly as possible. Different sealing materials have to be used on different roofs, so identify what you have and get the correct sealant from your RV outlet. If you are doing the repairs yourself, make sure that you seal any work that you do at least as well as the original – do not skimp on this! If you have any cracks that appear to be structural in nature – such as a major separation or splitting, you not only need to cover it but get the help of a RV specialist. You may have something else going on that needs attention.
So, just by some simple checking and attention to preventing water damage, you will add years and years to your rig, plus the value of your RV will be enhanced. Anyone looking to buy a second hand unit normally knows to check it out for previous water problems. And if yours doesn’t have any, that can be a big plus at selling time.