How To Clean And Repair Your RV’s Rubber Roof

Water damage will take the value out of your RV faster than anything I know. 

rv-rubber-roof-seal.jpgIt’s an absolute must that at least once a year you take an up close and personal look at the roof of your RV trailer or motorhome in order to inspect the condition of the rubber membrane and all possible places water can penetrate the structure.

Furthermore, if you even suspect that a low hanging tree branch or other protruding obstacle has rubbed along or poked at the roof, you really need to get a ladder and check it out. 

The results of ignoring such an occurrence will cost you big money if the damage isn’t taken care of immediately. It’s simply a fact of RV ownership that you need to inspect, clean and sometimes repair the rubber roof on your RV.

Rubber roofs are made from Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer (EPDM). 

Made to last 20 years, EPDM usually carries a 10 to 12 year warranty. 

Over time, the roof will develop a chalky surface which is reassuringly normal wear.  Even after 10 years, this chalking will only affect about 10% of the roof’s original thickness.
 

Cleaning Your RV’s Rubber Roof

Regular cleaning will help reduce the amount of chalk buildup and help prevent the white stains seen on the sides of many older RVs. 

There are a number of manufacturer-recommended rubber roof cleaners that can be used, though all manufacturers generally agree that a mild laundry soap is also a safe cleanser.  It is particularly important that you follow the instructions provided by your RV’s manufacturer, because solvent based or abrasive cleaners may permanently damage the material.
 

Repairing A Damaged Rubber Roof

Rest assured, if a tree branch punctures or rips the rubber membrane, all is not lost. 

Camping World offers an Emergen-c Rubber Roof Repair Kit which includes a 4’x3” length of material and the proper adhesive and sealer to make the repair.

There are also a number of other rubber roof patch kits available. Again, be sure to follow all instructions carefully and only use this or similar manufacturer accepted repair materials on your RV’s rubber roof. 

Another product that works well is EternaBond. It’s a sealing tape that is stated to seal between a number of different materials. It can also be used for such things as repairing a cracked water tank.
 

Don’t Forget The Rubber Roof Seams And Seals

rv-rubber-roof.jpgKeep in mind that more than simply the integrity of the roof material needs to be inspected. 

All seams are a potential source of leaks.  The area where the rubber roof meets the front and rear edges of the roof is probably covered with a sealing caulk.  Around any items such as sewer vents, refrigerator vents or ventilation covers, a sealing caulk has been applied to prevent water infiltration.

A self-leveling sealant is commonly used for sealing over all roof joints.  Dyco Flow Seal Caulk is one of the best.  It comes out of the tube rather runny, settles over the whole seam area, then sets up to a long lasting hard rubber consistency that will protect the area from water.

Over time, as the caulking material ages, cracks can develop.  By inspecting all seams every year, you can catch this cracking before it gets deep enough to cause a leak.  A simple touch-up with a tube of sealer will assure no water gets into the structure.
 

Rubber roofs have proven to be an easily maintained long-lasting roof system.  With a history of over 20 years of successful use, you will find rubber roofs on practically all RVs today.

Their durability and the ease with which they are repaired will assure that rubber roofs will continue to play a vital role in the RV industry for many years to come.

Curtis Carper

I’ve been involved in RVing for over 40 yrs -- including camping, building, repairing, and even selling RVs. I’ve owned, used, and repaired almost every class and style of RV ever made. I do all of my own repair work. My other interests include cooking at home, living with an aging dog, and dealing with diabetic issues. If you can combine a grease monkey with a computer geek, throw in a touch of information nut and organization freak, combined with a little bit of storyteller, you've got a good idea of who I am.

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Fun From Around the Web

  • http://google.com/ SilvesterKallzone

    awkward cleaning RVs with small ladders. I can’t use big ones too cuz I might end up scratching my baby – it’s annoying.

    • Curtis

      SilverKallzone, I use a straight 12′ long ladder that I lean against my RV. If you’re concerned about scratching yours you could wrap the ladder rails with an old towel at the point it contacts the side of the RV. Use a long enough ladder that it only contacts the RV at the edge of the roof.

  • matt

    is there literature for proper maintence for cleaning and resealing motorhome roofs? or is up to factory recomondations?

  • Curtis

    Factory recommendations are always the best. They installed the roof and know best though generally following the information in this article will do the job for you. Click on the links to see what chemicals and treatments are suggested.

  • Dbcarrier70

    My wondows wont crank to open and its hot in Port Aransas TX, Do you have any tips?

    • Curtis

      Dbcarrier70, Camping world http://www.campingworld.com/category/rv-replacement-hardware/629 among others are a good source of window crank hardware.  It may take some searching but parts can be found for many styles of older crank our RV windows.

  • Richard

    Bought a used 2008 Surveyor travel trailer a few months ago.  Was washing off the roof today in preparation for cleaning / treating the roof when I noticed a ‘soft spot’ about 2 inches in diameter.  The membrane does not appear to be broken..  Just a void beneath…   What should I do?   Is it OK to walk no the roof while cleaning/treating?

    Thanks in advance for suggestions, R

    • Curtis

      Richard, In most instances the roof membrane is not glued down to the top of the RV and is only attached by the perimeter molding. An occasional air bubble can be caused by varying temperatures.  It might be there in the morning when the air is cool and disappear during the heat of the day.  Unless the wood underneath has gone soft indicating water has gotten to it you’re fine.  Yes you can walk on the roof but it may be advisable to lay down some plywood to walk on if you feel the structure isn’t strong enough to support your weight.  I always prefer to step where there are rafters which are the stronger points on the roof.

      • Richard

        This spot is like a missing area in the underlayment/decking..  It’s irregular in shape & about 2″ diameter..  It’s fairly close to the bathroom vent fan opening..  No signs of leakage inside…  I was wondering if I should…
        1) try to slip membrane & fill with something + patch ?
        2) Cover with something ?
        3) Get a pro to look at it ?
        4) Just leave it alone.. ?

        Thanks…

        • Curtis

          Richard, My first thought is the plywood they use for roofs is probably a lower grade where there are knots that are possibly missing in the outer layer of the plywood.  The hole only goes through that first ply and the remainder of the sheet is solid.  This can feel like a soft spot  but in reality is just a low spot.  If the bottom of the void feels solid this is probably what you’re feeling and your only concern would be that the plywood in that spot isn’t as strong as the rest of the sheet so stepping on that particular spot might cause a problem.  If the area feels like there is a hole all the way through the sheet of plywood then I would consider re-enforcing it.  If it was me I would cut the rubber membrane only enough to insert a piece of tin over the hole and screw it down with a few screws.  I would then lay the membrane back over the area and seal the cuts with Eternabond roof patching tape.  Here’s a link to Eternabond, I highly recommend this stuff.  http://www.eternabond.com/RV-Leak-Repair-Products-s/22.htm?Click=2032&gclid=COLS1q3ZjaoCFQJrKgod_37ByA

  • MARK

    i HAVE A RUBBER ROOF OM MY RV AROUND THE SHOWER CAP ON THE ROOF THE DYCO SEALANT IS SO BUILT UP THAT IT IS CRACKING QUITE OFTEN.i AM TRYING TO REMOVE THE SEALANT TO REAPPLY WHAT DO YOU RECOMMEND A WAY OF REMOVING? ANY HELP WOULD BE THANKFUL.MARK

    • Curtis

      Mark, Removing built up sealant is just one of the jobs you have to work at slowly.  A putty knife, pocket knife, or utility knife all will be useful but most important is to take care and go slow.  You don’t want to damage the rubber roof membrane.

  • nancyG

    For maintenance to use clean our roof we use Quick n Brite to clean the rubber roof (as well as the exterior of the RV.) We bought our Quick n Brite at a rally years ago and have been using it since. It works better than our previous products in every area of the RV we have tested it on. We joke with our friends we should be representatives because we love our Quick n Brite so much. Easiest thing we have found to clean the roof and exterior is to dilute the Quick n Brite in a bug sprayer and spray down the motorhome then come back with a pole brush and the remaining solution to scrub the exterior down. Giving it a few extra minutes to sit really helps get all the bugs and black streaks off with less scrubbing. We do the same thing on the roof. Spray it down then come back and brush it in, then rinse with a garden hose. It does not dry out or crack the rubber roof. Been satisfied with the product since our first time trying it. Thought I would share my recommendation!

  • Bonnie

    The front roof seam in our RV has cracked, allowing water in the front wall. The front panel outside now has a raised bubble which was not there 2 weeks ago. Once we repair the roof, will this bubble go away or is it now a permanent blemish?

    Thanks for the info.

    • Curtis

      Bonnie, What you’ve got is delamination of the plywood that the fiberglass is bonded to. Sorry, but it won’t go away. It’s a permanent blemish that would be costly to repair, if it’s repairable at all. If you are able to stop any further water infiltration, and are able to dry out what is likely saturated right now, you may be able to stop any further growth of the delaminated area.

      • Bonnie

        Thank you for the info. I used the roof sealing tape as a temp fix to the front seam and the blemish is not getting bigger. It has rained almost every day since I put the emergency patch on, so your tip saved me from further damage.
        Now on to cleaning and resealing the roof….if it ever stops raining!
        The blemish is about the size of a foot print. I had wanted to inspect the roof in the spring and never got around to it. This is the price I must pay for my procrastination.

  • L Jones

    I have a 1997 Jayco RV. I would like to coat the rubber roof with something to help it last longer. We had some leaks in our roof and have some water damage on the inside. We are planning on repairing the damage, but want to coat the roof with something rather than replacing the rubber roof. Do you know of any products that might help?

  • Phyl Pollon

    I’M LOOKING TO BUY A SECOND HAND TRAILER,MY BOYFRIEND WAS ON THE ROOF AND WONDERED IF YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO FEEL THE SEAMS THROUGH THE RUBBER ROOF. Therebdoesn’t appear to be any damage.

    • Curtis

      Phyl, I wouldn’t be surprised if you can feel the seams through the rubber. The rubber is a one piece unit that lays over all the seams in the plywood that makes up the roof. If the roof doesn’t feel soft or mushy in that area there’s probably no issue.

  • BILL KERWIN

    Does any one know of the best rubber roof cleaner for my rv

    • Curtis

      Bill, Mild detergent and water.