Understanding the Causes of RV Roof Leaks and How to Fix Them

Your RV cost you a significant chunk of change, and you expect it to last a long time. The good news is that, when properly cared for, RVs can last for many decades. However, if you do not care for and maintain that vehicle correctly, you could experience some significant issues. What’s more, those issues might crop up well before you expect them. One of the most insidious types of damage is to the roof, and RV roof leaks can be present in a vehicle that is only a few years old.

What Causes RV Roof Leaks in the First Place?

Before we tackle the topic of how to fix RV roof leaks, we need to discuss how they get started in the first place. Are the roofs of recreational vehicles really that weak that just a couple of years exposed to the sun can cause lasting damage? What you need to understand is that RV roof design and construction is really just a series of tradeoffs.

They need to be strong enough to hold up to prolonged exposure to the elements, but light enough that they don’t weigh down the structure and reduce fuel economy. One of the better materials to achieve those goals is rubber – it’s stretched over the wooden sub frame of your RV’s roof to waterproof it and protect it.

However, rubber roofs are not without their flaws. Sunlight will eventually dry that rubber out and make it brittle. Expansion and contraction due to heat and cold, and the stress placed on the roof by driving on the road will then create cracks. Over time, those tiny cracks will widen, and water can enter the substructure of the roof.

Fixing RV Roof Leaks

There are options to prevent RV roof leaks in the first place, such as keeping your vehicle stored out of the elements when not in use, but they are not practical for everyone. However, repairing RV roof leaks with a liquid rubber compound is not only feasible, but surprisingly simple, as well. For instance, RV Liquid Roof can be applied to your RV’s roof with nothing more than a roller. A single coat is all that is required, as well.

Once in place, it is immediately waterproof, so you don’t have to worry about leaks occurring while you wait for the rubber to cure. Once it has cured (a process that takes only a short time), it is also highly UV resistant. That means it will stand up to long years of exposure to harsh sunlight without becoming brittle and losing its elasticity.

As you can see, while there may be no realistic way for all owners to avoid RV roof leaks, there is a solution available that allows you to repair them quickly and easily. RV Liquid Roof is a high-quality roofing solution that can be applied quickly and easily on your own, provides immediate waterproofing, and industry-leading UV light resistance.

Common Causes of RV Roof Leaks

If you’re buying a new motorhome, you probably have a lot on your mind. You may be interested in determining engine performance, fuel economy, number of beds and seats, towing capacity, and other things. The last thing on your mind may be the potential for the roof to leak, but it is common, especially as an RV ages. We go over some of the most common causes for a leak below.

Roof Racks

If you have an RV with roof racks, or are considering the purchase of one, you should be aware that there is a leaking possibility as time goes on. This is because the racks are attached directly to the roof of your RV. Often any leaks from roof racks occur around the screws that hold the rack onto your RV. They often come about because of seal failure or caulking degradation. If you find the problem early, it’s easy to fix with a dose of liquid roof or a new application of caulk.

Leaking Caulk

Speaking of caulk, it is used on several features on an RV, including vents and skylights. You need a seal that is waterproof and caulk is the typical way to ensure this. However, over time this caulk can dry out and shrink which pulls it away from seams that it is meant to protect. It’s a promising idea to reapply caulk every year or so to avoid this problem.

Ladder Mounts

While not all RVs have a ladder for access, many do. These are convenient and useful, as nobody wants to carry a ladder around everywhere they go. However, the point where the ladder is mounted can turn into a point for leaks. Leaks can also occur on the RV where ladder is positioned. Keep an eye out for any problems and handle them as soon as you possibly can.

Physical Damage

Damage to the roof is another common cause of RV roof leaks. This might be because of falling tree branches or any other debris. Having something weighty on the roof can also cause problems that lead to damage on the roof. These types of situations can get nasty quick, so be on your toes. Using liquid RV roof repair can make the surface of the roof seamless again and stop any leaks in their tracks.

Aging

A final reason for leaks is through natural aging. Your RV is going to be exposed to various elements which can weaken the roof after a period. Cold temperatures, sunlight, and even rain can cause some amount of damage. Therefore, inspecting the roof at least once or twice a year is a good rule of thumb.

If you let a leak get worse, it can be much harder to fix when you do get around to it. Keeping some liquid roof around, which is great for patching problems before they get extreme, is an excellent idea. Save yourself the trouble of needing a professional, who is going to require a much larger budget to repair the roof.

Liquid EPDM Is the Easiest Way to Repair RV Roof Leaks

RV trips are a lot of fun. You can go virtually anywhere the road will take you and bring all the comforts of home with you.

However, a leak will quickly put an end to your good time, which is why you should bring liquid EPDM with you and understand how to do the following.

Before You Begin

While it’s tempting to simply go up on your roof and start applying liquid EPDM to anywhere you see RV roof leaks, take an extra moment before you get started. It’s vital that you make sure you’re getting the area responsible the first time.

Unfortunately, this won’t always be obvious. RV roof leaks can be sneaky. You might follow the leak from inside the RV and think you know exactly where it is, but that might only be because the water gets inside your roof and then runs to the corner before it’s visible to you.

Even after you’ve found the area you believe to be the source, there could be other RV roof leaks in the area, so check around.

Note: this is why we recommend applying EPDM before any RV roof leaks ever even occur. If you simply cover the entire roof, they’re just not going to happen.

Do Some Cleaning

Next, you want to make sure you sufficiently clean the area where the leak happened. It doesn’t need to look brand new, but you can’t leave any dust or debris. Otherwise, the seal you’re trying to complete with your liquid EPDM will be faulty and you could end up with another leak immediately.

Apply Your Liquid EPDM to the RV Roof Leaks

You’re now ready to begin. If you’re using EPDM that comes in a spray bottle, you can simply aim and press the nozzle. The container will tell you how much is necessary, but, obviously, you want to make sure the entire area is sufficiently covered.

If you have a bigger job, you’ll want the kind that is applied like paint. This will require you to mix it beforehand. Again, the container will tell you how much water to use.

Then, just use a brush or roller and apply it to the area. You’ll notice that it already begins curing the second it hits the surface. This is also why you want to move quickly, so the liquid doesn’t begin curing too quickly.

Wait a Day

Ideally, you want to give your EPDM a day to cure. As long as it’s not going to rain, you can simply leave your RV in place while you explore the city or hang out at the RV park. If you’re at home, even better. Just don’t use the RV for about a day.

Before you drive it again, check the roof of your RV to ensure the EPDM has completely cured. It does best in temperatures of 55 degrees or higher, but this liquid will work regardless of the climate. You’ll simply find it takes a little more time.

That’s all it takes. This simple process will repair any leak in your RV quickly and without costing you a fortune. So, before your next trip, make sure you bring some with you, just in case.

The Most Common Causes of RV Roof Leaks

When you buy an RV, chances are good that you’re thinking about things like fuel economy, engine performance, towing capacity, the number of beds and seats provided, and other considerations. It’s pretty unlikely that you’re thinking about the roof, or the possibility that it will leak. However, RV roof leaks are not uncommon, and they become much more likely as the roof ages. Here are some of the more common causes of RV roof leaks to bear in mind.

Leaking Caulk

A number of vents, skylights and other elements actually pierce the roof of your RV. Where these meet the roof, you need to have a watertight seal. This is usually done with caulking. However, over time, caulking dries out. It can dry and shrink, pulling away from the very seams and edges it is meant to protect. If left untreated, it will eventually crumble away. It’s highly recommended that you reapply caulking once per year or so on the roof of your RV.

Roof Racks

While not all RVs have them, roof racks are handy. They allow you to store extra items, extra equipment and more. However, because these are attached directly to the roof of the RV, there’s the potential for leaking over time. RV roof leaks from roof racks tend to be located around the screws that hold the rack to the roof, and usually coincide with caulking degradation or seal failure.

Ladder Mounts

Most RVs have a ladder that grants you access to the top of the RV. While important and definitely more convenient than carrying a ladder with you at all times, the ladder’s mount points can become the source of RV roof leaks. There’s also the potential for leaks on the back of the RV where the ladder is located (where it attaches through the side to the frame).

Physical Damage

One of the more common causes of RV roof leaks is damage to the roof itself. Falling tree branches are a good example of this, but such damage can be caused by any number of other things that come into contact with the roof. Even something with enough weight that just sits on the roof for an extended period can eventually cause damage.

Aging

The aging process, combined with exposure to the elements, will eventually weaken the roof of your RV all by itself. Over time, this can lead to leaks through damaged roofing material. Sunlight, freezing temperatures, and precipitation will all take their toll.

Repairing RV roof leaks can be a time-consuming process if left until the leak has caused significant damage. In a worst-case scenario, you might be looking at having the entire existing roof torn off, as well as damaged parts of the siding, and then replaced. It’s a better option to take a proactive stance and use a product like Liquid Roof to handle RV roof leaks while they are still relatively minor.

What You Should Know about RV Roof Coatings

What would you say is the most critical part of your RV? Is it the engine? Maybe it’s the HVAC system. Perhaps it’s the size of the fresh water and waste water tanks. All of these are certainly important, but the roof is even more so. If the roof is in good shape and prevents water from leaking in, you’ll enjoy a comfortable trip no matter where you might be bound.

However, if the roof is aging, or already suffers from leaks, it’s a different story. RV roof coatings can be used to breathe fresh life into your existing roof, sealing leaks and giving you years more enjoyment out of the vehicle. Of course, they’re not all the same.

Compatibility with the Existing Roof Material

One of the most important considerations when comparing RV roof coatings is compatibility with the original material used to construct the RV’s roof. Manufacturers use several different materials, and not all coating products are compatible with each type. While you have plenty of options, Liquid Roof is one of the few that can be applied to just about any existing roofing surface with a little bit of prep work.

RV

When Does It Become Waterproof?

One of the most widely used RV roof coatings in the industry is a liquid acrylic elastomer product. Lightweight and relatively durable, these products offer some benefits. However, they are not immediately waterproof. This means that any exposure to moisture during or right after application can cause serious problems. Liquid Roof does not have this issue, and is waterproof as soon as it is applied to the roof of your RV.

Strength and Durability

It is important to realize that while you can find a broad range of RV roof coatings on the market, not all of them offer the same strength and durability. You’ll need to make sure that the product you choose offers good resistance to standing water/ponding, and that it is able to hold up well to the following:

  • Freezing temperatures
  • Severe precipitation
  • High heat
  • Direct sunlight
  • UV exposure

Does It Shrink?

Some RV roof coatings on the market are applied easily enough, but they shrink as they cure. This can complicate matters, meaning that you need to apply more of the product than you would with another option. Liquid Roof does not shrink as it cures, ensuring that the areas to which it is applied remain protected even after it has finished drying. It can also be applied in just a single layer (called a ply), which reduces the amount you must use.

Flexibility Is Important

Finally, make sure that any UV roof coatings you’re considering maintain their flexibility after they have dried. Liquid Roof maintains its flexibility, but other products can become stiff and brittle after curing. This makes them much more easily damaged, and can reduce the lifespan of your roof.

As you can see, Liquid Roof is one of the best options for anyone considering RV roof coatings to repair or replace their existing roof.