The roofs of RVs are basically flat so water and melting snow does not readily run off. They are designed to be as light and compact as possible. Maintenance requires inspecting the roof at least every 6-months to check the sealants at the seams and all of the protrusions through the roof. There are four commonly used materials for RV roofs: molded fiberglas, filon, aluminum sheeting and “rubber”. Aluminum sheeting and molded fiberglass are the most durable. However, any of the materials can be cracked or punctured by impact with a tree limb or other object. Filon is a very thin sheet of fiberglass that is easily cracked by impact or pressure. “Rubber” roofs are very popular with RV manufacturers because they are inexpensive and easy to install. However, they require the most care. If the roof material was not installed correctly, it may pull loose around the edges, or come loose from the roof surface. If the rubber is not adhered to the roof surface, it will lift when going down the road from the air turbulence at highway speed. The movement of the rubber will usually eventually cause it to rip or pull loose at a seam or protrusion. The rubber should be inspected at least twice a year to be sure that it is properly secured at all seems and protrusions, is secure on the roof deck, has no cuts from impacts, and the materials is in good condition.
How do you know if the material is in good condition? Look at the texture. The rubber material is manufactured with a thin, white layer on top that protects the rubber from the UV rays of the sun. If the white finish is cracking so that it looks like textured leather, then it needs to be seal coated before it is too late. If there are black blotches showing on the roof, if could just be mold, or it could be areas where the white protective finish has worn off. The way to see if it is mold on the white versus whether the white has worn off is to wet your finger and rub the outer edge of the black area. If the black rubs off, it was mold. If the black spot gets bigger, then the white has worn off. If the white is wearing off, then the roof needs to be seal coated.
The usual reason for the white to wear off is from somebody scrubbing the roof with a stiff brush and/or power washer to get it clean. The roof should only be washed with a SOFT bristle brush and gentle water from a hose nozzle. RV dealers have the appropriate soaps for washing roofs, which is not harsh. RV dealers have the appropriate materials for coating the roof if the white protective layer is starting to wear off or crack. Materials come in different price ranges. The better materials cost more, but they don’t oxidize and cause chalky white residue to run onto the windshield and sides when it rains. The leading manufacturer of rubber roofs is Dicor, and their coating product does not oxidize. There are cheaper brands that will probably oxidize in a couple of years.
If you happen to get a tear or puncture in your roof or sidewalls, you can patch it with Eternabond tape. It is available at RV dealers, or go to www.Amazon.com and select “automotive” and then enter “Eternabond tape”. Eternabond has an incredibly long life and sticks amazingly well. However, if you have impact damage to your walls or roof, it would be better to notify your insurance company and get the damage permanently repaired at an RV dealer. Usually, if there is damage to the roof, insurance companies will authorize replacement of the entire rubber roof rather than risk future water damage if a patch should fail.
Fiberglass and aluminum roofs can be permanently repaired much like a body shop repairs the hull of a boat, so it shouldn’t ever be a problem again. Important: Be careful on an RV roof! If it is damp, you could easily slip and fall to the ground! If you step on an area of the roof that feels mushy, that probably means that the wood has rotted underneath the roof covering, which means that there has been a water leak. This needs to be diagnosed and repaired promptly before it gets worse, or before the dampness causes mold to grow in the RV.