How To Fix A Leaking Camper RoofAnthony Day
If you own a camper, you may experience a leaking camper roof at some point. In this guide, we will walk you through ways of how to fix a leaking camper roof.
Is your leaking camper’s roof proving to be a menace? Is it making life unbearable inside your camper? Are you wondering how you can fix it? If the answer is yes to any of these questions, then you’ve come to the right place.
Fixing a leaking camper roof is not as hard as it may sound. If the leak is due to a crack or joint, you need to reseal it. And if the leak is being caused by a hole on the roof, patching it will get the job done. In case the roof is extensively damaged, replacing it will be the most viable option.
If your camper has a leaking roof, this guide will provide you with tips on how to fix a leaking camper roof. We will take a closer look at the steps to follow when fixing a leaking camper roof. Also, we will walk you through how to fix different types of camper roofs.
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A camper van provides a cost-effective means of enjoying the great outdoors. With a camper van, you have almost all the appliances and facilities that you will need to spend time on the road, for months on end.
But considering that you will be spending the majority of your time outdoors, the elements may cause damage to various parts of your camper. And the camper roof remains one of the most common areas susceptible to damage.
With time, you may notice that your camper roof is leaking, whenever it rains. And if the roof is leaking, the water coming inside may damage various parts of your camper. Besides, your stay inside your camper will be extremely unpleasant when the roof is leaking.
Furthermore, a leaking camper roof may lower the value of your RV. So, you may be forced to sell it at a lower cost than you would if it had a healthy roof.
Therefore, if your camper roof is leaking, you should fix it as soon as possible. The good news is , fixing a leaking camper roof is not as hard as it may sound. In fact, it’s something you can do by yourself if you have the right tools and supplies.
Steps to Fixing a Leaking Camper Roof
As mentioned above, if you have a leaking camper roof, you need to fix it as soon as possible. But before you proceed to repair the roof, you will first need to complete two important steps. And these are inspecting the roof and cleaning the roof.
Inspect the Roof
A comprehensive roof inspection will help you to identify where the leak is coming from. And during this step, you will need to undertake an interior camper roof inspection and an exterior camper roof inspection.
Interior Roof Inspection
So, while you are inside your camper, check the entire ceiling to see whether you can spot the leak. If you notice some old or new water stains, there’s a high chance the leak is within the vicinity.
Exterior Roof Inspection
Some leaks may not appear on the camper’s ceiling. And in such a case, you will then need to conduct a thorough inspection of the roof’s exterior. The importance of conducting an exterior inspection is that some of the leaks may be running down to the side of your camper. And, you can only spot them by undertaking an exterior roof inspection.
For the exterior inspection, you will start by checking the entire roof from the outside. And this means you will have to climb onto the roof. But before you climb onto the camper’s roof, you should first check with your manual whether it can support your weight.
In case your camper’s roof can’t support your weight, you should then conduct the inspection using a scaffold or a ladder. When inspecting the roof’s exterior, check for signs of cracking and soft spots.
You also need to pay close attention to the areas close to or surrounding the rooftop HVAC systems or any vents. The leak may be coming from these areas since the sealants used to secure them usually dry out and become ineffective with time.
Clean the Roof
Once you’ve identified where the leak is coming from, you will then need to give your camper’s roof a thorough cleaning. Cleaning the camper’s roof will help to remove any dirt, dust, grime, or debris present on the surface.
Such elements may prevent the sealant and other repair materials you may be using to fix a leaking camper roof from adhering properly to the surface. So, ensure you clean the entire surface thoroughly until it’s spotless.
When cleaning your camper’s roof, you should avoid using citrus-based acidic cleaners, petroleum-based solvents, abrasive cleaning surfaces and other harsh elements. Harsh cleaning detergents and abrasive cleaning materials can cause your camper’s roof to deteriorate and weaken with time. And when that happens, melted snow, rain, and moisture will penetrate deep into the camper’s seams, thus damaging the wall panels and insulation. Also, once these elements seep into the seems, mold may grow since it thrives in such conditions.
Eventually, you may be forced to replace not only the entire roof but other components of the camper that may have been considerably damaged, which can be extremely cost-intensive.
To this end, you should only use cleaning detergents and materials recommended for RV roofs. In case you will be cleaning a large area, it will be highly advisable to seal off the rest of your camper with plastic, to prevent the cleaning and sealing substances from dripping down the sides, since they may cause damage.
Repairing Different Types of RV Camper Roofs
By now, you have already identified the source of the leak and you have prepared the area, in readiness for the repair. In this section, we will walk you through the different methods that you will use to repair different types of camper roofs.
Rubber roofs have grown increasingly popular over the last couple of years. RV users prefer these types of roofs because they are lightweight and extremely durable. There are three main types of rubber roofs found in campers. These are liquid rubber roofing, EPDM roofing and TPO roofing.
Regardless of the type of rubber roofing, your camper has, you can expect it to last for around 10 years or even more, with the right maintenance. But in case your camper’s rubber roof is leaking, here are some of the repair methods that you can apply, depending on the type of damage.
Patching a Tear or Hole
If your camper rubber roof has a tear or hole, you will need to patch it to prevent water from flowing into the interior of your van. The good news is that, the manufacturers of these types of roofs have come up with roof tapes, patches and other solutions, which are easy and fast to apply. Besides, they are highly durable, if properly applied.
So, you simply need to head over to an RV store near you and ask for these patches. And, there’s a high chance you will find a patch that can adequately cover the hold on your camper’s roof. From there, you simply need to apply it to the hole or tear based on the instructions provided.
As earlier mentioned, the sealant applied around HVAC systems, antennas and other rooftop installations may degrade over time. And when this happens, it may crack and peel, thus allowing water to seep through.
If you’ve determined that the leaking is coming from these joints, you will need to reseal them. Again, there are lots of sealers on the market that will help to get the job done. You just need to do some research and identify the best product for your van. You will then need to follow the instructions provided on the product’s labeling.
Replace the Whole Roof
During your roof inspection, you may have noticed that there are several spots on your roof, which may have been leaking. In such a situation, it would be highly advisable to replace the whole roof. But when it comes to replacing the entire roof, it would be highly advisable to take your van to professionals.
Fiberglass roofs are also quite common in the RV community. Just like rubber roofs, fiberglass roofs are extremely durable. In most situations, these types of roofs will only leak if a cut has been made to install something on the roof like an overhead fan or lamp.
Sealing Vents and Joints
If the leak is coming from an area where a cut had been previously made, you simply need to re-apply a sealant, using a similar approach to a rubber roof. In case the leak is happening around the vents, you should first remove the vent and then apply the sealant all-around before you put it back.
Patching Holes and Tears
Tears and holes are quite rare when it comes to fiberglass roofs. Nevertheless, if you have determined that your camper is leaking because of a hole or tear on the roof, you will need to patch it.
You can either patch the hole yourself if you have the skills and tools or take your camper to a fiberglass repair shop. If you decide to patch the hold yourself, you will need to apply a fiberglass patch and resin, based on the kit’s instructions.
Before applying the patch, make sure you’ve cleaned the surface thoroughly. Also, you should wear the right safety gear, including safety masks, gloves and goggles, since fiberglass has been shown to irritate the skin, lungs and eyes.
Once you’ve finished applying the patch, you then need to finalize with the application of a sealant.
Damaged Vent Covers
Sometimes the leak may be coming from a damaged vent cover. If this is the situation with your camper, you just need to replace the damaged vent cover with a new one. Replacing the damaged vent cover will be easier and more cost-effective, compared to replacing the whole vent.
For many years, aluminum used to be the preferred roofing material for campers. But over the last couple of years, it has been overtaken by other roofing materials like fiberglass and rubber, since they are more cost-effective.
Just like other types of camper roofs, aluminum roofs are also prone to leaking. The roof can be leaking from the rivets used to secure the roof, vents, or even from a hole or tear on the roof itself. So, the repair method will use will depend on where the leak is coming from.
If water is seeping into your RV due to a loose rivet, you simply need to apply a sealant all around that rivet. Resealing for aluminum camper roofs is usually done using special coatings.
Patching a Hole
In case the leak is caused by a tear or hole on the roof, you will need to patch that hole. And, you can easily fix a hole or tear using DIY peel and stick patches. You simply need to ensure you purchase a peel and stick patch designated for your specific roof.
Replacing an Aluminum Roof
If the aluminum roof on your camper is significantly damaged, the most effective fix would be to replace entire panels. You can purchase sheets and install them yourself or take your camper to an RV repair shop for this fix. You also have the option of replacing the aluminum roofing with another material of your choice.
While rare, some DIY camper trailers may also come with roofing made of corrugated plastic. With the right installation, corrugated plastic can be durable and lightweight roofing for RVs. But like other types of camper roofs, corrugated plastic roofing can also develop leaks.
With plastic roofs, overlapping areas are usually the main culprits when it comes to leaks. Also, the leaks may be coming from the screws used to install the roof, especially if they have become loose.
If the leak is coming from the overlapping areas, you should check to determine whether it has been installed based on the manufacturer’s instructions. In case the roof has not been properly installed, you should reinstall it, making sure the plastic sheets are running in the recommended direction. Also, ensure they have the right amount of overlap, to completely seal them off.
In case the plastic roof has been properly installed, then the water may be seeping through your camper’s roof via the screws. If this is the situation, you should remove the existing screws and replace them with new ones. Also, remember to apply a sealant around each screw, to ensure water doesn’t seep through.
Your plastic camper roof may also be leaking due to cracked or severely damaged plastic panels. If that’s the case, you should simply replace them. Replacing is easier than repairing corrugated plastic sheets.
Vinyl roofs are mainly found in older RV models. A vinyl roof is simply a wooden roof featuring a vinyl coating on its surface. One the reasons why these roofs are not common is because they are highly unreliable. Vinyl roofs are easily damaged by the elements, meaning you have to keep fixing them.
If your camper happens to have a vinyl roof and it’s leaking, you should replace the entire damaged panel. Also, can opt to apply rubber coating, fiberglass or other sealants on your entire vinyl roof, in case it’s leaking. But, the long-term fix for a leaking vinyl camper roof would be to replace it with another material, preferably rubber or fiberglass.
RV Camper Roof Maintenance Tips
You may probably heard a thousand times that prevention is better than cure. And this also applies to camper roofs. Without a doubt, the most cost-effective method of keeping your camper’s roof healthy is to prevent damage before it happens.
So, if you want to minimize the instances of leaks on your camper’s roof, you need to take good care of it. Here are some camper roof maintenance tips that can help to keep it in tip-top shape.
Clean Your Camper Roof Regularly
You should get into the habit of cleaning your camper roof regularly, especially if it’s made of rubber. Cleaning the roof regularly will help to prevent the build-up of dirt, dust and debris, which may lead to premature wear and tear. Also, cleaning the roof will help to enhance its appearance. And as earlier noted, avoid using hard cleaning materials or abrasive substances on your camper roof.
Inspect Your Roof Frequently
Besides cleaning your camper’s roof regularly, you also need to undertake frequent inspections. These regular inspections will help you to identify small tears, holes or other forms of damage. You should then repair any identified issues as soon as possible. Repairing smaller cracks, holes, or tears on time will help to prevent the damage from worsening. And as you may probably know, repairing a smaller issue will be much cheaper, compared to a large repair.
Reseal Your Camper Roof
While your camper roof may appear as if it doesn’t have any issues, you should still consider resealing it occasionally. Ideally, you should consider recoating and resealing your camper at least once every year. But, make sure you only use the manufacturer-recommended materials.
Protect Your Roof Against the Elements
While campers are built for the great outdoors, continued exposure to rain, sun, hail and other elements, especially when the rig is idle, can lead to premature damage. To prevent such issues, you should park your camper in a shaded area, away from direct exposure to these elements, whenever you are not using it.
In case you don’t have a designated parking area where your camper will be shielded from the elements, you should invest in an RV cover. An RV cover will help to protect your camper’s roof from sun, hail, wind, ice, snow and other elements when it’s sitting. But, make sure the cover you purchase is specifically built for this purpose.
Wrapping It Up
As you can see, fixing a leaking camper roof is not as hard as it may appear. And, you can do it yourself, as long as you have the right supplies. You simply need to follow the tips we’ve shared above, your camper manufacturer’s recommendations and the product instructions. And you will get the job done successfully. But, in case your camper’s roof is seriously damaged, replacing it will be the better solution.
About THE AUTHOR
Hi, my name is Anthony, and RVs are what I'm passionate about. I bought my first RV when I was 21, and I've been hooked ever since. I'll guide you on how they work, how they can be used in different environments, and how they fit into our everyday lives.Read More About Anthony Day