The Complete Guide To Metal Roofing On CamperAnthony Day
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Replacing a camper roof or choosing one purely because of the type of roof it has is something that you may face one day.
The roof of a camper has said a lot about how long it will last and the overall age of the camper, including how easily you can fix it when problems arise.
Metal roofs made of aluminum are the best rust-resistant roofs for campers, while stainless steel and painted iron are the oldest. When building your metal roof for your camper, using aluminum will ensure you have the strongest and lightest roof.
The natural response to hearing that metal roofs are better than most others is to wonder why they are no longer the standard. Knowing what makes a metal roof of any kind, good or bad, is important to know how your camper will behave and age as you continue to use it.
Several things need to be understood when buying a camper with a metal roof or replacing your camper's current roof. Many assume that just putting a metal roof on your camper will solve most problems, only to regret it later.
What Are The Types Of Metal Roofs On Campers?
Before discussing all the benefits and problems of metal roofs, we must look at the four types of metal roofs. Each has its downsides and benefits that must be remembered when choosing.
If you plan on upgrading your camper with a metal roof, there are obvious benefits to consider while buying older campers with metal roofs with limitations. We recommend that you consider many things when getting your camper roof.
Aluminum Metal Roofs
Simply put, aluminum camper roofs are the most likely modern metal roof for a camper that you will get. Any kit that can be bought will use aluminum, and we do recommend using aluminum for your custom metal roof as well, allowing for easier building while keeping weight down.
Aluminum metal roofs for any camper, whether retrofitted onto a camper or when originally built with one, will have many folds and support structures. These bends, folds, and structures greatly strengthen the aluminum preventing it from simply bending or flexing when something goes wrong.
Stainless Steel Metal Roofs
Some of the heaviest and most versatile campers with metal roofs will have stainless steel roofs, not only because these may be old trailers that have been converted. Using stainless steel for the roof of a camper allows builders to make it much larger without needing reinforcement.
Generally, if a camper has fewer folds and less overall internal support structure for the roof and just larger metal sheets, it will be a stainless-steel roof. What is important to note is that stainless steel roofs are the easiest to fix, allowing owners to simply weld most problems shut without having to stress about rust or damage.
Older Painted Iron Metal Roofs
The oldest campers, whether vans, trailers or even converted busses, will have painted iron roofs. This has made them some of the heaviest and most difficult campers to maintain, requiring you to spend a lot of time working on getting the camper back in good condition.
A product of the early to mid-20th century, metal campers were popular for their size and the low cost of the material. Requiring that they always have a thick layer of paint to protect the iron, many of them have now become collectibles, with modern campers staying away from using iron as much as possible.
Combination Metal Roofs
The most modern solution and the best one in terms of weight are combination metal roofs, a combination of aluminum and plastic or rubber. This creates a strong roof that does not suffer the same wear and tear as other metal roofs while being an extremely lightweight option.
It should be noted that while these roofs are much more affordable, they are also not as long-lasting as just a normal aluminum roof. This is usually because the plastic or rubber degrades with age, requiring the camper's owner to replace the plastic or buy a new camper.
How To Choose The Right Type Of Metal Roof For A Camper?
Now that we know the general types of metal roofs you can buy, we need to move on to choose the metal roof for your camper. We will cover three things, each being affected by the size of your camper and the age of the camper you are looking at.
We have seen several people blindly buy a camper because it has a metal roof, only to regret it on the first dusty and stormy road. In contrast, others have upgraded their camper without considering what effect it will have on the rest of the camper and their fuel efficiency on the road.
The Weather Conditions Of Your Camp Areas
The most important part to remember when choosing the type of roof for your camper is to consider the weather conditions. When camping in mostly hot areas, a simple metal roof, either stainless steel or aluminum, can be coated with less than an inch of insulation to keep the heat from the inside.
When camping in colder areas, you must apply thicker and better insulation to prevent the heat from escaping your camper. We have seen several extremely cold campers with even a drizzle in autumn, making it difficult to enjoy the camping experience.
The Capabilities Of Your Vehicle
If you converted a van into your camper and want to upgrade the roof to allow for more space, you need to consider the weight added with a metal roof. Moving from the van's normal panels to a reinforced aluminum metal roof can greatly increase the weight above what you may expect.
The larger you make the roof, the more weight will be added, whether with a van or a normal camper. You need to consider the strength of the engine and the ratings that the rest of the vehicle has, which can limit how much weight you can add.
The Type Of Roof Already On The Camper
A camper van will already have a metal roof of some kind; depending on the age of the vehicle, it may be aluminum or stainless steel. You may find that the roof synthesizes aluminum, plastic, and fiberglass for a camper trailer, affecting your overall options.
Replacing the metal roof or fixing it will affect the structure of your camper, which means that you will need to consider the structure under the roof as well. Fitting a stainless-steel roof on your camper made from wood and fiberglass will cause it to be crushed by the weight of the roof slowly.
What Type Of Camper Do You Have
A trailer camper can usually be upgraded to have a full aluminum or stainless steel roof with much more ease than a camper van. Most camper vans allow for much more weight to be added from the metal roof upgrade without having to be significantly upgraded completely.
Both are the most common campers that could receive a metal roof upgrade and allow for significant changes. We recommend only upgrading the metal roof of a camper van if necessary, as it will mean you can't move while upgrading the van.
What Are The Pros And Cons Of Having A Metal Roof For A Camper?
Now that we know how you will choose your metal roof, we need to look at the three main aspects of metal roofs quickly. Each of these is a pro and a con you will need to consider, usually because everyone has a different situation.
We have seen many people make the mistake of using metal roofs in areas or conditions where a metal roof will only work as a negative. Having something that works in a way to improve your camping experience should always be considered, even when you have a vehicle that could easily move the camper over a mountain.
The Weight Of The Metal Roof
This will always be the biggest downside to using a metal roof on your camper or buying a camper made of any metal. It is extremely rare to see a camper entirely made of aluminum, with most modern campers using a mixture of materials, like this one from Airstream.
Most campers, whether vans or trailers, that have a metal roof will be much heavier than the alternatives. Many camper trailers are specifically built from fiberglass and composite materials to save as much as possible on weight and costs.
The Strength Of The Metal Roof
One of the most ironic things modern designs and engineering has caused for all campers is that new campers are usually stronger than older campers. A full iron or stainless-steel camper from 10 or more years ago is structurally weaker than new composite or aluminum campers.
Often, a new aluminum camper that has been reinforced and properly designed will be much stronger than the older metal campers that are simply sheets of metal. When considering a camper with a metal roof, we recommend considering this as a modern camper is much stronger than many think.
The Cost Of The Metal Roof
The initial cost of a metal roof is much higher than composite or synthetic material roofs, with metal roofs having a much lower overall cost to maintain. If you are upgrading your camper, you will be able to structurally increase the strength of the entire camper by improving the skeleton of the camper.
When fixing or upgrading a camper with a metal roof, you may find that most of it need to be taken apart to fix properly. Which usually reveals changes and weak spots in the camper that needs to be fixed or strengthened, which the metal roof helps improve at the cost of extra weight.