How to Repair a Rubber Roof on an RV the Right Way

In many ways, recreational vehicles are the perfect home away from home. With RV parks and campgrounds available in almost every corner of the country, RVers can live out their nomadic fantasies without sacrificing their everyday comforts. In fact, most RVers consider their rig an extension of their home — which makes it that much more upsetting when something breaks or falls apart. After all, you can’t exactly replace a broken refrigerator or leaky roof with a new one from Ikea (yet…).

However, because RVs are designed for extended periods of time on the road with little maintenance required, manufacturers cut some corners to keep costs down. One example is the rubber roofing used in many models. Although the intention was good — after all, who wants to spend all day caulking? — manufacturers didn’t use materials that would stand up to outdoor elements for very long… fortunately, these problems aren’t irreparable. Even if you don’t have any carpentry experience or knowledge of how to repair a car or fix broken windows,  there are simple solutions that won’t cost much and won’t take more than a few hours to complete each task.

How to Repair a Rubber Roof

Before you do anything else, make sure you address the underlying problem. If there’s a large leak in your roof, chances are there’s also rot in the roof’s support beams. If there’s a small crack or discoloration in the rubber on your roof, though, it may be repairable with a patch.

Identifying Defects in Your RV’s Roof

Inspect the roof before you attempt to repair anything. Look for areas that may have been damaged by hail or falling branches, because trying to repair damaged areas will only create bigger problems.

There are four main issues you’ll want to be on the lookout for:

  • Cracks: Cracks are one of the most common signs of damage to the rubber roof on your RV. Repairing these can be a little tedious, but it’s one of the easiest repairs to make.
  • Discoloration: At first, discoloration may appear as a stain on your roof, but it can quickly become a problem. This can be caused by a variety of issues, including trapped moisture, UV damage and oxidation.
  • Splitting: Splitting happens when the rubber shrinks away from the edges of the roof. This can cause leaks when there’s rain or snow, but it’s not a permanent problem.
  • Sagging: Sagging is caused by UV damage and can’t be repaired. It’s best to remove the rubber completely in this case, and replace it with a new piece.

Fixing Leaks in Your RV’s Rubber Roof

If you’ve determined that the leak is in the rubber but not in the wood underneath it, you can probably fix the roof with a patch. Most rubber roofing manufacturers will sell you repair kits, but don’t hesitate to buy a patching kit from your local auto parts store as well. You also have options to repair a rubber roof on an RV using liquid rubber and seam tape. Clean the area thoroughly with a household cleanser and dry it completely before you begin. Cut out the bad piece of rubber and replace it with a patch. Be sure to remove any rocks or other debris that may have embedded themselves beneath the rubber.

Rebuilding the Bottom of Your RV’s Rubber Roof

If the damage to the roof extends beyond the rubber and into the plywood, you’ll need to remove the damaged wood and replace it. This may sound like a Herculean task, but it’s really not that complicated once you get started. You’ll need basic carpentry tools, like a hammer, screwdriver, saw, level and nails. First, you’ll want to remove the old pieces of wood, and then replace them with new ones. You can either buy pressure-treated wood or use regular pine and seal it with a waterproof sealant.

Repairing Cracks and Discoloration in Your RV’s Rubber Roof

If you’ve found a crack, it’s best to replace the entire piece of rubber. It’s easy to do, and the repair kits are fairly inexpensive. Before you start, clean the area thoroughly and make sure it’s completely dry. Next, remove the old rubber and install the new piece, making sure to align it properly.

Summing up

RVing is a lifestyle that many people enjoy, but it’s not cheap. If you have an RV, then you’ve probably put a lot of money into it. But if you want to get the most out of your investment, it’s important to take care of your RV. This includes making repairs when they’re needed and keeping an eye out for potential issues. If you’re ready to make repairs to your rubber roof, follow the steps above. They’ll make sure you get everything done right the first time, saving you time and money.