Sunday, August 23, 2009

RV's and their Roofs

RV’s and their Roof

One of the things that I hate to climb onto, and one of the things that demand regular maintenance and inspections is the Roof of your RV or Camper. Remember, IT keeps the weather out of your RV, if maintained, but it will allow water to get into the damnedest places in your RV if left to itself. And visible water damage to your RV or Camper, will hurt the re-sale value of your unit more than pretty much any thing else.

A Personal Problem: As I mentioned above, I do hate getting on and off of my Rig’s roof. First I do not like heights, and second, even on jacks an RV is not the most stable place to stand. And the Ladder; I cannot fathom the reasoning behind placing a ladder onto the rear of an RV that cost 1/4M$ or more, with treads that are an inch wide, and 12-inches or so long. Two shoes can barely fit on a tread. And when you get to the top you have to straddle this miniature device and slide your butt onto the roof. I do it, but I hate it!

Straight Ladder: So, deciding that this ladder was insufficient, I looked around and found a great extendable ladder made just for use on RV’s and it packs away in a small package for storage. So after using it several times I learned another lesson. The lesson I learned here was that an extended ladder when placed on the edge of a Rubber or Fiberglass roof can cut or scratch the roof, right along the edge, where EVERYONE can see it. And, pretty soon you have a good chance of these cuts developing into leaks, or at the very least leave you with a very ugly marred roof edge.

Materials: The Roof-Top of Coaches, and other Campers have evolved over time. In years past they were almost exclusively covered in a solid sheet of a Rubberized compound, usually the same as what was used on Mobile Homes.

Today, the majority of the cheaper units still use Roof materials made of Rubber Compounds, while the more expensive ones utilize Fiberglass materials either alone or in conjunction with layered Composite materials. These Composite materials are used for added support for the Fiberglass, but often also for insulation and strength. All of these Roof designs suffer from one common problem.

Even though they, in themselves are designed and mounted to be waterproof for the life of the RV, the first thing that happens after installation, is the installation of devices and accessories, onto the roof.

Some of the most common installations are; Sewer vents, Cabin Air Fans/Vents, Air Conditioners, TV Antenna’s Satellite Antenna’s, Radio Antenna’s, Air Horns, Solar Collectors, Weather stations, etc. Each of these installations require the cutting of, or drilling of, holes through the roof, and then the subsequent sealing of the item to the roof with common outdoor sealants.

The thing you need to know is that your RV or Camper, and it’s roof flex, and this along with the stress of temperature differences over a day, and a season, that are constantly pulling on the sealant used on your roof. And ….. the sealant WILL pull loose or crack open over time. It is just a matter of time.

Your job is to climb up there and check your roof; every 3 months if your unit is in storage, or always before and after each trip you take. If you find problems with the sealant on the roof, it is relatively easy to trim it off of your roof, and apply a new coat of sealant. The sealant is available at almost all RV parts stores.

Fiberglass and Rubber: FYI, one of the great things about a Fiberglass roof is that it does not leech a chalky residue onto the sides of your RV like the Rubber roof does. When I was negotiating the purchase my HR Arista, I was concerned about these same seemingly perpetual streaks on the side of my old PACE-ARROW.

Rubber Roof: The HR rep was there at Lazydays that day, so he and I had a long conversation about the different roof materials. He stated that the residue I was seeing is part of the design of the roof material, and all Rubber roofs will leech this fine white dust onto your sides of your RV or Camper.

This leeching keeps the roof material clean and flexible. He also stated that these Rubber roofs should be cleaned regularly (ready for this?-- “every 2 months”), and only with the appropriate “approved” Rubber Roof cleaners. And the final thing I got from the rep was that you should NEVER seal the roof after cleaning. It will get amazingly dirty and feel very hard and be near impossible to clean. The Rubber material, again, is designed to leech it’s outer surface, so it should be cleaned and never sealed.

Fiberglass Roof: Now with my new HR Neptune, I have a fiberglass roof, and only need to inspect it regularly, and occasionally clean it of dust, pollen, leaves, bird poop etc. And if the manufacturers design is good, the fiberglass will have more than adequate support, and there should never be any cracks develop from people working on the roof. Overall, while a Rubber roof is perfectly adequate, and should last for 15-20 years or if taken care of, a fiberglass roof is the better choice, in my mind, to date.