Looking For RV Roof Leaks

If you haven't inspected for leaks lately, or are thinking of buying a used RV, a leak check should be on your To Do list. That doesn't mean you should expect leaks, just that your home on wheels comes under a lot more stress than a stationary structure. An RV is a moveable object that experiences bouncing, shaking, twisting, baking, freezing and many other challenges to its structure that can contribute to leaks.

Leaks can be very insidious — that is, they may not be noticeable until significant damage has been done. For example, water can seep into the studs and insulation inside your sidewalls, unseen as it wreaks havoc by soaking insulation and spreading wood rot and mold. Think about the costs involved in fixing this and you'll understand why any RV repair shop will tell you that leak damage is one of the most expensive repairs they make.

Leaks are often hard to spot from the outside. You can't always look at a seam and tell if it's sealing properly. The first and easiest thing to do is inspect the interior for signs of leaks, which may tell you where to look on the outside. We spotted small bumps in this ceiling by the antenna crank. We then went up on the roof and started poking around by the antenna. One spot was swollen and soft below the membrane when we poked it. This appears to be an area where water has seeped under the roofing and caused the substrate to expand and possibly rot. This was most likely caused by a leak around the antenna.

The owner had noticed the bumps but, because they were so small, he didn't bother to investigate further. In the meantime, leaking water was gradually damaging his motor home roof.

For your inside inspection, look for such bumps or places where the interior wall has detached from the studs. Check for areas with mildew or mold, wet patches, or water stains and streaks. After a rain is a good time to look for pools of water and other signs of moisture where it shouldn't be. This includes inspecting the dark corners of your cabinets and closets, even if you have to move stuff around. I've often looked in cabinets or closets and literally found mushrooms growing!

So be aware and don't dismiss such signs, even if they appear small. They could indicate a bigger problem that you definitely don't want to have!

Important facts you need to know about roofing and sealants.

If the sealant around your roof edges, skylights and the like is looking cracked, brittle, loose or turned up at the edges, some repair and replacement is in order. Staying on top of your sealant situation is one of the most vital maintenance steps for preventing leaks. It will also keep your repairs, when they are needed, fairly simple. If the repair area simply needs a good cleaning and removal of some loose material, your work should go fairly rapidly depending on the size of the affected area. If the sealant is too far gone, there may be more work involved in getting some of the old sealant off before resealing. Oftentimes you can simply apply the new lap sealant over the old cracked sealant.

We urge RV owners to get their roofs cleaned at least twice a year 

To help prevent damaging substances from getting too embedded and creating permanent stains.
 This also helps avoid mold and mildew that grow on organic matter attached to your roof. Since many people park their RVs under trees for extended periods of time, your roof can be a ripe target for bird droppings, mulberry stains, tree sap, mold, mildew, fungus and the like.

​The difficult task of getting out stains and difficult substances like tree sap from your RV roof. 

Here we want to emphasize how critical it is to follow your manufacturer's recommendations and use an appropriate cleaner for the type of roof and the type of stains you are trying to remove. For example, many RVs have EPDM rubber roofs that react badly with any cleaner containing petroleum distillates or citric-based chemicals. The rubber reacts to such distillates by swelling up. These chemicals may also discolor the roof. The swelling can loosen the attachment of the rubber material to the substrate and compromise the integrity of the roofing.

When looking for a place to park for a while.

 A nice, big shade tree or a row of majestic pines might look like a comfortable and scenic spot, not to mention a natural shelter from the sun and rain. The problem is, a nice shady spot also becomes a good place to get deposited on — by birds, mulberries, pine sap, and maybe even a branch or two. It’s a good place for dirt to collect, and trees are a handy way for critters that like to crawl and claw to get on your roof.

​So an important aspect of roof preservation is simple awareness. First, watch out for low-hanging branches as you’re driving around! In a crowded campground, especially, they might be hard to avoid in spots. If you do end up in a shady spot, size up the tree you are parking under. What kind of tree is it? As we said, pines can be sap misters. Is there plenty of clearance under the lower branches? Are there a number of dead branches of any size that could drop and fall, as well as any fruit or other substances that could make their mark? Is it part of a dense stretch of foliage that a number of small animals could easily inhabit, or is it set off a bit from other trees?

Lastly, if you’re parked in some potentially damaging spots for a roof, stay on top of it! Make frequent roof inspections and tackle any problems before time and weather make them worse. Remember, protection of your RV and all its contents starts with your roof! 

Is it necessary to protect my rubber roof against UV Rays?

No. But Dicor Products Roof-Gard will add additional protection against damaging UV rays

If I use a roof treatment product containing petroleum distillates on my rubber roof, will that void my warranty?

Yes.

If I buy a used RV and it has a rubber roof, how can I tell if the previous owner used petroleum distillates and damaged the rubber roof? What should I look for?

Two things: First, swelling and uneven thickness of material. Second, loose areas. Petroleum distillates soak in and cause the adhesion to loosen and the membrane to balloon. When the ballooning goes down, the membrane may never adhere properly or completely.

My roof seems to “oxidize” and run down the sides when it rains. Is this normal?

The simple answer is “Yes.” EPDM does oxidize slowly; it is supposed to. This is normal. By oxidizing, your EPDM rubber roof is protecting itself from damaging UV rays. Over the lifetime service of your roof this oxidation process claims about the thickness of two sheets of notebook paper. Cleaning the roof at least four times a year, or more often if necessary, will help greatly.


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A nice, big shade tree or a row of majestic pines might look like a comfortable and scenic spot
A nice, big shade tree or a row of majestic pines might look like a comfortable and scenic spot
A nice, big shade tree or a row of majestic pines might look like a comfortable and scenic spot
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