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Maintaining Your Rubber Roof
The rubber roof that is present on most recreational vehicles provides an excellent barrier against water, insects and other outside forces. This membrane (either TPO or EPDM) is typically glued to the roof substrate and is sealed at all of the roof openings (i.e. vents, air conditioners, etc.) using high grade and waterproof silicon sealants.
One should think of and treat this membrane in the same way that one regards and cares for the skin on the human body. It should be kept clean, moisturized and quickly repaired in the event of an injury such as cracks or tears. The two major enemies of any recreational vehicle are sun and water. UV rays from the sun break down the protective barriers allowing water to penetrate and destroy your rolling manse. These protective "skins" are extremely important in the never-ending battle to keep the liquid stuff (not to mention creepy crawlies) on the OUTSIDE of your camper.
Basic MaintenanceAs noted above, the roof membrane should be kept clean, free of debris and moisturized. It is not necessary to clean the roof as often as the camper itself is washed, however, it is a good idea to inspect it at each washing and take whatever action is appropriate at the time. At least yearly (preferably every 6 months) the roof should be cleaned with a good quality cleaner/conditioner such as Thetford's Rubber Roof Cleaner/Conditioner. This product provides the proper cleaning strength to remove most of the loose dirt on the roof, as well as the moisturizers and UV protection to keep your rubber roof supple and ready to withstand the elements.
It is NOT necessary to SCRUB the roof with a stiff brush, nor should you EVER power wash your roof!! The membrane is made up of a black rubber substrate, which is coated with multiple layers of white rubber powders that are applied under heat and pressure. The intent of this approach is to provide UV protection by allowing the roof to "shed" it's top layer in the same way that human skin peels after a severe sunburn. (As an aside, it is this process that is the primary cause of black streaks on the sides of your camper.) At any rate, when all of the rolled rubber layers are gone, all that is left is the black substrate and when this happens, it is time to replace the membrane, which can cost as much as $175 per running foot to accomplish. Scrubbing or power washing the roof simply speeds up this process and is not necessary.
But hey ... if you have deep pockets and don't mind shelling out a few Franklin's to replace your roof, feel free to ignore my advice! We'll be more than happy to replace the membrane for you for the right price!!
If you happen to be a clean freak, just repeat this mantra to yourself 100 times and you should be able to sleep peacefully ... "No one can actually SEE the top of my camper anyway so the stains don't matter!"
Detailed MaintenanceIn addition to cleaning and moisturizing the roof membrane, it should be inspected thoroughly on a yearly basis for tears in the roof and/or cracks along the seam lines. UV rays from the sun tend to break down the caulk seams and roof vent covers. We recommend resealing the roof seams at least annually with a good quality rubber roof sealer such as Plas-T-Cote rubber roof coating.
Also, you should know that these coatings ARE NOT intended to cover the entire roof! They are used to seal ONLY the caulked seals around the vents, antenna, front and rear seams, etc. If you paint the entire roof you'll get quite a surprise when you're pulling your camper to the beach and the Man pulls you over because huge sheets of reseal compound are flying off on the road behind you! The coatings WILL NOT adhere to the roof itself.
The plastic vent covers should be inspected carefully and replaced as needed. Prolonged exposure to the sun will cause the plastic resins to break down and, eventually, the vent covers will simply crumble, leaving you with a wet bed at a minimum and serious structural damage at the worst.
All of the products mentioned here are available at our retail store or can be ordered and delivered to you via our online catalog. Access our catalog by clicking the link below.
Finally, do not attempt "do it yourself" roof repairs unless you are extremely proficient in performing these repairs. Your roof stands between you and much of the great out doors. Treat it with the degree of respect that it deserves and it will serve you well for many, many years!