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RV Roof Care and Maintenance - the Basics for Motorhomes, Fifth Wheels and Travel Trailers

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The roof on your recreational vehicle is just as important as a roof on any landlocked house. It protects you and your home from some of the destructive forces of nature, Part-timers, as well as fulltimers, need to plan regular maintenance for the tops of their RVs. Proper roof maintenance will keep your rig snug and dry. Two types of roofing materials are generally used on recreational vehicles: metal and rubber.

Metal RV Roofs:

Metal roofs, usually aluminum, are found on many older motorhomes, travel trailers and fifthwheels. Regular cleaning and inspection are all that is generally required. I use regular automotive wash and wax, and clean our roof one or two times a year... depending on trees we've parked under, how long we stayed under them and what they dropped, or dripped, onto our roof. The birds that live in those trees make a difference also.

Black streaks down the sides of your rig are caused by run-off from the dirt, bird droppings, fallen leaves and other stuff that decays and is washed off the roof of your RV during light rains and heavy dew. Regular cleaning of your roof, especially just before the rainy season starts, will go a long way toward eliminating the cause of black streaks.

You may want to clean your RV's roof more often than three or four times a year if you regularly park under sap dripping trees, fruit trees, trees that attract a large bird population or places where harsh environmental fall-out may settle on your roof. If allowed to stay on your rig for an extended period of time these conditions may result in unremoveable stains.

Rubber Roofs:

If your motor home, travel trailer or fifthwheel was made in the last few years, chances are it has a rubber roof. It's not the natural latex rubber we normally think of though. It's a material called Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer (EPDM) which is specially made for roofing. EPDM rubber roofing membrane is made to last 20 years or longer and usually has a 10 to 12 year guarantee, depending on the brand.

EPDM manufacturers advise that rubber roof membranes do not require the use of any protective roof treatment or roof protector product. The only maintenance recommended is cleaning the roof four times a year.

If you have owned a rig with an EPDM roof for a few years, you've no doubt noticed that the roof surface is chalky. Manufacturers say not to worry, this is a normal process of age and, and that even after 10 years, only 10 percent of the material is lost due to chalking. Plenty of roof is left.

Regular cleaning will reduce chalk buildup and minimize white streaks on the sides of your RV. The correct cleaning product is of great importance for your EPDM rubber roof. Never use cleaners or conditioners containing petroleum solvents, harsh abrasives or citric based cleaners on your EPDM roof. Using such solvents will cause irreparable damage and will most likely void your warranty. If you are uncertain about what is in the product, don't use it. Of course each EPDM manufacturer recommends using their own brand of cleaner, but all approve the use of mild laundry detergent.

While EPDM rubber roofing does not need to be protected from ultra violet rays (UV ) and ozone, the manufacturers do approve 303 Aerospace Protectant as a safe way to resist staining and make future cleaning easier.

To reduce the expense, you may want to treat the whole roof once a year and do only the part of the roof that can be seen from the ground the rest of the time.

After the roof is clean and before you climb down, be sure to inspect all the roof seams, around vents, etc., to make sure the caulking is still in good condition. While you1re up there you might as well check the condition of all vent covers, the air conditioner cover and the TV/satellite antenna, etc.

You may also want to read: RV Black Streaks - How to Clean Them and RV Care Tips

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