For all fans of the great outdoors, an RV is by far the best way to get around while really experiencing the freedom that camping out has to offer. Inside they have all the mod cons that we have come to expect from today’s living. Comfortable beds, a kitchen, electricity, and a bathroom are just some of the features these homes on wheels come fitted with. There are alternatives, of course: expensive hotels, caravans that must be awkwardly wheeled into position, and of course, the trusty tent, which after the first few nights will leave you longing for the comfort of your bed.
With so much going for them, it isn’t surprising that for those who can afford one, an RV is the top choice for people up and down the land. These homes on wheels do have a few drawbacks, however, their high price and poor gas mileage put many people off. Aside from these two factors, RV’s do have one other major drawback, which should it not be remedied quickly, could leave you with a hefty repair bill or even a vehicle that is no good to anyone.
RV interiors are made of wood, since this is lighter than the metal alternatives. The problem comes as, after time, RV roofs are prone to leaking. Since this water runs down walls and interior fittings, you might not even know you have a leak until it has already caused a lot of rot and damage to your RV’s wooden interior. If you discover that your RV’s roof has a leak, you should take action immediately to fix the problem. That is where a good RV roof sealant steps in to save the day (as well as saving you from a huge repair bill).
How can I spot a leak in my RV roof?
Leaks can be really hard to spot. The best way to find a leak is to do an inspection of your RV every 3 to 6 months (depending on its age). Some people do an inspection only once yearly, which should their RV spring a leak, runs the risk of remaining undiscovered for many months and therefore causing lots of damage during that time.
In order to spot a leak, you have two options. You can either wait for a heavy rain and take your RV outside to inspect the interior or get up on the roof to do a visual inspection for cracks. If you don’t get much rain but wish to simulate rain, then use a hose to do so. Leave the RV under the rain or hose for about 10 to 15 minutes before going inside with a torch to inspect every part of the exposed roof, including inside the cupboards, to search for leaks. To back up your visual inspection, you should touch all the top edges and seals around the roof to see if you can detect any damp spots. If you either see or feel dampness then the chances are that you have a leak. The main areas where you might expect to find a leak are around the sunroof and vents where seals become hard over time and therefore allow water in.
How can I fix a leak in my RV roof?
How to find the best RV roof sealant
The first thing that you need to consider when looking for a roof sealant is what kind of materials your RV roof is made from and already sealed with. Here are the two most common materials that are used to seal RV roofs:
EPDM is a synthetic rubber, which due to its excellent ability to withstand a wide variation in heat without becoming porous or brittle, makes it an excellent substance to use as a sealant. In less extreme climate conditions, you can generally expect EPDM rubber to retain its waterproofing qualities for around 10 years. In the extreme cold of the northern parts of the United States and Canada, or the extreme heat of the southern United States, you can expect EPDM to perish at a faster rate, resulting in a lifespan of anywhere from 5 years and up.
TPO has slightly different qualities to EPDM. To start with, it looks shinier and has a more chalk like texture. It doesn’t look or feel rubbery, so is preferred by many owners because it blends in with the existing materials and colors of RV roofs. The material itself is more rigid and doesn’t oxidize like EPDM, meaning that theoretically, it should last longer than EPDM too.
When trying to decide on which type of sealant to use, you should definitely do your homework to be sure to find out which type of roofing material your RV has. With this knowledge you can then make sure that whatever sealant you buy is suitable for your RV. If you don’t check, you are sure end up like one of those people, who a few weeks or months after they have done a roof repair, find themselves literally removing the very same sealant because it has already started to peel off. Do your research beforehand, as it will definitely save you a lot of time and effort in the long run.
How to use sealant to repair your RV’s roof
Though the types of possible repairs you might need to make to your RV roof will differ depending on what kind of leak you have, the base process is fundamentally the same. So whether you have a general age-related leak or one resulting from an accident, follow these simple steps to repair your RV:
- Start by identifying the exact place where the leak is occurring. Inspect the existing seals to try to identify any cracks or holes where a leak might be coming from.
- After you have found your leaks(s), you should clean any cracks or holes with a towel and some mineral spirit. If the old seal is too far gone, then remove it completely by using a sharp knife or your fingers.
- Your hole should now look clean and shiny and completely visible. Using a sealant gun or some form of an applicator, slowly add your sealant to the hole. Any good sealant should be runny enough to penetrate deeper into the hole while also be self-leveling.
- After about half an hour, inspect the sealant which you have just applied to see if any crack(s) remain. If you find that there are still some cracks, reapply the sealant. Repeat this procedure until all cracks are fully sealed.
- It is worth inspecting the new seal(s) after a few days just to make sure they are good, but otherwise, you are now good to go.
Though many people will feel the need to try to sand or cut away the top layer of the sealant they have just applied in an effort to make it look better, you should resist this urge as it may well reduce the effectiveness of the sealant and reduce its effective lifespan. Sealed RV roofs might not look pretty, but they are effective at keeping out water, and that’s all that really matters.
Please be aware that seals around skylights may require a different type of sealant to the other parts of the roof. If you are not sure whether or not this is the case, we strongly advise you check in your vehicles handbook to see what material has been used so you can research which sealant is best to use for the repair. If you fail to use the recommended materials for repair, you may well invalidate your vehicle’s warranty.
Other types of sealant
When attempting any inspection or repair of your RV’s roof, please take extra special care when getting up and down from the roof. You should use a good quality ladder that has been secured firmly to the ground. Believe it or not, each year many people are injured by falling from RV roofs, something which occasionally does result in death. When inspecting your roof with water, make sure that you don’t climb up again until it is dry. Don’t ever attempt to stand up on your RV’s roof either, but rather move around on your hands and knees as this is safer.
Top RV Roof Sealants
Dicor Self-leveling Lap Sealant
It has been specially formulated to be weather and UV resistant to make it longer lasting and to help it resist discoloration. The sealant has a good level of viscosity, so will seep into holes more deeply to create better seals. It is designed to level off on horizontal surfaces to ensure the best possible finish, something many owners appreciate. Though not as cheap as the pot based sealants, this really effective formula does still offer excellent value for money.
- High-quality product
- Can be used on EPDM sheeting as well as aluminum, vinyl, wood and many other materials
- UV damage resistant
- Won’t discolor
- Self-leveling sealant
- Won’t cause stains
- Long lasting
- Requires applicator gun
EternaBond RSW-6-50 RoofSeal Sealant Tape, White – 6″ x 50′
This tape is incredibly easy to use. You only need to quickly clean up the surface area to make it free of dirt and then you are ready to apply the tape. EternaBond tape contains a silicon lining that makes it 100% waterproof, as well as helping to prevent it from sticking to other surfaces when you are trying to apply it. This tape has the added bonus of being designed to expand and contract in differing heats in order to maintain a perfect seal with your RV’s roof, no matter what the weather.
- Suitable for warm to very hot environments
- Easy to use (requires very little prep)
- Flexes with roof’s expansion and contraction
- Silicone lining for total water proofing
- Dimensions: 6″ x 50′
- Not suitable for very cold climates
- Not ideal as a long term fix
3M Marine Adhesive Sealant 5200 Tan, 06501, 1/10 gal
This sealant is made from a polyurethane polymer that dries to its maximum strength within 48 hours and forms such strong bonds that it can even be used to seal gaps below the waterline, such as in boats. If it wasn’t for its rather unpleasant smell, this sealant that would be higher up on the list.
- Such an effective sealant that it can be used above and below the waterline
- Dries to full strength in 48 hours
- Made from a polyurethane polymer
- Resistant to vibration, heat expansion and even direct shocks
- Comes with a rather unpleasant smell
Flex Seal Liquid Large 16 Ounce (White)
You need to be careful when applying it, however, as it is likely to run through the hole into the RV if you pour too much too quickly. For larger holes, we definitely recommend using a roller or some other application tool. If you don’t have one then these are available from Flex Seal but must be purchased separately.
- Easy to apply
- Highly effective formula
- Long lasting
- Great value for money
- Ideal for all climates including extremes of heat and cold
- Not so convenient to bring on trips in case of emergencies due to large can size
ToughGrade Self-Leveling RV Lap Sealant for Camper Motorhome Rubber Roof
Ideal for horizontal surfaces, it can be used for vertical seals, provided you have the skill to work around it being another self-leveling sealant. It is fully UV resistant and can cope with even the harshest temperatures. The main drawback of this ToughGrade sealant is quite simply its price. At nearly double the price of the other gun applied sealants on this list, it works out as quite an expensive choice, but then again, you really do get what you pay for.
- Designed for all kinds of roof repair
- Self-leveling sealant
- UV resistant
- Won’t discolor
- Long lasting
- Quite expensive
- Only available in white
Heng’s Rubber Roof Coating – 1 Gallon
This combination is undoubtedly the reason why this sealant scores so highly on customer satisfaction. It ticks all the right boxes and offers long lasting seals that are great for all climates except for the extreme cold.
- Designed for rubber roofs
- Works well on seams, tears, vents, and on air conditioners, etc.
- UV resistant
- Expands and contracts with roof
- Crack resistant
- Nontoxic formula
- Needs more than one coat due to thin formula
Liquid Roof RV Roof Coating & Repair 1 Gallon
It comes in a one-gallon can that is enough sealant to cover about 42 to 46 sq. ft. of roofing. The real strength of this formula is that it can be applied outside without having to worry about any sudden downpours. This is because it dries so quickly that even shortly after being applied, it can withstand any rain shower, without being damaged. Though not as competitively priced as the Heng’s sealant, Liquid Roof’s product still offers excellent value for money.
- RV Roof Repair
- Liquid EPDM
- Single Coat Application
- 42-46 Sq. Ft. Coverage
- Application can be a little messy
Cofair QR325 Quick-Roof Waterproof Repair, 3 Inches x 25 Feet
An added advantage of tape is that you can use it to repair side window holes and leaks in the same simple way that you repair the roof. Primarily designed for aluminum roofing, this sealant tape can be used on most materials, provided they are cleaned up properly. That said, it should be noted that it is not so effective when used on wood.
No matter if you are looking to do a temporary patch-up or a long term fix to your RV roof, this excellent sealant tape is the perfect choice for any RV owner.
- Designed for aluminum roofs
- Can be spray painted over
- Excellent for quick patch-ups
- Can be used on all types of holes including skylights
- Easy to use
- Backing and tape tend to separate quite easily
COFAIR PRODUCTS UBW425 4×25 WHT Ultra Bond
Made in USA, it is designed as a multirole sealant to fix a huge range of materials. So if you want a good sealant to use on your home, outhouse, pond liner, tent, as well as your RV, then this is it.
- Made in USA
- Easy application
- Suitable for EPDM, and TPO, as well as numerous other materials
- Might require a second coat as formula is a little thin
Dicor BT-1834-1 1/8″ x 3/4″ x 30′ Butyl Seal Tape
- Great for small repairs
- Easy to apply
- Great for difficult corners/edges
- 1/8 Inch x 3/4 Inch x 30 Feet
- Needs to be applied when cold otherwise it’s a gluey mess