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RV Roof Repair: How To Fix Holes in an RV Roof

RV Roof Repair: How To Fix Holes in an RV Roof

Some RV repairs can be temporarily put on hold, but an RV roof repair is not one of them. Failing to repair your RV roof can cause a frustrating and expensive set of circumstances that will only grow worse with time.

Because roof repair is such a critical piece of RV maintenance, in today’s post we’ll share with you some important tips for finding and repairing holes in an RV roof. Let’s get started!

How Can Your RV Roof Get Holes?

Unless your RV is stored indoors, your RV roof is constantly exposed to varying climates and weather conditions. The ever-changing environment can cause caulking and seals to expand and contract repeatedly, which can eventually lead to holes, cracks or gaps in the roof.

Holes can also occur when you’re on the move. A tree branch might scrape and puncture the rooftop if you were to underestimate the height of a tree limb, for example. This type of accident can easily occur and can cause significant damage to an RV roof.

RV roofs can be damaged by tree limbs and branches.

RV roofs can be damaged by falling limbs or branches, or by the degradation of sealants over time and weather exposure. This is why it’s so important to regularly check the condition of your RV’s roof.

Tree damage can also occur when you’re sitting still. Anytime you park your RV under a tree, you risk damage. High winds, lightning, or a tree’s advanced age can cause branches or entire limbs to drop. If your RV happens to be parked there at the time, your RV roof could sustain extensive damage.

RV Roof Types

Not all RVs have the same type of roof, of course. The four most common types of RV roofing are EPDM, TPO, fiberglass, and aluminum. Let’s take a look at some details, including the pros and cons of each.

EPDM and TPO are both commonly referred to as “rubber roofs” although they’re not identical products. EPDM (ethylene propylene diene terpolymer) is the least expensive and easiest to install. This lightweight material doesn’t dent, scratch, or scuff easily, but RVers can generally pick up repair materials from their local big-box store when it does. Holes generally occur from lack of preventative maintenance or rough impacts with tree limbs.

TPO (thermoplastic polyolefin) is a white, single-layer rubber-like roofing material. Because it’s white, it excels at reflecting heat from the sun. TPO roofs come in a variety of thicknesses depending on the manufacturer’s request. Whether or not the thicker material is more effective over the long haul seems to be a hot topic in RV discussion forums.

TPO roofs have a laminate cover that helps keep them from weakening and developing cracks. This material is applied in sheets, which increases the potential for damage due to aged or faulty caulking.

RV roof vent pipe with a clean, new coat of Dicor self-leveling sealant.

Properly sealed vent pipes and other roof penetrations are vital to preventing leaks and expensive repairs.

Fiberglass is another common RV roofing material that’s especially durable. RVers appreciate the fact that fiberglass is rot and rust-resistant, both significant concerns for RV roofs. Despite its many benefits, if fiberglass is damaged, repairs can be expensive, requiring a fair amount of labor. Fiberglass can become damaged from extended exposure to intense heat which can cause cracking.

A fourth common material used for RV roofs is aluminum. Aluminum roofs tend to be capable of avoiding serious damage from contact with light tree limbs and branches. This metal roofing material is also fire-resistant. Despite these good qualities, the list of cons is relatively extensive. While aluminum may be more robust than rubber or fiberglass, a few bumps or a minor hailstorm can quickly diminish the smooth appearance of a new aluminum roof.

Aluminum doesn’t work well with adhesives, so rivets are generally used to secure it to the roof structure. Any hole in an RV roof creates an opportunity for leaks. Aluminum tends to retain its shape which you might not consider being a “con”, but in fact, it has the potential to mask leaks and other damage.

If you want to know even more about all the different types of RV roof materials, read our post all about them: The Complete Guide to Your RV Roof

How to Inspect Your Roof for Holes

No matter what roofing material your RV uses, it’s very important to regularly inspect your RV roof for leaks, cracks and degrading or damaged sealants. Many RV manufacturers recommend checking all seals every 30-90 days. Catching holes and potential leaks early is the key to minimizing repair time and costs.

If your RV doesn’t have an attached ladder, you’ll need a way to gain access to your RV’s roof, such as a folding step ladder, or a collapsible extension ladder. Once you get up there, do a broad visual sweep of the surface, looking for scuffs, rips, tears, or dents, followed by a detailed inspection of every potential source of leaks.

Of course, you should only go up onto your RV’s roof if you’re comfortable that you can be safe up there. If you’re not physically able to climb up there, then don’t. And be especially careful if your roof is wet so that you don’t slip and fall off!

Minor RV roof repairs such as resealing vents as needed avoids the development of leaks.

A quick check of the sealant around vents, fans, solar panels, air conditioners, and antennas every 30 days or so keeps our RV roof in great condition, avoiding potentially costly leaks. This Dicor sealant has cracked severely enough that it could easily be allowing water to penetrate through the roof and needs to be cleaned and re-sealed.

Inspect potential problem areas, and then take a closer look at the seams and caulking. Look for cracks and signs of hardening or separation. You’ll also want to inspect areas around vents, air conditioners, antennas, solar panels, and any additional installations.

Cleaning Your RV Roof

Ridding your RV’s roof of harmful substances is one of the best preventative measures you can take. You’ll want to do a general sweeping of your RV’s roof to remove excess leaves and debris. This presents an opportunity to thoroughly inspect your roof for mold, mildew, and sap.

Next, spray the roof with clean water to remove loose dirt and grime. Having a few tools on hand, such as a long-handled sponge mop or soft brush, is helpful for this process.

Check your owner’s manual to learn what the manufacturer recommends for cleaning your RV, and the roof in particular. Be aware that using products that include petroleum distillates on rubber roofs can damage them, or the adhesive that bonds them to the roof structure. This could potentially void your warranty.

Rubber roof cleaners can work well with fiberglass and aluminum roofs as well, but double-check any warnings on the packaging to confirm before purchasing. During the cleaning process, give extra attention to areas where mold, mildew, tree sap, bird droppings or other stains are present. Rinse thoroughly and often to prevent residue and grime build-up.

If you’re standing on the roof while cleaning, watch where you step. Most importantly, never step backward without looking, and don’t step on anything not meant to walk on, such as skylights or vents.

RV Roof Repair for a Rubber Roof

The first step to repairing an RV roof composed of rubber is to clean the damaged area to see the extent of the damage.

Self-leveling lap sealant is an important tool for DIY RV roof repairs.

Using the appropriate type of sealant is critical to good, durable DIY roof maintenance and repairs.

If you’re doing routine maintenance, use a tube or two of self-leveling sealant with a caulking gun for any seam holes or cracks. Just be sure that you’re only using the self-leveling sealant on flat, horizontal surfaces as it is too fluid to stay in place on sidewalls. It’s the nature of the sealant… it flows and self-levels in order to smoothly and cleanly seal the surface you apply it over. And because it remains pliable it can flex and remain sealed, even if the parts it’s sealing expand/contract differently with changes in temperature or due to movement.

If you discover a puncture or tear on your RV roof, there are multiple RV roof patches and RV roof tapes (Eternabond is a popular & effective choice) that will provide a quick, easy, and durable fix. It comes in several different combinations of width & length, and several different colors:

RV Roof Repair on a Metal Roof

Clear your metal RV roof of any debris before you begin a repair. Inspect the repair area carefully and take note of what’s around it. Remember, metal roofs are capable of concealing the true extent of any damage.

Inspect the seams and use seam tape and patching compound to fill them and prevent future leaks. Eternabond is one of the most popular tapes (it comes in several colors, including gray which will likely match your metal roof better than other choices), which can actually be used on any type of RV roof, and is virtually permanent. The key is to make sure any seams are completely covered by the tape, overlapping if needed.

RV Roof Repair for a Fiberglass Roof

Fiberglass is less forgiving than other RV roofing materials when it comes to damage. Extensive damage likely requires professional assistance, which can be costly. You’re also at their mercy in terms of the repair timeline. If you’re handy, it’s possible to fix minor cracks and blemishes in a fiberglass roof. Just know your limits and when to hire a professional to prevent future problems.

For any issues you can repair yourself, clean the damaged area thoroughly, and let it dry. Sand the damaged area to provide a smooth surface for repair sealants. If you’re confident, you can even use fiberglass resin, and fiberglass cloth if needed, to make the repair yourself.

But for most minor damage, Eternabond is a great fallback, which just about anyone can apply.

Stay Ahead on Maintenance

We cannot overstate the importance of preventative maintenance. Regularly checking your RV’s roof for damage and cracking seals is the best way to notice small changes that may occur over time. Note that the warranty on your roof may depend on having your RV inspected annually and evidence that you’ve been doing preventative maintenance.

RV roof leaks can cause serious and expensive damage

Maintaining your RV roof seals is important to prevent a leak… and serious damage. The seam where the rubber roof met the sidewalls allowed water to seep underneath, doing extensive (and expensive) damage to the substructure.

Cracks and sun damage to your RV’s seals can potentially allow water into your RV. Leaks can often go unnoticed until significant damage has occurred. Water sitting in your RV’s ceiling and walls can cause mold to grow, leading to potential health issues for anyone regularly spending time inside the RV. Of course water penetration left unchecked over a long period of time can lead to serious structural damage and rot.

We inspect the roof of our RV about once a month. We recommend that you regularly inspect your RV’s roof as well and that you don’t put off even the most minor repairs. Tending to minor wear or damage as it occurs may be easy and inexpensive. But delaying regular DIY maintenance and repairs can lead to extensive damage and very expensive professional repairs.

Our best advice: Stay on top of your RV roof! ????

But if you haven’t you can check out our video (from many years ago, but still useful) about how to repair holes in an RV roof:

Geek Out with Us Every Week

Join our newsletter to learn about all things RV-related. Every week we offer free tips, tricks, product reviews, and more to our online community of RVers. Whether this is your first time on the road or you’re a seasoned expert, we’d love for you to geek out with us!Some RV repairs can be temporarily put on hold, but an RV roof repair is not one of them. Failing to repair your RV roof can cause a frustrating and expensive set of circumstances that will only grow worse with time.

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Ed Looney

Friday 28th of May 2021

What's not clear to me on the roof is ... do you have to remove old Dicor seals before replacing them, or can you just clean well, and place a new layer of new Dicor Lap Sealant right over the old? If you have to remove the old Dicor, how do you do it? Is this something you have had to do?

TheRVgeeks

Saturday 29th of May 2021

Hi Ed. Good question. If you check out the video in this earlier post (Preventing RV Roof Leaks (Dicor Maintenance)) you'll see what we usually do is just clean up the existing Dicor and then lay a new coating over top of the old. As long as the old Dicor is still well-sealed to the roof and whatever object is penetrating it (antenna, roof vent, plumbing vent, etc), that should be all you need to do.

If it's been a bunch of years of doing that and the Dicor has gotten excessively thick, or if there are signs that the Dicor has lost its adhesion to the material underneath it, then we'll go through the process of removing the old in order to apply an entirely new seal. To do that, you have to carefully remove the old Dicor (we use a putty knife, but our fiberglass roof is pretty durable... if you have a rubber (EPDM/TPO) roof, you'll want to be extra careful when scraping and use a plastic putty knife gently). Once the majority of it has been physically removed, we can clean the area with mineral spirits (again, for a rubber roof, use mineral spirits sparingly as it can penetrate the rubber and end up weakening the adhesive that holds it to the substrate). Once cleaned, we can apply the new seal using fresh Dicor. But it's pretty rare that we have to do that.

Hope that helps!

Alicia Fudge

Sunday 24th of June 2018

What’s the best product to seal around pluming and electrical from underneath my outback. I need to seal everything to keep mice from getting in. I used spray foam last year but I still have them this year

TheRVgeeks

Sunday 24th of June 2018

Hi Alicia! Sorry to hear about your rodent problem. We've had more than our fair share of them over the years, have tried just about every recommended solution, and unfortunately, there doesn't seen to be a magic bullet. There's just no way to seal everything tightly enough, and they can get through, or eat through, just about anything. We've tried peppermint oil, dryer sheets, CabFresh, and even sonic repellers to keep them away, and steel wool or brass wool to plug up openings. They still find a way in. The best solution we've found is to keep traps set and checked wherever you see mouse droppings, and kill them fast before they can do any damage. If you're having a lot of them, a multi-kill bucket trap with water in the bottom might be best.

Q5gDsfhi+PU8bRtCFf2JeUxBpBP2LY3B8EiZ3Jgh3ls=

Thursday 5th of April 2018

Our camper is ess than a year old.We have a much larger hole than the holes that your dish left behind. the hold is more like a tear. It is about 3in across on one end an about 1/2 in. on the other and about 7 in. long . It was spotted during an annual inspection. The dealer is saying that we need an entire new roof, $8k. I think that is completely ridiculous since the camper was about $13 new. Can a hold of this size be patched with the tw0 products you used, or are we faced with an entire roof replacement? thanks

TheRVgeeks

Thursday 5th of April 2018

Hi Christine. Without seeing the damage, it's hard for us to be sure, but the idea of spending eight grand to replace the entire roof on an almost-new $13,000 RV sounds pretty outrageous. Did you experience a tear in the roof material, such as from driving under a tree branch? Or is it a deeper, more 3-dimensional gouge into the roof structure? If it's just the roof membrane that's torn, we'd think that using Eternabond would be perfect, since that's exactly what it's made for. Again, without seeing it, we can't be sure (and it might need the eyes of a professional tech anyway), but at the very least, we'd get a second or third opinion. Water penetration is of course the big danger, but if it's just the membrane of a rubber roof that's been torn, we'd think that overlapping sections of Eternabond tape would do the job. Dicor also makes a roof repair kit: https://dicorproducts.com/product/patchit-roof-repair-kit/ If you use this, you might want to finish the job by using Eternabond all around the edges, just to be sure!

Keith Setzer

Wednesday 24th of May 2017

Hi Guys, thank you for your very helpful videos. I need your thoughts related to small cracks on my fiberglass roof. I purchased a new Newmar coach with the factory fiberglass roof and after 14 months and only 400 miles of ownership noticed several small 1 to 2 inch diameter (what I would describe as spider cracks) all located mid way from front to back of coach. I talked with the great guys at Newmar regarding my concerns and sent them photos. Newmar technicians talked with the roof supplier and are saying not to worry, the cracks are from stress in the clearcoat and not in the fiberglass material. The fix is to sand the areas with a 600 grid paper and apply a clearcoat spray. A year has past now and I noticed there are many more small spider cracks in other places all over the roof. Have you experienced or know of these cracks in your years of RVing and how should I address them. You guys are awesome. Thank you for your help. Regards, Keith

TheRVgeeks

Wednesday 24th of May 2017

Hi Keith!

I guess our first question would be "why is there clearcoat on the fiberglass on the roof?" Are you by any chance referring to the perimiter of the roof where it curves down to meet the sidewalls? We've never seen fiberglass with a clearcoat on it.... other than painted sections, as in that curved perimeter area.

Our white fiberglass roof has never had any issues, and seems to be a normal fiberglass gelcoat with nothing that could crack. The perimeter however is another story. That area, both all along the sides of the roof as well as the front and rear caps, is painted body-color, and covered with a clearcoat. Well... it WAS covered with clearcoat, until it began flaking off quite a number of years ago. It started slowly, but has progressed to the point where there's more area without any clearcoat than with it. It looks horrible (but fortunately not so horrible from the ground), and we've been planning to have it re-painted and re-clearcoated for some time. We just haven't gotten around to it yet.

Our problem is a known issue though, and we think it's somewhat common. We just had friend get the perimeter of their Winnebago's roof re-painted and re-clearcoated after they had the same flaking issues we have.

If you're having the beginning of the same clearcoat-flaking-off-the-perimiter issue we've got, we'd recommend getting in touch with Newmar about it, and being as forceful as needed to get them to re-do the whole perimeter. Because we can tell you from experience that it will continue to get worse until it looks awful. Ours didn't start until maybe about 5 or 6 years ago, and slowly at first, but it was flaking, not cracking. Of course our now-12-year-old rig was already getting old enough at that point that we never contacted Newmar about it. Wish it had started sooner, and we probably would have.

If you're having this issue up on the main, white area all over the roof, we have no experience with it, have never heard of it, and don't know what to tell you to expect. We're still are trying to wrap our heads around plain white fiberglass having clearcoat on top of the gelcoat. Can't imagine why they'd do that, since the embedded color in the gelcoat is what keeps fiberglass looking like new for a very long time (like ours does).

From the timeline you mentioned, we assume you're out of warranty regardless of what model you own (what with the higher end rigs getting two years of warranty). But just out of curiosity, what model do you own? We're not saying that Mtn Aire, Essex, London Aire & King Aire get special treatment above and beyond other rigs. But it can't hurt your chances of getting special out-of-warranty dispensation if you're driving one of those. ;-)

Sorry we're probably not much help here, but please let us know what you decide to do and how you make out.

jennifer

Thursday 26th of May 2016

Great videos! Gotta say, they are super helpful. I recently acquired an old Coach with a rubber roof, and there dis speculation of potential leak at the antenna. Nothing seen, but cabin pressure test indicated it may be a potential spot. The shop wants to install a whole new antenna for around $300. Frankly, I don't use it at all and its probably analog ( 1998), so wanted to simply seal it up. They say I can't. I couldn't understand why a simple repair couldn't be done. A little Google and Voila!- here you are! I'm subscribing. Next -I wonder how that repair is holding up for you? I also noticed someone in comments on Youtube that suggested a bulkhead cap. Not sure where to find such a thing. Maybe in your "store" or links? Anyhow, just looking for your feedback. Keep up the great work! Thanks.

TheRVgeeks

Thursday 26th of May 2016

Hi Jennifer! Our repair is holding up great. But if you remove the antenna and there is a hole to fill that goes all the way through the roof to the interior, you might want to fill/pack the hole prior to waterproofing it with Dicor and/or Eternabond. Keep in mind that the repair we did here was only small screw holes that did not penetrate the entire roof, so just waterproofing was enough. Sorry we're not sure what bulkhead cap they might be a referring to. So glad you found us here. Welcome! ?

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