Do you need a new roof, or just roof repairs?

At the corporate location, we get phone calls of all types. In many cases, it is a customer thinking they need a new roof, and we are able to help them learn something new about their RV construction. Yes, we are in the business of providing RV roofs. No, we are not in the business of selling you something you don’t need. We would rather educate you, and share our experiences, than schedule you for a job you don’t need.

Wrinkles don’t always mean your roof has to be replaced

A common phone call we get is from RV owners who are looking for prices for a new RV roof because they have wrinkles in their roof. Wrinkles happen for many reasons, but not all reasons mean you need a new roof. Wrinkles in the front of your unit, especially with 5th wheels is usually an indication that wind is getting under the membrane and blowing it up. This type of roof failure isn’t always easy to find, in many cases when you aren’t moving the roof lays flat again and you see no obvious signs.

Next time you are going down the interstate, look at 5th wheels. It won’t take long and you will see one with a big bubble up front before the front air conditioner. If there are no wrinkles when you aren’t moving, usually the only way you will find out you have this problem is:

  1. Your rubber roof will get cut under your ac unit. The roof is pushing against the metal frame and will make a nice even cut.
  2. Your buddy happens to see it when you are traveling together.
  3. You notice you have a weird shadow when going through the mountains on a narrow road. True story, this is how one of our customers found out.

There can be a few reason why this happens, but the most common reason on fifth wheels is somewhere around your hitch area has a crack or opening. The wind enters this opening, goes up the end cap, under the trim and under the rubber.

Another factor is how well the factory glued down the material at the factory. You can have a roof that had sufficient glue and you will never see this happen no matter what openings or cracks you see in the end cap.

Other causes are small holes in the trim or the end cap on the top. The rubber usually stretches but in extreme cases it will finally tear and shred. In these type situations, yes you need a new RV roof. There is no proper way to remove the front trim and reglue that part of the RV roof back down.

Wrinkles in different types of RV roof

Wrinkles in an EPDM RV Roof on a Class A coach.

Wrinkles in the EPDM rubber roof of a Class A RV.

Certain brands of RV roofs are plywood that is stapled down on the edges. With time the wood flexes, pops loose and you will see clear, defined lines on your RV roof with a slight bubble in the RV roof. If the membrane is intact, you do not need an RV roof replacement in this situation. This is totally cosmetic and is not hurting the membrane ability to keep your unit water tight. You do need to keep a close eye on these areas for staples though, they will puncture the membrane allowing water intrusion. These loose areas are easier for low hanging branches to snag so inspection is always your best protection against expensive RV roof repairs. If you see air pockets in wide open areas and the wood is solid and you see no holes, you do not need to worry. This spot just didn’t receive enough glue and with time and temperature changes, the membrane has come loose from the wood. These areas bother owners but they are only cosmetic in nature and do not require the whole roof to be replaced.

Almost every RV, coach or 5th wheel, that has a rolled aluminum side radius will have wrinkles. The glue most commonly used to adhere an EPDM rubber roof to the wood substrate does not do a good job of adhering the membrane to aluminum. The glue actually soaks into the wood and bonds to the rubber so it is unable to form that same bond on the side rolls. So if you are worried about wrinkles on the side of your RV, just keep you eye for punctures or holes. The wrinkles are not a failure of your roof, they are a failure of the glue and your membrane is still doing the job it was intended to do.

Do your research before you panic

So remember, wrinkles don’t mean you need to rush out and get a new RV roof immediately. Many customers do have the RV roof replaced as a precautionary measure since the wrinkles make the roof more prone to snagging branches.

On a final note, if you have a fiberglass roof and it doesn’t seem to be stuck to the wood underneath, you don’t need a new RV roof then either. Fiberglass is stiff and just pops loose from the wood with time. Not all the time, but it is very common. Same rule of thumb, if there are no cracks, tears or bad caulking, it is doing it’s job.

Safe travels!