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How to Repair an RV Roof Cover

How to Repair an RV Roof

(Because Even Your RV Needs a Band-Aid Sometimes)
RVing comes with its share of "oh, s#!$" moments. Backed-up tanks, blown tires, and, of course, failing RV roofs — the last of which is likely why you're here now. Maybe you hopped on your RV for your biannual roof inspection (the one you totally always remember to do) and found the tear or soft spot, and you're hoping a repair job can spare your roof for another few years until you have to replace it. Or maybe you had the pleasure of a surprise leak two weeks into your month-long trip and just need to make it back home without incurring any additional damage. The bad news is...well, you've already found the bad news. The good news is that a torn, leaky, or otherwise damaged RV roof doesn't have to be a tragedy of epic proportions. Let's go over your options for repairing your roof, when to consider replacing it, and how to run damage control on your rig after a leak. In this article:RV roof issues come at different severity levels, ranging from shallow tears to serious water damage. Obviously, the worse the damage, the more intensive the repair process will be. The root of most roof problems is a tear or crack in the membrane, or a cracked/peeling seal. If you’re lucky, this will be the extent of the damage, and it can be fixed with a patch and/or new sealant. If you’re not so lucky, these roof imperfections can lead to leaks, rotted wood, and one big expensive headache for you. If you have this kind of damage, you’ll need to remove and replace all water-damaged parts in addition to fixing the leaky spot. Safety note: If you've never been up on your roof before, you may not be sure whether or not you can even safely get up there. A general rule of thumb is that if your rig came with a factory ladder or built-in ladder-mounting location, it's walkable. If you don't have this, it's probably not walkable. Some RVs come with a weight capacity sticker with this information, and you can also check with your manufacturer or dealer to be sure. If you can't walk on your RV roof, you'll have to prop a ladder up to the side of it to make the repair. If you get on your roof and feel it give slightly beneath your feet, consider distributing your weight over the roof with a piece of plywood. Keep toward the edges (but not too close!); the weakest parts of your roof will be the center and around your vents.

How to Patch an RV Roof to Fix a Tear or Crack

When to patch your roof: If you have a tear or crack in your roof membrane (for instance, once caused by a stray tree branch). When to replace your roof: If it’s damaged beyond what a patch can cover (a large gouge or hole), or if it’s 15+ years old, consider replacing it. (Check out our guide on replacing an RV roof here.) Tip: It’s a good idea to carry an extra patch or repair tape with you on trips in case issues pop up unexpectedly!
Roof Tear and Patch
1. Choose your patchChoose an appropriate RV roof patch kit that's compatible with your roof type. (Click here for help identifying your roof type.) Also make sure to choose the right color and size.A patch kit like # QR74FR by Quick Roof is compatible with most standard RV roof types, including EPDM, TPO, metal, fiberglass, and PVC.Note: If you have a PVC roof and have membrane left over from when you installed it, you can use a scrap of these leftovers as a patch.
Roof Patch Kit
2. Place the patchCut the patch to the appropriate size, if necessary. Clean the area, then carefully place the patch over the crack or tear. Smooth it out so there are no bubbles or raised edges (don’t try to lift or move the patch once it’s on — it can damage the roof you’re trying so hard to save).If you're using leftover PVC membrane, spread PVC cement on your patch and place it. This will create a permanently seal. (Unlike for your PVC pipes, no special primers are necessary for roof repairs.)
Place roof patch
3. Smooth out the patch with a roller or scrub padSome scrub kits, like this one, come with a scrub pad included.
Smooth out patch with scrub pad
4. Seal the patch if necessaryFor some patches, you can press them in place, and you're done. For others, it’s recommended to apply self-leveling sealant around the edges of the patch. Alternatively, you can weld it in place with a heat gun. (Check the instructions that came with your patch kit for application recommendations from the manufacturer.)
Roof Patch Kit
Watch Now: How to Patch an RV Roof

How to Reseal or Recaulk an RV Roof

When to seal your roof: When your current seals are cracked or peeling, and as part of your regular biannual maintenance routine. How Often Should You Seal an RV Roof? You should reseal your roof every year, at least once a year. Even better, inspect your roof 2 - 3 times a year and reseal if you find any issues (ie, cracks or peeling). What Type of Caulking or Sealant Should I Use? Use a self-leveling sealant for horizontal surfaces and no-sag sealant for vertical surfaces. Also, make sure any sealant you use is compatible with your roof material.Sealing your roof is pretty straightforward:
  • Remove old sealant. The cleanest solution is to remove old sealant with a plastic putty knife or trim remover tool (just be careful not to rip your membrane). Tip: Using a heat gun or hairdryer can help you remove stubborn sealant. Note: You can apply new sealant over the old sealant without removing it first, as long as the old sealant is still adhering to the roof. (If it's peeling up, it needs to go.) If the old sealant is in good shape, clean it (you can use isopropyl alcohol, denatured alcohol, or roof cleaner), dry it, then apply a layer of new sealant.
  • Apply new sealant around roof accessories and trim pieces. Don’t forget to also seal around your windows, latches, and any other potential entry point into your RV!
  • Let the sealant dry 24-48 hours before you travel or get it wet.
What is the Average Roof Reseal Cost? It depends where you go, how big your rig is, and which services you have done, but it’s not uncommon for prices to range between $1,000 - $2,000 for a full reseal on a large camper (removing all the old sealant, applying new butyl tape, and applying new sealant on all necessary surfaces). Of course, it’s up to you whether you want to pay a pro, but in our opinion this is a job most handy DIYers can handle. A DIY job only costs the price of materials—about $20 per tube of sealant, $30 per roll of butyl tape, and your time.
Peeling up sealant with plastic trim tool
Pictured: Peeling up sealant with platic trim tool
Sealing around RV vent
Pictured: Sealing around RV vent

How to Fix an RV Roof Leak

RV roof leaks are pretty much the worst case scenario as far as roofs are concerned; it means they failed their one job of keeping your living space safe and dry from the elements. Leaks can lead to all sorts of damage, which may appear as a soft spot, stain, or mold on your RV ceiling, walls, or floor. Left untreated, water damage can wreck a whole camper and leave it unusable. How do you know when you have a leak? Check for visible water damage along the walls or floors (such as stains or mold). You may also notice a spongy wall, or you can use a moisture meter to detect water-damaged areas. There are 4 main steps to treating any leak: identifying the leak, assessing the damage, fixing the leak, and fixing the damage. Keep in mind that every RV repair will look a little different. One RVer might have water damage in their walls while another has it under the floor. One person may take the opportunity to replace a good chunk of their RV, while another may keep renovations to a minimum. Your RV leak fix will look a little different than your neighbor's, but in general, these are the steps to follow:
  • Identify where the leak is coming from. If you have an interior leak, this can be trickier than it sounds, because in an RV water often enters in one spot and then appears in a completely different spot. Your seals are the most likely location for a leak, so check them carefully for cracks or holes if you have trouble finding the source.
  • Assess the damage so you know what you’re dealing with. This will involve dismantling the area surrounding the leak (I know this part hurts, but it’s necessary). Is the damage on the roof itself? Remove your vents, fans, or other accessories around the leak to expose the trusses and plywood beneath. Is it behind the interior walls? Remove your trim and outlet covers, then remove the panels with a pry bar or by plucking out the staples with a screwdriver or pliers. Check for rotted wood, mold, and wet insulation behind the walls.
  • Fix the leak so it doesn’t happen again. Even small entrances into your RV can cause big damage. Make sure to fix the leak by patching or sealing it.
  • Fix the damage. Remove any wet insulation in your roof or behind your walls. Replace any rotted wood. Dry everything out with a fan or dehumidifier — you don’t want to go through all this trouble just to cause new mold and mildew by sealing up something wet. Anything with mold or mildew also needs to be cleaned or replaced. If your interior panels are moldy, you can replace them with other panels of your choosing. In fact, you can make the best of a bad situation here and choose a fun new accent panel for your wall! Alternatively, you can paint it with a primer like Kilz and a new color. Just make sure that anything staying in your RV is cleaned with a mold killer or bleach solution (1 cup bleach to 1 gallon water). Also, a safety tip: wear a mask when dealing with mold (I’m sure you have a few lying around these days). Add caulk along the walls where any moisture could potentially come in.
Cracked RV Sealant
Pictured above: These cracked roof seals are prime spots for leakage to occur

How to Fix a Soft Spot on an RV Roof

Soft spots happen when water seeps beneath a torn membrane or a cracked/peeling seal and rots out the plywood or OSB (Oriented Strand Board) underneath. In this case, you’ll need to replace any damaged boards, insulation, and trusses; you’ll also need to patch or reseal the leaky spot to prevent it happening again. Note: It’s important to make sure what you’re feeling is really a soft spot and not just part of the roof that’s less supported than the rest. The dangerous kind of soft spot is the kind that feels spongy beneath your fingers; this is a red flag for rotting wood. However, if the roof plywood is solid, and the roof just gives slightly beneath your weight (but not when you press your fingers into it), it might just be that this part of your roof doesn’t handle weight as well. If you’re not sure if you have water damage (or if you know you do), try taking off your vents or other interior accessories inside the RV. Move your insulation out of the way, grab a flashlight, and check out the newly exposed roof plywood and trusses for damage from the inside. It’s important to know exactly how extensive the damage is.Fixing the soft spot:
  • Peel back the roof membrane to expose the rotted wood. If you plan to replace your entire roof membrane, go ahead and remove it all now (you can check out our how-to guide for replacing a roof here). If you hope to keep the same roof membrane after replacing your plywood, you may be able to re-glue it. When you pull up the membrane, chunks of plywood might stick to the back side (this is pretty common). If this happens, you won't be able to re-glue the membrane in place. However, if this doesn’t happen and the membrane remains smooth, you might be able to re-glue it onto your new plywood. If the leak is at the roof’s edge, remove the side trim piece and pull up the portion of your membrane covering the rotted section. If the leak is toward the center of your roof, you’ll probably have to cut into your membrane and lift it aside to expose the rotted wood.
  • Unscrew and remove any damaged boards
  • Cut out a new section of plywood or OSB and screw/glue it into place. Make sure your seams are flush so your membrane has a smooth surface to adhere to.I'd recommend not using the cheapest wood at the hardware store — this is your roof we're talking about, so while you don't have to buy the best of the best, consider a board on the higher-end of the quality spectrum that's rated for exterior use. In this case, I'd suggest a higher-end plywood or water-resistant OSB board with a thickness of 1/4” or 3/8” to hold up for the long haul. Many RVers use Liquid Nails to glue the boards in place and self-tapping screws (either wood or wood-to-metal, depending on their frame type) to screw them in place. Use seam tape along the edges of the plywood roof sheets. Also, make sure there are no screws or staples sticking up to puncture your roof membrane.
  • Finally, spread roof adhesive on your plywood and apply the new membrane (or reapply the old one). Use a squeegee to smooth out any bubbles. Kind of like applying peel-and-stick wallpaper.
  • Apply self-leveling sealant to the edges of your roof membrane, and patch any cuts if you made them. You can also use Eternabond repair tape (you can find it at your local hardware store) to create a seal.
Water Damage on RV Roof Plywood
Pictured: RV roof with water damage. (Note: This is OSB board, or Oriented Strand Board, rather than plywood.)
Tape between plywood sections on roof
Seam tape in between two plywood planks on an RV roof
Plywood stuck to RV roof membrane
If the plywood sticks to the roof membrane, as it does here, you'll have to put down a new membrane rather than re-glue the old one
Using a squeegee to press out air bubbles on an RV roof
Using a squeegee to press out air bubbles on an RV roof

RV Roof Bubbles or Wrinkles: Are They Serious?

If you noticed during your most recent roof inspection that your membrane is looking a little wrinkly, or that there’s a bubble rising beneath the material, there’s no need to panic or buy a whole new roof. To an extent, bubbling and wrinkling is normal where the membrane didn't stick properly to the adhesive. It’s most commonly seen on aftermarket rubber roofs, but it can happen on original roofs too. Often, these little oddities will come and go on their own. If your roof is under warranty, you can check into getting it fixed, but most of the time this is considered a “cosmetic” issue, and companies won’t replace it for free. The best thing to do is just keep an eye on any bubbles or wrinkles to make sure they don’t get out of hand. Bubbles are typically only a cause for concern if they're big enough to "balloon" up and become visible when you drive. At this point, it can catch tree branches or wind when you're moving and lead to tears in the roof. If this is the case and your roof is under warranty, take your rig back to the dealer to have them fix it for you. If it's out of warranty, you can usually do a simple DIY fix:
  • Cut a slit in the bubble.
  • Check for water-damaged wood underneath the bubble just in case. If necessary, replace any damaged wood.
  • Spread RV roof adhesive on the wood and press the membrane back into place.
  • Patch and seal the slit you made in the roof membrane to reseal it.
  • Check your edges and seals for any cracks or holes, just in case air was able to get in beneath the bubble this way. Apply sealant wherever necessary.
Wrinkled RV Roof Membrane
This RV roof membrane has a slightly bubbled/wrinkled texture, but in this case the wrinkles are small enough that they don't pose an issue
Amber S.
About Amber S.As a content writer for etrailer, I might spend my morning loading and unloading a bike on five different bike racks to figure out which is easiest to use. I might be in the parking lot, taking pictures of an impressive RV battery setup our techs came across in the shop and discussing the benefits of the setup with the owner. I might spend an afternoon in a manufacturer training class for some hands-on experience with new products, and then sit down to assemble all this information into a coherent article.At etrailer, one of our core values is that we are always learning, and I learn something new every day. I start each morning with the goal in mind of taking all of this information and figuring out the best way to answer the questions people ask us (and the ones they don’t know to ask yet), and helping people get the solutions they need to make their lives easier, safer, and more fun. I’m a DIYer at heart, so it brings me great joy to help a fellow DIYer find what they’re looking for, whether that’s a product, an answer, or a community.
Related ArticlesRelated ProductsWritten by: Amber S.Updated on: 6/11/21

K W.

9/2/2022

What seam tape on plywood?...mesh tape or duct tape?

David B.

9/2/2022

I would use Alpha Systems AlphaFleece Tape for Wood Seaming on RVs - 90' x 3" x 1/32" Thick # AL98FJ

Les C.

8/6/2021

Great article Amber. I learned a lot about repairing my RV roof.

Robert B.

8/6/2021

Thank you for the research and information. VERY helpful and informative.



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