Lately, you can’t help but notice that your travel trailer roof isn’t doing so hot.
Maybe it looks like it’s starting to sink inward. There may be dents, holes, tears, or other visual damage. Mold or bacterial may have grown in the corners, which is both unsanitary and a health hazard.
No matter the problem, you know you need to do something about it. You don’t want to put you and your fellow passengers in a situation where the travel trailer roof could cave in, after all!
In this article, we’re going to discuss the signs you need a new trailer roof, how much you should expect to pay, and whether it’s a DIY job or one that’s better left to the pros.
Travel Trailer Roof Basics
The same materials you’ll often find in RV roofing are used for travel trailers as well. These include:
- Aluminum: This metal roofing is the most uncommon material you’ll come across. That’s kind of a bummer, because aluminum requires little maintenance. It is heavier than the other materials, so your trailer might weigh slightly more if you have an aluminum roof.
- Fiberglass: Fiberglas is made of a composite of materials, among them glass filaments and resin. This is an incredibly common material, and it also doesn’t require much maintenance. It too is a heavy material, but unlike aluminum, it’s also more expensive.
- Rubber: Although you might be surprised, rubber is another travel trailer roof material some manufacturers choose. Now, this isn’t the traditional rubber used to make tires, but either thermal poly olefin (TPO) or ethylene propylene diene monomer (EPDM). These rubbers are built to be durable so they can withstand basic wear and tear. That said, maintenance requirements vary depending on if you have a TPO or EPDM rubber roof.
Sign You Need a New Trailer Roof
Now, no matter what material your travel trailer roof is made of, it’s not going to last forever. If you bought a used trailer, then you have to be especially diligent in checking the condition of your roof at least once every season, if not twice.
Remember, if the roof of your trailer were to cave in, this could be life-threatening for everyone onboard. It’s your responsibility as the owner of your travel trailer to keep all your passengers safe, including yourself.
As with all parts of your vehicle, maintenance is key to getting the most life out of your travel trailer! After all, even a brand-new trailer roof could become worse for wear in a few years without maintenance.
Now let’s talk more about the various parts of your travel trailer roof that may get worn down or damaged over time. This way, you know what to look out for.
Keep an eye on these parts:
- Ladders: Not every travel trailer will come with a ladder, but if yours does, you need to keep it clean. If there are signs of rust, corrosion, or other serious damage, it might be worth replacing the ladder. Also, when you inspect it, look for any loose screws that may cause the ladder to become unhinged from the travel trailer. As you can imagine, this can be very dangerous!
- Roof racks: Again, these are optional for travel trailers, but yours might have a roof rack. You generally have to worry about the same issues that can plague trailer ladders, including rust, corrosion, and loosening screws.
- Roof fans or vents: When you shower or cook in your travel trailer, have you ever wondered where all the humid air goes? It passes through your roof’s fans or vents. This keeps your trailer from becoming a hot, sticky mess inside. These vents need maintenance to keep running their best. If the fans include automatic thermostats, check each of these to make sure the thermometers aren’t malfunctioning. Also, keep the vents free of dust and debris that obstruct them.
- Roof air conditioners: Some air conditioners are on the roof of the travel trailer. This is one of the most important units in your vehicle, especially if you take a lot of road trips in the spring or summer. You must keep the exterior components of the air conditioner clean, which can be more difficult when the unit is on the roof. Once or twice a year, you should contact a pro to come clean and check the interior.
Another important issue you have to worry about is water damage. This can occur whether your roof is made of aluminum, fiberglass, or rubber. With it can come black mold, fungus, and other types of unwanted bacteria. These may lead to congestion, a running nose, red eyes, and sneezing in your passengers in the short-term, but long-term, they could impact respiratory health problems.
All it takes is a miniscule hole in the caulk or corners of your travel trailer roof for water to get in and leave damage in its wake. You don’t even have to have a significant incident for such damage to begin; a day of bad rain or snow could be enough.
By staying on top of your travel trailer roof maintenance, you should have no problem avoiding water damage. If you do have any, you can decide what to do with it right away before it becomes a serious problem.
Here are some tips for preventing water damage in your travel trailer:
- Watch the weather. Try not to leave your trailer out in the rain or snow for prolonged periods.
- Make sure your roof racks and/or vents are working well through the regular maintenance outlined above. Humidity can lead to condensation, which is the perfect home for mold and bacteria to thrive.
- If your roof racks and vents aren’t clearing humidity from the inside of your travel trailer adequately, it may be time to think of replacing them.
- Check all corners, edges, and seams of the travel trailer roof both inside and out. Do know though that sometimes these are nearly impossible to see, so you might not detect a gap until water seeps in and it’s too late.
- If you can see a gap, though, make sure you caulk it. (We’ll talk more about this later.)
- Be aware that slide-out seams, door jambs, and window seals can also have holes and gaps that may lead to the growth of mold. Check these often as well.
- If a seam or part of the roof is soft and almost malleable, that could be a sign of very serious water damage.
How Much Does It Cost to Replace Your Travel Trailer Roof?
You might have just discovered the worst, that your travel trailer’s roof has signs of water damage or some of the other issues we mentioned above. This can be upsetting news, but not something you can sit and dwell on for too long. Remember, the safety of everyone in your vehicle is paramount, which means it’s time to look into replacing your travel trailer roof.
So, let’s talk money. How much is this all going to cost?
It depends. RV repair company Coach Specialists of Texas broke down their roof replacement costs for an older vehicle, and it totaled about $12,500.
Now, we know what you’re thinking. That is a significant sum of money, and it is! Of course, this is just a baseline. Depending on the age of your travel trailer, the level of roof damage, where you take it to get it fixed, and what kind of repairs the vehicle needs, you could pay less.
Here’s an overview of how much the various repairs might cost as cited from Coach Specialists of Texas:
- Roof removal and disposal is $20
- Aluminum radius material is $5 for every foot, but some travel trailers don’t have a radius, and the cost is unclear if you have a fiberglass or rubber roof
- Gluing the trailer roof costs $60 per gallon, with a gallon used for every 10 feet of roof
- Replacing air conditioning unit gaskets costs about $25 for every gasket
- Sealants used on moldings and roof appliances may cost up to $16 per sealant application
- A roof install kit, which comes with glue, sealant, and butyl tape, may cost up to $300
- Roof membrane replacement material costs vary depending on the footage, with 21 feet of material costing about $720, 25 feet of material costing $850, 30 feet of material costing about $1,000, 35 feet of material costing about $1,150, and 40 feet of material costing almost $1,350
- Roof decking in 4×8-foot sheets cost about $25 for each sheet
Can You Do This Job Yourself?
If you’re feeling a little shell-shocked reading those totals, that’s okay.
You may wonder if you can take care of your travel trailer roof repair yourself to save a little money. You can indeed, but not for all jobs. Obviously, severe water damage, a caved-in or soft roof, and other serious damage should best be left to the professionals to fix.
If you have a fear of heights (since you’ll have to be on the roof to fix it), you also might want to skip doing any DIY jobs related to your trailer roof.
Otherwise, though, you’re free to fix up basic roof damage yourself.
If So, How? Here’s your recommended supplies for DIY repair:
Depending on the damage to your trailer roof, you probably won’t need all these supplies for one job. It’s good to have them on hand for any future repair work, though.
- RV roof patch (you’ll need to get a patch that matches the color of your travel trailer roof; here’s one on Amazon from EternaBond that’s meant for white rubber trailer roofs).
- RV roof caulk (like this one from Dicor).
- RV liquid roof (you can get gallon can from Proguard available on Amazon).
- Roof cover (to prevent some future damage; like PolyPRO 3 Folding Camper Trailer Cover available on Amazon).
Once you have your supplies, follow these 10 steps to fix up your travel trailer roof:
- Using a step ladder, climb atop your roof. You should bring a trash bag, a small bucket of water, and some soap.
- Clear out any branches, sticks, rocks, or other debris atop your roof. Put these in the trash bag. Clean dirt and other messes with the soap and water.
- Assess the damage. This will determine which supplies you need. If it’s a tear or hole in the middle of the roof, for instance, then the roof patch or liquid roof will work. If the damage is along the seams or edges, you’ll want to use your roof caulk. Liquid roof can also be used for this purpose in some instances.
- When applying your roof patch, first measure the size of the tear or hole. Then cut out the amount of patching you’ll need. You can cut a little extra if you want and then trim it down if necessary. Now, apply the patch, putting gentle pressure on it so it sticks. Depending on the brand you buy, you might need special glue for applying the patch.
- If you’re caulking, be sure to let the caulk fully dry before adding a second layer or applying adjoining caulk. This will ensure the holes or gaps are clearly sealed off.
- Many people who have used liquid roof product say that it can be very sticky and make a mess. Also, if it gets on your clothes, it doesn’t come off. Be sure to wear an outfit you don’t care about. Don’t forget the gloves, too!
- Use a trowel or paintbrush to get a consistent layer of liquid roof. Make sure you’re okay with never using said trowel or paintbrush again, because the liquid roof material will probably not come off all the way.
- It’s okay to get a thick layer of liquid roof on your trailer, but don’t carelessly glob it on. You can always add more, but you can’t take it away.
- Let the liquid roof dry fully before you apply more. Follow the directions on the can for drying times.
- When your travel trailer is not in use, put a cover on it. This will allow less oxidization and degradation to occur during the off-season.
Other Tips for Keeping Your Travel Trailer Roof Looking Its Best
Depending on the type of trailer roof you have, you may want to use or avoid certain products. For instance, there’s a risk of oxidization for fiberglass roofs, especially if these lack gelcoats. By keeping the roof clean with acetone and a sponge, you can decrease the risk of the roof oxidizing. You should also apply a gelcoat wax several times a year.
TPO rubber roofs may crack over time, although sealant fixes this. These roofs also need to be wiped down every few months with soap and water.
EPDM rubber roofs are apt to become streaky and chalky gradually due to rain oxidization. Using a sealant should treat this issue. Also, avoid petroleum-based cleaners or other products with an EPDM roof. It could lead to swelling and looseness in the roof, which you can’t fix.
Travel trailer roofs are made of aluminum, fiberglass, or two types of rubber (TPO and EPDM). Any of these materials are prone to water damage, sagging, and holes. The roof air conditioner can also break down, the roof vents or fans can get clogged, and ladders and roof racks can rust or corrode.
If you’re not already doing maintenance on your trailer roof, it’s time to start. That can prevent a lot of damage. Otherwise, you could end up spending somewhere in the ballpark of $12,000 and more to get your travel trailer roof fixed.
Ouch, right? With some liquid roof, patches, and caulk, you can fix most minor damage yourself for far less money. If you notice a serious problem with your roof, though, you will have to step aside and let the pros work on it.
You know what to do now. Get on out there and take a look at your roof. Then you’ll know that next time you head out for a road trip, you and your passengers will be safe in your travel trailer.