To Wash or Not to Wash?
To wash or not to wash you RV roof? That is a good question. A lot of dealers and people in the RV industry will tell you to wash your roof yearly. Many will tell you to wash and apply a coating to it yearly. If your RV roof is EPDM rubber membrane this advise is incorrect. I don't think they intentionally give you the incorrect information, I just think many are not aware of the actual manufacturer recommendations. I can assure you that this practice did not come from the manufacturer.
EPDM rubber roofing was developed for commercial applications. The black EPDM dominates the commercial roofing market today, but it is not used in the RV market due to heat related issues. It was intended to install and simply leave it alone. The EPDM rubber roofing is created to withstand UV sunlight and the exposure to outside elements. It was designed to be a low maintenance product.
The White EPDM rubber roofing is what I want to talk about today. It is what is used in the RV market. The White EPDM has a tendency to chalk. What I mean by this is that you will notice after a few years streaks running down the side of your camper. This occurs because the sunlight and UV rays shine on the membrane which causes the chalking. This will happen to almost any white rubber product when exposed directly to sunlight. Don't be alarmed when you see this happen, it is common. The manufacturers of the white EPDM membrane have never recommended cleaning it yearly. When you clean this membrane regularly, you are washing off the material that has chalked. This exposes a new layer to direct sunlight and it will also chalk. In a round about way you are washing away some of your roof. The dealer are recommending washing it and then coating it. Once you start coating a roof it can turn into an ongoing project which can prove costly as the years add up. A yearly inspection to check for holes or problems is a great idea, but not washing.
There seems to be a lot of confusion when it comes to the coatings that are advertised for RV roofs and flat roofs in general. Several of these coatings are not compatible with EPDM rubber roofs. Especially on the ones that have been installed longer than 15 years. Always be sure that your coating is compatible with your roof. If not, you could make your roof repair worse by using the incorrect materials. You need to be sure that anytime you apply coatings that you spend extra time and effort cleaning you existing roof. Once you have cleaned your existing roof and think it is clean, it wouldn't be a bad idea to do it again just to be safe. Then carefully examine your existing roof for major defects or damage. Remember, even if you do a good job coating your EPDM roof, your coating is only as good as the surface you coated. The application can be biggest problem with coatings. Most instructions will tell that a gallon is to cover a certain square footage. The instructions will tell you it should be a certain thickness on the roof to work properly. It can be very difficult to spread a coating on a roof with a paint roller and keep the same thickness throughout the roof. You tend to be heavy in some areas and thin in others. This makes it appear that you have the proper coverage in because you have used the gallon for the stated coverage area. If it is not even and one area is thin, the thin area will fail over time.
Universal Patch Kits- The importance of Primer
I have been looking on the internet for information about patch kits designed to repair rubber and metal roofs. I have looked at ten different kits from ten different suppliers and not one of them include the primer (tape activator). I can assure you if primer isn't used in conjunction with the repair tape that your repair will be temporary. I worked in the research and development lab on EPDM membrane and other single ply rubber membranes. I conducted many tests using tape with primer and without primer. In every case the non-primed tape failed after time. I have included a video below to help you visualize what I am talking about.
The reason most suppliers do not include the primer in their kits is because it is a flammable product. This sometimes limits shipping methods. There are just a few companies that include the primer with their patch kit. Flat Roof Solutions carries a universal multi surface patch kit in black and white material. All of our patch kits include the primer necessary to ensure a long term solution for your minor repairs.
D.I.Y. RV Roof Replacement
A friend of mine purchased a used RV unit at an auction. The roof of this RV was leaking which had caused a lot of interior damage. It also appeared that the decking was water damaged. He made the decision that he would have to take off the old roof and put a new one on. He contacted a RV dealer to see what it would cost to put a new roof on his RV. The RV is 9' x 35' and does not have any slide outs. The dealer quoted over $3,500 to take off the old roof and install a new one. This price can vary according to your local dealer. Since I have experience with rubber roofing my friend asked if I would help install a new roof on his RV. Even though I had years of experience on flat roofs, I didn't have a lot of experience installing RV roofs He talked me into doing it, and he purchased a complete RV installation kit for under $700 from flatroofsolutions.com.
RVs are enjoyed by millions of people annually. RVing is a great way to spend time with your family and friends. It provides a way for you to get away from your day to day problems and relax. The majority of RVs use White-on-Black EPDM membrane to protect roofs. This membrane has a proven track record in the roofing industry. However, like anything else, you have maintenance issues from time to time.
History of EPDM Rubber Roofing