What is my RV Roof type?


What’s your roof type? It sounds like some weird-left-field corny pick-up line but it’s actually very important information when it comes to RVs and many people do not understand how to identify. Do not worry, it’s a common problem and we would love to give you some pointers!


First, if you have an RV manual that came with your camper, there is a good chance there is some information about your roof in it that you probably should read. If not, we can surely help!


Let’s go over some common RV roofs and give you some pros and cons for each:


Aluminum is the easiest to identify. You’re going to see a giant sheet of aluminum covering your roof with some type of sealant around all the fixtures and seams. On older units, the sealant is commonly mistaken for tar- it’s not―well, it might be tar but the previous owner should not have used tar. Aluminum is a hard surface which is easily discernible from the rest.

Positives: not easily pierced, will not crack, and is long-lasting.

Negatives: This type of roof is becoming less common. Aluminum roofs are common for seam failures and can hide existing leaks because the aluminum doesn’t bubble, peel, show delamination, or ripple indicating leaking. Aluminum roofs tend to be more expensive to repair for this reason as the problem typically becomes worse enough to notice on the interior and by then, you're going to need more than just your roof replaced. Typically you will be performing touchup/reseals consistently throughout the life of this roof.


Fiberglass is the easiest to pronounce and you can identify it by its smooth hard white glossy exterior.


Positives: Durable, lightweight, and customizable when it comes to color.


Negatives: Requires UV protection to prevent Oxidation and is expensive to repair if oxidization, cracking or delamination occurs. 


EPDM is an acronym for Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer (say that ten times fast around the campfire while shoving marshmallows in your mouth‒your kids will love it!). EPDM will typically last 25-30 years if maintained properly. The biggest identifier for EPDM is that it looks like a giant innertube was stretched over your roof. It is the most common RV roof.

Positives: Least expensive to maintain and install. Easy to repair. Lasts 25-30 years when properly installed and maintained.

Negatives: It has a white top which fades to a black sun-attracting appearance. EPDM can be damaged by grease, citric based and petroleum-based products. If installed wrong, shrinking can occur exposing seams over time or if there are rolls in the flat surface it could create pooling of water which is conducive to causing leaks. EPDM sheds and will form black streaks down the sides of the camper.

SIDEBAR: A EPDM roof has a black film that doesn’t go away, so when repairing you will need to apply a primer that will allow the silicone-based repair products to adhere properly. However, here at Ziollo our RV Flex Repair is formulated so that you do NOT need a primer! How amazing is that?! Saving you time and money!

 

TPO is Thermoplastic Polyolefin which is white and has a rubbery feel. It has a very glossy but bumpy appearance (though it is not slippery when wet where EPDM is).

Positives: The white finish reflects heat and similar to EPDM it is inexpensive to maintain and install. Lasts 15-20 years when properly installed and maintained.

Negatives: Lack of consistent quality between manufacturers as the chemical compound is still being improved. Difficult to install as it is typically installed with other fibers which causes more rigidity. TPO also tends to require more frequent sealing.  If installed wrong, you can experience leaks at seams and cracking.

Here is a chart to help you compare:

Aluminum

Fiberglass

EPDM

TPO

Appearance

& Positives

Hard Shiny

-lightweight

Hard Shiny        - normally white but can be different colors

- durable

Black Inner Tube

-smooth

- Slippery when wet

- Can be pinched

- lightweight

- easy to install

- black streaks down the side of the camper after some time.

-resists high heat

Glossy White

- Cannot be pinched

- lightweight

-bumpy texture

- UV resistant but cannot resist high heat loads

Negatives

Expensive to repair requiring repairs consistently throughout its lifespan

Heavy and susceptible to oxidization

- requires a sealant for protection

Black appearance attracts the sun and aids in its deterioration.

- can be damaged by citric/ grease/ petroleum-based products

Lacks consistent quality between manufacturers

- Slightly more rigid.

- requires more maintenance over time

Life Expectancy

- If maintained properly

Some claim upwards of 60 years but after its first 10 years, it typically will need repairs consistently after that

10-20 years

25-30 years

15-20 years

Manufacturer Warranty

The consensus is 10 years from the RV manufacturer but they usually have loopholes similar to EPDM- as the actual aluminum is not typical to fail.

There is a wide range of declared warranties here. Some manufacturers cover anywhere from 1-5 years. There were some individuals claiming they had longer, but we could not verify that information.

Most manufacturers of the actual rubber will warranty it up to 40 years, but RV manufactures typically cover 10-15 years and the loophole is that they’ll cover the roof membrane (which rarely, if ever- fails) but the seams, joints, and installation are not covered.

Based on the manufacturer of the membrane, some claim upwards of 30 years. Same deal as EPDM when it comes to RV manufacturer’s roof warranty. 

Costs To Install

While aluminum is affordable, for the common everyday do-it-yourselfer it is not economical

Expensive

Most economical based on life expectancy and upkeep

Slightly more expensive than the EDPM as it usually requires other fibers for installation and is heated

Costs to Repair &  Maintain

Costly,
Even though the material used is relatively cheap, the amount you will need over the life of the roof and the cost of labor brings this type of roof just under a Fiberglass one, as you will need to maintain your roof consistently throughout its lifespan

Expensive:
Requires UV protection, gel coats, and sealants applied consistently to protect it from delamination

Check out our products: RV Flex Repair as we were able to cut out a step when it comes to maintaining your roof!


- easy and economical to maintain and repair

Check out our products: RV Flex Repair as we were able to cut out a step when it comes to maintaining your roof!


- easy and economical to maintain and repair

 

The consensus is in. All the roof types bring some merit to the table when properly maintained but the easiest and most economical are EDPM first with TPO second. We hope this helps you in choosing a roof and most importantly identifying your roof to be able to maintain it properly!

See you at the Campground!