RV roof leaks happen. In fact, they’re a near-certainty if you have an RV long enough. And insurance companies work by protecting you against the unexpected - not against the inevitable. RV insurance almost always covers unexpected roof damage from hailstorms, falling tree branches, lightning strikes, and other acts of God.
Most RV insurance, however, does not cover damages from roof leaks due to ordinary wear and tear. This is a nuisance for anybody because roof leaks can sometimes cause damage to interior components and belongings. What's worse - the damages that occur due to ordinary wear and tear usually aren’t covered, either. RV insurance policies cover damages from named hazards, but normally not ones that arise from maintenance neglect. And costs can be significant, with basic roof replacements starting at $5,000 for even the smallest of jobs.
The best way to deal with large and unexpected roof leak claims is to prevent them from occurring in the first place. This is true for metal roofs and rubber/fiberglass compound roofs alike: both require vigilance and upkeep to help prevent small repairs from ballooning into larger ones. Here are just a few suggestions to help keep your roof in tip top shape:
◾Inspect the roof regularly – and certainly after big rain events.
◾Go inside your RV and manually feel your ceiling for spongy or soft spots in the wood or ceiling that could indicate wet rot. You may need to rip out some bracing or other components in these areas and replace them.
◾Check your owners’ manual before walking on the roof. Use caution and test your steps – especially on older rigs.
◾If your RV doesn’t have a roof access ladder built in, assume the roof isn’t designed to walk on. Do your work from the ladder, or put plywood, 2 x 6 boards or pallets down to step on to distribute your weight evenly across the board.
◾Know the specific type of RV roof you have. Fiberglass? TPO rubber? EPDM rubber? You will need to know in order to match the right roof repair and maintenance products; or better yet, leave the roof treating and maintenance to professionals. (Note: It’s easy to confuse EPDM with fiberglass, so check your owners’ manual if you’re not sure.)
◾ Check your owners’ manual before walking on the roof. Use caution and test your steps – especially on older rigs.
◾ Use caution driving around low-hanging branches. EPDM roofs are particularly susceptible to branch damage.
◾ Don’t park under sap-secreting trees. Sap is very sticky and you may wind up removing bits of surface coating with the tree sap.
◾ Observe manufacturers’ recommendations before trying to do roof repairs or maintenance. Using improper materials on RV roofs could void your warranty.
◾ Wash rubber roofs every quarter or so. Use a soft brush to knock off mold and dirt.
◾ Inspect and treat roofs every season or every quarter.
◾ Pay special attention to trouble spots like around skylights, roof vents, marker lights, ladders, AC/units, mounting brackets, antennae and anywhere there’s a bolt or a rivet.
◾ Tighten roof-mounted A/C units, skylights and other accessories. Be cautious not to overtighten them, though; that could cause cracking.
◾ Don’t use just any store-bought household caulking. Most general-store caulk isn’t designed to bond with RV roofs and endure big temperature changes and the rattle RVs experience on the road.
◾ If you have a fiberglass or aluminum roof, keep a tube or two of Dicor – a self-leveling sealant – in your RV at all times.
◾ Inspect for cracks in the caulking or rubberized sealant around vulnerable spots in the roof. Clean the old Dicor application, using water and mineral spirits. Let the mineral spirits dry, then apply Dicor again, sealing over the cracks. (Note – only use Dicor on horizontal surfaces. ‘Self-leveling’ sealants don’t work on vertical surfaces. For those applications, try Geocel Proflex)
◾ Never use silicone sealants on rubber roofs. They don’t bond to the compound used on RVs roofs.
◾ Don’t use petroleum solvents, citrus-based products, acids or harsh abrasives.
◾ Add sealing tape to your road repair kit.
◾ Well-equipped RV dealers or specialized RV service facilities can use ultrasound devices to check for leaks – without having to pour water on the RV and cause further damage.
Check your warranty.
If your RV develops a leak, make sure to check your warranty. The costs of repairs may still be covered.
Document and File Claims Promptly.
If your RV suffers damage from a collision, accident or other covered hazard, take photos and file your claim immediately. The longer you wait, the trickier it will be to separate damage caused by the covered incident from wear and tear damage, and the more likely it will be that some or all of your claim won’t qualify for coverage.