When shopping for a new RV, you might consider what the similarities between types of RV roofs are. If they really differ so much, how are you to choose which RV roof type to get? As a matter of fact, all RV roofs are not the same, so let’s talk about the differences. We’ll also go over the benefits and drawbacks of each type of roof so you can make an educated choice of which one is right for you.
The four types of RV roofs are:
- The aluminum roof, which is a silvery-white metal roof that is made from aluminum roofing sheets. They are one of the oldest used roofing materials for RVs, due to their durability and longevity.
- The fiberglass roof, which is made from reinforced plastic. It is textile fiber with embedded glass in resin. It is a solid material that is nonporous, making it especially good for travelers intending to go camping in areas with lots of precipitation.
- The rubber EPDM (Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer) roof, a membranous type of rubber that is used for flatter roofs. They are known for how easy they are to repair, even if you’re starting out in RV maintenance.
- The rubber TPO roof, a single-ply roof made of polypropylene and ethylene-propylene. The rubber is strengthened by a bonding chemical reaction. TPO roofs are one of the best roofs for climate control inside the vehicle.
These are quick rundowns of your options. You’ll need to consider many factors when choosing the right one for you. Read on to learn about the benefits and drawbacks of each roof type. We will also suggest types of RVs with each type of roofing. However, keep in mind that different RV manufacturers will use a variety of roofing so that you’re able to choose what is best for you.
Different Types of RV Roofs
Let’s take a detailed look at the four types of roof material options and look at some of their advantages and disadvantages.
Aluminum roofs are mainly known for their long-lasting nature, but there are other things to consider.
Benefits of Aluminum Roofs:
- It is resistant to being pierced by external objects such as tree limbs.
- It is less prone to developing holes. The friction caused by the RV’s movements will have less of an effect on an aluminum roof.
- Its longevity outlasts other types of roofs.
- It is fire-resistant.
Drawbacks of aluminum roofs:
- The aesthetic of an aluminum roof will fade quickly upon use.
- They are prone to seam failure.
- Aluminum roofing will cause the temperature in your RV to naturally be higher.
- Aluminum must be attached with fasteners, as it does not adhere to glue.
- Use galvanized nails to prevent rust, and soon after hidden leaks.
- Leaks will stay hidden with an aluminum roof until there is pressure on a weak spot, which by then will cause major problems.
RV’s With Aluminum Roofing: There are not a lot of options for RV’s with aluminum roofing anymore, but Lazy Daze RVs has a few. Their aluminum panels are easily replaceable by section and are aircraft quality.
Fiberglass roofs are auxiliary roofs that are made with a mix of glass fibers and synthetic materials. They are established in individual sheets or large panels.
Benefits of fiberglass roofs:
- Their durability allows for a low risk of cracking and damage.
- Fiberglass is rust and rot-resistant.
- It is fire-resistant.
- Fiberglass roofs are lightweight.
- They allow for easy customization (color, shape, pattern, etc.).
Drawbacks of Fiberglass Roofs:
- Fiberglass is very expensive to repair.
- It is less expensive to replace sections of a fiberglass roof than to repair it.
- It is also not very timely to replace.
- Fiberglass is not heat resistant.
- Heat will also cause thermal splits, which require immediate repair.
RVs With Fiberglass Roofs: Forest River RVs are probably the best-known brand of RV for fiberglass roofs. For example, the R.Pod has twelve different floor plans to choose from! Winnebago Minnies have one piece of fiberglass roofs. They also feature a bedroom, an additional set of bunk beds, a dining area, and a wet bathroom. Two out of Venture RVs’ top five RVs have seamless fiberglass roofs, the Sonic and the Sonic Lite. Sonic has seven different floor plans to choose from. The Sonic Lite, being significantly smaller, has more limited options but a lower price. Happier Camper has the HC1 Travel Trailer, which is made completely out of fiberglass. It comes in a fun retro style, sleeps up to five people, and has amenities such as porch lights and a rooftop fan.
Rubber EPDM RV Roofs
EPDM roofs are one of the less expensive options and they are easy to install.
Benefits of EPDM Roofs:
- They are lightweight, which helps maintain the condition of your RV.
- EPDM roofs don’t take damage easily.
- EPDM roofs are very easy to repair, and you can do it yourself.
Drawbacks of EPDM Roofs:
- They are not the most aesthetically pleasing of the roof options.
- EPDM rubber absorbs heat quickly, which makes it more difficult to keep the RV cool.
- This material gets damaged easier and takes extra maintenance to keep water out from under the surface.
RVs with Rubber EPDM Roofs: The Winnebago 2014 Ultra Lite has a one-piece EPDM rubber roof. It features nightshades and a fold-out sofa.
Rubber TPO RV Roofs
TPO, or thermoplastic polyolefin, is a kind of single-ply rubber.
Benefits of TPO Roofs:
- The material reflects heat because it is white.
- It is less expensive.
- You can choose how to install it.
- Glue with adhesives
- Weld around rooftop fixtures
Drawbacks of TPO Roofs:
- TPO dramatically differs in quality, so you’re never able to tell what quality roofing you have before you buy it.
- The thickness of TPO roofs vary, which misleads consumers to believe that thicker roofs last longer.
- The material wears at the same rate, no matter the thickness.
- TPO needs a laminate cover. Without a laminate cover, it can develop cracks and weaknesses very quickly.
- The rubber rolls are small in width.
- More seams can expand and contract, meaning more cracks throughout the roof. Thus, water can get in and cause leaks and even allow water to enter the RV.
RVs with Rubber TPO Roofs: The Winnebago Micro Minnie has TPO options available for selection. It is seven feet wide and has plenty of different floor plans to choose from. The Fleetwood Flair has a one piece TPO roof. It can accommodate six people and it features a TV and a patio awning.
Comparing Different RV Roof Materials
We’ve given you separate perspectives on each of the roofing materials, now let’s look at them side by side.
EPDM vs. TPO: When it comes to how long these materials have been used, EPDM has been tried and true for sixty years, while TPO has only been used for twenty. TPO reflects sunlight while EPDM retains sunlight, giving TPO the edge in this aspect. TPO would thus be easier to keep cool and is more resistant to heat damage. EPDM roofs are mechanically attached while TPO adheres chemically. EPDM roofs are also taped in place while TPO roofs are welded on. TPO comes in a wide range of colors, while EPDM only comes in black. They are both lower cost materials. In the end, EPDM roofs last 20-25 years while TPO roofs last 15-25 years.
Fiberglass vs. TPO: Overall, fiberglass roofs are more expensive than TPO roofs, but they last much longer (up to forty years). Fiberglass roofs do not reflect sunlight, so TPO roofs have the advantage there. The cost to repair a fiberglass roof is much higher, but it is much more durable and has a longer lifespan.
EPDM vs Aluminum: Both EPDM rubber roofs and aluminum roofs are very sturdy, meaning they won’t damage easily and they both last a long time. In the event of one of them getting damaged, however, EPDM roofs are much easier to repair and you can easily do it yourself if you have experience. Neither type of roof is especially heat resistant either. EPDM roofs are known for their less pleasing aesthetic, whereas aluminum roofs start out looking nice, but their aesthetic value fades fast.
Aluminum vs. Fiberglass: Both aluminum and fiberglass roofs are resistant to fire and external damage, however, fiberglass is also resistant to rot. Though neither does well in the heat, it can be extra damaging to a fiberglass roof. Both are also sturdy, but expensive to repair.
The first thing people tend to notice about an RV is its looks. Although the roof is not a part of the RV that people look at very often, owners may put a lot of thought into its looks when choosing a vehicle; However, the structure of the vehicle is an extremely important factor to make note of, more so than the aesthetic.
The structure of an RV has layers, similar to a house or any other manmade structure. The first step to building an RV is making sure you have a stable main structure. The walls and roof are then added to this structure. Finally, they cover the studs to give the inside its intended aesthetic appeal. For now, let’s focus on the roof. The layers of an RV from lowest to highest are 1.) Ceiling, 2.) Studs, 3.) Membrane, and 4.) Roof Material.
The membrane, as it is named, provides extra security for the RV. It makes up the two inner layers at the top of the RV that are there for extra security, which are added before putting down the roof. The membrane covers the studs and ceiling in the event of a leak or any other kind of damage to the roof. Thus, your RV should have two layers of protection, the inner membrane, and the roof covering.
Are you ready to buy your RV? Choosing a roof takes a lot of consideration, so be sure to give the information above some thought. All of them have similar benefits and drawbacks, but there are details that would make one especially fitting to your needs. Consider where you live, the trips you plan to take, and your experience in RV maintenance.
No matter what kind of roof you choose, you should determine a regular schedule to check it for leaks. It is much easier to prevent damage than repair it after the fact. No matter what type of roof you choose, it will need to be repaired at some point.
Let us know which kind of roof you have or intend to get! What made you choose your specific type of roof? Have you ever repaired an RV roof? Tell us about it in the comments.