What Type of RV Roof Do I Have?

The idea of owning a motorhome brings excitement to plan trips and put them to good use. However, suppose you are okay with settling for a secondhand RV; you can get a bargain on eBay or any camping vehicle reseller.


You might have an RV in mind or already took the leap and bought one. The next step would be to investigate your RV and determine what type of RV roof you have. There are a few different ones with different maintenance and cleaning instructions.


Different Types of RV Roofs

Different Types of RV RoofsWith all that an RV can offer, the last thing you might think about is the roof. However, the roof of an RV can be made from different materials, which can influence the price, maintenance, and longevity of your motorhome.


  • EPDM rubber RV roof – The EPDM (Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer) RV roof is rubber-based and one of the most popular in motorhomes. The maintenance and rain damage are low. This synthetic rubber is black in color.


  • TPO rubber RV roof – TPO (Thermal Poly Olefin) rubber roofs are the most popular type regarding RVs. It is more durable than EPDM and more forgiving with cleaning solutions. The colors are grey, tan-white, or white.


  • Vinyl RV roof – A vinyl RV roof, also called PVC, is less popular but worth considering. Vinyl is also a membrane-applied roof. Although there are various colors available, for RVs, the manufacturers use a white color.


  • Fiberglass RV roof – Fiberglass is a rigid surface, a mixture between plastic, glass fibers, and resin. The price is slightly higher than rubber roofing, but the maintenance and lifespan are better. It is white in color, with a shine, and super hard.


  • Aluminum RV roof – The manufacturers use aluminum sheets to structure a roof for RVs from this metal. It is uncommon to find aluminum RV roofs, but they are low maintenance. The color is white-silver with a metallic shine.

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What Are the Pros & Cons of Each RV Roof Type?

The importance lies in the pros and cons of each RV roof type and knowing which roof you have. If you are still shopping around, try to settle for the one with the least cons or cons you can live with. Suppose you already have one; make sure you know the downfalls to prevent any damage beforehand.


Pros and Cons of EPDM

Rubber roofing is popular regarding RV roofs. However, they also have cons you will have to investigate.


Pros of EPDM:

  • Has been on the market and used on RVs for more than 60 years
  • Life expectancy between 20 and 30 years
  • Resistant against extreme weather conditions


Cons of EPDM:

  • Heat retention because of the black color
  • Needs more maintenance
  • Needs special cleaning agents to protect the roof
  • It can leave streaks because of the black color


Pros and Cons of TPO

TPO is in direct competition with its rubber counterpart, EPDM. However, the composition differs, and thus there are different pros and cons.


Pros of TPO:

  • White color deflects UV rays, and it is UV resistant.
  • High resistance to mold formation
  • Cheaper to install
  • Have a 12 to 15-year warranty with some manufactures


Cons of TPO:

  • Has a low thermal load
  • Needs more maintenance
  • It loses flexibility as it ages
  • Needs special cleaning agents to protect the roof


Pros and Cons of VinylPros & Cons of Each RV Roof Type

Vinyl is less prevalent when talking about RV roofing, but it has its place and might be the option you would choose if you see the pros and cons.


Pros of vinyl:

  • Increase energy sufficiency because of a cooling roof effect
  • Fire resistant
  • Low maintenance is needed
  • Highly durable


Cons of vinyl:

  • More expensive than the rubber roofing options
  • Need a professional to install
  • To keep it flexible, you need to add protective solutions. Unfortunately, these can start to deteriorate the vinyl roof after 20 years, thus, making it challenging to repair.


Pros and Cons of Fiberglass

Fiberglass is a particular type of roof that can be molded and put together to form your ideal roof. The pros and cons might give you an idea if it is what you are looking for.


Pros of fiberglass:

  • High durability to wear and tear
  • Low maintenance
  • Expands and contracts to adjust to weather
  • Lasts up to 50 years


Cons of fiberglass:

  • Heavier and more expensive than rubber roofing
  • UV damage is possible


Pros and Cons of Aluminum

Aluminum RV roofs are easy to spot, but is it worth investing in? First, let’s look at aluminum’s pros and cons.


Pros of Aluminum:

  • Easy to repair as you can only remove the panels that need fixing.
  • Durable
  • Fire resistant
  • Eco-friendly and recyclable


Cons of Aluminum:

  • Heavy metal
  • Not heat resistant
  • It can be noisy when driving


How to Tell If You Have a Rubber EPDM or TPO RV Roof?

The first place you will always see what material the manufacturers of your RV roof used is to look in the manual or the warranty. If none of these options are available, you need to investigate.


Remove a vent cover inside the RV and look at the piece of roof membrane stapled under the vent. Remove the staple and look at the color on both sides. If the color is the same throughout, grey or white, you have TPO rubber roofing. An EPDM roof will have a white or lighter color on the top and black on the bottom.


Cleaning and Maintaining a Rubber EPDM or TPO RV Roof

Maintaining a Rubber EPDM or TPO RV RoofBecause EPDM and TPO are rubber roofs, they need around the same cleaning and maintenance requirements.


First, look at what cleaners you use. Rubber roofs don’t want anything with petroleum solvents, citrus flavors, or harsh chemicals. Always ensure you get a clean solution free from these chemicals, and use a mild brush.


Step 1: get up on the roof safely and remove all the debris with a broom or extension tool to prevent climbing on the roof.

Step 2: wash the roof following recommended mild soap use and medium bristle brush.

Step 3: investigate the entire roof for dents and places where the roofing might pull away at the membranes.

Step 4: additional maintenance is to seal the roof membranes on the corners and where you feel needed.


This should happen 4 times a year. You can also add a protective layer over the roof once a year to increase the durability of your RV roof. But, again, make sure it is rubber roof specific.


How to Tell If You Have a Vinyl RV Roof?

Vinyl roofs are close to rubber roofs and might be challenging to point out. One way is to feel the roof. If you know how a TPO roof feels, this one is much smoother than TPO. The second test is the sniff test. If you smell the roof material, you will get a pool smell. The bottom of a pool is made from vinyl, where the correlation comes from.


Cleaning and Maintaining a Vinyl RV Roof

Vinyl is more durable and stronger than rubber roofing. Still, you can stick to no petroleum distillate soap to ensure no damage.


Step 1: get up on the ladder and remove excess sticks and leaves.

Step 2: wet the roof with a hose pipe and add the soap.

Step 3: wash with a medium bristle brush to eliminate all the dirt.

Step 4: check for any cracks or openings and add sealant.


How to Tell If You Have a Fiberglass RV Roof?

Determining whether you have a fiberglass roof will give you the answer when you get up on the top and feel the flexibility or lack thereof. First, fiberglass is tough and won’t give way at all. Second, it is a solid color but not metallic like aluminum roofing.


Cleaning and Maintaining a Fiberglass RV Roof

Cleaning a fiberglass RV roof is easy and stress-free.


Step 1: Clean the roof from excess materials.

Step 2: you can wash with any soap and brush, depending on how dirty the RV is and where you store your RV. Opt to wash your RV every 3 to 4 months, especially when parked outside.

Step 3: add a maintenance layer of UV protection as needed. This gel wax is necessary to protect the RV and gives it a longer lifespan. Polish the gel layer, and your RV is ready to go.


How Do I Tell If I Have an Aluminum RV Roof?

Identifying an aluminum roof is the easiest of them all. It is the only roof that has a metallic color. So if you can tell it is made from metal, it is most likely aluminum.


Cleaning and Maintaining an Aluminum RV Roof

Aluminum is low maintenance, and you can clean your RV three times a year. So unless you dread cleaning it, you can only clean it when necessary.


Step 1: clean any natural materials from the roof.

Step 2: add water and any soap and brush and scrub.

Step 3: look for any significant dents or areas needing maintenance.

Step 4: additional maintenance is a wax, polish, and add a protector specifically for aluminum roofs. This will protect it from rust.


What’s the Best RV Roof Material to Use?

Now that you have an overview of what each roofing type entails, you might wonder which one is the best. Unfortunately, the answer is more complex, as it depends on your personal needs when you go camping or go on a trip with your RV.


RV Owner’s NeedsType of RV Roof that Fits the Need Best
Minimal maintenance and easy repairsVinyl
Tight or lower budgetRubber or Vinyl
Lowest weightRubber or Vinyl
Heat resistantTPO or Vinyl
Tear resistantVinyl or Fiberglass


A good option is TPO if you want to tick most boxes. A product you can look at would be the Winnebago Micro Minnie. It is an RV trailer with an aluminum body, fiberglass sides, and a TPO roof. It is a small camper, perfect for 4 sleepers who would like to hook up a trailer for a trip now and again. Winnebago gives a 12-year warranty on the roof and stylish finishing inside.


Frequently Asked Questions


  1. How Do You Know if Your Roof Is EPDM or TPO?

You can check the owner’s manual to see which roof you have. If you don’t have a manual, you can open the vent frame or a small section of the trim piece outside to get a glimpse of the material. You will be able to view the front and back of the rubber. If it is white on both sides, it is TPO. When one side is black, it is EPDM.


  1. What Is the Difference Between TPO and EPDM on an RV Roof?

When applying rubber roofing to an RV, there is a difference between TPO and EPDM. First, TPO is a better heat regulator because of its color. On the other hand, EPDM is synthetic and the oldest rubber on the market. Thus users have trialed and tested it over time and could better it.


  1. How Often Should You Recoat Your RV Roof?

You should look at your RV’s roof every six months. With rubber roofs, it should be three or four times a year. This is mainly done to protect and prevent weather damage to your RV roof.


  1. What Does EPDM Roofing Look Like?

EPDM is rubber-type roofing and usually looks like n rubber tube roof wrapped over your RV. The colors can vary between white, cream, and grey, but the bottom layer is always black. The lighter color you go for, the more expensive it is.


  1. How to Tell if Your RV Roof Is Rubber or Fiberglass?

You will quickly see the difference between a rubber and fiberglass roof. The fiberglass roof is a hard and solid shell and won’t give way to a hard push or standing on it. It has a smooth, glossy finish with no ridges or gaps for the dust to gather.


  1. Which RVs Have Aluminum Roofs?

The airstream is the only RV that has aluminum roofs. These are popular as they have been with us since 1930, and the body has looked the same. Airstream keeps the body as its brand and only upgrades the interior and technical aspects to keep up with the trends.


  1. How Is an RV Roof Repair Installed?

Remove the damaged membrane by pulling it off delicately. Ensure the roof is clean and no debris or particles are left. Roll out the new layer of rubber on the floor. Add the adhesive glue to the entire area you want to redo. Remove the plastic wrapping bit by bit while rolling and pasting the membrane into its place. Pull it tight and staple it along the edges.


  1. How Long Should an RV Roof Last?

Depending on the material, an RV roof will last over 10 years. A rubber roof can last around 20 years, and a fiberglass roof around 40 years if you look after it. These roofs will need TLC before then because of cracks or tears. Warranties run from 12 to 15 years on specific brands and types of roofs.


  1. How Can I Maintain My RV Roofs?

The best possible way to maintain an RV roof is to keep it safe from the weather, clean it often, and inspect it for any dents or cracks that could lead to leaks. Then, add sealant twice a year, wax and polish your roof as needed, use the recommended cleaning supplies, and get a cover for your RV.


  1. How to Fix the Fiberglass Roof of My RV?

Fiberglass is a rigid material that only gets damaged from a major hit or storm. You will have to gear up with glasses and masks before repairing fiberglass. Cut out the damaged piece with a grinder, clean the area, and apply resin. Use a sanding machine to make it look the same as the rest of the roof. Add the gel layer to seal it and make it new.


Final Thoughts

It is essential to know what type of RV roof you have. It will help you maintain and clean it accordingly and store it correctly. In addition, roofs like EPDM and aluminum need shaded parking to prevent excessive heat.


Suppose you want to lighten the load you carry. In that case, aluminum or fiberglass is not your best bet, as these are heavy and contribute to the overall weight you have to move. However, TPO is a favorite in RV roofs. Even though it is newer, from the 90s, it has excellent durability and price, and RV campers like it.

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