How to Put a Rubber Roof on a Camper

Whether you like to travel in your RV full-time or you’re a weekend warrior who goes out seasonally, it’s imperative that you make sure your motorhome is prepared for anything. Overall, the elements can get into your camper relatively easily, which is why having a rubber roof can ensure that they will stay outside where they belong.

Today we’re going to go over the necessary steps to install a rubber roof. Fortunately, it’s simple enough that you can do it yourself (rather than taking it to a professional). Just make sure that you have an assistant, as that will make the process flow much smoother. Let’s begin.

What You’ll Need

  • Metal Shears or Saw
  • Electric Sander
  • Measuring Tape
  • Paint Brush and Roller
  • Glue
  • Ladder
  • Rubber Roof

When it comes to the electric sander, you can sand the decking of your RV’s roof manually, but unless your motorhome is relatively small, it will be a lot of extra work. If you don’t have an electric sander, we recommend borrowing or renting one if possible. You’ll thank yourself later.

Another thing to mention is that if your RV already has a rubber roof on it, you won’t need the shears since you won’t have to remove any of the old metal roof beforehand.

Step One: Remove the Metal Roof (If Applicable)

Before you can install a rubber roof, you’ll have to take off the old one. If your RV already came with a rubber roof, then you’ll have a much easier time, since all you have to do is peel that one off.

If you are removing a metal roof, make sure to work slowly and carefully. It’s easy to cut yourself on the sharp edges of both the tools and the metal itself, so wear thick gloves and extra layers of clothing to be safe.

Step Two: Clean the Roof’s Surface

Before adhering the new rubber to your RV, you’ll want to make sure that the surface is as clean and spotless as possible. If you removed a metal roof, watch out for any leftover shavings that could be dangerous later on.

This step is also when you should plan on sanding the deck of your roof. Overall, the goal is to make sure that the surface is as smooth and even as possible so that the new roof will apply and adhere better.

Another thing to remember is that the decking of your RV’s roof needs to be dry before you apply any glue, so if you wipe it down with a wet towel or rag, let it air out before moving onto the next step.

Step Three: Install Leak Prevention

When you bought the rubber roof, it likely came with some pieces that ensure that water runoff goes into the gutter, rather than getting trapped on the deck and ruining it in the process. You will want to install these components first, based on the manual provided.

Step Four: Position and Relax the Membrane

Your rubber roof will be a bit stiff at first, so you will want to relax it so that it’s much easier to apply. Not only that, but it’s imperative that you position it correctly before adhering any glue so that you don’t accidentally put it in the wrong place.

Once you have the roof where you want it, let it sit for about half an hour before moving on to the next step.

Step Five: Adhere the Roof (Not the Perimeter)

The best way to do this to ensure a smoother adhesion is to do half of the roof at a time. This step is also where having an assistant will come in handy, as it’s much easier to roll and unroll the membrane with another person. Yes, you can do it solo, but why put yourself in that kind of position? Roll back one half, apply the glue, and then put it back in place slowly.

When adhering the roof, use the manufacturer’s recommended glue to ensure a proper bond. Also, leave a few inches along the perimeter, since we’ll take care of that in a little while. This step is where you’ll need the paint roller as a means of applying the glue.

Step Six: Clean the Membrane

Once the whole roof is glued down, press it to remove any trapped air, and make sure to wipe it off as well, removing any dust or other debris that may be on it.

Step Seven: Glue the Perimeter

The reason to leave a border around the edges of the roof is so that you can use a stronger glue to apply the membrane. Wait until the adhesive from the first part is dry before beginning since you can potentially create air pockets if you don’t.

As with the main section of the roof, be sure to roll it back in parts and unroll it smoothly to avoid air pockets.

Step Eight: Apply Any Additional Waterproofing

In many cases, your rubber roof will require some extra waterproofing materials (i.e., Elastofoam) to ensure that water won’t come in through various openings or cracks. Once the main section and perimeter have dried, apply these pieces according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Tips and Warnings

Before you begin, be sure to familiarize yourself with all of the instructions so that you know what to expect. Also, check all of the various parts and components you’ll be using so that you don’t run into any trouble along the way. Here are some other tips to follow.

Plan for Longer Than You Think: installing a rubber roof takes a couple of hours, more so if you have to remove a metal roof first. Assume that it will be an all-day job though.

Wear a Mask When Applying Glue: the fumes from the chemicals can make you dizzy if you’re not careful.

Work Under Cover if Possible: if you don’t have a garage or shelter for your RV, be sure to wait until you have clear, sunny weather with little to no wind.

Remove Any Obstacles: your RV has a bunch of elements that come up through the roof, such as vents and an air conditioner. Be sure to take these out, as well as measure them correctly so you can cut the corresponding pieces into your roof.

​Here's a video explainer

Conclusion

Having a rubber roof on your RV will keep the elements out and ensure that you can enjoy your travels worry-free. Also, assuming that you installed everything correctly, your new roof should last a long time, making it a worthwhile investment.

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