"Rubber Roof" how do I determine condition?

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Well-known member
Aug 21, 2012
I'll be looking at two motorhomes for the second time tomorrow. I did climb up the ladder to inspect the roof of the National Tradewinds on Sunday but being totally unfamiliar with "rubber" roofing, I was unsure what to look for. Advise is appreciated, I may purchase this rig or the 1998 Dutch Star which also has the "rubber" roof. That one had some obvious maintenance showing a wide bead of some kind of tape running across each end over what is most likely the front and rear cap joints. Will I be looking at some major expense to repair or replace these if they are shot? How do I determine the condition?

Thanks again  :D
You can look at the presence of the tape in two different ways.  The first, "Oh no, it had leaks!" or the second way that I tend to look at them.  There might have been a leak or it could have been that the owner saw what might turn into a leak and prevented it.  A thorough interior inspection is required either way.  I also look at the tape as proof that the owner cared enough to maintain the roof.  RV ownership requires a certain amount of maintenance and we all hope that we can minimize it.

Good luck with your purchase and just look at them both with "open" eyes.
The tape was likely Eternabond or a similar product. Look at it this way, the potential leak has been repaired!! Think positive!!! Rubber roof material is good for at least 20 years provided it hasn't been gouged by a tree branch or something similar and maintained so that water has not gotten under the edges around an opening or cuts and then rotting the wood underneath creating soft spots.
A quality job or sealing with EPDM caulk or Eternabond tape is not a concern. Rv roofs (rubber or not) require regular attention to seams and openings, so you have to expect to find caulk and/or tape on those joints.

An EPDM rubber roof is vulnerable to tears but those are easily fixed with caulk or tape. The main concern on the rubber itself is plain old wear. The rubber oxidizes and wears away, leaving just the backing material, which is sort of a canvas. If you can see the weave of the material showing through, the roof material is shot.

Another poor sign is loose rubber sheeting, aka "bubbles", where it has come loose from the luan substrate. It's easy enough to glue it down again, but bubbles suggest that there may be a problem underneath that is loosening it, e.g. water intrusion.

The EPDM rubber material itself is normally warranteed for 10 years and the typical life span is probably 12-20 years, depending on a variety of factors. Acid rain, excessive scrubbing, or use of petroleum-based chemicals will shorten the life.

A worn rubber roof can be replaced (expensive), or re-coated with liquid EPDM. A re-coat is under$200 if you do it yourself, but can be pricey to have an RV shop do it because it is a day or so of labor.

On any RV roof, even a fiberglass one, the thing to look for is signs of water intrusion. This involves inside as well as outside inspection. This is the main thing you are looking for on any RV.
I took a picture, did not come out well but it appears to have been recoated. When I checked the fiberglass roof of the National it looked good, however on the sides where it meets the walls it was heavily calked and I could easily push the glass inward. Not certain if that is normal or if perhaps the wood behind it is soft.


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