About two months after we got our RV, the roof above our bed started to leak. Which there’s nothing wrong with, if you like sleeping with wet sheets. But we don’t. And believe it or not, we’re not actually RV roofing experts.
So, aside from a lot of research, we made a few attempts to fix it, and it was quite the adventure. We learned a lot along the way, including what not to do.
Read on if you want to spend some time with us in our wet, leaky, sad, and definitely still not fixed RV.
Our Main Problem
Our main problem is that the roof at the front of our RV sags. It’s part of the normal wear and tear you experience when you have an RV, and so it’s something that every RV owner will have to deal with at one time or another.
There’s not much you can do to prevent RV roofing from sagging, and with the weight of our air conditioner sitting on top, we really needed to tear it all up and reinforce the materials underneath.
However, that’s not where we started, because we thought, “Hey, our roof is leaking. Maybe we should patch it.”
First Things First, Research
Let me make this very clear. We have no idea what we’re doing. So we did a lot of research about the materials we were supposed to be using on the roof and what would work as opposed to what wouldn’t.
This wasn’t our first project, but it was leaking on our first project, which we’re not cool with.
RV roofing supplies are a niche market and many of them are specialty materials. They’re not easy to find and they’re quite pricey. We ended up finding most of what we needed locally, but it took some digging.
Surprisingly, after a lot of looking around, we found them at Menards and Sutherlands. However, you can also get a lot of them on Amazon.
We ended up using a couple of different products on a couple of different occasions, and both would have worked fine for their intended purposes. The reason they didn’t work for us is because we didn’t actually end up fixing the root of our issue, which is still that our roof is sagging.
The Patch Job
We bought our first set of RV roofing materials at Menards, including rubber roof tape and self-leveling sealant. It ended up looking pretty ugly, but we thought we had it fixed. It actually held tight for the next rain storm before it started leaking again.
We were so proud of ourselves. Hooray!
When it started leaking again, it leaked from the other side of the air conditioner, so we thought we had another tear in the roofing on the other side. We used our leftover materials from the first job and patched it again.
Unfortunately, it started leaking again right away. At this point, we were really at a loss. Our thought process at this point was that we had plugged up the drain holes in the air conditioner so that when the unit was running, the condensation was backing up into the RV.
We thought maybe if we tore out our most recent patch job and did it again, being careful not to plug the drain holes this time (which is apparently one of the most common beginner mistakes), we might just be able to fix it.
Hey, I told you we weren’t experts.
A New Problem
Alright, so not only does the roof still leak, but we think we’ve created a new problem. What do we do now? We spent a few days thinking about it, and we wondered at this point if it wasn’t worth it to just call our insurance company to see if we could file a claim.
We were in for quite the surprise.
Not only could we not file a claim because there was no incident we could point to that caused the damage, but we couldn’t file a claim because the previous owner had already file a claim on it.
Get this. A branch fell on the roof, causing the leak. He filed a claim, pocketed the money, and fixed it himself. Only it didn’t get fixed. It’s likely that he didn’t know that, because they lived in San Diego. How often does it rain hard in San Diego?
So now we’re stuck picking up the pieces. Thanks for that, guy.
The Real Experts
We went back to square one and reevaluated the situation. We decided at this point we weren’t expert enough to figure this out on our own, so we made an appointment to take our RV to the guys at Wilder RV in Clinton, Missouri.
They resealed the air conditioner for us, but ultimately said that, unfortunately, the entire front of the roof needed to be replaced, which is what we were afraid of. I asked for a quote, and it came back at about $12,000.
The Reinforcement Job
I came back home that day feeling pretty dejected. What do we do? We’ve had the RV at this point for about four months. It’s paid off. We own it outright, which is a fantastic feeling, but sleeping in a wet bed every night feels about as good as you might expect.
Rotating towels from the bed to the dryer and back, around the clock, is about as fun as you can imagine, and we needed a real solution, fast.
Thanks to a ton of friends and a ton of prayer, we rallied on a Saturday with the tools and materials we needed to peel the roofing back, reinforce the underside of it, and elevate it so the rain would runoff the side rather than into our bedroom.
The first step was to remove the air conditioner. Our eight-year-old got started with the bolts on the inside because he wanted to be a part of the job.
Then we had to cut away the roofing, which is painful to watch, because, well, you’re cutting away perfectly good RV roofing to get at the root of the problem. It’s necessary, but it hurts.
As we cut it away, we saw part of the problem. The plywood underneath was wet, soggy, and rotting away. It was just plain disgusting.
We had to cut deeper than we thought to get it all out.
After we removed the old plywood, we were able to open it up and take a look at what we needed. We had joists, but we needed more. We used a circular saw to dado some 2x4s for extra reinforcement.
The goal was to add new plywood on top of this structure and bring the roof back up to level around the air conditioner. This would allow the water to runoff the edge again, rather than back into the RV.
We cut these dados to fit the existing structure so we didn’t have to remove anything that was already there. We didn’t want to compromise what we had, we simply wanted to make it better.
So, we inserted these new boards under the old to add strength, and we screwed them in.
Once we inserted these boards underneath the existing joists, we laid the insulation back in, cut the new plywood to fit, and screwed it down.
Covering It Up
Once the reinforcement was done, we pulled the RV roofing back over it and patched up the seams with roofing tape.
We left a hole for the air conditioner and dropped it back down in.
It sounds complicated, and there were a lot of steps involved. There was quite a bit of measuring, and yes, math. But to be honest, it was a pretty simple job when you get down to it.
We made a day of it. We started in the morning, broke for lunch, and finished up with flashlights in the dark. It was a great way to spend time with each other and get something done.
I’m grateful for the help. We have some fantastic friends.
So, now you’re asking, did it work?
Well, we immediately turned on the air conditioner to find out. What we discovered was that we raised the roof just enough that the condensation was able to run off rather than back inside. Success!
However, the next time it rained, it did leak back inside. It was a bit discouraging, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as before. Most of the rain was running off the roof, so we know now that if we were to raise the roof another inch or so, we would likely be able to successfully force most of the water away from our air conditioner.
While this may not sound like much of a success to you, we like to count it a win. It means we can control the water that comes in, we know how to fix it once we get through the winter, and we have friends willing to help us again when we’re ready!
Stay tuned for our next roofing adventure in the spring and pray we can fix it for good!