Travel trailers are notorious for their leaky roofs. If you own a travel trailer, it's likely that you've either fixed a leak recently or are about to start a repair. Despite all the new technology in the travel trailer industry, leaky roofs remain a recurring problem. Fortunately, they are easily fixed. Here's how to fix a leak in a metal roof.
Find the Leak in a Metal Roof.
Find the nearest seam. Anywhere that a hole has been put in your roof–whether it's for an air conditioner, a storage unit, or a vent–is a good place to start looking for the leak. Also, the roof may have a seam that extends from one end to the other. You can usually narrow the search simply by touching the ceiling inside. If it is soft or moist around one of these seams, you've likely found your problem.
EPDM (ethylene propylene diene monomer) rubber roofs are seamless. One sheet of rubber goes from end to end.
Go up on the roof and take a look around. Before doing this, make sure that your roof can support your weight. Walk the beams carefully. It's a good idea to wear a pair of slip proof shoes to avoid sliding.
If you're lucky, the spot where it's leaking will be obvious. Often though, you'll end up devoting quite a bit of time to finding the leak. This is usually the tricky part. Just like in a house, the actual leak in your travel trailer's roof can be some distance from the location where water appears to be entering the trailer.
Once you're up on the roof, look for areas where there might be a lot of sealant or caulk. This is usually a sign that the roof has been repaired before.
Use a water hose. Douse your roof in one area with water and then in another until you pinpoint the leak.
Fix the Leak in a Metal Roof.
Once you find the leak, you'll need to clean the area. Remove any loose sealant, caulk, dirt, paint or whatever else you find. To eliminate stubborn materials, use a putty knife or a metal brush. It's a good idea to burnish it with a brass brush (strip it) on a drill.
Use soap and water to get the area as clean as possible. Let it dry completely before doing anything else to it. A full day of drying is a good idea. Make sure to check your local weather forecast before starting this part of the project.
At this point you'll want to use a sealant. The terms sealant and caulk are often used interchangeably. However, there are differences. "Sealants are designed to seal an interface that is subject to movement," according to Best Materials.com. "Caulks are designed to fill a gap. Sealants are designed to create a long-term seal that stays intact and prevents moisture ingress and [is] UV resistant. Sealants deal with greater joint movement, extreme temperatures and have very low shrinkage."
Cut the width of the sealant tube opening so that it is about the size of the seam. Often this means that you'll need to cut the tube near the top. Have a roll of paper towels ready. Get as much sealant into the seam and onto and into the screw holes as possible. Use the paper towels to remove any excess sealant.
There are a couple of ways you can finish sealing the seam leak on your travel trailer. One of your options is fiber-impregnated roof coating material. It comes in a paint can and has about the same consistency as paint. To apply, you paint it on over your seams with a paint brush.
Another option is a peel and seal roof seal, which is a kind of tape with a black tar on the back side. It comes in rolls of varying widths and lengths. It can be peeled off the roll and simply pressed onto your seam. To apply, cut 2- or 3-foot lengths of tape to make your work easier. Remove the backing and place onto your seam. Make sure to rub it hard to help it stick and eliminate any air pockets. A good hot day will help to melt it onto the seam.
Most RV stores will sell at least one kind of roof sealing tape and some type of fiber- impregnated roofing material. Often your local hardware or home repair store will have at least one of the roofing tapes in colors like white and aluminum.