How To Install Rubber Roof on Camper (Step By Step)

rubber roof

How to replace RV roof isn’t very complicated; you can find it explained here in 7 steps. All you need to do is to remove the old roof, clean up the deck, and adhere the new roof with adhesive. It’s best to do it in sections. There are a few other extra things you need to do before and after, such as removing any vents and then reinstalling them afterward.

You may want to get an RV rubber roof replacement kit, as it would have a lot of things that’ll help you out.

Let’s go into further detail, step by step, on how to install a rubber roof.

Things You’ll Need

Here’s a list of all the things you’re going to need for this camper roof replacement process.

  • Rubber roof
  • Phillips or 1/4″ head screwdriver
  • Putty knife
  • Paint roller
  • Metal shears or saw (if old roof is metal)
  • Ladder
  • Lap sealant
  • Roof adhesive
  • Electric sander
  • Measuring tape
  • Utility Knife

#1 Remove any Vents, Termination Bars, Etc.

All vents, hoods, housings, as well as any termination bars, strips, and caps, need to be removed from the roof of your camper.

For vent covers and such you’ll need a Phillips screw or a quarter inch head screw (or in some cases, both of these) and they are straightforward to remove. Vent covers that open can close can be left on, as you can just remove the base and take everything off at once.

In order to remove the base, you will need to remove the old lap sealant with a putty knife to reveal the screw heads. It’s important that, if you plan on reusing these, you be very careful to not cause any damage.

Once all covers and bases have been removed you can move on to the termination bars, strips, and caps. Some RVs have caps instead of termination bars, but their purpose is the same; to provide a secure seal. There may be rivets rather than screws, in which case you’ll need to drill those out. I found that by using a sharp chisel and a hammer, knocking off the front of the rivets makes the job go by much quicker.

Once again, remove the lap sealant to gain access to the screw heads so that you can remove them. I used a utility knife to pry my termination bars off. Make sure you remove all of the old sealant and putty.

#2 Remove the Old Roof

Before we can start with the camper rubber roof replacement, the old roof needs to be removed first. If it’s made of rubber, then this step is going to be easy for you since all you need is to scrape it up with the putty knife. If the condition of the old roof was very bad and it’s already peeling off, this step is going to take quite a bit of time and you’ll need to be patient.

For a metal roof, you should wear protective clothing before using a saw or shears to remove the metal roof. Make sure to work carefully and slowly, as you could accidentally cut yourself.

It would be a good idea to have somewhere to dump everything close by – for example, if you happen to have a pickup truck, park it right beside the RV so that you can toss everything there, or a large bin.

#3 Clean the Surface

The next step for this RV roof install is to clean the surface before placing the new rubber roof. This step is especially important if the old roof you removed was metal because of leftover chips and shavings.

Most RVs with a rubber roof consist of a layer of plywood on top and on the bottom that’s about a quarter inch thick, followed by an inch and a half thick of rigid Styrofoam, which also includes wood framing.

So, to remove the old wood, you’re going to have to use a putty knife to get it all off. I don’t recommend using something like a prybar as you can damage the Styrofoam underneath.

Once you’ve got all the wood off, you can start cleaning the surface so that the new roof will stick well.

For the plywood, I used a quarter inch underlayment which is moisture resistant, and you can find it at any Home Depot. Dry fit the piece first by pre-drilling some holes with a countersink drill bit so that the screwheads can sit flush. I drilled a hole every five inches so that the seams on the plywood line up with the steel tubing underneath, and I used wood to metal self-tapping screws. Put a screw on each corner in order to line up the panel much easier after applying the adhesive. Once you’re done, remove it so that you can apply adhesive and refit it and secure it with screws around the entire perimeter. Do this quickly, before the adhesive sets. Use a patching compound to fill in any imperfections, such as the screwhead holes, and smooth out the surface. Repeat the process for the rest of the pieces of plywood.

Next, clean the entire roof with odorless mineral spirits and prep it to apply seam tape on all of the joints. Normally, you don’t need to use this unless there’s a gap of more than an eighth of an inch, but I still put it on all my joints just to avoid any potential future issues.

Afterward, give the deck one final wipe with a towel or rag and give it plenty of time to set before moving on to the next step. 

#4 Adhere the Rubber Roof

Before actually starting the RV roof replacement, it’s likely that your new rubber roof came with leak prevention components so that any water goes into the gutter instead of getting trapped on the deck and ruining the roof. Check the provided manual on how to install these first.

Then, you can start by relaxing the new rubber roof for camper, as it is likely to be very stiff – this will make the application much easier. It helps to position it correctly before applying any glue to make sure that everything is in the right place anyway. Let it sit there for about half an hour.

Even though it’s possible to do this on your own, having someone to help you adhere the roof goes a long way. It’s best to do a portion at a time; I recommend four-foot sections, give or take. It doesn’t matter if you start from the front or back. Use a paint roller to roll on the adhesive onto the roof deck, leave the adhesive until it gets a little bit tacky before rolling the roof membrane on top.

Smooth it out using a stiff broom or a window mop to ensure no air bubbles are trapped. It also helps to let it sit out in the sun for a while. Some creases and air bubbles may take more time and effort to get out, but if you’re doing this out in the sun it makes the job way easier since the rubber relaxes.

Continue doing this until you’ve covered the whole roof and smoothed it out and cut off any excess with a utility knife.

You may want to leave the perimeter for last to adhere that with a stronger glue. Make sure that you wait until the first round of glue has completely dried in order to avoid creating air pockets and roll on at least two coats of adhesive for the edges. Don’t forget to cut off the excess slack at the ends.

#5 Cut Vent Holes

If necessary, cut out holes for any vent hoods or housings you had with a utility knife. The best way to do this is by drilling holes at each corner, about quarter inch holes, and then cut an ‘X’ shape to each of the holes. The reason it’s best to drill holes at the corners is to prevent the material from ripping past that point. Using screws, secure each side of the opening before cutting off the excess material.

#6 Reinstall Components

Any vents, termination bars, drip edges, strips, and caps that you had removed at the very start need to be reinstalled here. Cover up any exposed screws and joints with lap sealant first.

You may need to slightly move the component when reinstalled if your RV had used rivets. Use screws where possible as it makes things much easier for the future. Once you’ve reinstalled them, cut off any excess material underneath the bars.

#7 Additional Waterproofing

It’s quite likely that your new rubber roof requires some extra waterproofing materials, such as Elastofoam, so that water definitely doesn’t make its way through any cracks or openings. Wait until the main section and perimeter have dried completely before applying these pieces according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost to put a rubber roof on a camper?

The cost of replacing an RV roof is around $300-$325 per linear foot. For example, to replace the roof of a 30-foot-long RV it would cost around $9,000 and $9,750.

What do you put on RV rubber roof?

There are several different types of RV roof adhesive that you can use to install your rubber roof. The most popular one being the RP-8010 acrylic water base adhesive by RecPro.

Which RV roof is better EPDM or TPO?

EPDM, also known as ethylene propylene diene monomer, has a dark surface that absorbs a lot of heat in the summer, causing your cooling systems to work overtime, whereas TPO roofing reflects sunlight so that your air conditioners can work more efficiently. It is said that TPO (Thermoplastic Polyolefin) also has a higher resistance to punctures than EPDM.

So, it seems that TPO is the best type of RV roof.

Can You Use Flex Seal on a rubber camper roof?

Yes, you can use Flex Seal to adhere a rubber camper roof. Flex Seal is known for working on almost any surface, not just rubber, including fiberglass, vinyl, wood, plastic, and more.

Can you put a metal roof on a camper?

Yes, it’s not uncommon for campers to have metal roofs, as long as the RV isn’t sloped, and installing one is easier than shingle roofs even though they are more common.

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