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Old 07-17-2010, 06:59 PM   #1
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Rubber Roof Caulk - Inspect and repair 101

Hi Fellow Campers

A number of questions have come up about roof care for our Sunlines. This info message is intended for the rubber (EPDM) roofs. Hopefully this will help folks new to this know what to look for and some options for correcting suspect spots.

This spring I found more then what I thought was normal cracks in my roof caulk. This camper was built in Oct 2003 and has lived outside all itís life. Iím sure this has played a large roll in the issues I have found. It seems once you hit the 6 to 7 years mark the amount of splits goes up, again if the camper lives outside. Small splits can show up after 2 to 3 years but the number of them increases in time. Having your camper inside under cover greatly retards this caulk cracking I have found.

The key to staying ahead of a roof leak is early detection and correction. Once you have a leak the correction is much more complex pending how bad the leak is. The first thing to see is how the caulk reacts over time. Basically it starts to spilt. Generally very tiny splits at first which are not yet at a leak stage and are really small that then grow larger eventually can lead to a full blown leak.

Here are some examples of splits in various stages.

Front seam joints




Shower dome lap seal






The long edge along to top sides of the camper





The rear seams of the camper






The splits like I said start small. That is the time to deal with them. An inspection in the spring and one in the fall before winter I would say is a minimum if your camper lives outside all the time. I do mine every time I wash the roof which is about 4 maybe 5 times a year. Iím already up there so a look and see is easy.

These little splits can be harmless in there beginning stages. However once water gets inside and it freezes, then it forces the split open really fast. This is an issue going into winter as a small split then grows over the winter. In the summer the split may act as a stress release point and start to be come wider as you tow down the road or go in and out of hot days where the entire camper expands and contracts.

By doing an inspection in the spring, you found what cropped up over the winter and then fix them. By doing an inspection in the fall the roof is sound going into winter as the winter freezing can be the worst.

Now what to do when you see them? This is how I have treated mine. There is no exact must do way but the need is to make sure the opened split is sealed shut.

I make a judgment call on each split and I have about 3 types of fixes and they all start with Dicor self leveling roof sealant. Dicor Lap Sealent You can buy it at several places on line or at RV dealers parts stores. It comes in colors and different types. Sunline use to be able to sell me a wider gap compound but I have not been able to find it on the public market. Dicor 501 LSW - White is what I can find. It is self leveling and white. It forms a 1/4 to 3/8" bead of caulk. Sunline sold me 502 LSW which would make a 3/8 to 1/2" bead and that helped when you have large gaps. If you can find it, good let us know. If not the 501 LSW works just we need to make more passes to get a wider joint coverage.

This stuff is amazing. It comes out of a standard caulking gun like a real thick creamy pudding so to speak. And it then skins over and starts to flow to help level out. The self leveling feature helps us who are not expert caulkers have something that looks half way decent.

1. For a fine tiny split, clean the area, let it dry and then put fresh caulk right over it. It is a judgment call on what tiny is. For me it is a hair line crack.

2. If the split turns into a blister, I dig out the blister back down to fresh looking caulk. Reasoning is the blister is full of black/gray crud and I see no reason to seal that back in. The old Dicro scraps up relatively easy. You must be careful you do not dig too deep or poke the roof.

I clean the area first the dig it out.




And then make sure the area is clean is still clean and apply new.

3. If the split or in this case crack is deep and long, being an inch or more, well I make sure I take out all the old first. And this may be all of it. The Dicor does soften up to scrape out easier if you warm it with a hair dryer or constant motion of a heat gun if needed. But do not blast it with high heat as this may affect the rubber roof.

I do not like splits or cracks in the corner areas so I clean them all out and start over.







This is the basics of the roof caulk repair. It is not that hard to do and early detection is key. And if you did not know, many camper roofs are "not" what is called a walk on roof. A Sunline walk on roof is an option from the factory that used I think 3/8 or 1/2" OSB board over part or all of the roof. For roofs that do not have that feature you need to put a canvas, carpet or tarp to protect the rubber from abrasion and the use small sheets of plywood to space out over the roof rafters to take your weight. This is how I do this.

Start with a solid step ladder on a stable surface.


And then a tarp and plywood. This is from cleaning my AC unit but I use the same setup when doing anything where I need to reach in more then the ladder will allow.


Hope this helps

John

PS there are other options for caulking repair/elimination however they are more involved but offer longer lasting protection. The caulking does work and is on probaly 98% to 99% of all rubber roof campers. Just you have to stay on top of it for splits and cracks. I will soon be posting an Eternabond post which is an alternative to keeping on top of the roof caulk. See here for the Eternabond post: Eternabond Roof Seal Tape on a Sunline (Lots of pics)

To help add some more to what cracked and deteriorated caulking looks like, see this post. It has a lot of pictures in it and it shows what happens when the roof caulking is neglected. 2004 T1950 Restoration Project - (Ugly Picture Heavy) The original owners just did not know that they needed to do annual and frequent roof cleaning and inspections to help keep their camper leak free.
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Old 07-18-2010, 07:24 PM   #2
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Very helpful, thanks
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Old 07-19-2010, 07:57 AM   #3
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John,

You are the best! This spring I cleaned my roof and many seams looked exactly as described. I did use the Dicor, and sealed the seams. Please do not put down your chalking skills as they are way better than mine. The one thing I will go back and fix this fall are the corners with the aluminum joints. I did not clean the corners out as well as you did. I will use a heat gun next time. Thanks again for all your help on this forum.

Jay
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Old 07-19-2010, 02:39 PM   #4
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John, I totally agree with your assessment of the lap sealant check. As I was replacing the original vent caps on my 2005, I noticed that the lap sealant around the shower dome was cracked in many places. Yes the tt is stored outside on the driveway. Further inspection found much more cracked sealant. I found that they were mostly on the front and rear of the roof. The front having more cracks. I removed all of the sealant on the front, all the way across the tt. I noticed that there was moisture under the sealant in several places. I checked the ceiling inside and everything looks ok including the floor. In the locations that were suspicious, I removed as much of the sealant as I could. I then used up to cartridges to replace the removed sealant. Fortunately we don't get a lot of precipitation here. I dread to think how it would be in the snow country. I did observe that the drainage at the corners is not real good as there is puddling. These areas have to be checked often.

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Old 07-19-2010, 05:22 PM   #5
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Thanks for the kind comments folks. Glad it helps.

Joe, h'mm I too found traces of mositure under the front lap sealent. I have have since Eternabonded the seams. And I did scrape out all the old caulk and install fresh, let is cure then Eternabonded over it. A post soon to come.

Thanks

John
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Old 07-19-2010, 09:31 PM   #6
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Hmm, interesting John Waiting for the pics with the eternabond fix.

Thanks
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Old 07-29-2010, 07:30 PM   #7
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John think I need to remove all this old caulk or just go over it?





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Old 07-30-2010, 09:17 AM   #8
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I'm not JohnB, BUT I (well Gary)would remove as much of the old crap as possible, then apply new caulk.

Kitty
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Old 08-02-2010, 08:38 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by markbrit View Post
John think I need to remove all this old caulk or just go over it?

Mark

WOW holy cow...... I myself would remove as much as I can when it is that bad. You may find something you do not like under some of it and you can then address it. Putting new over caulk that heavily cracked is not great in my point of view. A heat gun used gently or a hair dryer and a very dull rounded end putty knife and it will come up pretty easy, especially in the summer. Heat make this stuff peel up like stale taffy.

Once new, then your know your sound and keep after it each year before it get's that advanced.

Good luck and post back.

John
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Old 08-03-2010, 05:42 AM   #10
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Alright boys will do, thanks. I have 4 tubes of Dicor on order.
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Old 08-03-2010, 10:41 AM   #11
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John, If you just have some small cracks can you just shave some out and fill that back in with new Dicor? Our is not too bad yet, but I want to keep up with it.

Dave
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Old 08-03-2010, 12:23 PM   #12
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What do you guys think is the best product to actually clean the roof?
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Old 08-03-2010, 12:28 PM   #13
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Suggestions in the past have been liquid spic and span. Works nicely for me.
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Old 08-03-2010, 12:44 PM   #14
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I've heard about not using products that contain petroleum distillates so I'm concerned about what to use on it.
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