Buying an RV is a huge investment. RV owners want their vehicles to be durable, water-resistant, and long-lasting. So, what is the best RV roof material? Let’s explore aluminum vs. rubber roofs for RVs.
As a general rule, aluminum RV roofs are more durable than rubber roofs. Aluminum RV roofs are less prone to dents and can have a higher weight capacity. This is important if you want to put a large air conditioner on your RV. It also helps if you store things on your RV roof.
Having a good quality RV roof also helps increase the resale value of your RV.
There are, however, some benefits to having a rubber RV roof. Let’s have a look at the pros and cons of rubber and aluminum RV roofs. I will then talk about other RV roof materials and which is the best for you.
The Decoliner by Blastolene. #Retro motorhomes just don’t get any better than this.
The 26ft tall polished aluminium rv has a flying bridge, complete with driving station and room for 5 passengers on the roof terrace!
(Source: https://t.co/zpRVGKxgse) pic.twitter.com/4u784fHU8S
— Fraserway RV Rentals (@FraserwayRVRent) March 9, 2018
Overview of aluminum RV roofs
Aluminum is a common material used by RV manufacturers.
Aluminum RV roofs are sheets of aluminum that are put on the top of your RV frame. It is rare that you will find an RV that has a single piece of aluminum for its roof.
This is because aluminum is heavy.
It would be really difficult for an RV manufacturer to put a huge sheet of metal on top of the RV. Can you imagine doing that for a 40-foot Class A motorhome?! Having multiple pieces makes sure you are not paying a high labor cost.
Aluminum RV roofs are modular. This means they are made of multiple sheets of aluminum. This makes producing the RV easier. It also makes repairs and maintenance easier.
If you had a single sheet roof, and one part was corroded, that corrosion would spread.
This would mean you have to replace the whole roof, which would be very expensive. Therefore, by having aluminum panels on the roof of an RV, you can simply replace damaged panels. You can keep the good panels and save money.
You may be able to find an aluminum RV roof that is one sheet of aluminum, but it is rare.
We bought an RV yesterday!🤗
We are so excited!
It’s a 1993 Coachman Santara.
Had some water damage, but has New rubber roof.
We are picking it up today!
I’ll take more photos when we get it home.
I named it “Happy”. 😂
Next winter, we travel. 😎 pic.twitter.com/afhlv2UG0S
— Happy Camper (@HappyBigGrin) May 27, 2021
Overview of rubber RV roofs
RV roofs are made of synthetic rubber.
This is because RV roofing materials have to be strong, and natural rubber just does not cut it. All RVs with rubber roofing will be synthetic. Rubber roofing is popular for travel trailers and small RVs. This is because it helps to keep the weight low.
The rubber most commonly used for RV roofs is EPDM.
This stands for ethylene propylene diene monomer. This material is known as an elastomer. Elastomers, in simple terms, are plastics that are flexible. This is important for RV roofing as it means you can have a roll of EPDM.
EPDM roofs are very common. You will have no problem finding an EPDM RV roof. EPDM is mainly used on lower-end RVs, as it is cheaper to manufacture than aluminum. EPDM is made of recycled car tires, slate dust, and sawdust.
The synthetic rubber is rolled onto the top of a wooden RV roof. Another synthetic plastic used for RV roofing is EPDT. This stands for ethylene propylene diene terpolymer. There are two main types of polymers:
Thermoplastic – these are plastics that can be re-melted and recycled. When they get warm, they start to lose their shape. EPDM is a thermoplastic.
Thermosetting plastic – these are plastics that don’t melt, no matter how warm they get. EPDT is a thermosetting plastic.
If you are going to get an RV roof that is rubber, make sure it is EPDT. This is because an EPDM roof will expand and shrink in the heat and cold. This means you will have to keep on re-sealing your RV roof.
Another type of rubber used in RV roofs is TPO.
TPO stands for thermoplastic polyolefin. It is simply a single layer of rubber that is made from polypropylene and ethylene-polypropylene. A chemical reaction happens between the two chemicals, and this bonds them.
That makes the RV roofing more rigid, durable, and weatherproof.
First pannel of the RV roof removed. Damn thing had aluminum under the wood. It hurt a lot to remove 😭 pic.twitter.com/S2AvBvDl8j
— DarkPhox (@DarkPhox) January 7, 2018
Pros and cons of aluminum RV roofs
Aluminum RV roofs are very durable and last a long time.
They usually require less maintenance than other RV roof materials. Aluminum is not damaged by UV rays the same way some polymers are. Aluminum RVs are not very water-resistant.
Pros of aluminum RV roofs
Durability – metal roofs are important if you are going to use your RV near trees. There have been so many RV owners whose roofs have been punctured by branches. Aluminum RVs are quite low maintenance.
Fire-resistance – aluminum does not burn as polymers do.
Sheets – since the roof is not one piece, you can replace damaged panels, as opposed to having to replace the whole roof. Repairing parts of a rubber roof can be tricky. The less maintenance you have to do, the better.
Cons of aluminum RV roofs:
They are heavy – this type of RV roof won’t really add much weight to your RV over a rubber roof though.
Noise – if the aluminum roof is loose and not joined to the frame properly, it can make a rattling noise that is super annoying.
Does not look good – aluminum quickly loses its aesthetic appearance compared to rubber roofs.
Aluminum is not heat resistant – metal roofs conduct heat. Your aluminum RV roof will get very hot during the day and be cold at night. This constant heating and cooling can cause the roof of your RV to creak and loosen at the joints.
Aluminum has to be screwed – with this type of RV roofing, screws can come loose. It is best to use adhesives on an RV roof, but most adhesives don’t join well to metal.
Dura-Rubber for RV roof applications. pic.twitter.com/Nh5duwaNZn
— Rubberizeit (@RubberizeIt) October 17, 2016
Pros and cons of rubber RV roofs
Rubber RV roofs tend to be cheaper than aluminum roofs.
They are also lighter, cheaper to repair, and less prone to weather damage. However, when rain hits the rubber roof, it will sound much louder than on an aluminum or fiberglass roof.
Rubber roofs are also prone to being damaged by trees.
Pros of rubber RV roofs:
Lower cost – rubber does not have to be mined and refined like aluminum. It is much more accessible, easier to process, transport and store. This keeps the cost low for the end customer.
Lower weight – rubber is less dense than metal. Therefore rubber RV roofing is lighter. This improves fuel economy slightly. It also makes the RV less top-heavy and improves handling and stability.
Repairs are cheaper – Every RV will need repairing at some point. It is much easier to fix a rubber RV roof than replace a whole corroded aluminum roof panel.
Cons of rubber RV roofs:
You have to constantly inspect rubber roofs – because rubber is not that durable, you have to always check the roof. You should look for rippling, tears, and other damage.
They can be damaged by UV rays – some of the polymers used in rubber RV roofs are not that UV resistant. The UV rays can cause discoloration and make the rubber brittle. Most modern RV roofs have chemicals added to them to make them UV resistant.
Water can leak in – rubber expands and shrinks when it warms up and gets cold. This constant heating and shrinking can lead to the seals opening up. It is essential that you get a good sealant if you have a rubber RV roof.
Lap sealants are very popular among RV owners. They help to prevent water damage.
If you want to learn what the best sealant for your RV’s roof is, check out this recent article on my site. I talk about the top 25 RV roof sealants available on the market and how to select the best one for you. But I also share how you can apply it yourself quickly and easily and save a boatload!
Just click that link to read it on my site.
If you have an RV, you should always have some Eternabond tape with you. Eternabond tape is waterproof tape that you can use as a makeshift solution if your RV roof is leaking. Taping a leak should be your first step in an emergency.
Then when you are able to get your hands on some sealant, you can remove the tape and seal up leaks.
Different cleaning products are used for different types of RV roofs. Find out 1st if your roof is made of rubber, aluminum, or fiberglass. pic.twitter.com/1mTvVWxI0C
— Teri Fredrick (@TeriFredrick) July 19, 2019
What other materials are RV roofs made of?
We know that RVs can have roofs made of aluminum, rubber, and even wood, but what else is available on the market?
Well, fiberglass roofs are a very popular option.
But a fiberglass RV roof is quite expensive and will usually cost more per square foot than rubber roofing solutions. However, you get what you pay for. Fiberglass RV roofs are very durable. And they don’t rot like wood or corrode like aluminum and other metals.
Fiberglass RV roofs are also very lightweight, and they tend to have a higher resale value than rubber and aluminum-roofed RVs.
Aside from that, you can also get a metal roof, TPO roofing, or an EPDM rubber roof.
The #New 2018 #ForestRiver Georgetown 3 Series GT3 30X3 features a fiberglass roof, custom countertops and much more: https://t.co/RTz6UqK7AA #HilmersonRV #LittleFalls #Minnesota #RVing #RV #Travel pic.twitter.com/P0kQmQqaG3
— Hilmerson RV (@HilmersonRV) January 26, 2018
Which RV roof material is best for you?
There are many recreational vehicle roofs to choose from, and they all come at different price points. They all have their own pros and cons too. Here is a super concise summary of who should get what RV roof.
Aluminum – A roof that is very durable from scratches and trees. A little more expensive and noisier when you drive.
Fiberglass – Very durable, and more expensive. Hard to repair. Has a high resale value. This is good if you RV infrequently and want to keep your RV for a long time and sell it one day.
EPDM – cost-effective option, but not good for intense heat. Easy to repair.
EPDT – Cost-effective and can cope with intense heat. Easy to repair.
TPO – Used to cover flat roofs. Usually cheaper than EPDM.
There are many materials that can be used on the roof of your RV.
Whatever material you get, keep in mind that you are going to have to check it regularly for water damage. You should also check your RV for heat splits.
This is where the roof of your RV undergoes changes in temperature, and this causes cracks on the roof of the RV. This can let water in. Water damage can be really expensive to repair.
The different types of RV roofs include:
Aluminum RV roofs are usually made of sheets of aluminum, and they are either welded or jointed to the frame of your RV using galvanized screws.
Rubber RV roofs are typically made of recycled car tires. They also have slate dust and sawdust added to them.
In addition to that, higher-end rubber roofs have chemicals added to them to make them more weatherproof, durable, and heat resistant.
If you have an RV, getting a cover for your vehicle is a good idea.
The cover can help protect your RV from weather damage. Check out this recent article on my site. I talk about whether you need to get an RV cover and how to select the best RV cover for you.
Just click that link to read it on my site.
Photo which requires attribution:
Washington Coast Camping by RVWithTito.com is licensed under CC2.0 and was cropped, edited, and had a text overlay added.