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Leaking RV Roof

Leaking RV Roof

See the wrinked panel on the ceiling of this closet?

A leak in the ceiling usually shows up on the inside of the coach
some time after the initial leak. Often, long after the leak has
occurred! In that case, there will likely be some dry rot damage
to the wooden roof structural members. A fungus that attacks the
wood, weakening it, and eventually turning it to powder causes
dry rot. The fungus thrives in damp, warm areas and the RV roof
is an ideal place for it to start. It will work outward in all
directions, from the source of the leak, and may extend for several
feet or more.

Dry rot shows up as dark or blackened wood and the
wood may be soft and spongy or starting to powder. Often, the
ceiling panel is the last part to show a stain from a leak and
the dry rot may be extensive by that time.

Some indications of hidden dry rot are obvious - stained and
sagging ceiling panels, loose or wavy panel coverings - while
other indications take a little investigation. Screw heads,
nails or staples that are rusty on the exposed surface are mostly
completely corroded from the inside out. Remove the light covers;
pull out one or two screws that hold it in place to check the
length of the screw for rust. Remove the bezel that covers the
inside opening of roof vents for a similar inspection and check
the visible wood for signs of dry rot.

If the affected area is small and easily accessible, it may be
possible to repair it from the inside of the coach, although it
may be impossible to find an exact match for the paneling. If the
area is in the bathroom, for example, a panel with a similar
texture and color could be used with a border edge to separate
it from the rest of the ceiling. If the area were in the living
room section, a panel replacement would be very obvious.

The construction of the RV will have a bearing on the method of
repair, so I will take a moment to mention the different
construction types.

Framed "stick and staple" construction:
This construction is similar to the way houses are built in that
there is a frame of wood or metal that provides the structural
form. Paneling is stapled and/or glued to the inside and aluminum
siding is stapled to the exterior framework. Insulation is contained
within the cavities of the framing members and is normally fiberglass
wool. The various window and door openings, and all the appliance
access openings are framed with wood members as part of the structure.

Bonded construction
The bonded system is a sandwich of the interior paneling, the
rigid insulation (usually Styrofoam) and the outer skin of aluminum
or fiberglass sheeting. These components are bonded together with
adhesive and pressure is applied to form a strong and durable
structure. The entire wall is formed as a solid sheet, run through
rollers (or otherwise pressed together) and then the various window
and door openings are cut out where needed. Wood or metal framing is included where required, for example, where the awning will be
attached or where the entry door is located.

Most RV's are constructed from the bottom up. The floor is installed
first and then the cabinets, appliances and interior walls are set in
place. The walls and overhead cabinets are installed next and then the roof is added. It is far easier to install the plumbing and electrical
systems using this method.

In order to replace ceiling panels it is often necessary to remove
the roof, rebuild the structure to the exact same dimensions and
replace the ceiling panels at this time. As you can see this would be
a very time consuming and expensive repair.

See also:
RV Roof Repair

RV Roof Maintenance

Dry rot

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