I know how tempting it is to walk on the roof of your RV when you are working on it, such as installing a solar panel or removing tree debris after a big storm.
Finally, at a NASCAR race, you always see people sitting and running on the roof of their RV.
You may be wondering, is it safe to run on the roof of my RV?
Smart alecks say that you should never assume that it is safe to walk on the roof of your RV. Most RVs are not equipped with trusses and beams that provide a stable structure for RV roofs.
While many RV roofs can support the weight of a few solar panels or a satellite dish, they do not have the structural support to hold a full-grown adult.
However, what happens when you need to access the roof of your RV to repair a leak, power wash it, or install some solar panels? There are many good reasons why you may need to enter the roof of your RV.
But before you set up a ladder and tromp around, you should know more about RV roofs, how they’re supported, and how you can reduce the likelihood of a problem once you’re up there.
Reasons why you need to walk on the roof of your RV
There are many seemingly good reasons why you may want to climb and walk on the roof of your RV. These include things like:
I know how frustrating it can be to find yourself in the middle of a job like this.
You’re forced to stand at the top of a tall ladder with a questionable weight class.
You stretch out as far as your arms will go, the sun blazes down on your arms, and when you lean forward just a few inches to get the last stick or screw in the last bolt, the legs of the ladder shake like a newborn colt.
At a time like this, it would probably be easier to climb onto the roof of the RV to finish the job.
Even if the little voice in the back of your head tells you that it would be wiser to go back down, flip the ladder over, and climb back up.
Is it safe to walk on the roof of my RV?
Even if there is a ladder on the back of your RV, you should never consider the roof of your RV to be 100% safe. Most have only 3/8 inch thick plywood under a very thin rubber membrane.
If you must access the roof of your RV, you should try to hold onto the edges and supports and distribute your weight.
Even if you have a sturdy fiberglass roof on your RV, you should still be careful when walking on the roof of your RV.
Especially if it is raining or wet in any way. Fiberglass RV roofs can become very slippery when it rains.
No matter what the conditions are, you should make every effort to distribute your weight and secure yourself from falling or falling through.
How much weight can an RV roof support?
The general rule of thumb is that most RVs can support up to 250 pounds. However, this is a distributed 250 pounds.
As in 250 pounds of snow and ice or wide solar panels. No 249 pound adult male is standing on thin aluminum RV roof panels with a pair of hiking boots.
How do you know if you can walk on the roof of your RV?
There are a few things you need to consider to know if it is reasonably safe to walk on the roof of your RV.
These include things like the type of roofing material, the construction method, and the weak points.
How to judge the weight capacity of a mobile home roof.
Some things can increase or decrease the real weight capacity of the RV roof. These include:
It is also worth noting that some RV roofs have strong and weak points.
Tips to identify the strongest spots on the roof of the motorhome.
Some parts of the RV roof are stronger than others. Let’s say you are in a tough spot, the wind is blowing and you need to mount the flexible solar panel tonight.
If you take the risk, there are some stronger parts of the RV roof that you can hold on to. These include:
How to identify the weakest parts of a motorhome roof
If you are going to take the risk of walking on the roof of your RV, there are some areas you should avoid. These weak points include:
Different motorhome roof materials & How they affect the weight capacity.
Different RV materials are stronger than others. Some also lend themselves to different construction techniques that make the roof a little stronger still to walk on.
1. Motorhome roofs with a rubber membrane
There are two different types of rubber membranes that can be found on an RV roof. They are EPDM (ethylene propylene diene monomer) or TPO (thermal poly olefin).
TPO is generally more puncture resistant, but both have relatively the same modest load bearing capacity.
Most of these RV roofs are supported by a series of metal cross braces supporting a 3/8″ to half-inch plywood panel. Then the thin EPDM or TPO roofing membrane is applied to provide waterproofing.
This is one of the more common types of RV roof waterproofing. However, this minimal approach to structural integrity makes it a bad idea to ever enter an RV roof with a rubber membrane.
A single misstep could cause the thin plywood panel to give way and cause a massive crack the size of your foot or your entire leg.
2. Mobile home roofs made of fiberglass
A fiberglass RV roof is usually recognized by its glossy, hard surface, which often has rounded corners and counters. This is the next level of structural integrity of rubber membrane RV roofs.
The thick fiberglass material provides a more stable surface that is hard enough not to bend or deform. Still, don’t push your luck. It’s best to keep the weight on the fiberglass material to 250 pounds or less.
Fiberglass RV roofs also tend to be slippery. Especially when they get wet. So you should try to never climb on a roof, even if it’s raining lightly. If you must enter your roof to pressure clean it or apply a new layer of sealant, take safety measures to avoid falling.
3. Aluminum camper roofs
Aluminum roofs have fallen out of favor in recent years in RV construction. As a result, you’ll probably only find them in older RVs. Aluminum RV roofs by themselves don’t offer much structural integrity.
However, some RV manufacturers, such as Airstream, who still use aluminum roofs, offer models that have the same level of reinforcement as an RV with a rubber membrane and plywood.
If you have an older RV with an aluminum roof, the weight of a person on the roof can cause the panels to deform and the seals to come loose, which can lead to large leaks in the roof.
Motorhome manufacturers with the strongest roofs?
For the best RV manufacturers with strong roofs, you can further distinguish between models made of fiberglass and models with a rubber membrane covering plywood.
Among the strongest manufacturers of fiberglass RV roofs are:
Tips for safe walking on the roof of the motorhome
I understand that there are times when you need to climb onto the roof of your RV, and trying to reach off the edge of a ladder with wobbly legs just isn’t possible.
This could be a situation where you need to patch a leak in the roof, attach a solar panel, or make sure your satellite dish is locked into place.
However, before you even set foot on the roof of your RV, you need to be aware of not only the strengths, but also the weaknesses.
In some RV owner’s manuals, you’ll find diagrams of roof and wall construction. So it’s definitely worth taking a look at the manual and perhaps searching the Internet for a wiring diagram for your make and model.
If your manual doesn’t have a roof diagram, you’ll have to do your own estimating. A stud finder might come in handy, as you can use it to find the edges of each stud or roof beam. These are the safest areas to walk on.
If your RV has an access ladder on the back, you can be confident that it is safe to walk on. However, you should still plan your route wisely to avoid weak points such as skylights, RV air conditioners and roof vents.
If possible, plan your route to go as close to the edges of the walls as possible. That’s where you’ll have the most structural support from below. Imagine that you have to get something from the thin ice.
You would walk along the shoreline where the ice is thickest until you get close. Similarly, you walk along the edge until you get close to the area you need to work on.
Once you are there, try to distribute your weight. This may mean lying on your stomach, or perhaps placing a handy half-inch-thick sheet of plywood supported by two or more of the roof joists below.
This way you reduce the risk of your feet accidentally puncturing the roof membrane and the relatively thin plywood underneath.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I sit on the roof of my RV during sporting events like NASCAR?
The prevailing wisdom is that you should never use your RV as a deck or impromptu seating area without first making structural changes to make it safe.
While some people can get away with it on the infield of NASCAR events, it is hardly safe for people and can cause significant damage to the roof of your RV.
Is an RV roof safe to walk on if it has a ladder in the back?
If your RV has a ladder on the back, you can assume that the manufacturer built it to be walkable. Still, you shouldn’t think you can go up there and tromp around without a care in the world.
With a roof like this, it’s wisest to stick to the stable areas, such as the sides and stringers, and stay away from the weak points of the RV roof, such as the air conditioner and skylights.
There are some good and not-so-good reasons why you need to access the roof of your RV. If you absolutely must get on the roof to fix a leak or install a solar panel or satellite dish, it’s helpful to know where you can step.
First, check your RV manual or the Internet to see if you can find a wiring diagram of the roof and walls of the RV. Even if you can’t, don’t just assume that you can use a ladder to enter your RV’s roof without worry.
Staying close to the sides of the roof and climbing up stable areas, such as the side rails, while staying away from weak spots, such as the skylights, will reduce the risk of a fall-through.
If your RV has a fiberglass roof, make sure it is dry and safe to walk on. When you get to the part of the RV roof you want to work on, distribute your weight as best you can.
This may require placing a handy sheet of plywood over several stringers or simply lying on your stomach to prevent your feet from digging into the RV roof material.