Tuesday, October 3, 2023


Conflicting articles on whether or not to get on RV roof. Which is it?

Dear Dave,
I see frequent answers that include the term “get on the roof” to find and/or fix a problem on an RV. It appears that one should get on the roof fairly regularly to inspect and fix the seals around various equipment. I have read that one should not ever get on the roof because it could damage the roof. I have also read that if the camper/trailer has a ladder, the manufacturer has built the roof to support a person. Is this true? My trailer does not have a ladder, but the camper does. I am capable of getting on the roof and have done so a few times to put the trailer cover on. How do I know whether the roof can support my 160 lbs.? What do I need to be careful of, other than not falling off? —Toni, 2006 Keystone Springdale 20′ trailer, and 2006 Snow River 810 pickup camper

Dear Toni,
Yes, someone needs to get up on the roof at least once a year to clean, condition, and inspect the roof material and sealants. If not, the sealant will dry and crack and you will get moisture penetration and the rubber roof material starts to chalk. Rubber membranes have a 10-year warranty but only if they are cleaned and conditioned once a year.

What about damage to the RV roof?

It really depends on the RV model and roof construction as well as the weight of the person. If you get up on a roof that has limited structural integrity and walk on the rubber membrane with an aggressive shoe tread, you could do some damage. According to the 2006 Springdale brochure, the roof is designed with 4.5” truss to accommodate the ducting for the roof air conditioner and insulation. However, they don’t say that those trusses are actually 1.5” wood top and bottom and loose fill insulation between, so I would be very careful about getting up on the roof. Most models with aluminum framework in the roof structure have a 250 lb. limit and recommend staying away from cut out areas such as the roof vents and air conditioners. I would also suggest locating your air conditioner ductwork and not walk on that area without support.

What I typically do with a roof that I am not sure of the structural integrity is to use a 0.5” plywood sheet cut down to 2’ wide and 8’ long to span across the trusses and distribute the weight. I prefer this over a regular board such as a 2×8 or 2×10, as it is wider and lighter at 8’ to get up there. This not only spans the weight but also protects the rubber membrane. Also, it is less slippery when I put some tack strips on it. I still recommend trying to stay away from cut-out areas at least by a foot, if possible.

Ladder or no ladder on RV

This has been a discussion posted several times and typically it boils down to cost and the actual structure of the back wall not being able to support a ladder and someone climbing on it. Also, there are other instances where the RV manufacturer doesn’t want the liability of putting on a ladder and having someone fall off. Their lawyers think of everything.

My suggestion would be to span the width. If you are capable of getting up on the RV’s roof, do it at least once a year to clean, condition, and inspect to prevent moisture leaks.

 You might also enjoy this from Dave 

Can I walk on my RV’s roof? Can I add on a ladder? Help!

Dear Dave,
Since this is not the RV we intended on purchasing, I am learning as I go. It did not have a ladder on the back and was told not to have one mounted, nor a topper on the slide. I have been told it was better not to have a topper on this model and also that the roof was not meant to walk on. My weight is 215. Any ideas on an aluminum retractable ladder? Can my roof take my weight to maintain it? Thank you for your help. I value it immensely. —Sharon, 2021 Forest River Wildwood 22RBS

Read Dave’s answer.

Dave Solberg is a leading expert in the RV industry and the author of the “RV Handbook.”

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Dave Solberg
Dave Solberghttp://www.rv-seminars.com/
Dave Solberg is a leading expert in the RV industry and author of the “RV Handbook” as well as the Managing Editor of the RV Repair Club. He has been in the RV Industry since 1983 and conducts over 15 seminars at RV shows throughout the country.


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Neal Davis
1 month ago

Thanks Dave! Our 2022 Newmar New Aire has no ladder because Newmar put a spoiler on the back of the roof. We use a 15′ telescoping ladder to get on the roof to wash and inspect it.

PS. I just subscribed to the RV Lifestyle and Repair Club because of your work here with RV Travel. I’m looking forward to gaining even more knowledge from you thereby. 🙂

Tony Grigg
1 month ago

I walk on my roof at EVERY campsite and have for almost 5 yrs. I sweep off the slides on my 5er before pulling them in for travel and while I’m there I examine the roof and seal condition. It has a ladder and I use it.

1 month ago

Maybe a dumb question, but should the plywood be laid down West-East or North -South? (i.e. across the width or with the length?)

1 month ago
Reply to  Merv

I have the same question….

Mikal H
1 month ago

Overall solid construction, including the roof, should be on every buyer’s “must have” checklist. The time to ask these questions and verify the answers through construction diagrams, or even a factory tour, (meaning: don’t take a sales persons word for it) is BEFORE the purchase is made…not after.

If every buyer would put at least equivalent focus on solid build as is given to “bling factor” we might not have so much junk being built. When some RVs are built with completely inadequate foam floors that quickly break down, sag, and get soft, how much focus do you think they put on a walkable roof!

Jim Johnson
1 month ago

I really like my telescoping ladder. It is light and when collapsed, easily fits in a storage bay. You do have to get accustomed to some flex. Just know there are a bunch of cheap knockoffs with weak latches. Do your research and buy a well reviewed unit.

There are times when a straight ladder isn’t the best option. So far I have managed to borrow an A-frame folding ladder when I need one. The Little Giant articulating ladders are nice, but in my opinion, too heavy and still not quite small enough to travel with.

Bob P
1 month ago

Talking about conflicting info in the first answer you said you use a 1/2” plywood and in the second answer you use a 3/8” plywood.

Jim Johnson
1 month ago
Reply to  Bob P

IMO… if your roof is curved (many are now) rather than flat, the thinner the plywood you can get away with, the better. If the wood won’t bend to follow the roof line, you are going to put more stress on the roof at the rocking point. And the idea of standing on a rocking piece of plywood gives me the willies.

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