EPDM Rubber 101: An In-Depth Look at RV Roofing Solutions

EPDM was first introduced in 1962 as a single-ply roofing membrane system. During the 1970s, as the price and quality of asphalt-based roofing were affected by the oil embargo of the Middle East, this material became increasingly popular for RVs, mobile homes, and recreational vehicles. The material was a cost-effective solution that offered simple installation.

For the sake of RV roofing, EPDM has been enhanced and redesigned over the years to create an even more useful solution that still provides the convenience and quick application of the original product. Technology has even turned EPDM sheeting into a liquid product which offers another way to save more time and money on your RV roofing.

Weather the Elements with EPDM

Perhaps one of the biggest advantages to EPDM roofing is its superior resistance to extreme temperatures and weather elements. This rubber material is highly resistant to UV rays, hail damage, ozone, extreme heat and cold, ice, wind, and other elements. The synthetic compound holds up to environmental extremes much better than non-porous surfaces like fiberglass or aluminum roof sheeting.

EPDM Defined

EPDM stands for Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer. Ethylene and propylene, the two main ingredients, are derived from natural gas and oil and combined with other ingredients to create a durable, flexible roofing solution for RVs and mobile homes. This material is available in black and white sheets, as well as black or white liquid roofing products.

Sheets are available for all sizes of RV roofs, with sizes sold from 7.5 feet wide all the way up to 50 feet wide. Plus, while the economical 45 mil thickness is fine, 60 mil sheets are available for added protection. New technology has even created a selection of 90 mil EPDM rubber roofing membranes for the ultimate in thickness and durability.

Installing an EPDM Rubber Roof

EPDM sheets can be adhered to the original roof surface with an adhesive or sealant. They can also be attached mechanically, although this can create opportunities for future leaks because you are perforating the membrane with screws or other hardware.

Liquid EPDM offers a pour-over style application, allowing you to use a roller or squeegee to spread the liquid EPDM over the entire roof. The process, on an RV, is quick and easy plus, liquid products are enhanced with a self-leveling additive that creates an even surface and helps prevent pooling.

Of course, both liquid EPDM and rubber sheeting are better options for RV roofing in terms of ease of installation, durability, and longevity when compared to other materials.

EPDM and Sealants

If your RV has an EPDM rubber roof, you will still need to add an additional seam sealant to your roof vent and other fixtures. There are typically two options for this:

  1. Seam tape can be installed prior to installing or pouring the EPDM roofing material, creating a watertight seal for all fixtures and seams. This tape helps increase the quality of the seal, especially in problematic areas and with difficult angles.
  2. Caulk-style sealants can be applied over the rubber roof material to add an extra layer of protection on the seams of all of your fixtures, including roof racks, air conditioners, and more. There are a number of different styles of this product, including sealants specifically designed for EPDM roofing.

EPDM for the Future

EPDM continues to evolve and offer better solutions for RV roofing. Even the latest 90 mil products, while limited in availability, are offering previously unheard of warranties because of their superior performance and protective ratings. This should be a good sign that if you are considering this type of roofing material, you are making a solid choice.