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Thick snow is a common sight in many RVs during the winter. But is it safe? How much snow can an RV roof realistically handle before it gives up?
An RV roof can hold up to 2 ft (60 cm or 24 inches) of snow weighing 250 to 300 lbs (113-136 kg); remember that wet snow weighs more. These amounts can vary depending on the roof’s material and condition. If the snow gets too heavy, there is a risk of the RV roof collapsing.
Read on and find out how much snow RV roofs can hold and if the roof can collapse because of having too much snow. More importantly, I’ll share some of the best things to do to protect the roof of your motorhome.
Snow on RV Roof: How Much Is Too Much?
I have seen RVs stand a whole Norweigan winter with waist-deep snow on the roof once they finally shoveled it. I mean, that can’t be good! Most people shovel their roofs after every major snowfall. The benefit of doing it regularly is that it makes it easier every time.
That said, shoveling snow isn’t the most pleasant thing to do. The temptation to wait until it absolutely must be done is real for many RVers. If that sounds familiar, you must know how much snow your RV roof can hold before shoveling becomes overdue.
So, how much snow is too much for an RV roof?
There’s no definite answer to this question. The amount of snow an RV’s roof can hold depends on the following:
- The RV model.
- The materials the roof is made of.
- The age and condition of the RV. (Water damage affects this seriously)
- Other items on the roof.
Most RV roofs can support up to 2 feet (24 inches or 60cm) of snow or 250 to 300 pounds (113-136 kg).
If you’re unsure about your RV’s weight capacity, I recommend checking the user manual. If you can’t find this information in the manual, check the RV’s ladder; you’ll most likely find the weight rating somewhere on it.
Factors Affecting the Amount of Snow RV Roofs Can Hold
I briefly mentioned that the amount of snow an RV roof can hold depends on many factors. However, I didn’t explain how each factor affects an RV’s roof weight capacity, and that’s what this section is all about.
The Roof Material
RV roofs are made of different materials, each with their respective weight capacities. Here are the most common roof materials and the average weight they can support. Of course, it will vary a great deal how the roof is supported and the structure under it but as a rule of thumb;
- Rubber: It’s the most common among RV roof materials. It’s available in two main types (EPDM and TPO), and both can support about 250 pounds (113kg).
- Fiberglass: This material is known for being harder than its more flexible counterparts, such as rubber. Hence, it can support more weight – as much as 300 pounds (136kg).
- Aluminum: You’d expect aluminum roofs to hold much weight, given they’re made of metal. However, that’s not necessarily the case. In most cases, they will hold a maximum of only 250 pounds.
Fiberglass is a great option if you have to choose between these materials. It’s rigid enough to withstand significant snow weight. Still, the amount of snow it can hold will depend on the overall construction quality and not just the choice of material.
Learn what type of roof material you have in this complete guide to it, where I also talk about the pros and cons of each and what products you can use on the different roof types for maintenance.
Age and Condition
Like the other parts of an RV, the roof deteriorates over time. The older the RV gets, the more the roof degrades. This is especially the case if you ignore roof care and maintenance.
Using the wrong cleaning products can also weaken your RVs roof. For instance, some products have petroleum distillates. These cleaning products aren’t just a health hazard; they can also cause your roof to swell and deteriorate, especially if it’s made of rubber.
Other Things on the Roof
The weight of snow isn’t the only thing your roof needs to hold. RV roofs hold other essentials like a satellite dish or an A/C unit. Some people also install racks and use the roof as extra storage.
The more items the roof holds, the less snow it can accommodate.
The manufacturer of your motorhome also has a crucial role to play. Some manufacturers are known for using high-quality materials, while others leave much to be desired. That’s why you must research online how some companies make their roofs before buying an RV.
Here are a few examples of brands with the best RV roofs:
- Forest River.
- Happier Camper.
- Venture RV.
Some of the popular brands known for having inferior roofs include:
The Danger of Too Much Snow on Your RV Roof
Heavy snow loads can collapse an RV roof. It may not happen instantly, but the roof can gradually crack as the ice gets thicker and heavier. If you let the snow keep piling up, the crack will get bigger, and the roof will eventually collapse.
Your motorhome isn’t safe even if the roof does not collapse because of thick snow. Snow might end up melting and re-freezing, causing the roof to crack. This begins with water from the melting snow creeping into all the little spaces on the roof. As the water refreezes, it expands inside those spaces, widening them significantly and eventually cracking the roof.
Not only do you need to worry about a collapsing roof when the above is happening but more likely water damage that won’t be easy to notice.
The worst part is that most roof damages because of snow are discreet. It may be too late before you realize the problem. Also, you might have noticed a small stain on the ceiling but only paid attention once the crack was more visible.
Snow on your RV’s roof can result in an ice dam. While most people experience ice dams in homes, it can also happen to RVs. The snow build-up from the freeze-thaw cycle can result in structural and aesthetic damage.
All About the Weight of Snow
It’s difficult to accurately predict how much snow is on your RV’s roof. In most cases, it’s almost impossible to tell. Most will judge based on the thickness rather than the weight of snow accumulating.
When calculating the weight of snow, one of the most important is to look at what type it is. For example, fresh snow weighs three pounds (1.36 kg) per square foot if it’s light and dry. On the other hand, wet and heavy snow can weigh as much as 21 pounds (9.53 kg) per square foot.
Once snow turns into ice, it becomes heavier. On average, one inch (2.54 cm) of ice weighs five pounds (2.27 kg) per square foot. That means one foot of ice might be as heavy as 57 pounds (26 kg) per square foot.
Take note that there can be regional and national considerations. For instance, snow in some countries can be heavier than the others. Nevertheless, the numbers mentioned above can provide a reasonable general estimate.
Signs That Snow Is Overloading Your RV Roof
Knowing how much snow an RV roof can hold is important, but you must also be familiar with the signs that it’s overloaded. This way, you can act before the situation worsens and save yourself a lot of trouble.
One of the first things to look out for is sound. Creaks, pops, or cracks near the roof are signs that the weight is too much.
Other signs to look out for are warps and water stains on the ceiling. These indicate that there are cracks and water has penetrated the top layer of your RV’s roof.
The formation of ice dams around the roof can also be a clue of an overloaded roof. Ice dams aren’t something you want to ignore because they can add a lot of pressure, potentially causing irreversible roof damage.
Tips for Removing Snow on Your RV Roof
Living in a motorhome in the winter is fun, but removing snow from the roof can be a bit of a hassle. Here are a few things you can do to make the process easier:
Don’t Wait Too Long
One of the most common mistakes people make is to wait too long before they act. This increases the chances of roof damage and makes your job harder. The thicker the snow, the harder it is to remove.
So whenever the weather permits, I recommend you climb on the roof or, even better, on a ladder and get rid of the snow. Make this routine, and you might never have to worry about your RV’s roof caving in from too much snow.
Avoid Using a Shovel
Many people consider a shovel the best tool for removing snow on the roof. But while it can get the job done, a shovel isn’t necessarily the best tool you can use.
The problem with shoveling snow off an RV roof is the risk of applying too much force. This leave can leave dents in the roof and damage roof installations such as satellite dishes and solar panels.
So instead of using a shovel, use an extendable snow brush. It’s safer for your roof and any other installations you might have on it. If you insist on shoveling, do it when the snow is thick and switch to a snow brush or rake as it gets thinner.
Clueless about how to use a snow brush to remove snow on the roof? Watch the short video below and find out how to do it.
How to Prevent Snow Accumulation on Your Roof
There are a couple of things you can do to prevent snow from accumulating on your RV roof:
Find the Right Parking Spot
This seems like a no-brainer, but it’s a trick many people miss. Any structure with a roof will do; the whole point is to prevent snow from falling onto your RV’s roof.
If you can’t access a structure with a roof, look for a spot with windbreaks, such as treelines and large buildings. Some snow might still find its way onto your RV roof, but it won’t accumulate as much as it would with no protection.
Invest in an RV Cover
Adding an RV cover is a great way to protect the roof from potential snow damage and other external elements, such as wind and water.
RV covers come in various sizes, so choose one that fits your RV. As for the material, I recommend sticking to polyester or polypropylene. There are a few other options, but none are as waterproof as polyester or polypropylene.
Add a Slanted Surface
Most RV roofs are flat, which makes it easy for snow to accumulate on the top. One of the practical solutions you can try is adding a slanted surface on the roof and letting gravity do the work. This way, snow will fall on the sides instead of amassing on your RV’s roof.
Inspect Your RV Roof Regularly
While this might not necessarily prevent snow accumulation, it can minimize potential damage. Regular inspection keeps you in the know of cracks and other problems so you can repair them before they escalate into bigger issues. The net effect of this is a stronger roof that offers better protection from the weight of the snow.
To summarize, too much snow is terrible for your RV’s roof. It can collapse your motorhome’s roof and cause other costly problems.
On average, RV roofs can support only 250 to 300 pounds (113-136 kg). The thicker the snow gets, the more problems it can cause.