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Motorhomes and RVs have many items on top that may need to be replaced, repaired, and adjusted. Whether or not your RV has a ladder, you’ve likely been curious about climbing and walking on its roof. Is it safe to do so, and is there a proper technique for it?
You can walk on your RV roof if you’re below 250 pounds (113 Kg), and you walk around the edges as the roof have better structural support from the walls there. An older RV, especially one with water damage, carries an increased chance of damage when walking on its roof.
In this article, I’ll show you how you can know whether or not you can walk on your RV’s roof, what you should know before trying it, and what to avoid.
How To Know if I Can Walk on the Roof of My RV
To know if you can walk on the roof of your RV, check its structural condition, consider the roof’s material, and find out if you need to walk on the roof to access the appliance or area. Furthermore, you can assess the RV’s age to know if it’s safe. Find out if your RV comes with a ladder.
Let’s break down each of these variables below.
- Water damage; If your RV’s roof has water damage or it’s cracked, avoid walking on it at all costs. Weakened RV roofs are extremely fragile. They should be repaired or replaced as soon as you notice the damage. Unfortunately, they don’t get better on their own. Walking on a damaged RV roof can lead to injuries and expensive repairs. If you need to do so, it is essential to spread the weight over a large area of the roof, for example, by standing on a long plank or plywood piece that goes from wall to wall of your RV and is held up by the wall and not only the roof.
- Aluminum RV roofs; tend to dent fairly easily. They’re designed to withstand wind, rain, and falling debris from trees but not so much people walking on them. So when im up on my aluminum roof, I can see a couple of smaller dents there, and to avoid making more, I always spread my weight as much as possible over the roof. This can be achieved by sitting or standing on a large plank or something similar or simply by laying down on the roof, not standing on my knees or feet.
- Access; Find out if there are ways to access the roof without walking on it. Long-armed telescoping cleaning devices are excellent for keeping your feet off the RV roof. You can also set up a ladder near the appliance you need to work on, then access it from the edge of the roof. Most RVs are narrow enough for this style of repair.
- Age; If your RV is over a decade or two old, there’s a good chance the roof material and the structural support of the roof have weakened. Natural wear and tear can easily damage an RV roof. What im mainly concerned about here is actually water damage that you haven’t found yet, yes it is easy to think, -“oh no, my RV is perfectly fine; I have never resealed it, nor am I an RV technician, but I haven’t seen any water damage.”
But let’s face it; there is a high chance or even a certainty that we all have missed some damage somewhere on our RVs, so let’s take extra precautions before getting up on an old RV.
- Ladders; RVs that include ladders are often designed with someone walking on the roof in mind. If your RV comes with a ladder, it’s reasonable to assume the manufacturer expects you to climb on top. However, I still recommend looking for signs of damage and other risk factors before using the ladder.
It’s never worth walking on an RV’s roof that dips down, has water damage, or cracks when you put pressure on it. The best way to know if you can walk on the roof is to follow the suggestions above, then push on the roof with your hand to see if it dips. If it does, avoid walking on the roof.
Always try to spread out your weight well and walk near the edges of the roof or where you know that you have extra support from an interior wall or wardrobe inside the RV if you are not 100% sure that it will hold properly.
What Are the Risks of Walking on an RV Roof?
The risks of walking on an RV roof relate to structural damage and injury. For example, walking on a metal RV roof during a rainstorm or when there’s morning dew on the roof will greatly increase the risk of slipping, as it will if it is newly waxed or a protective coating has been used on any RV roof recently.
You could also crack the RV roof if you walk on soft water-damaged spots or, worst case, even fall through! Think of a rubber roof that has some insulation underneath and a wooden sheet that has been soaked in water and rotten; there won’t be any structural support there.
Here’s a list of potential risks involved with walking on an RV roof:
- Weak RV roofs can crack easily. Not only does this make it much more likely that you’ll get hurt, but it can also allow water and other debris to get inside the RV. You’ll have to pay thousands of dollars in repairs or countless hours, which could affect whether or not you’ll save money living in an RV (if you intend to tour for a while).
- You might fall off the edge, so it’s better to wear kneepads and gloves and crawl on your hands and knees instead of walking around or ensuring that the surface is not slippery if you intend to walk. Use shoes where you have a good grip on the surface, and make sure someone else knows that you are up on the roof that keeps an eye on you in case you would fall.
- Walking on your RV and causing damage can void the vehicle’s warranty. Losing an RV warranty or voiding your insurance policy is one of the most expensive mistakes you can make. Even a small crack caused by walking on the roof is enough for some companies to say they won’t pay for future repairs.
- Walking on an RV’s roof presents a risk of disconnecting poorly installed wires and loosening appliances. You can prevent this problem by securing the wires under the panels, dishes, and other appliances.
While there are plenty of reasons you should be cautious when walking on an RV roof, you don’t always have to avoid it. In fact, many RV manufacturers recommend climbing the ladder to access the roof, and so do I!
What To Avoid When Walking or Standing on an RV Roof
When you’re walking or standing on an RV roof, you should avoid damaged portions of the roof, wet surfaces, and walking in the middle. Although many RV roofs are capable of holding someone in the center, the edges are your best bet for avoiding structural damage.
Keep the following suggestions in mind the next time you walk on your RV’s roof.
Don’t Walk on a Wet RV Roof
It doesn’t matter whether you have textured or rainproof shoes; you must avoid walking on a soaked or damp RV roof at all times or proceed with extra caution. You could get injured and slip, so stay on all four or devise a way of increasing grip.
Walk Near the Outer Parts of the Roof
The outer parts or edges are the most supported parts of the whole vehicle as they are supported by the walls of the RV, too, so try to keep most of your weight there without risking falling, of course!
Stay Away From Damaged RV Roofs
If there are cracks, broken seams, bad water damage, rust, corrosion divots, or anything else that could worsen from added weight, steer clear of the RV’s roof. Repair these parts; then, you’ll be much safer when walking on the roof.
Rounded RV roofs are much more difficult to walk on. For example, Airstream RVs are primarily made of rounded aluminum. This means they’re slippery and harder to stand on. Your best bet is to bring a ladder as close to the roof as possible when you need to work on the motorhome’s roof (or clean it).
How Much Weight Can an RV Roof Hold?
An RV roof can hold between 200 to 250 pounds (91–113 kilograms) depending on the make, model, and roof material. Additional factors include how many appliances are on the roof, whether or not it’s wet, and how much debris is on top. These variables can make it difficult to walk on the roof safely.
Outdoor Troop claims you shouldn’t go on almost any RV roof if you exceed the 250-pound (113-kilogram) limit. Remember, all RV roof materials degrade over time, especially if you leave them parked under the elements. Direct sunlight, sand storms, rainstorms, and other weather conditions can severely weaken an RV’s roof, lowering its potential weight capacity.
If you think you might exceed your RV roof’s limits, it’s best to play it safe. Some RVs have a lot of modifications that can weaken the roof and make it less durable for standing.
For example, if the previous owner added solar panels and drilled into a weak point on the roof, there’s a good chance it won’t be as durable as it once was, especially if it wasn’t sealed properly and some water has seeped in.
Regardless of your RV roof’s weight limitations, you shouldn’t let children or pets walk on top of the vehicle. There are far too many risks involved, none of which are worth it.
How To Safely Walk on the Roof of Your RV
To safely walk on the roof of your RV, wear textured shoes with plenty of traction, stay near the outer rim of the RV, and make sure the roof is clean and clear of debris. Check the manufacturer’s listed roof weight limit, then access the roof with a ladder. I recommend never climbing the sides of the RV.
Here’s a detailed summary of this process:
- Make sure your shoes have a lot of traction. Never walk barefoot, with sandals, or in socks while on an RV’s roof. This is one of the best and most overlooked suggestions you’ll come across. Your shoes need to be in good shape and have plenty of rubber to support you and prevent you from slipping and falling, especially if you’re on a metal RV roof.
- The outer edges typically have more studs and frames, which allow for better structural support. They provide a lot more durability than the center of the RV. The only thing supporting the middle of an RV’s roof is a thin layer of fiberglass, aluminum, or rubber, followed by a series of crossbeams, insulation, and some thin plywood most of the time.
- Clean the RV roof before you walk on it if you want to avoid slipping or scratching the surface. Twigs, leaves, sand, and other debris will leave plenty of scuff marks if you walk on them. They can also open the seams and caulk on the RV’s roof, leading to the previously mentioned water damage concerns.
- Find out how much weight your RV’s roof can handle. Remember to add the weight of your cleaning supplies, including any additional items you carry. I suggest staying about 10 percent below your RV roof’s maximum person weight. For example, if it says it can hold 250 pounds (113 kilograms), don’t walk on the roof if you weigh over 225 pounds (102 kilograms) without extra precautions that spread the weight over a larger area.
- Use the RV’s ladder to get up top. Never climb the sides, back, or hood to get on the roof. Not only will you risk hurting yourself, but you’ll likely scratch and damage the RV in the process. The good news is that most RV manufacturers sell like-for-like ladder replacements you can get if you don’t have the right ladder. With that said, I had to climb the side once with the help of a homemade rope ladder, it wasn’t pretty, and I don’t recommend it.
Safety is the most important part of walking on your RV’s roof. Most new RVs can handle someone walking on top without any issues.
RV roofs might not be the most resilient part of the vehicle, but they have a lot of appliances that need to be maintained. As a general rule of thumb, avoid walking on old, cracked, or damaged RV roof. The best way to know if you can walk on the RV roof is to contact the manufacturer and ask about the weight limitations.
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