In mobile homes, some of the easiest repairs are also some of the most daunting. It is fairly simple compared to other tasks such as replacing the water heater or plumbing that is stuck into such a small closet or under small cabinets that you have no room to work.
Mobile homes have their own unique characteristics and quirks and need to be handled a little differently then other home improvement jobs. If you notice water leakage near the water heater, furnace or in the walls near the kitchen or bathroom, it may be time to redo that roof. I’m not talking about ripping off the aluminum or sheet metal and replacing it. Just a simple job of replacing some of that goopy stuff around the pipes, along the seams and that silver stuff all over the roof.
You can tell when the mobile home roof needs to be repaired: the silver coating will start to appear thin and have what looks like cracks in it. The seams where the metal is folded over itself will have gaps in it and the areas around the pipes and things sticking up on the roof will have holes that you can see down into. You can also tell it’s time when you have water leaking in around the pipes and such on the roof.
To start with, we need to talk about safety. I know it’s boring but you don’t want to go and fall off the roof or break the metal and step through the roof. When you go onto the roof of the mobile home, use a ladder tall enough to get up there. Don’t use the pipes and things up there to pull yourself up with.
Step on the beams up on the roof, not between them, you can tell where they are by the feeling of bowing when you step. Before you get up on the roof push down on it with your hand, you should feel either a solid surface under your hand or it will have some give.
Go to the front or back and you should feel sooner or later that solid beam under the metal. This is where you want to step, not between them. All across the roof they will be evenly spaced along the top.
Be careful when you are doing your job that you don’t backup off the roof. It’s easy to be paying attention to the job at hand and not what’s behind you.
Now you will need a few things before you start. Of course some kind of ladder to get onto the roof. When you get up there you will have to see what the roof coating is before you purchase more.
For the older mobile homes you will probably have the silver roof coating and the black asphalt sealer around the pipes and vents. If the roof is white it is a newer coating and should not be leaking that much.
Recently the building industry has come up with some new ways to coat roofs. There is a new material that coats the roof and is almost a rubber coating that you paint on. If this is the case, you will need to buy the same material and patch the areas that are leaking.
If you find the need to repair some of this it is called elastomeric roof coating. You can purchase some and repair wherever you need to.
If you are going to use this coating to replace the existing silver coating it will cost you more than the silver coating does. You need to apply a new patching cement around all the pipes, vents and seams on the roof. Then while this is wet, apply some reinforcing tape to all the areas you just applied the reinforcing coating.
You then apply two coats of the elastomeric coating in opposite directions to seal the rest of the roof. This is a very good roof coating and is worth the cost and hassle to apply to roofs. One brand is called Kool-Seal, here is their web site for more information:
Although this coating is expensive, you should not have to redo this type of coating for ten years or more. The silver coating you may have to recoat after only five years.
For the silver roofs, you will need to buy some more of the coating and the sealer for around the pipes and such. The sealer is easy to use, comes in black and is used with an asphalt saturated glass fiber to seals cracks around the vents and pipes.
If your roof has leaks around the pipes and there is gaps over ¼ inch you will need some of the glass fiber to fill the gaps. Then you smooth on some of the black sealer. After the sealer has dried some, about a full day, you can paint it with the silver roof coating.
So after you decide what you need it’s off to the store. You will need not only the coating materials, but some things like brushes and rollers. I have done a whole mobile home roof with a paint brush but it is easier to buy a cheap roller set and use that. When your done with the roof you just throw the mess away.
I used a cheap spatula for the sealer, the thick black stuff is hard to clean off and you can buy these cheap plastic spatulas for around a dollar. You will need some paint brushes and rollers. The brushes, even if you roll on the large parts will be needed for the pipes and such.
So we have spatula, roller, brushes, paint tray, thinner for clean up (see details on can of sealer and coating for what to use) and fiber fill if needed. You also have to have the sealer and coating.
You should start at one end of the roof and work your way to the other. I started on the end with the most stuff sticking out of the roof, just to get it done with quicker.
I first put fiber fill around all the vents and such where I could get it in. It is kind of like fiber glass insulation and you just tear off some and push it in with your fingers. You will be able to see the stuff easily when you seal around so you don’t have to remember where you used it.
You then use the sealer around all the vents and such. You can see the little cracks and spots were you need to seal. When you use the sealer it is kind of hard to put on and work with. The mess can be a pain, but you just slather the stuff on and do the best you can. I found that using the spatula and just getting a glob on then spreading it like your icing a cake works well.
Get it in all the cracks and over all the fiber fill. It will run a little so you should have filled with the fiber fill for any cracks. You should let the stuff sit and dry some before applying the silver coating to the roof. It is best to do the silver coating when it is not very hot out.
The black sealer will be very soft if it is hot and may pull around some when you brush on the silver coating. Brush all the areas around the vents, pipes and along the seams of the roof. Go along the whole edge of the trailer and get any where the old stuff was. You should dab the brush into the edges and around the pipes to ensure the silver coating gets into all the cracks and seams. When you are done with all the areas that need the brush you can do the rest.
With the roller the main areas will go rather quickly. Just be careful of where your going. If you have one, you can use a wooden handle on your roller and not have to kneel and roller on the coating.
The sealer and coating uses thinner or mineral spirits for cleanup unless the package says differently. This is easy to get off your hands but not the roller or brush. So when you are sure your completely done, toss them. That is why I used cheap ones.
The white elastomeric stuff uses water cleanup when it’s wet, but you may have to use thinner when it’s dry.
You should not have to do this again for five years or ten with the white elastomeric coating. You may have to patch some around vents and such from time to time but if you use the fiberfill to get the cracks this should prevent the sealer from running out.
If you use the elastomeric coating, you can be sure you got your monies worth by not having to recoat for ten years or more.
There are a few other ways of reroofing that you can look into that will be a more permanent fix for the roof. If the roof is in particularly bad shape or you don’t want much of the hassle anymore you can have a couple of things done.
One type of job is a sheet of rubber stretched over the whole top of your roof on top of insulation sheets. This adds insulation to your roof and seals the whole top in one shot. This is done by professionals and you would have to find a contractor near you for details and costs.
There are contractors who can also add a new aluminum or sheet metal roof much the same way as the rubber sheet. They can add insulation and then lay the sheet metal on top of the roof. This adds a second layer of insulation and makes the whole roof like new.
Another method of adding a new roof is to use four by four posts and add a roof over the whole mobile home. This is done commonly in the more northern areas of the country. You put four by four posts along the trailer and then a roof on them that covers the entire trailer like a second roof. If your existing roof is made of two by two’s and cannot hold the weight of added materials or is in bad shape this may be an alternative to replacing the entire roof.
You can ask contractors in your area for suggestions on these types of repairs. As always when going to a contractor, use a reputable one. Asks friends or neighbors, or even ask others who own their mobile home who they used for repairs. Get estimates and get more than one.
However you go about repairing your roof, be careful when you are up there. Don’t get so carried away that you fall off. You should not have to work on a repaired roof again for a good five years with the repair you’ve completed.