One of the most common problems for Mobile Home owners is roof leaks. Due to the use of lower cost materials, many models (especially the older ones), just do not hold up well to the elements. Many of the newer models have composition shingle roofs and repairs are similar to conventional homes. It's really just a matter of matching up the color and removing and replacing the old shingles. The older ones are a little more complicated. The following steps will help guide you through the process.
- Locate the Problem
You will usually become aware of a roof problem by noticing a dark brown or rust colored stain in the ceiling. The most obvious place to look for the leak is the area directly above the stain. However, that is not always the source. Water may penetrate the roof in one place and travel before finding the ceiling below. If the damage is not obvious directly above the stain, begin to expand your search to other areas. Sometimes, even the smallest of holes, can cause a lot of damage and the smaller the leak, the more difficult it will be to find. It will be to your advantage to take a broom up and sweep all of the leaves and other debris away before inspecting the roof. The construction of roofs on most older mobile homes will consist of thin sheets of metal 4 to 8 feet wide running from the front to the back of the home. The seams will usually overlap and may lock together or may be sealed with a sort of metal or fiberglass type tape. These seams and the places where vents and pipes penetrate the roof are the most likely places to leak.
Determine the Repair Method
Once you have determined where the leak is coming from, you must decide what type of fix is needed. For leaks at the seams, you have a couple of options. The first step before doing any repair is to to thoroughly clean within a 12-18 inch radius of the leak. No mater what type of patch material you use, the chances of it working and returning are going to be much better if it is applied to a clean dry area. Use a wire brush, Brillo pad or a piece of sand paper to clean as well as rough up the area. All patching materials will bond better to a rougher surface. Once you've cleaned the area to be repaired, you're ready to apply the patch. One of the following options should work for your repair.
- Tape the Seams – One of the most effective repair methods is to use a peel and stick tape. There are a few different products available. But, basically, it is a roll 12-24 inches wide consistent of a foil type surface with an asphalt or black tar type backing. You just cut a piece of material large enough to cover the damaged area, peel the backing from the tape and cover the leak, with the foil side of the tape up. Press the tape down firmly, especially at the edges. The edges of the tape should extend at least 12 inches in each direction from the leak. Depending on the width of the material you use, it may be necessary to use 2 or more overlapping pieces. Always make sure to read and follow the manufacturers instructions to achieve the best results.
- Asphalt Based Coatings – Another common repair technique is asphalt based products. This is probably the most common type of roof repair for mobile homes or conventional homes. It is extremely durable, will adhere to almost any surface, and is fairly easy to apply. There are several different brands, but the products are similar. You can get in 1 or 5 gallon buckets or for smaller jobs they are available in caulking tubes. The material in buckets is generally applied by spreading with a trowel or putty knife, but, there are some products that come in a thinner pourable solution that can be brushed or rolled on. The main drawback to asphalt materials is the mess. Plan on having lots of rags or towels that will have to be thrown away. The recommended clean up is often gasoline. Which is dangerous so, as always, read the hazardous material information before using any product. To help strengthen the repairs, you can apply fiberglass mesh with the asphalt. This type of fix works well for seams, holes, or sealing around pipes and vents.
- Elastomeric Coatings – The final type of Mobile Home roof repair I'd like to talk about is rubber based or elastomeric coatings. These are thick liquid materials that are brushed or rolled on and will cure to a hard plastic like coating or a more flexible rubber like surface. If done right, this can be an effective solution. However, it is crucial that you read up on the product to see what types of materials it will bond to and what type of preparation needs to be done. Unlike the asphalt products which will usually work, to some degree, over any surface, elastomeric coatings will fail if not installed according to the specifications. Again, read all of the technical data for procedures, safety precautions, and clean up methods.
Using one of these three repair methods should solve most problems with faulty roofs. But, no matter which technique you choose, always follow proper safety procedures. As we mentioned earlier; mobile homes are not always built with the highest quality materials or standards. Watch for signs of weak or rotted areas and exercise caution when climbing on these roofs.