Last updated on May 2nd, 2023 at 01:53 pm
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One of the most common RV questions is whether or not it’s safe to walk on your RV, or even use your RV roof as additional outdoor space to get a better view. There’s a good chance you’ve seen folks posted up with lounge chairs on top of their roof but is it really safe?
And exactly how much weight can an RV roof hold?
The weight an RV roof can hold will vary considerably between different RV types, along with the manufacturing of the rig and materials used in construction. Most RV roofs should be capable of handling around 250 lbs of weight, but others may have the ability to hold upwards of 300 lbs.
Keep in mind, this is not official advice and only a guideline to follow. Walking on the roof of your RV comes with a lot of risks that are worth considering if you’re wanting to give it a go.
There’s a lot to think about before you can figure out the real-world weight of your rig, such as whether your RV came equipped with a ladder. If so, there’s a good chance your rig was made to have people on the roof.
How Much Weight Can An RV Roof Hold?
There are several considerations for how much weight an RV can hold, and the difference could mean a roof that’s structurally sound to be walked on and a rig that no longer has the support to bear weight on the roof.
But that’s just the start of it! You’ll need to also consider the following:
- Manufacturer of your RV
- Material of the RV
- Where on the roof you’re walking or sitting
- Age and condition of your rig
- What else is on the roof
We’ll break down each of these factors so you can get a better idea of how much weight your RV can hold. But first, let’s talk about why you would need to get on the roof of your RV in the first place.
Why Walk On Your RV Roof At All?
Even if you aren’t looking to enjoy a beautiful sunset from your roof, you’re going to need to get on top of your rig from time to time for basic maintenance.
The roof is one of the most overlooked areas of any RV but just like anything else it needs regular cleaning and care.
Most RVs have rubber roofs that need to be cleaned at least twice a year, but I do my best to make it part of my quarterly cleaning and maintenance routine. Of course, some of this is going to depend on where you’re driving your rig.
I know that when we spent a few weeks at a campground in California there didn’t seem to be anywhere I could park without getting a bunch of sap dripped on my roof!
But you don’t have to walk on your roof to do the cleaning, though it can make things easier. So even though cleaning your roof can be done via a ladder set up next to your RV, it isn’t practical to carry a 6-foot ladder with you across the country!
Besides cleaning, lounging on an RV roof is one of the most amazing ways to enjoy the view. With many RVs coming in at heights over 12 feet, you can get a unique vantage point to see a sporting event or the great outdoors.
One of the things I love about hanging out on an RV roof is that it adds an entirely new outdoor space that ends up making your RV feel a whole lot bigger. Before you start pulling up the lawn chairs, however, you need to figure out what your RV’s roof can handle in terms of weight.
Clean Solar Panels
Solar panels are an awesome way to power your RV without needing to be hooked up to a generator or plugged in at a campground. Once mounted onto your roof, you may not think you’ll need to touch them again, but what about when they get dusty and need cleaning?
You’ll need to be able to get onto your RV roof to give the panels a clean, so this is something additional to think about.
RVs are often made from a wide range of materials such as rubber and fiberglass. Some materials are naturally stronger than others and will be able to handle more weight, but as it’s hard to get exact figures from manufacturers, it’s best to estimate on the low side of your roof weight capabilities.
Does Your Roof Have A Ladder?
If your RV doesn’t have a ladder it’s likely that the roof wasn’t made to be walked on. While there’s a good chance that it can still support 250 pounds it’s not something I’d want to test and I certainly wouldn’t suggest hanging out up there. Instead, you should try to clean using a ladder next to your rig.
Why does a ladder matter? The team at KOA explains “If your RV does not have a ladder on the back to access the roof it is probably not designed to be walked on. In this situation, it may be necessary to use a couple of pieces of plywood or particleboard to help distribute your weight. Many RV manufacturers have an option called roof rack and ladder ready. If the RV dealer orders this option the roof is built with a heavier roof decking.”
So if walking on your roof is important to you and your family, make sure to talk to your dealership or manufacturer about the roof rack and ladder-ready options available to you.
You may also want to look for a fiberglass roof that helps increase weight capacity. But sometimes, you still need to walk on the roof. That’s why I usually recommend folks pick up a folding ladder so they’re ready when the time comes.
If your RV has a ladder, it’s possible that there will be a sticker clarifying the max weight for the roof. Most folks report that the sticker is right on the ladder itself but make sure you look around the entire ladder area to try and track it down.
Why Is it So Hard To Find Information on Roof Weight Capacity?
During my research, one of the first things I found was how hard it was to actually figure out the weight capacity of your RV’s roof!
It’s not commonly found on any of the spec pages or owner manuals. I even called a few manufacturers directly with no luck.
Why is this?
My guess is that it comes down to liability. If your rig wasn’t designed to have folks walking on it the last thing any company in their right mind would do is tell you the weight capacity!
The other issue is that walking on an RV roof has more risks than just falling through (although that would obviously be bad). There are also concerns about slipping and falling and a long list of other liabilities that most companies would prefer not to talk about.
Just know that you’ll need to make your own decisions about your safety when it comes to walking on your roof!
Basic Safety When Walking On Your RV Roof
Even if you’re way lighter than your RV roof’s expected weight capacity there are still things you need to keep in mind.
Getting up on an RV roof can be disorientating, especially if you’re someone who doesn’t particularly enjoy heights!
Taking the right safety precautions should help keep you safe and make accidents unlikely.
Consider the Weight of Tools
If you weigh 225 pounds but you’re bringing up 50 pounds of cleaning gear, then you’re possibly pushing the limits! Don’t forget to include the weight of equipment like buckets of water, tools, and more.
While it might not seem like much, these things can quickly add up and push your RV roof too much.
Avoid Walking Near Vents
Don’t walk near vents or anything else that’s added to the roof as these areas tend to be a bit weaker just because of the add-on.
Even if you’ve got a ladder-ready rig, you don’t want to make it a habit of hanging out near the weaker areas of your roof!
Stay Away From Edges…But Not Too Far
The average Class A RV has a height of about 13 feet, and while that’s not exactly the Empire State Building, a fall from that height is going to hurt. So it’s always best practice to not get too close to the edge of your rig.
On the other side of things, however, the edge is where the roof is strongest since it’s closer to the support from the wall. The middle of your RV’s roof can actually be the weakest area since it doesn’t have the support of the walls. You’ll want to carefully find a good balance between the areas when you’re on the roof.
Make Sure Your Roof Isn’t Wet, Icy, or Slippery
It doesn’t matter how much your RV’s roof can hold if it’s wet because then the real concern is a slip and fall!
Not only would falling off the roof be bad, but falling on the roof will really test the weight capacity of your motorhome’s roof since the impact will add more total weight.
While this is obviously a concern when cleaning with soapy water, you also need to watch out for the morning mist that can make a roof surprisingly slippery. It’s also worth noting that fiberglass roofs tend to be a bit more slippery than rubber.
Crawl, Don’t Walk
Okay, you might feel a little silly at first, but crawling is a great way to distribute your weight more evenly. Rather than all of your weight being centered where your feet are, you can spread out across your hands, knees, and feet, distributing the weight.
Crawling will also greatly decrease your chances of falling which is important. Crawling will also ensure that you move slowly and will help you feel soft spots before you put all your weight on them.
Always Move Forward
Okay, it might seem a little obvious but if you’ve ever put on an RV cover you’ve probably been tempted to walk it backwards over the top of your rig. This just isn’t safe and the risk of tripping on something is too dangerous!
For an easy way to get your RV cover on (without walking backwards) check out this video:
Remembering to take things slow is key to keeping safe when you’re on the roof of your RV.
It’s also crucial to try and avoid falling asleep on your RV roof, as although it may sound relaxing, it’s unsafe as you could fall off the roof in your sleep.
What Factors Impact RV Roof Weight Capacity?
There are quite a few factors that can impact the overall weight capacity of your roof. Let’s break it down starting with the most important.
Material Of Your RV’s Roof
The biggest variable for your RV roof’s weight capacity is the material that it’s made from. There are two main types of material using most modern motorhomes.
The first is rubber roofing which is by far the most common and is usually EPDM or TPO.
While these are a little different when it comes to cleaning and maintenance there’s not much difference in terms of weight capacity.
The second is fiberglass roofing which is more uncommon. You’ll know you have fiberglass roofing if your roof is hard to the touch. These roofs are more sturdy and a lot more likely to be a part of the roof rack and ladder-ready upgrade.
While it’s not always the case, these roofs can usually support more weight than your standard rubber roof. The big downside though is the fiberglass can be very slippery when wet.
Aluminum roofing gets an honorable mention here. It’s unlikely that you’ll find an aluminum roof in any modern RV.
If you’ve got an RV with an aluminum roof I would avoid walking on it altogether. Not only is the weight capacity lower than more modern materials but there’s a good chance that the RV itself is pretty old.
Age and Condition of Your RV
It should go without saying that the older your RV the more likely that wear and tear will have degraded the quality of the roof.
You also need to consider how frequently the roof has been cleaned and what techniques have been used. For example, using petroleum-based cleaning products on a rubber roof can damage the roof over time and eventually degrade its integrity.
The other big issue is leaking. Obviously, leaks in your RV’s roof are a bad thing all around but before they make their way inside your RV that water is causing damage to your roof.
That damage can weaken your roof and decrease the amount it can hold. So if you haven’t been on your roof in a while make sure you’re looking for any signs of wear, tear, or damage.
Manufacturer of your RV
There are, of course, going to be differences in construction quality and techniques between manufacturers.
Make sure you research your individual manufacturer to learn more about how the roof was constructed. While your dealer can probably tell you too, I’d always trust the manufacturer ahead of a salesperson.
What Else Is On The Roof
While it might not seem like much weight after-market add-ons to your roof can really add up quickly. That includes things like an AC unit or a satellite dish.
So make sure you’re considering not only how much these items weigh but also where on your roof they’re located.
The Weight of Snow
Snow can be heavy, and when your roof gets piled high with the white stuff, it can be surprising how much weight your roof is having to handle.
If you’re out in your RV over winter and experience a heavy snowstorm, it’s wise to not let the snow sit on your roof for too long, as it adds stress to your rig.
Whether your camper, RV, or fifth wheel has a ladder or not, there are times when you need to get access to the roof.
While roof weight capacities will vary between rigs, if you apply some basic common sense and safety precautions you can get on your roof safely. But unless your rig is specially built for rooftop walking, I’d avoid spending too much time up there.
In fact, as I mentioned, I wouldn’t walk at all but instead crawl!