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RV camping may be less rugged than tent camping, but it still has its fair share of intrepid adventures. While it is easy to identify when the main body of your RV becomes dusty, muddy and grimy, it’s less easy to realize when your RV roof needs a good cleaning.
So how would you be able to check if your roof needs cleaning? Well, that’s where your RV’s ladder comes in.
RVs have ladders because they allow for easy access to the roof. This is important in keeping it clean and checking to see if any rooftop vents or appliances need maintenance of their own. It also has the added bonus of providing access to any rooftop storage that your rig may have.
Let’s take a closer look at why RV ladders are so important to rooftop maintenance.
How Do RV Ladders Help with Rooftop Maintenance?
Keeping your RV roof clean is very important as it is an easy area to overlook. As you drive your rig, trees and large bushes brush up against the roof and leave lots of organic matter behind. Clearing this is less about the aesthetic value of a clean grime free roof, but the effect this will have on your RV’s rooftop appliances.
An RV’s air vents, refrigerator vents, and AC units are all installed on the roof. Dirt and grime can get into the mesh of the air and refrigerator vents and cause them to spew dust throughout your RV. Similarly, clogged vents reduce the effectiveness of removing offensive odors.
An AC unit can get clogged with dirt and debris which can sometimes be the reason why it blows warm air rather than cold air. A unit that is clogged all the time has a significantly shorter lifespan than one that is routinely cleaned and won’t be able to handle running all day as well.
Keeping the roof clean will increase the lifespan of all the appliances, saving you time and money in repairs and maintenance costs. The RV’s ladder is not just essential in allowing you access to clean the roof, but it makes an already tedious process far easier.
How Important Are RV Ladders for Roof Cleaning?
RV roof cleaning is tedious because most RV roofs are made from either fiberglass, rubber or a combination of the two. Pressure washing makes cleaning large surfaces like RV roofs way easier and would allow you to do so fairly easily from the ground without a ladder. However, fiberglass and rubber are not designed to sustain under that type of pressure.
Pressure washing can use water pressure as high as 3100 pounds per square inch (PSI). For comparison, most shower heads have a PSI of around 45. Such high pressure on an RV’s roof can cause the paint and sealant to deteriorate, leaving it susceptible to leaks and water damage.
High pressure can also crack the exterior of the roof vents or damage their meshing. The AC Unit is often mounted onto the roof with screws and high-pressure washing can even disrupt this causing the unit to become very unstable.
As a result, it is recommended to use a low or medium bristle brush with lower pressure water from a hose or a bucket. While a brush requires way more effort than power washing, it combined with a good cleanser or soap is effective in carefully scrubbing the surface of the roof without damaging any appliances.
Without a ladder, using a brush on the roof would be nearly impossible. It is not recommended to try and climb onto the roof without a ladder, especially if it is already slippery after having been hosed down.
While a ladder is very helpful in allowing full access to the roof, it can still be a bit risky to fully stand on the roof while washing. Using a longer brush with a handle will allow you to climb up and stay at the edge of both the ladder and the roof and clean it from that position. Entirely reducing the risk of falling.
Using a ladder to scrub the roof instead of power washing it practically eliminates the risk of water leaks due to sealant damage. However, this is not the only scenario in which a ladder can help you prevent damage to your RV’s roof.
Using an RV Ladder to Control Snow Accumulation
Winter traveling brings about a whole new set of challenges from heating and insulation to keeping your pipes warm. A very important but often overlooked challenge, however, is keeping snow off your RV’s roof.
A ladder is crucial in allowing you access to the snow on your roof so you can manually clear it off periodically. Otherwise, the damage it may cause can be severe. Snow can quickly pile onto a roof, weighing it down and increasing the potential of water leaks as the snow melts. To put the weight into perspective, a single cubic foot of snow weighs around 20 pounds. As such, one foot of snow on a 40 foot RV for example would weigh around 4 tons, or 8000 pounds.
Imagine placing a SUV on your RV’s roof, that is the equivalent weight of all that snow. Keeping in mind that RV roofs are designed to handle a maximum of around 150-300 pounds, this is a severe load to carry.
All that snow on the roof will quickly lead to small cracks which as the snow melts can not only cause water damage but settle into those small openings and freeze due to the cold winter temperatures. As water freezes, it can produce up to 3000 PSI of force which as you may recall from power washing, is way too much pressure for an RV roof to sustain.
The cycle of water freezing, melting and refreezing can constantly apply this pressure to various crevices in your roof, expanding the cracks and weakening your roof’s structure over time. Using a ladder to climb onto or near the roof to remove the snow is crucial in preventing this damage. Accessing the roof and removing the bulk of the snow is not enough either. Every bit should be removed as it only takes a small amount to melt and refreeze in a crevice on your roof.
Whether for roof cleaning or maintenance, using your RV’s ladder is important in avoiding all sorts of damage. Picking out a quality winter RV cover will help, but even that can benefit from a ladder.
However, what if your RV does not come with a ladder? In that case, what type is best for you and your rig?
Types of RV Ladders
There are a ton of benefits to having a ladder for your RV, despite this not all rigs come with one. If your rig does not have its own ladder, getting one installed or traveling with a portable one is very important to keep everything maintained.
There are three main types of RV ladders to choose from, fixed roof ladders, telescopic ladders and folding ladders. Fixed roof ladders are installed directly onto your RV while the other two are portable.
Fixed roof ladders
Fixed roof ladders are typically what you’d see in an RV that comes with a ladder installed. They are non-adjustable and mounted to either the back or side wall of the rig. Most are made from aluminum which allows them to fold onto the roof once they’ve been bolted down. Their sturdy setup makes them among the more durable ladder options, and they are the most common.
However, since fixed roof ladders are bolted in place, they cannot be adjusted or moved for use in accessing anything else other than the RV’s roof. They can also become susceptible to weather damage if they are not maintained or protected as they are constantly exposed to the outside elements.
Tree branches and bushes brushing up against the ladder while driving can also cause small damage.
Telescopic ladders avoid a lot of the issues presented by their fixed roof counterparts. They are a very popular option as well and are geared towards travelers looking for more leeway in how they wish to use and store their ladder.
They get their name from the ability of the ladder’s legs to extend forward in a similar manner to a telescope. Many telescopic ladders can extend far enough to reach above an RV’s roof while also becoming compact enough to fit within the rig’s storage compartments or the trunk of a car. It’s important to note that as these ladders are not bolted to the rig itself, proper care should be taken to secure it with ropes or by having someone else hold it down while you climb up to access the roof.
Lastly, folding ladders sit in between fixed roof and telescopic ladders. They have the portability of telescopic ladders without being as adjustable. This tends to make them a more affordable option than the latter choice.
However, these are more conventionally designed making them larger and heavier which takes away from ease of storage and transportation. Additionally, while they are foldable, they can’t adjust to any size like a telescopic ladder, so it is important to choose a folding ladder that matches the height requirements of your rig.
There are many options for ensuring you choose the ladder that best suits your rig’s size and storage capabilities. The most important thing is either having a ladder installed or traveling with one that allows you to consistently access your roof. Ladders are a great investment in both your rig and your own peace of mind as they are crucial in avoiding lasting and expensive damages to your roof.
More than just maintenance however, ladders are great at improving one’s overall camping experience. After all, who wouldn’t want to be able to climb onto their roof at a beautiful campground or an exciting sporting event to get a better view of the spectacle around them.
Whether for recreation, cleaning or maintenance, ladders are an essential addition to the roster of any RV traveler.