Last updated on September 26th, 2023 at 06:35 am
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There are many different RVs on the market, and each comes with impressive features such as AC, awnings, and ladders. If you’re new to RVing or haven’t ventured to your rig’s roof, you may wonder if the addition of a ladder is useful.
So, why do RVs have ladders?
RVs have ladders for easy and safe access to the roof for cleaning, removing snow, checking solar panels, maintaining rooftop appliances, fitting a cover, and more! Snow and debris on an RV roof can be dangerous, so a ladder is ideal for climbing up and solving the problem in no time.
You may never have thought you’d need a ladder on your RV, but I can’t you how many times I’ve had to remove tree debris and snow off my RV roof! I’d be lost without my trusty ladder at my side for RVing, as you never know when a solar panel may get dusty, or a flue cap bent out of position by a low tree!
But what else are these pieces of equipment good for?
Why Do RVs Have Ladders?
RV ladders are clearly useful in many different ways, but I find mine mainly comes into its own with rooftop maintenance. Getting onto the roof of an RV can be a daunting task, but a ladder brings safety, security, and a simple helping hand to make rooftop maintenance a dream. Let’s explore some of the reasons RVs have ladders in more depth.
Access To Remove Debris On Roof
Keeping an RV roof clean is important and it’s an easy area to overlook. As you drive your rig, trees and large bushes brush up against the roof, leaving organic matter behind. Clearing this away is less about the aesthetics and more about the effect debris can have on an RV’s rooftop appliances. An RV’s air vents, refrigerator vents, and AC units are all installed on the roof.
Easy Rooftop Maintenance
Dirt and grime can get into the mesh of the air and refrigerator vents, causing them to spray dust throughout the RV. Similarly, clogged vents reduce the effectiveness of removing offensive odors, and this is the last thing anyone wants to experience when camping with the whole family in summer.
Don’t forget to also maintain your RV ladder as it can wear over time. If made from aluminum, the ladder won’t rust but instead may corrode and become weak. Therefore, keep an eye on what shape your RV ladder is in!
Helps Prolong Lifespan Of Rooftop Appliances
An AC unit can get clogged with dirt and debris which can sometimes be the reason for it blowing warm air rather than cold. A unit that’s clogged all the time has a significantly shorter lifespan than one that’s routinely cleaned and won’t be able to handle running all day.
Keeping the roof clean will increase the lifespan of all the appliances, saving time and money on repairs and maintenance costs. An RV ladder isn’t just essential for providing safe access to clean the roof, but it also makes an already tedious process far easier.
Having storage on the roof is pretty common, especially when heading off-grid into the wild for a few days! Reaching rooftop storage without a ladder is not something I’d like to tackle! RVs aren’t small vehicles, and some can be high off the ground. A ladder guarantees a smoother and safer transition for you and your belongings so you can pack them away and remove them from the roof as and when.
Achieve The Best Views
There’s no better feeling than parking up in a dreamy spot in nature, climbing up to the roof, and watching a scarlet sunset with a loved one. Enjoying scenery from the comfort and familiarity of your RV is a beautiful thing, but if there’s space on the roof to sit and watch the day close, why would you want to be anywhere else?
Why Do Some Motorhomes Have Ladders On The Back?
Not all RVs have ladders or similar accessories, but some motorhomes have ladders on the back of the rig. Manufacturers typically put these in place for easier access to rooftop appliances, though a ladder may be on an RV for a whole host of other reasons! Having a ladder on the back of an RV means there’s a specific place to climb on and off the roof safely, without the need for anyone to foot the ladder.
Fixed ladders can’t be moved around which isn’t always ideal, especially if you’re a part-time RVer and want to use a ladder in your bricks-and-mortar home too! However, a fixed ladder has reinforced strength from the back door, making it sturdy, secure, and easy to use.
Why Doesn’t My Camper Have A Ladder?
If you’ve had a rig for some time and are wondering why it didn’t come equipped with a ladder, the likelihood is that your RV roof isn’t meant to bear the weight of a person. If an RV doesn’t come standard with a ladder, the general rule of thumb is to not walk on your roof! Not all RV roofs are created equal.
Some may be able to handle the weight of two people sitting on top, along with solar panels, AC units, and more. On the other hand, some rigs aren’t able to handle much extra weight at all, and if this is the case, they usually won’t be fitted with a ladder.
For campers without a ladder, I recommend purchasing a portable one to carry around. You never know when you might need to remove a branch or give the roof a clean, so having a ladder on board isn’t a bad thing at all!
Are RV Ladders Important 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 allows 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 3,100 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 is often mounted onto the roof with screws, and high-pressure washing can disrupt this causing the unit to become unstable. As a result, it’s recommended to use a low or medium-bristle brush with lower-pressure water from a hose or bucket. While a brush requires considerable effort compared to power washing, combined with a good cleanser or soap, it can be effective at cleaning the roof with minimal risk of damage.
Without a ladder, using a brush on the roof would be nearly impossible. It’s not recommended to try and climb onto the roof without a ladder, especially if it’s already slippery after having been hosed down. While a ladder is 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. Using a ladder to scrub the roof instead of power washing practically eliminates the risk of water leaks due to sealant damage. However, this isn’t the only scenario where a ladder can help you prevent damage to your RV’s roof!
Using An RV Ladder To Control Snow Accumulation
Winter traveling brings a 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 the roof! A ladder is crucial in providing access to the snow on the roof so it can be manually cleared off. 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 8,000 pounds! Since RV roofs are designed to handle a maximum of 150-300 pounds, this is a severe load to carry. Snow on the roof can quickly lead to small cracks and as the snow melts it can cause water damage.
Water can also settle into any small openings and freeze in sub-zero temperatures. As water freezes, it can produce up to 3,000 PSI of force, which is simply 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 snow is crucial in preventing this damage. Accessing the roof and removing the bulk of the snow is not enough. 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, and even a cover can benefit from a ladder. However, what if your RV doesn’t come with a ladder? Which type of RV ladder is best?
Types Of RV Ladders
We’ve explored plenty of benefits of having a ladder on an RV, but not all rigs come with ladders as standard. If your rig is without a ladder, getting one installed or carrying a portable one is essential for keeping everything well-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 options are portable.
1. 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, allowing them to fold away neatly onto the roof once they’ve been bolted down. This sturdy setup makes them among the more durable ladder options, and they are the most common option too!
However, since fixed roof ladders are bolted in place, they can’t be adjusted or moved for use in accessing anything other than the RV’s roof. They can also become susceptible to weather damage if they aren’t maintained or protected since they are constantly exposed to the elements.
2. Telescopic Ladders
Telescopic ladders avoid a lot of the issues presented by their fixed-roof counterparts. They are a very popular option too and are geared towards travelers looking for more freedom to use and store a ladder however they wish!
Telescopic ladders get their name from the ability of the ladder’s legs to extend forward in a similar manner to a telescope as shown in the video below:
Many telescopic ladders can extend far enough to reach above an RV’s roof while also being compact enough to fit within a rig’s storage compartments or the trunk of a car. It’s important to note, that as these ladders aren’t 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.
3. Folding Ladders
Lastly, folding ladders sit in between the 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’s wise to choose a folding ladder that matches the height requirements of your rig.
4. RV Stool
Even if your rig comes equipped with a ladder, it may be useful to purchase an RV folding stool too! These are so handy, for getting in and out of an RV that’s high off the floor, to reaching something stored in the highest cabinet! RV stools are affordable, with folding ones being a wiser option for those strapped for space.
5. RV Escape Ladder
No one wants to think of a fire happening inside an RV, but sadly, fires can happen, so it’s vital to have a plan in place if the worst happens. An RV fire escape ladder can be a life-saving piece of equipment to get you and your loved ones out of a burning rig as quickly and efficiently as possible. An RV escape ladder may not prove useful in cleaning the roof of your rig or removing tree debris, but it may save your life!
Safety should always be the top priority when RVing and exploring on the road and investing in equipment such as an escape ladder could be a wise option for you and your camper. Ladders are such useful pieces of equipment and you never know when you may need to use one!
There are many options for ensuring you choose the ladder best suited to your rig’s size and storage capabilities. Ladders are a great investment in both your rig and your own peace of mind as they are crucial in avoiding lasting and expensive damage to your roof. More than just maintenance, however, ladders are great at improving the 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? Whether for recreation, cleaning, or maintenance, ladders are an essential addition to the roster of any RV traveler.