Top Tips to Maintain a Flat Roof on a Mobile Home
Admittedly, it takes a little extra effort to maintain a flat roof on a mobile home but that doesn’t mean an average homeowner can’t do it.
A flat mobile home roof requires a little more care and attention because they aren’t able to shed snow or rain as easily as a pitched roof. The materials used are also a bit troublesome. We’ll cover a few tips fo rflat roof maintenance and extending the lifespan of the roof.
The domed or curved shape is one of the strongest manmade designs on earth which means it’s perfect for a mobile home roof. If a roof is curved enough rain and snow will run off easily. However, mobile homes have a very slight slope so snow can be stubborn to slide off. Anytime snow or water sits in one place it can increase the chance of leaks.
There are certain areas on a mobile home roof that require special attention. We’ll cover those areas and share a few expert tips that will help you maintain a flat roof on a mobile home.
It’s been decades since flat metal roofs have been used so if you are reading this you probably have an older mobile home. I do, too! Ours is a 1978 and it has a flat roof but we installed a metal over it a few years ago. It cost about $1400 in material and we had a few friends and family help install it. We did have to build it a bit.
Flat Roofs on Mobile Homes
Mobile homes have been designed with flat roofs since the first trailer left the assembly line in 1931.
Technically, there are two types of flat roofs, the flat and the bowstring or curved. Most builders stopped using both in the early 1980s. These images show a bowstring roof from above and below.
A Roof Does More than Just Protect the Home from the Elements
Your roof does a lot more than just protect the home from the elements. On a mobile home, a large part of the home’s structural integrity is derived from the roof. The roof is also a main line of defense for your entire home’s energy efficiency, or ability to lower your heating and cooling costs. Roofs also create ventilation for the whole home which helps maintain good air quality inside the home.
Tips for Maintaining A Healthy Roof
Bowstring roofs are notorious for leaking around the edges and around any openings on the roof like plumbing vent stack, chimneys, and swamp cooler installs.
Flat Roof Coatings and Sealings
Many issues can be prevented and the life of your roof extended by having the roof sealed regularly. How often this needs to be done will depend on the condition and location of your home. A good-quality coating can save money on your cooling costs and prolong the life of your home so spend the extra money to get a high-quality product.
The main trick to any successful coating, sealant, or patch is proper preparation. It’s very important that you follow your product’s guidelines and instructions.
A coating is not meant to repair a leak. Yes, adding coating may work to stop a leak, for a short time. However, you are left with a bigger mess after the leak restarts because you won’t be able to pinpoint the location of the leak to properly patch it.
I repeat, a coating is not meant to repair a leak but a sealant is. Don’t confuse the two. If you have a leak you ust seal or patch it before you coat it. Coatings are used to extend the life of the roof and protect it.
Elastomeric coatings are most popular for flat mobile home roofs. Elastomeric means elastic and the coating does have elasticity to it. It’s a good product for a mobile home because it can be more forgiving of shrinkage or swellings, or other minute movements.
There are a few different products that are considered elastomeric coating acrylic, latex, urethane, and silicone can all be elastomeric.
White Acrylic Sealant and Coating
Sta-Kool brand is probably the most popular elastomeric acrylic sealant and coating brand. A 5-gallon bucket of their white acrylic coating is about $100 but it can coat quite a bit.
It’s a good idea to to tape over the seams on the roof before the coating. A contouring seam tape works well.
This homeowner walks you through the steps of sealing and coating a flat roof on a mobile home:
White latex is a roof coating that you spread over your metal roof with a spraying machine, roller, or brush. You can also buy it in 5-gallon buckets. Look for a product with fabric webbing. White roof coating is best for hot climates because white is a solar reflector.
Another popular coating for flat roofs on a mobile home is asphalt aluminum. It’s bright silver because there is actually aluminum particles in it. It’s a coating but it may be used over a butyl patch to protect it from the sun.
Metal Roof Repair
Patching a Flat Metal Roof
Patching a metal roof on a mobile home is pretty common.
If you have a leak you will want to patch it immediately. The trick for patches is to build it up so that there are depressions. You want the patch itself to be designed so that water can easily run off on all sides.
If you need to repair a small patch or hole on your roof you may have to make it bigger to fix it right. Yes, bigger. A proper patch needs to be even with the roof and that may require cutting the area out a bit so you can stuff insulation or add plywood to create a slight curve.
The most popular and affordable patch for a flat metal roof is probably black mastic tape and cap kits. You can buy a complete kit that includes the mastic, a fabric webbing, and an asphalt-aluminum coating.
Butyl Rubber and Galvanized Steel Patch
A common patch system uses butyl rubber and galvanized steel. First, you apply mastic under the galvanized steel patch and then screw it onto the roof over the damaged area (making sure to hit trusses). Then use foil-faced sticky buty rubber over the patch making sure to extend past it.
Quick Snow Removal is Important
Flat roofs or nearly flat roofs have special needs, especially in cold climates in winter. Heavy snow loads can spell disaster, and so significant accumulations require quick removal. Again, here it is invaluable to know one or two knowledgeable, trustworthy flat roof contractors.
Insurance May Require Regular Sealing
Coating and sealing your flat roof may be required to maintain your home insurance policy. Some policies require that your mobile home’s flat roof be sealed every 2 years or so. Read your policy and make sure you follow the clauses.
If you have to file a claim for anything involving the roof and they find that you haven’t had it sealed within the stated time frame, they will not approve the claim. Some agents won’t volunteer the information so be sure you understand the policy completely.
More Tips to Maintain a Flat Roof on a Mobile Home
- Always keep an eye out for the obvious signs of damage, like water stains in ceilings and walls, or worse, dripping water.
- Be aware of the age of your roof and think prevention rather than remediation when roof shingles or other materials near the end of their viable lifespan (a general rule of thumb is 15 to 20 years).
- Be aware of ice back-up under roofing materials or ice dams, etc. This can be both a cause of damage and a sign that something in the roof system is not performing adequately. Mobile home roof health and safety also rely heavily on good roof maintenance.
- Any damaged portions of roofing should be repaired right away. This will prevent the spread of damage and secondary property damage or loss.
- Hire the right person for the job if you do hire out inspections and repairs. For example, hire a company that is insured and bonded and has many years of experience maintaining and repairing flat roofs. Get references and actually call them.
Summary for Tips to Maintain a Flat Roof on a Mobile Home
Although mobile home roof care and maintenance can be scary and admittedly financially overwhelming, regular awareness and attention can prove invaluable.
You will never regret the time and investment you spend on maintaining a home, especially an older mobile home. Read more helpful advice and 50 tips about mobile homes here.
Do you have a product you recommend or any tips about how to maintain a flat roof on a mobile home? We’d love to hear it in the comments below. You can also join our Mobile Home Living: Remodels and Repair Group on Facebook. It’s a great group of supportive homeowners that help each other and share projects.
Thanks for reading Mobile Home Living.
This article was originally published on Nov 10, 2011, and updated on May 8, 2019.