So when your house has been around since 1964, and it has wheels and sits outside all the time, the roof takes a pretty good beating. But it’s not like you can re-shingle a trailer. All vintage trailers need to have their roofs repaired at some point or another. There are different types, some are aluminum with a coating and some have a rubber membrane. Lola has an aluminum roof with many many layers of mucky coating on it. Her previous owner (whom I had to consult about the title) had said to make sure to “put another coat on the roof.” I wasn’t sure what she meant.
So I got up there and looked. Eesh.
Okay, so some of what you’re looking at is just grime from the road and tree sap and bird shit, etc. But in places, there were very small tears in the coating, allowing water to drain down against the aluminum, causing rust. These leaks aren’t always obvious right away. Vintage trailers get leaks very easily, but most of the time when the damage is obvious, it’s difficult to discover the cause of the leak. Water takes the path of least resistance to the ground, so sometimes the leak is in the front of the trailer, and the damage is in the bottom corner.
Lola hadn’t been leaking long enough to have visible damage, but I knew that she would definitely have damage soon enough. I needed to repair the roof.
So I consulted the experts at vintagetrailerrepair.org, where I am a member of the forums. They said as long as she had a metal roof with a coating you could just add another coat. (note: if she’d had a rubber membrane roof, it would have to be replaced.) I asked what type: when I looked at the products, some were acrylic and some were natural rubber. Some seemed to favor acrylic, some said it didn’t matter. So I consulted more experts at **** (vintage trailer supply?), and they suggest a product made in Huntington, IN, not far from home, called Polar Seal. This acrylic coating guarantees to stop leaks and last for 10 years. It’s 64 dollars for 1 gallon of both the primer and the sealer. In my case, I think that was enough, but the label says it covers about 100 sq feet.
I found a nice warm sunny day to start, and I began by cleaning the dirt from the roof itself. I used an all-purpose cleaner designed to be diluted and put in a power-washer (to wash siding or RV’s). I diluted it and used a scrub brush. She looked much better after the clean, but of course all the dirt and grime dripped down her sides, and I ended up washing the whole trailer that day.
Next day I started the base coat. I used a rolling brush like you’d paint with (the kind that are used on rough surfaces) and a small paint brush. It takes two coats of base and two coats of topcoat (kind of a like a manicure). The base had the consistency of Elmer’s glue, and it was kind of a blueish color. It was VERY STICKY. I made sure to kind of glob it in places that had tears, and on the corners and seals. The label says you can use a piece of scrim (netted mesh) to strengthen areas that you’re worried about, but Lola’s roof was pretty sturdy and the only tears were very small. I opted out. Maybe I shouldn’t have, but I did.
After the first coat dried, the second coat of base was very challenging. It was still very sticky up there, and my knees kept sticking to the roof and pulling up parts of it, causing further damage. My solution was a slightly damp towel which I laid down to kneel on, which worked perfectly.
The top coat had a thick-paint consistency, so it was easier to apply, with another roller and a brush. There were two color choices: white and grey. I can see why people choose grey, because white will look dirty faster. But when it was new and clean the white looked JUST FABULOUS! Big plus: the white reflects a great deal of sunlight, and the inside of the trailer was much cooler than it had been before.
For ease of use (you can apply Polar Seal right on top of whatever other coating your roof has) I would definitely recommend the product. I can’t speak for durability yet, but visually, she looks quite water tight, and I was happy with the way the 4 coats dried.
I will have an update as the weeks go by and we get more and more rain.