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RV Roof Repair Day 3: RV Awning Removal & Roof Deck Removal

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Welcome to my RV Renovation Series! I’m on day Day 3 of replacing the roof of my ’93 Fleetwood Jamboree Searcher motorhome. In part one of this post I removed the roof trim molding from three sides of the roof. But in order to remove the fourth one, I need to remove the RV awning as well. That’s because the mounting brackets overlap the roof, and the trim molding that holds down this side of the rubber roof is also the awning rail that anchors the awning fabric to the camper. Note: If you were simply removing your awning to replace it or doing an awning repair (and not repairing the roof) you wouldn’t have to actually remove this rail. (See “Head’s Up” in description below.) Let’s get to it!

Removing an RV Awning & Removing the Roof Deck

Steps Covered Today:

Tools Used Today:

Support the Awning

Awnings are heavy so the first thing I had to do was support its weight while I remove the mounting brackets. The easiest way to do that was to unclip the feet of the awning legs and extend them out at an angle to the ground.

rv awning
In order to replace the rubber roof and roof decking, I need to remove the awning.
motorhome awning leg release
My RV awning has legs which pivot at the base but can be removed to set on the ground. First I pulled these out.
releasing the camper awnings legs
Pushing this lever releases the foot of the awning legs.
support the trailer awning with the legs
I set each of the awning legs firmly on the ground to support it while I remove the mounting brackets that hold it to the camper

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Remove the Mounting Brackets

Here’s a detail of how the awning mounting brackets are bolted into the side of the camper. You’ll also notice how the bracket is hooked on top of the trim molding that holds down the fiberglass panel in the back corner. That’s why the awning needs to come off first before the final steps of this post (exposing the front and back edges of the roof decking). I used my 10-foot step ladder to do this work.

mounting bracket for caravan awnings
Here’s a detail of how the awning mounting brackets are screwed into the camper.

I didn’t actually have to do this step until the awning was on the ground but I noticed this set screw here holding the awning canvas into the awning rail (there’s another at the right end of the awning.) I went ahead and unscrewed it. You’ll also notice I started to pull out the vinyl insert that covers the screw heads in the awning rail.

set screw holding rv awning fabric
Now is as good a time as any to remove the little set screw at the edge of the awning canvas that keeps the awning from moving sideways in the awning rail (which is also the roof trim molding that holds the rubber roof down).

Grab the right size socket from your ratchet set and unscrew the bolts. These are long, heavy-duty lag screws. Once both screws are removed, simply pull back on the bracket.

RV awning parts removal
Unscrewing the large lag screws that hold the RV awning mounting brackets to the camper (with a socket wrench)
removing the RV awning bracket for rv awning replacement
Removing the mounting bracket once the lag screws have been unscrewed. Note how this end was hooked over the termination bar that seals the rounded corner at the back of the roof.

I found I couldn’t reach the lag screws on the other end because the leg was blocking them. So I just pulled the leg and awning away from the camper while unscrewing the lag screws. This is kind of pain, so it might be easier to just lower the legs a bit.

legs may block camper awning parts like the lag screws
You may find the heads of the lag screws are blocked by the awning legs. Either pull the awning away or adjust the legs lower.
pull away the camper retractable awning to access screws
Pulling the awning away from the camper so I can access the lag screws.
lag screws removed from camper awning
Both lag screws removed from the awning mounting bracket on the right.
removing the mounting bracket of motorhome awning
Removing the mounting bracket of the awning.

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Remove the Awning Rail & Awning

Once the mounting brackets are detached, it’s time to remove the awning rail. Remember, the awning rail is basically just like a regular piece of aluminum roof edge trim molding except that at the bottom edge there is a circular track with a slot in it. The back edge of the awning canvas slides into this track. To replace the roof, this awning bar needs to be removed.

RV awning rail
Here’s a look at the circular channel at the bottom of the awning rail. The canvas for the awning slides into this track.

Heads up! If you’re just replacing your awning and not repairing the whole roof like me, then you wouldn’t need to remove the awning rail. You’d simply remove the two retaining screws (see the 8th photo below this one, that keep the awning from sliding sideways in the track) and then slide the entire awning sideways until it slides completely out of the rail. You would need two people for this job, one holding up each leg, to walk it sideways.

Since I’m replacing the entire rubber roof, I’m going to remove the awning rail and the awning in one piece, because it’s much easier than sliding the heavy awning sideways while it’s still attached! But in order to remove the awning rail, I need to lower the awning a little bit to access the screw heads. So next I raised the legs a few notches to drop the awning low enough that I could reach the awning rail easily.

RV awning legs
Dropping the legs a few notches to lower the whole awning.
access the rv awning rail insert
Now I can reach this trim molding (the awning rail) easily.

Now it’s just like removing the side trim molding on the other side of the camper. Pull out the vinyl insert that covers the screw heads (you may have to cut the end with a utility knife if it is tucked under the rail) and then just yank it out.

removing the rv awning rail insert
First pry out the vinyl insert strip to expose the screw heads in the awning rail. You may have to cut the end with a utility knife if it is wrapped under. Then just yank it out!

Once the vinyl screw cover insert was out I removed the screws with a cordless drill and the socket head from my ratchet screwdriver set. This went pretty quickly.

removing screws from caravan awning rail
Removing all the screws in the awning rail.

Once the screws were out I started prying up the awning rail. (There will be some butyl tape or putty sticking it to the rubber beneath.)

HEADS UP! Once I started to pry off the awning rail, the whole thing suddenly snapped off and rolled up into the awning like a window blind. Not a big deal but it scared the crap out of me. Just know it’s coming!

removing camper awning rail
Once the screws are removed, the awning rail can be pried up. You can see the edge of the rubber roofing that was fastened under it.
campervan awning rail removed
Once you start pulling the awning rail away it will suddenly snap free and roll up like a window blind with the awning.

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Slide Awning Rail off the Awning

Now the awning is free and ready to lower to the ground. This thing is heavy so if you’re working alone like me then lower it the ground little by little by walking the legs away from the camper on each side one by one until you can lay it on the ground. Then I flipped the legs back up and out of the way against the camper.

lower rv awning to the ground
I walked the whole awning assembly down to the ground little by little, until it was lying on the ground. Then I leaned the legs back against the camper.

Once the awning was on the ground I removed the little set screw at the right end of the awning, (I removed the one at the left end earlier.) These screws keep the awning canvas from sliding in the rail. Once they’re removed the rail just slides right off the canvas by sliding the whole rail to one side.

set screw for awning fabric
Now I removed the other set screw that keeps the awning canvas from sliding in the track.
sliding awning fabric out of awning rail
Once the two set screws were removed I could slide the whole awning rail right off the awning.
RV awning rail detail
Another look at the profile of this trim molding (the awning rail) after it was removed.

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Expose the Rear Edge of the RV Roof Decking

Woo hoo! The awning is off! The last step before I can remove the old roof decking is to expose the ends of it where the fiberglass panels overlap it at the front and back of the camper. These panels only overlap the roof decking by an inch or two, but you still have to go to the trouble of lifting them up if you want to replace the entire roof decking substrate (1/8 inch luan plywood in my case.) So I started with the back and the first thing I noticed was some rusty old staples holding down the edge of the fiberglass. I pried them out as best I could.

rv fiberglass siding
The fiberglass skin over the rounded transition had some rusty staples holding it down. I pried them out as best I could.

The next thing holding down the rv fiberglass siding panels is the corner trim molding shown here. It has a vinyl screw cover strip inserted, so again I just pried up the vinyl insert and pulled out enough so I could unscrew some screw heads.

HEADS UP! I didn’t remove this entire piece of corner trim molding (it runs all the way to the bottom of the camper) because I only need to lift the edge of the fiberglass. However I may end up removing it later if I need to replace the luan plywood beneath this fiberglass transition.

rv fiberglass siding replacement
The roof decking plywood extends under the fiberglass skin at the back of the camper. In order to replace it, this fiberglass transition must be lifted. To lift that, the corner molding must be removed.
rv corner trim vinyl insert removed
I pried out the vinyl insert in the trim molding and unscrewed the screws down to just below the curve.
camper corner trim molding pulled to side
Then I could swing the trim mold off the side enough to lift up the edge of the fiberglass panel.

Once I could swing that piece of corner molding off the side, I began to pry up the fiberglass panel. It has glue under it and bits of rusted staples and sheared off screws still holding it in place.

rv fiberglass siding repair required
Warning! If you’re not careful, you might chip the fiberglass panel when you’re prying it up! (Like I did!)

Heads Up! Pry up the fiberglass cover panels very carefully! They chip easily! Especially around the remains of any rusted out staples or sheared off screws. I switched from a scraper to a stiff 6″ wide putty knife .

rv fiberglass siding replacement is a pain! Don't chip it!
This piece chipped out of the fiberglass panel when I was trying to pry it up.
Using a 6 inch scraper to pry up rv fiberglass siding
At that point I switched from a scraper to 6 inch wide taping knife.

Then I loosened the other corner trim in the same way, and bent it sideways just enough so that I could lift up the edge of the fiberglass panel.

removing aluminum rv corner trim molding
Then I removed the vinyl insert from the other piece of trim mold and took out enough screws so I could slide it sideways and lift the fiberglass panel.

When I lifted the edge of the fiberglass I could see that the layer of luan plywood beneath it was stapled on top of the roof decking plywood. So next I pried up the staples and lifted the edge of that piece of luan ply.

lifting rv siding panels
Now you can see where the luan plywood under the fiberglass panel is stapled down onto the roof substrate plywood. That needs to be lifted next.

I found a bunch of water damage in the plywood under the fiberglass panel so I’ll probably be replacing it. Which means I’ll end removing those corner trim pieces all the way down after all. But we’ll get to that later.

water damaged rv roof framing
I had a substantial amount of water damage in the joint between the rounded corner and the roof deck.
lifting luan plywood
Now I’m prying up the luan panel beneath the fiberglass. It’s just popping through the staples.
roof substrate exposed
Finally the edge of the roof decking is exposed at the back of the camper!

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Expose the Front Edge of the Roof Decking

OK! So I’ve exposed the roof substrate at the back edge of the camper. Now its time to find the front edge. Same deal again. Remove some screws from the corner trim holding down the fiberglass panel.

lifting fiberglass camper siding
Now to begin exposing the front edge of the roof decking substrate.
rubber roof under fiberglass panel
Notice the rubber EPDM roof membrane runs underneath the fiberglass panel at the front of the camper.
unscrewing rv corner trim molding
Same as the back, I need to unscrew some of this corner trim to lift up the fiberglass panel.
lifting from fiberglass panel
Corner trim loosened, and lifting the fiberglass panel at the front of the camper.

Once the corner trim pieces are loose enough to slide them sideways a bit and the fiberglass panel is pried up (there’s glue under it) then the luan plywood beneath it is exposed. Again, I pried that layer up as well (there wasn’t much holding it down but glue at this point) and then I could yank out the rest of the rubber roofing that was glued underneath it.

removing rubber under front fiberglass siding
Now I can pull out the last bit of rubber roofing from underneath the fiberglass and luan plywood.

Once the rubber was out I lifted up the fiberglass and the plywood layer beneath it to expose the edge of the roof plywood. Now the roof substrate is entirely exposed! I can now decide whether to replace it all or just to patch damaged areas.

edge of rv roof plywood and view of insulation
This shows the fiberglass panel lifted up, as well as the layer of luan plywood beneath it. The entire roof deck is now exposed!
camper roof repair
Another detail of the front edge of the roof plywood, and some water damage in the wood framing.

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Remove the Roof Decking Plywood from the Camper

Now that I’ve exposed all the edges of the roof substrate (1/8 inch luan plywood in my case) I finally know exactly how the roof of my 93 Fleetwood Jamboree Searcher is built! (See illustration at the bottom of this post.) I could already see the blue styrofoam insulation beneath a damaged area of the roof decking so I knew what was under there. I decided I was going to go replace all of the roof plywood. I noticed there were no fasteners holding the roof plywood down. It was just glued. So I began carefully peeling it up.

styrofoam rv insulation in roof
I could see the blue styrofoam insulation beneath the damaged areas of luan plywood on the roof.
rv roof paneling
Notice there are no fasteners at all holding down the roof plywood! It is entirely glued.
rv roof repair
I started by just yanking up some of the broken bits of ply and prying it up with the 6-inch knife.

Once I scraped up some of the broken bits I got hold of a solid piece of plywood and started to pull. The whole thing started to pull up cleanly in one piece without damaging the foam board insulation at all. Now I could see the steel framing beneath.

exposing foam board insulation
But then the plywood started peeling up as one piece, leaving all the styrofoam well intact.

I also noticed how the seams in the roof deck plywood managed to stay together so tightly. There is a metal reinforced tape on the bottom that joins the pieces together. I don’t know how exactly they managed to glue everything down so well and get this tape joining them from the underside, but it was nicely done.

metal reinforced panel tape
The pieces of roof ply are joined together at the seams underneath with a metal-reinforced tape.
scraping foam board
Any remaining bits can be scraped up with the 6 inch knife.

As I pulled up the roof substrate, I quickly realized the roof was getting floppy. The glue between the roof ply and the styrofoam insulation (and between the ceiling plywood and the foam) created a strong lamination effect, bonding all them together into a single stiff unit. Once I started removing one layer, the entire system lost its strength. So instead of peeling off the whole roof ply at this point, I just cracked off the first piece right before the seam so I could decide how to proceed.

without top layer the roof gets floppy
I quickly realized the roof was losing strength and stiffness as I pulled up the top layer, so cracked it off just before the first seam.
rv steel roof framing
A close up of the metal framing in the roof: one inch wide, one and a half inches tall.
RV wiring in ceiling foam board
Here’s a detail of the wiring in the insulation foam and the solid wood reinforcements where the antennas screw into the roof.
1/8 inch luan ply roof substrate
The roof plywood is a mere 1/8 of an inch thick! But surprisingly strong when all glued together properly!
Camper roof framing
Peeling back the ply a bit further I reveal a steel cross brace where the seems meet in the roofing plywood.
rv roofing glue on panel
Looking at the bottom of the roofing ply I removed you can see that it had a very complete glue bond with the blue foam in-between, creating a strong lamination effect.

Here is an illustration I made that details how the roof is constructed, how the roof framing works, and how all the layers are overlapped at the front and back of the RV rubber roof.

RV Roof Repair and Replacement
Illustration of RV roof construction

For my next post it’s time to make some decisions and prepare for rain!

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