DYI Pop Top Caravan Roof Leak Repair

Last updated on 6 August, 2023

Early in 2019 our 1994 Viscount Vogue Pop Top caravan (we call Josephine) had small signs the pop top roof was leaking and needed to be repaired or replaced. In this post I will walk you through the process of how I did a DIY pop top caravan roof leak repair and the costs.

It is necessary to note that this article is a run down or the story of the process I used to successfully repair our caravan pop top roof leak. This is not an article with technical instructions.

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. If you use these to make a purchase, I may earn a commission. Any commission is greatly appreciated as it helps to keep Our Wayfaring Life online.

Pop top roof leak

Pop Top Caravan Roof Leak Repair

Pop Top Roof Removal

Luckily we have a friend Pete, who builds trailers and alike (yell out if you need anything) with a three bay shed large enough to facilitate the job of repairing a pop top caravan roof. Pete, as luck would have it also had most of the tools and equipment that needed to do the job. If you plan to do a pop top roof repair or replacement yourself it is necessary to have adequate undercover space and the tools necessary to do the job.

Whilst the decision to remove the roof had been made I hadn’t really come up with a plan on how to remove it, so we (Pete and I) made it up as we went.

First we released the bottom edge of the pop top skirt which was a piece of cake. The electrics were also disconnected including from the solar panel.

Fix pop top caravan roof leak
Preparing to lift off the roof

The roof was then still attached to the caravan by the scissor lifts and struts. Having only one block n tackle we used it to hang the roof from the rafters at the front end of the caravan and manually handled the rear end. In order to do that we ran a four metre long box section of steel through the rear end of the caravan and clamped it at the roofs full height to a shed upright on either side.

Preparing for pop top caravan roof fix
Supporting and securing the rear end

With the rear of the roof resting on the steel and the front supported with the block n tackle we removed the gas struts by undoing the clip on each ball end (bottom) and then removed the scissor lifts from each end. If I was doing this job again I’d probably only release the scissor lifts from the roof itself. It was then time to tow Josephine out from under the roof which we did. A pop top caravan without a roof is quite the sight.

Pop top caravan roof leak repair
Roof supported struts and scissor lifts were removed

Having pulled Josephine out of the way, next we needed to get the roof down from the rafters in order to work on it. I should point out that whilst our method may not have met all WHS standards, the job was completed both damage and injury free.

Remove pop top caravan roof
Josephine with her pop top roof!

The weight of the roof panel was pretty bloody heavy and this meant lowering it by hand was out of the question so we came up with an en genius plan to lower it. We found another shorter length of steel tube and positioned it in the centre of steel holding up the roof in the shape of a T. The bottom of the steel tub was then placed (now this is the dodgy bit) on a fully extended floor jack. Having backed off the clamps on either side just enough to allow the roof to move we lowered the roof down inch by inch using the jack, then tighten the clamps up again. The front end was lowered at the same speed using the the block and tackle.

Removing pop top caravan roof
Pop Top Roof Panel | Next step was to lower it

The roof was still nearly 2 metres off the ground so we cut the upright part of our T down and again used the floor jack and block and tackle until the roof was about metre off the ground and lowered the roof on positioned saw horses.

The next step with the roof down was to flip it so the ceiling was exposed facing up. Once flipped the roof was placed again on saw horses.

Pop top caravan roof damaged
Caravan Roof Leak | The Ceiling Damage
Caravan roof leaking
Caravan Pop Top Roof Leak | The Likely Source of the Leak

Removal of Roof Panel from Frame

Next (another day this time working solo due to Pete having to return to work) I set about removing anything and everything fixing the roof panel such as light fittings and the aluminium frame (extrusion). Turns out its a hell of a lot of screws holding the roof panel and extrusion frame together.

Remove pop top caravan vinyl sleeve
Completing the removal of the Pop Top Sleeve

It quickly became obvious that the roof would need to be flipped over again so I could get to the said screws to remove them. This time I managed to flip the roof on my own, a bit of a job in itself but I got there in the end only to discover that had been the easy part.

Repair leaking caravan pop top roof
Removing the Old Ceiling Sheets

Getting the screws out of the exterior side meant removing a hell of a lot of old sealant. Two or three hours in, having tried scrappers, knives, screw drivers without much progress I changed to using a fine wire brush grinder wheel. An hour later every last bit of sealant had been removed. It did mean everything else was covered in a layer powdered silicon. If you do this yourself, be sure to use PPE such as safety glasses and mask and cover everything the area.

Sealant removed I could see it was the screws as well a strip of plastic T-mould that filled and covered the gap between the panel and the frame, holding the roof panel and frame together. The initial stages of removing the moulding made the sealant removal look easy.

Having once again reverted to trying every tool at hand (even a bit of heat) I tried a small but sharp scribe. The scribe was small enough and had just enough strength to fit in the channel under the moulding and lift it just enough to allow me to start pulling it out, bending it back on itself. This still took well over an hour to remove as the moulding was brittle in places, and stuck in others.

Sealant, moulding and screws removed, the panel was now free from the frame. I was now able to separate the panel from the frame dropping the frame down on to the floor.

Removing Ceiling Sheets

Before flipping the panel again I stripped the exterior paint off taking the roof back to bare metal in preparation for painting. To do this I used another wire brush wheel.

Roof again flipped with the ceiling now on the top I soon found that whomever had built it had not spared any staples. Each staple had to be removed one by one, here again my trusty scribe came in handy to quickly pry each and every one out.

pop top caravan roof sealing
Roof Panel Striped Back

With staples removed it was time to remove the ceiling sheets. This too was not an easy task. The sheets were well and truly glued to the internal polystyrene insulation. Needing to remove them, I set about manually peeling back the ceiling sheets, too my surprise I managed to get the vast majority off with minimal damage to the insulation. A few sections needed more convincing than others and this was when a, multi tool worked a treat.

Sourcing and Buying Supplies

Next I set out to buy everything I needed to do the repairs and rebuild the roof. To my complete surprise (not) it turned out I couldn’t buy everything I needed “off the shelf”. The sheets I wanted for the ceiling were special order and the timber needed for the frame couldn’t be bought in the profiles I needed.

Fortunately another shopper gave me the heads up on a local (Ipswich) timber yard/mill whom may be able to help with the timber. The guys at the mill were great. They didn’t have what I wanted off the shelf but were happy to cut to size and thickness. $20 and 20 minutes later I had the few bits of timber required to repair the frame.

Sourcing the right type of primer and paint wasn’t as easy as I had hoped, ringing and driving around western Brisbane. Eventually I managed to source the primer and paint I needed. I chose to use ASTEC Energy Star EC-100 due to it being a heat reflecting water proof membrane. This cost $60 for 2 litres and primer enough for 3 generous coats.

Ceiling sheet were ordered through a local hardware store. When the 4 shiny new RV specific ceiling sheets arrived over a week later and $200 it was time to put everything back together. Or so I thought.

I soon realised I hadn’t sourced a replacement for the plastic T mould from the roof, armed with a piece of it for reference I made the short trip to a local caravan repairer hoping to buy some. I quickly learned that it wasn’t available or used any more. Instead I was shown that a similarly sized aluminum T section and an appropriate amount of sealant is the current method. $50 later I had the aluminum T section.

I was hopeful that now I had everything and was ready to put the roof back together.

Also just to note the new pop top skirt had already been purchased and delivered for $530 from Bagsnswags prior to the roof even coming off Josephine. The skirt was ready and waiting to be put on when I was ready. We decided to change from a grey skirt to a white one for a more brighter crisp look. In addition we had the number of ‘windows’ the skirt increased from 4 to 6 to allow more light and ventilation.

Repairing the Roof Damage

By the end of the day the ceiling sheets were completely removed and the full extent of the damage was revealed. Our decision to tarp the van when ever it rained since the leak first appeared meant that there had been only minimal damage to the timber frame of the panel. I used the multi tool to remove the damaged section and later after purchasing the timber at the right profile easily made the repair.

caravan roof lining sheets
New Ceiling Sheets

Replacing the Ceiling Sheets

The actual ceiling was pretty straight forward. The sheets were cut to size and I then marked and cut out where internal fittings such as lights and handles (raising lowering roof) would go.

Pop top caravan roof replacement
Ceiling Sheets Stapled To Roof Panel

Next I applied appropriate contact adhesive before positioning sheets in place and stapled around outer edges and where the light fittings would hide the staples. Needing to weigh down the ceiling sheets while the contact adhesive dried, I found and used four 20L bottles of oil and numerous other bits n pieces for the job. It was left overnight.

The joins between the individuals sheets were covered over by a thin strip of wood painted glued and stapled into position and then painted white to match the ceiling colour.

Pop top caravan roof frame
Extruded Frame and Panel Back Together | Join Needs to Be Resealed

Reattaching the Extruded Frame and Resealing the Joints

Now came time to reattached the extruded frame to the panel. To do this the roof panel was flipped yet again and then I lifted the frame back up off the the floor to meet the panel and everything fitted as it should.

With my new found knowledge from the caravan repairer I added the aluminium T section and appropriate amount of sealant, Sikaflex pro. I may have used slightly more than I needed but decided to better safe than sorry. I used the sealant to completely resealed the outer edges and centre strip I left the roof for 48 hours prior to painting.

Pop top caravan roof rebuild
Aluminum T Section and Sealant Used To Seal the Join

This completed the reattachment of the extrusion frame to roof panel and sealing of the joints.

Repainting pop top caravan roof
Repainting and Waterproofing the Roof Panel

Repainting and Waterproofing the Roof

First step was to prime the roof I used a Zinseer primer. Next I set about applying the waterproof heat reflective membrane ASTEC EC-100. I ended up using a brush to apply it to the sealed sections in order to ensure coverage and a roller to apply it to the flat sections of roof. I found 2L was enough for 3 coats.

Resealing pop top caravan roof
Ready to Put Josephine’s Roof Back On!
Repair pop top caravan roof
Josephine in Place Ready for her Roof

With our newly painted roof and shiny new ceiling and my helping hands back, it was time to put the roof back on the old girl. This was achieved by doing a reversal of our dodgy removal process. We used the block and tackle at the front of the roof and steel beam and jack at rear to lift to roof until it was high enough to position Josephine underneath.

We then reattached the scissor lifts and gas struts before re-installing the lights and reconnecting the electrics.  

New pop caravan skirt

New Pop Top Skirt (Canvas) and New Flooring

It was time to complete the process. This was achieved by installing the new pop top skirt we had purchased online as the old one while still functional looked dated and old. We thought it would be a simple process and after much frustration I contacted the supplier.

The supplier informed me of some small (until now unseen) ink marks near the corners which needed to be positioned in the corners of the roof frame to line everything up and with this knowledge the new skirt was attached within an hour.

Somewhere in the process of repairing the roof “we” decided also to rip up the old carpet in the caravan and put new flooring vinyl planks which cost $90 but that’s another story.

FINALLY my/our roof restoration job was finished. Finally Josephine had her roof back. The whole process took me four or five days spread out over a few weeks due to delays in supplies and numerous games of golf.

Total spend came in at approx $1000 inclusive.

  • $530 for the skirt
  • $200 for ceiling sheets
  • $100 Sikaflex Pro
  • $60 for paint and primer
  • $50 Aluminium T section and sealant
  • $20 for timber cut to the correct profile
  • $40 for a few other bits like staples for staple gun

Related: Do A Budget Pop Top Caravan Makeover | 8 Awesome Ideas

The Final Word

My advice if you’re planning a similar job, would be to try and determine exactly what you need and to source everything prior to commencing the job. If you have the means and space to remove your roof and work on it, consider giving it a go.

Another alternative we considered was a composite fibreglass panel I priced this from a Brisbane firm StyroMax which for our job came in at $2300 plus delivery. To be honest if I needed to do the job again I think I would take the composite panel route. That being said I’m glad I gave it a crack and almost a year on we’re happy with the completed job.

Fix pop top caravan roof


Pop Top Caravan Roof Leak Repair

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26 thoughts on “DYI Pop Top Caravan Roof Leak Repair”

  1. Hi, Thanks for showing how this was done it was very informative. We have decided to replace the Pop top skirt on a Belvedere 1996 Pop top Traveller caravan and went well with removing all screws top and bottom thinking all we had to do then was pull out from the top lip enclosure part unfortunately we found it wouldn’t release!!! I watched your photos but could not see how you released the top part of your pop top skirt.

    Any help or how this is done would greatly appreciate.


    • Hi Annette,

      Our pop top skirt took some convincing ie lots of pulling to get it out. It definitely didn’t just come out. In the end Daryl found a spot about half way along one side where it gave way and came out. Once he got one part to come out he was eventually able to get the rest out.

      Hope that helps. Good luck!


  2. Hi we have the same problem on our monsoon van. I would like a quote please.

    • Hi Andrea,

      Sorry to hear you are having the same issues. Daryl did our roof repair but isn’t a qualified repairer so we can’t give a quote.


  3. can anyone help with replacing pop top roof on windsor van? it has been completely ripped off due to high wind currents from a huge b double truck and clamps were a bit loose. dont want to pay a fortune but if someone could do the job for round a grand we would get it done. cheers

  4. Your article is quite helpful! I have so many questions, and you have answered many. Thank you! Such a nice and superb article, we have been looking for this information about pop top caravan roof leak repair Indeed a great post about it!!

  5. Hi I’m based in Budgewoi, Central Coast NSW in a caravan park.
    Where are you based?
    My roof is leaking in 3 spots & id love it fixed please

    • Hi Gertrude

      Sorry for the late reply. We have been remote on our travels lately.

      We are not caravan repairers. Daryl did ours to save us some money but he isn’t qualified to do it for others.

      Hope you are able to get yours fixed.


  6. Hi

    We are doing exactly the same on our old Viscount Seabreeze with the same roof construction as your ‘Josephine’. Can I ask what type of contact adhesive you used to glue the plywood ceiling sheets to the polystyrene?

    Kind Regards

    • Daryl used Selleys Kwik Grip Waterbased contact adhesive on the advice of a caravan repairer. He said it was the best to use because it doesn’t ‘eat’ the foam andis affordable.

      • Hi Emma,
        Thank you so much for your reply and the information its a great help.


  7. I have a small Supreme offroader pop top. Its been specifically kitted out over many years as a gold prospecting van. The inside is good and I’ve modified the van extensively to suit our purpose – lotsa a cross country bush work. I don’t want to purchase and kit out another van but I’ve had it with pop top vans. They sound like a good idea but the wind resistance factor that said they are better was de-mythed years ago. I’m gonna weld up an aluminium frame to fit under the raised roof and then clad the frame with cladding that matches the van. Fix to the top and the roof frame and it becomes a fixed roof. No more lifting probs, no-more strained back, rotting skirts, leaking frame members. Never again will I buy a pop top van.

    • G’day Les,
      Your great idea of welding an aluminium frame under the raised pop top roof to the caravan, attaching and cladding to become a fixed roof truly sounds good.
      Do you know any one in Newcastle that will take it on. .?
      Any insurance issues ect,.

  8. Hi, looks great, nice work.

    Do you know the brand/details of the RV specific ceiling sheets you managed to order form your local hardware store?

    • Hi Locky

      The brand is Gunnersen and Daryl bought it through Mitre 10 at Plainlands QLD. Daryl cannot remember the actual product name but had rv in the name. Hope that helps.

  9. We are repairing out pot top. Your article was very helpful. Can you advise where you purchased the aluminium t section to replace the original plastic one.

    • Hi 🙂

      Daryl got the aluminium t section from a aluminium supplier in Brisbane. There was a few to choose from but specifically Action Aluminium in Acacia Ridge.

      Hope your repairs are going well!

  10. Hi there, thanks for sharing all this information. We re a young couple attempting to renovate a old pop top caravan and need to redo the whole internal roof structure due to water damage and rot. Unfortunately the previous owner did some work to it and missed a few extra holes he’d drilled….failing to hit them with any sealant. We didn’t discover the full extent of the damage until after we bought it. So, we are mainly needing to find the correct wood and then will install new ceiling panels as you did. Could you please share what wood was used in your repairs?
    Thanks, Caitlin

    • Hi Caitlin,

      The timber Daryl was recommended and used is called meranti.

      Best of luck with your roof repair!


      • Hello Emma,

        Thanks for your reply 🙂 We’ve just had our Meranti delivered!

  11. I am looking to purchase a new or used poptop roof to install on my enclosed trailer. I can not find anyone who sells them. Any suggestions would be very welcome. Thanks

  12. With interest I read this article as I work in the office of a caravan repairer doing repair quotes etc.people reel backwards and a become arrogant when we quote the Cost to replace their pop top roof.just note all the tools,time and parts used in this exercise and put it into a commercial setting.
    Normally too expensive to replace professionally the roof of old caravans .

  13. Hi, Excellent article!
    you mention in it that you can get a composite one for 2300.
    May I ask who does them please?



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