ABS vs Alumitite aka Alumileak

Discussion in 'Camper Pre-Purchase Questions' started by Steph_C, Mar 12, 2020.

  1. Steph_C

    Steph_C Member

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    I've read all the stories, the good, the bad, and the ugly. What I'd like to know is: once the original ABS or Alumitite roof is patched/refinished/rebuilt/sealed PROPERLY (and assuming I do proper maintenance and repairs in years to come), is there one that is better than the other? For me, **the layout of the '02- '04 Coleman Fleetwood Bayside trumps any work that might be required.*** Which roof type is easier maintenance in the long run once it's fixed up? I know that Alumitite was the replacement for faulty ABS and they leaked in the seams under the tracks because they weren't sealed. And ABS had a (supposed) 15%failure rate but eventual cracks and delamination due to age and sun damage. Any suggestions or tips would be insightful!
     
  2. GreyFox

    GreyFox Well-Known Member

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    Not true at all, Fleetwood did seal the seams under the Rack Tracks with what they called "tacky tape" (Part #4350000101P) but this in time proved ineffective. The second problem was using steel screws to secure the aluminum roof membrane which caused galvanic corrosion and over time created gaps through which water could leak. Fleetwood eventually issued an AlumiTite roof repair kit which relied on adhesive instead of screws to secure the Rack Tracks to the roof. However, dealer techs in attempting repairs would often just reverse the Rack Tracks and thus create even more holes in the aluminum membrane and interior braces.

    That 15% failure rate was Fleetwood's own public admission but many of us who owned an ABS roof and participated extensively in discussion on the topic of ABS roof failure are convinced the actual failure rate was FAR greater, at least 75% or more. The ABS Strata roof was perfect in concept, the problem was actually producing it in quantity with a minimal failure rate (< 1%).

    Knowing what I know now I'd personally be hard pressed to buy any Fleetwood model with an AlumiTite roof as I just don't need the grief. I still recall having a conversation at the Toronto RV show with the owner of Master Canvas, who at the time was the authorized Fleetwood Folding Trailer dealer in Toronto. He had a cutaway section of the then newly introduced AlumiTite roof and boy, was he upset with FFT because this new roof had so many obvious reasons to fail - 2 large seams that ran the full length of the roof, 4 corner seams, use of steel screws to secure the aluminum membrane and aluminum Rack Tracks, use of metal bracing inside the roof (instead of wood) which would lead to the formation of patterns of condensation on the ceiling under damp weather conditions. In time, his criticisms proved accurate in every respect.

    Interestingly, in monitoring Kijiji I've noticed quite a few Fleetwood campers not wearing the style of roof the brochures claimed should be on these particular models. Of course in some cases the original roof could have been replaced but in most cases I suspect it was more a matter of Fleetwood using up a supply of roofs they had on hand. For example, I came within an inch of buying a 2005 Resolute (Cheyenne in other model years) but only because this particular trailer did not have an AlumiTite roof but a conventional aluminum skin roof with a single centre seam. This was an original owner and the roof was original.

    Of all the roof types Fleetwood has manufactured I'd prefer an ABS Strata roof but only if it was one of very few that hadn't failed. These are few and far between to actually find so I'd next prefer the 2010 / 2011 version of aluminum skin with no seams, other than the short seams where the membrane is seamed at the 4 corners. Next would be the conventional aluminum skin with a single centre seam - the type I owned on our 2003 Yuma and with which I had no issues at all. Finally, a Filon roof but only if it proved to not have suffered cracking which was most common with this style of roof. No way I'd buy an AlumiLeak roof as I'm just not interested in a total roof rebuild. YMMV. ;)
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2020
  3. theseus

    theseus Centerville, OH

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    I have the replacement Alumatite roof on my pup. No leaks before I bought it and I did preventative maintenance on my own. I removed the tracks and sealed the seam with silicone caulk. (Yeah I know some here are shocked that I use silicone). Withe the caulk wet I put the track down again and rescrewed it in place.

    As @GreyFox said, the failure rate of the ABS roof is a lot higher than Fleetwood admitted to. I am unaware of anyone on this forum that hasn’t had to redo theirs or has had no trouble.
     
  4. Steph_C

    Steph_C Member

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    Right. But AFTER the roof is redone, how does ABS compare to the alumitite?
     
  5. Steph_C

    Steph_C Member

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    Thanks for your insights. I don't mind a roof rebuild if everything else is ideal (budget and the interior space are our biggest factors) . Im just wondering once rebuilt, which type of roof is easier to maintain. I will keep on my search!!
     
  6. GreyFox

    GreyFox Well-Known Member

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    You're asking for a simple answer to a very complicated issue - it depends on what you mean by "redone" as every roof, every type of roof will require different solutions. To properly repair an AlumiTite roof you'd want to remove it from the camper so you can open it up from the ceiling side and completely remove & rebuild anything that's damaged. No way would you be able to do that with an ABS roof - some simply patch exterior cracks with a MEK slurry, some coat the outside surface with truck bed liner, while some remove the outer ABS shell entirely to fully expose the rigid foam interior and coat that. Different solutions depending on the type of roof and nature of the failure(s).

    That said, how could one argue that a totally seamless molded roof wouldn't be the best solution for any popup camper? Fleetwood thought so but it eventually failed because it couldn't be mass produced at reasonable cost without a significant failure rate.

    Here's a pic of my own 1969 Coleman CT380, purchased new - notice the seamless "plastic" roof - quite an advanced concept considering Coleman was then a new player in the folding tent trailer market. :)

    [​IMG]
     
  7. GreyFox

    GreyFox Well-Known Member

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    That 2004 Bayside I linked to in another of your posts looks pretty good and at $5000 Cdn is priced well considering the 2020 camping season isn't far off. However, as I said in that other post the ceiling (from pic #5) looks suspect to me - which wouldn't surprise me at all considering this is an AlumiTite roof. If you're up for a full roof rebuild it could be a potential candidate.
     
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  8. theseus

    theseus Centerville, OH

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    Any type of roof will require maintenance. How the pervious owner did will determine how well the roof will last. I have a bigger problem with the front box on my bayside than with the roof. Front boxes are notorious points of leakage. I check the seams on my roof yearly.

    The real question is when you find a unit in good shape or at least are willing to work with, will you have the time to do the maintenance to keep it up?
     
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  9. Steph_C

    Steph_C Member

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    Thanks! Im actually on my way to see it now. I have a few others lined up for this week of varying years, 1999/2003/2004 aaaand theyre all $4000 (the one you're referring to is also $4000, he never updated the price in the ad). This is the only alumitite, the others are ABS and they look amazing from pictures, but we'll see when I get there.

    Im really glad you know your stuff and I love this helpful group, it really gives me a measure of confidence in what to look for and, more importantly, WHERE to look for the issues.
    Wish me luck!
     
  10. Steph_C

    Steph_C Member

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    Yes lol im a SAHM that loves DIY projects and the great outdoors. Win-win!
     
  11. theseus

    theseus Centerville, OH

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    Excellent! I hope you find a good unit. Don’t be afraid to walk away if it seems too much of a job.
     
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  12. GreyFox

    GreyFox Well-Known Member

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    That in itself could be a dead giveaway this AlumiTite roof has leaked. Caveat Emptor! ;)

    BTW, you'll notice this 2004 Bayside has a stand alone roto molded front trunk. That's because the integrated trunk from earlier years leaked like a sieve. Any Fleetwood with an ABS roof & front trunk, and any 2003.5 with an AlumiTite roof & front trunk, will have this integrated style of trunk - be careful! :oops:
     
  13. davekro

    davekro Active Member

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    ‘If’ the OP found one with an ABS roof, say stored inside or otherwise with a very good looking roof (and absolutely no ceiling irregularities pointing to prior leaks), would coating the ABS with a good roll on material to protect it from new UV deterioration going forward make it a great roof? Or, might he still be just as open for ABS cracking over time from whatever UV deterioration or just the aging of the ABS material (maybe not visible yet?) that has occurred over 16-20 year life to date?? That would be my question.

    I just rolled on two coats of Henry Tropi-Cool 100% silicone roof sealant onto the Filon roof of my ‘99 Starcraft. It looks to have the same Filon build design as Fleetwood ‘07 - ‘08 pups. This coating is thick and rubbery to the feel. Has a glossy finish. I feel VERY secure that if there were any spider cracks in the one piece Filon (thin fiberglass) roof sheet, that they are sealed for the foreseeable future. Prior to painting, I did fill a number of PO un-sealed holes (including the tiny tiniest visible ones) with Dicor. The left and right edge trims had their old OEM Dicor sealant removed completely and re-Dicored. Now the rubberized paint covers the Dicor and goes right to the aluminum side trim. So those seams feel perfectly sealed.

    There is no downside to having the edge seams covered because you can’t re-seal with Dicor over silicone paint (or sealant/caulk). If any parts of those seams were ever compromised, I would scrape away the existing Dicor (and of course the paint covering it, down to the original surface, clean thoroughly and re-Dicor. After doing a complete ceiling covering inside, I am hyper vigilant about maintaining perfect roof seals.
     
  14. Steph_C

    Steph_C Member

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    Sooooo . Definitely some water damage in the roof. It had not been opened in 2 years and Guy said it came in from the AC, and because it was on soft ground the trailer was tilted back not forward, and that's exactly where the damage is.
     

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  15. Steph_C

    Steph_C Member

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    So there was definitely water damage in the roof. It hadn't been opened in 2 years and it was outside so the ground was soft and trailer tilted back and the water came in from the AC. Guy said he replaced the gasket when he spotted that. Also said the tracks on the roof were factory sealed and he also touched that up that over the years. Too early to test the water(too soon to remove anti-freeze) and we didn't have a lighter for ... hot water? Pilot light? I forget. One of the things had automatic push lighter/ starter. AC worked, furnace and lights all worked, tried the battery and electric . Couldn't verify the propane, but we probably would not use that anyways (we cook outside and have serviced sites). Also there were some fairly minor signs of mildew/ stains on one side of the canvas over the beds, and no rips or tears anywhere.
    All in all, everything else was in excellent condition. Main issues are water damage in back half of roof, minor mildew, and couldn't verify propane/ water. I offered less because those things would only be figured out once we own it. He accepted my offer of $3000.
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2020
  16. GreyFox

    GreyFox Well-Known Member

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    That AlumiTite roof is shot, would need a full rebuild. Owner can say what he wants, that amount of damage is more likely from seams under the Rack Tracks leaking.
     
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  17. GreyFox

    GreyFox Well-Known Member

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    What can I say but good luck. :)
     
  18. Steph_C

    Steph_C Member

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    That's what I figured, and the reason I offered much less than asking price. Once i get that roof Reno out of the way (most things age would need something anyways) we will be good to go! Figure I'll just get the roof out of the way and enjoy
     
  19. davekro

    davekro Active Member

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    Do you have a space to remove the roof and turn it upside down to be able to replace all the problemed structural items, styrofoam, repair and put a new ceiling skin on? Most would use 1/8" Luan. But I found this 1/8" x 4' x 8' White Hardboard Thrifty HDF Tile Board at Home Depot ($14/ sheet) that I plan to install in place of my OEM vinyl covered. The OEM Luan glued to the ceiling foam. We just started prying the old Luan away from the styrofoam. Hopefully we find some wood slats/ cross braces left to right. I had assumed incorrectly that there would be L to R cross braces at the front and back edges of the 14" vent opening, but the opening is literally just framed with 1" thick x 2" wide wood. I guess if an AC unit would have been installed, a second wall-to-wall steel beam would be part of an AC kit for behind the hole. I will be glueing the new panels to the styrofoam and hopefully some cross braces we see as we get more Luan peeled off. At the 4' wide seams front and back (10' long roof), I think I will cut away some foam and install a wooden cross brace. Mine is a Starcraft, so I don't know what you will find in your Coleman roof, but please take and post pictures (I will too) because many of us wonder what structure is in the roof. My wife said why don't you just make a metal cross brace like there is in the center of the roof and install it at the front seam? I thought that was a great idea as we plan to build a DIY bike rack for the roof, so extra front roof strength is a plus!
     
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  20. Steph_C

    Steph_C Member

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    Thanks!! I'll definitely keep this in mind when we get there.. I do have a double car garage to use for indoor project thankfully.

    Haven't actually picked up the trailer yet, ---supposed to get it monday.
     

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