"One-Piece Roof" Story

(why "no center seam" is no big thing)

Some salespeople tout a "one-piece roof" as if it were a big deal. It's not, at least not anymore, but for anyone who remembers or has heard of a bad episode with "two-piece roofs" it's easy for salespeople to use the "one-piece roof" phrase to their advantage. This is a slick salesperson move because the issue one-piece roofs address is an outdated issue (by over 30 years). Here's what happened:

Before the dominant use of Fiberglass and ABS for camper roofs, aluminum reigned supreme. The aluminum roof for most campers (including Flagstaff, Rockwood, and Starcraft) had a mill-roll seam down the middle of the camper.

A "mill-roll seam" joins two pieces of aluminum in a large press with several folds of aluminum intertwined at the joint. Once pressed, this mass of aluminum is virtually inseparable. For all practical purposes the mill-rolled roof was strong enough to qualify as a "one-piece roof".

mill-rolled roof from a 1977 Starcraft
Mill-rolled roof from a 1977 Starcraft. Still going strong in 2019.

However, in the late '80s one camper manufacturer exchanged the mill-roll process for a much faster and cheaper process. The cheaper process: overlap one sheet of aluminum on another sheet by ~1" and run a line of #8 screws down the two pieces of (very thin) aluminum to join the two halves.

Of course the overlapped-aluminum roof had all sorts of structural problems and the design was quickly abandoned. Unfortunately the damage had already been done to the reputation of "two-piece roofs" in the pop-up camping community.

Camper manufacturers started looking for alternatives to the two-piece aluminum roof (which had worked well for decades but fared poorly from a public relations standpoint). Some turned to Fiberglass, others turned to ABS. Fiberglass and ABS came with their own challenges, though, and some roof designs had as many structural issues as the weak, overlapped-aluminum roof.

Understandably some people still harbor ill feelings towards any roof with a seam down the middle because of this experience. It's too bad, too, because the mill-rolled aluminum roof worked great and was essentially maintenance-free.

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