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Flat Roof Repair: Some Tips & DIY Ideas for Flat Roof Owners


Lots of people live in houses having a flat roof. Every commercial building has a flat roof. Yet even modern-styled private households often have this roof type. From the first point of view, having a flat roof is a cool idea as it can expand the area of your house and provide you with extra space for a lounge zone, terrace, or something like that. Yet experienced private homeowners can tell you the truth: among all the types of roofs, a flat roof is double trouble.

Let’s discuss in detail the peculiarities of flat roof repair and some tips that will help you to cope with it.

Why Can Flat Roof Leak?

Every roof tends to leak sometimes. For flat roof leaking, things go worse as it has fewer opportunities to run the water down from the roofing surface than any sloped roof. As a result, the water collects on the roofing and the results of roof leaks can be more ruining for the whole house. In the worst-case scenario, the amount of water collected on the flat roof can lead to its overall destruction and roof collapse. Any option is not a positive one and in the most complex situation, it can lead to the total flat roof replacement. You can forecast the costs you’ll face in that case.

So it is better to provide regular flat roof inspections to avoid the worst-case scenario we’ve depicted. 

There are several reasons why your flat roof may leak and require repair. 

  • ✅ Water damage is the most impactful reason for roof leaks. Heavy rains often ruin even the most reliable roofing.
  • ✅ Winds and hurricanes also increase the chances of leaks. If you are living in the Tornado alley area, you should be especially careful, be sure.
  • ✅ Incorrect drainage construction. The main reason the flat roof is damaging is standing water. If there is no adequate drainage planned, it will stand after each rainy day making your roof leak.
  • ✅ Low quality of materials or flat roofer’s work. Cheap materials, low-quality fastenings, and membranes can be reasonable features for roof damages.
  • ✅ Age. Time ruins everything and your roof is no exception. So it is better to provide regular flat roof inspection for repairing your flat roof in time.

In any case, forewarned is forearmed and it is better to know how to repair a flat roof in advance to use these pieces of knowledge when needed. 

The Type of Material of Your Flat Roof: How Does It Impact Leakages?

The second important thing you should consider when planning flat roof repair is the type of material your roofing is made of. The most common options are as follows:

  • ✅ PVC,
  • ✅ Rubber covering aka EPDM,
  • ✅ Modified bitumen aka asphalt,
  • ✅ Built-up roofing (tar and gravel covering),
  • ✅ TPO.

If your flat roof is made of EPDM, you are a lucky guy as you need fewer efforts to mend it. Besides, it is one of the most durable roofing types for flat roofs. For TPO and BUR roofing, more skills and tools will be required as these roofing types are made of several layers and special fastenings may be needed for fixing them. The same refers to PVC roofing, by the way. As for modified bitumen roofing, it is made of asphalt and special solvents combined and laid with the help of tar and open flame. So if you have no skills in mending that type of roofing, it is better to call a professional roofer to repair it. In any case, it will also be a good idea to get more information about your flat roof material in advance using Wiki sources, for example.

If you live in the USA, then with a probability of 99% one of these materials is installed on your roof:

• Rubber (EPDM or ethylene-propylene). This material resembles a car tire in composition and characteristics. It is made from the same raw materials, so repairing a rubber roof is as easy as repairing a car tire. All you need is equipment and a bit of experience. By the way, the average cost of rubber roof is not really high, but this material is not eco-friendly. 

Flat Roof Repair - EPDM Roof
Flat Roof Repair – EPDM Roof

• Tar and gravel or so called BUR roof. Built up roofing (BUR) is the oldest technology on this list. The base of BUR roofing is a durable fabric, which is coated with bitumen with various mineral additives. This roofing material is still used today, although it can be seen mostly on old houses from 70-80th.

Flat Roof Repair - EPDM Roof
Flat Roof Repair – EPDM Roof

• Modified Bitumen. One of the most common types of roofing in commercial real estate. Modified Bitumen Roof is made of asphalt mixed with rubber and synthetic additives. This material usually is installed using the torch-down method.

Roof Repairing with Modified Bitumen
Roof Repairing with Modified Bitumen

• Thermoplastic Polyolefin Roof or so called TPO. This modern single-ply material is based on durable and flexible synthetic polymers. TPO is perfect for flat roofs due to its strength, tightness and durability. Unlike many other roofing materials, energy-efficient TPO membranes can be white – they reflect sunlight and do not heat up the building in summer.

Flat Roof Repair - TPO Roof
Flat Roof Repair – TPO Roof

• Polyvinyl Chloride or PVC is another material designed specifically for flat roofs. As a rule, a PVC membrane consists of several layers (usually two layers), which are additionally reinforced with a polyester. The basis of the material is strong and durable Polyvinyl Chloride with various additives which give the roofing material additional elasticity and UV protection.

Contractor repairing PVC Roof
Flat Roof Repair – PVC Roof

If you have at least a little experience in construction or DIY repairs, then you can certainly fix small damage and leaks in each of the listed roofing materials.

On the other hand, it is better to call roof contractors for more serious repair tasks or complete replacement of the roofing material.

Providing Roof Inspection: a Small To-Do List for Flat Roof Repair

What should you start with when you suppose your flat roof leaks? That is the roof inspection, no need to say! How to do it? Let’s go step by step on that way.

  1. Consider the age of your roof. If it is old enough it may be hazardous to inspect it yourself.
  2. Examine inner premises for leaks on ceilings. Create a plan to mark leaking areas on it and to match with the outer roof plan then.
  3. Get on your roof and examine its surface taking especially high attention to marked places. There every crack and damage is important to inspect thoroughly.
  4. Do not forget also to inspect your homeowner’s insurance policy to claim compensation if its terms include roof leaking ensured.

DIY Tips

  1. Check your skills and experience. Perhaps calling the professionals is the right decision, even if a minor repair is required. So you save time and effort. If you have any doubts that you can do the job in the best possible way – do not hesitate to contact the experts.
  2. Flat roof repairs always involve work at height. This means that you need to exercise safety precautions and extreme caution. Do not attempt to repair a roof that is icy or slippery – this can be extremely dangerous. In this case, call professionals who have safety and other specialized equipment.
  3. What’s more, you will need inventory and tools to repair a flat roof. Most likely, you will also need a solid and reliable ladder, as well as the help of another adult who will insure you.
  4. TPO and PVC materials cannot be repaired without specialized equipment (like heat air-gun) and professional skills. Leaks, holes, rips and other damage to TPO and PVC roofs can be repaired by specialized services only.

Determining Roof Leaks and Ways on How to Fix Them

For various roofing systems, damages can look different. In any case, it is worth starting a repair of your flat roof if one of the following features is noticeable.

  • ✅ Standing water on the roofing.
  • ✅ Cracks on the roof’s surface.
  • ✅ Holes in the covering.
  • ✅ Parts of roofing lose integrity.
  • ✅ There is heavy debris on the roof left.

After you provide the inspection, it will be easier to take further steps on your way on how to fix a leaking flat roof. Let’s take them!

  1. Clean the area of a possible leak. Remove all the debris, and take out damaged and cracked parts of the roofing.
  2. Dry it out, Only thoroughly dried roofing should be repaired. In another case, you may have even more trouble with mold and the rotting of a membrane or insulation layer.
  3. Remove damaged roofing segment. It will be replaced with a new part of roofing material.
  4. Cut the segment of new material. Do not forget to replace also insulation layer if there is one.
  5. Nail or fix the new segment on the roof surface. Use the fastening that suits roof material i.e. roofing cement, nails, anchors, etc.

In case of small damages, it is quite easy to repair a flat roof yourself. Yet for bigger damage, it is better to call a pro. Some may say it is quite costly yet when you calculate all the expenses, you may see that you spend more time and money for DIY tasks. This refers to wrong decisions and bad repair that will require more efforts from a specialist to improve all the mistakes you’ve done.  

How Much Does a Flat Foof Repair Cost?

It is recommended to determine the cost of the project and materials before starting any construction or flat roof repair work.

Modern materials like PVC and TPO membranes as well as EPDM can be quite expensive on their own. In addition, the cost of roofing work will also need to be added to the total estimate.

Always compare the cost of a roof repair with the cost of replacing a roofing material with a modern equivalent.

First, repairs require more time and effort and may even be more expensive than replacing old material. Secondly, the new energy-efficient roofing material may require more investment, but it will save you money on bills or even increase the property’s market value. Finally, not every roof is cost-effective and generally possible to repair. Sometimes installing a new roof is the only way out.

Although DIY flat roof repair may seem like a better option, calling professionals turns out to be the best choice in most cases. At least because professionals give guarantees for their work, which means that you will not worry about the appearance of new leaks after the first heavy rain.

5 Tips How to Fix Flat Roof Leakages

Here are also some useful tips for your cheap flat roof repair. Enjoy them and get more results from your DIY practices.

  1. If the damage is complex, and it will require full-fledged roof replacement, it is also a good idea to reconstruct your roof to create a small slope on it. Even a small angle will help to get rid of still water on the roof surface.
  2. Do not forget about the drain system. If there is one on your flat roof, it should be cleaned up regularly not to clog.
  3. When you plan your flat roof repair, do not forget about flashing. It should be accurately mounted around all chimneys, ventilation holes, and other protrusions that are constructed on the roof’s surface. It will save you money in the end.
  4. Do not act without a plan. Make it logical and consistent to make all the work done. This refers to almost every stage from inspecting the roof and calculating an average cost of repair up to removing old roofing and laying patches of a new one.
  5. If things are going badly awry, it is better to apply for a professional roof repair service not to make them even worse.

Repair or replacement?

Experience has shown that most roofing companies do not believe in repairing a damaged flat roof. They will convince you that patching or repairing is not an option. In some cases, it makes no sense to repair an old and leaking roof indeed. But it is not always the best way. Before planning a complete roofing replacement, answer the following questions:

  1. In what condition is the roofing material. How worn is it over the entire area? If your roof is more than 15-20 years old, it may be worth changing the material completely. The first leaks usually occur after 10 years of operation.
  2. What caused the damage or leakage? If it was a strong wind that damaged only a small section of the poorly installed roof, there is no point in changing every square feet of material. But if it was hail that damaged the roof over the entire area, that’s another matter.
  3. Can the damaged area be patched or is it too big to repair? If you can use patches it will save you a lot of money.

Summaries

Fixing a flat roof is a mandatory routine for any owner as this type of roofing is especially vulnerable and susceptible to leaking issues. Several tips may come in handy when coping with the task. Just remember that the flat roof can bring you lots of hassle if not mended timely. Take your toolset and define the type of material your roof covering is made of. Make a plan and act consciously to provide repair measures in full. If the damaged area is big enough, evaluate your chances better. Maybe it will be easier and more cost-effective to hire a roof contractor and delegate the task to the professional. In any case, having a flat roof is not a mess. It just requires a bit more attention and effort to keep its integrity.

FAQ

What Kinds of Roofs Can’t be Recovered?
There are different kinds of roofs that aren’t good candidates for recovering. These kinds of roofs are ones with a ton of water damage already that needs to be rectified, several layers of roofing already or poor decking. These structural issues do need to be addressed. There are ways to address an isolated area of the roof without tearing off the whole thing at once..
What Kinds of Roof Can Be Recovered?
All types of flat roofs can be recovered: rubber, tar and gravel, asphalt rolled, and ballasted rubber.
How do I Know if My Roof Needs a Replacement?
A roof inspection can help you catch roof problems before they become serious. This way you can predict when you should properly repair or install your roof. Ideally, most people replace their roofs when the roof leaks are serious. Clogged gutters, missing shingles, and damaged flashing are all signs that you should repair your roof. If you notice cracked painting on the wall, faded wallpaper, or discoloring on the wall paint, it is a red flag that you should repair your roof soonest.
How long is the PVC membrane guaranteed for?
There is a 15 year and 20 year version of PVC membrane roofing. The 20 year version is thicker than the 15 and will last longer.
Is It Bad If Water Sits On My Roof After It Rains?
Yes, this is big a problem. The definition of standing water by roof industry standard is: 24 to 48 hours in moderate weather conditions. If water is still present after a day or two, this will permanently destroy your roof in these locations and void any manufacturers warranty.

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