Flat Roof Repair: Some Tips & DIY Ideas for Flat Roof Owners
Lots of people live in houses having flat roofs. 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 an excellent 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: a flat roof is a double trouble among all tops.
Let’s discuss the peculiarities of flat roof repair and some tips to help you cope.
Why Can Flat Roof Leak?
Every roof tends to leak sometimes. For flat roof leaking, things get worse as it has fewer opportunities to run the water down from the roofing surface than on 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 widespread destruction and roof collapse. Any option is not favorable; in the most complex situation, it can lead to a 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 live in the Tornado Alley area, be especially careful.
- ✅ Incorrect drainage construction. The main reason the flat roof is damaging is standing water. If no adequate drainage is 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 helpful features for roof damage.
- ✅ Age. Time ruins everything, and your roof is no exception. So it is better to provide regular inspections to repair your flat roof in time.
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.
You are lucky if your flat roof is made of EPDM, as you need less effort 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 to fix them. The same refers to PVC roofing, by the way. Modified bitumen roofing 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.
You can also use our flat roof calculator
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 fixing a car tire. All you need is equipment and a bit of experience. The average cost of a rubber roof is not high, but this material is not eco-friendly.
• 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 coated with bitumen and various mineral additives. This roofing material is still used today, although it can be seen mostly on old houses from the 70-80th.
• Modified Bitumen. One of the most common types of roofing in commercial real estate. A modified Bitumen Roof is made of asphalt mixed with rubber and synthetic additives. This material usually is installed using the torch-down method.
• 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 the building in summer.
• Polyvinyl Chloride, or PVC, is another material designed specifically for flat roofs. As a rule, a PVC membrane consists of several layers (usually two) reinforced with polyester. The basis of the material is solid and durable Polyvinyl Chloride with various additives, which give the roofing material additional elasticity and UV protection.
If you have at least a little experience in construction or DIY repairs, you can certainly fix minor damage and leaks in each of the listed roofing materials.
On the other hand, it is better to call roof contractors for more severe 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 that way.
- Consider the age of your roof. If it is old enough, it may be hazardous to inspect it yourself.
- Examine inner premises for leaks on ceilings. Create a plan to mark leaking areas on it and match it with the outer roof plan.
- Get on your roof and examine its surface, paying exceptionally high attention to marked places. There every crack and damage is essential to inspect thoroughly.
- Remember to inspect your homeowner’s insurance policy to claim compensation if its terms include roof leaking ensured.
- 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.
- 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 an icy or slippery roof – this can be extremely dangerous. In this case, call professionals who have safety and other specialized equipment.
- Moreover, you will need inventory and tools to repair a flat roof. You will most likely need a solid and reliable ladder and the help of another adult who will insure you.
- TPO and PVC materials cannot be repaired without specialized equipment (like heat air-gun) and professional skills. Technical services can only repair leaks, holes, rips, and other damage to TPO and PVC roofs.
Determining Roof Leaks and Ways 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 to fix a leaking flat roof. Let’s take them!
- Clean the area of a possible leak. Remove all the debris, and remove damaged and cracked roofing parts.
- 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.
- Remove the damaged roofing segment. It will be replaced with a new part of the roofing material.
- Cut the segment of new material. Do not forget to replace also insulation layer if there is one.
- 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 minor damages, repairing a flat roof is pretty straightforward. Yet, it is better to call a pro for more extensive damage. Some may say it is quite costly, yet when you calculate all the expenses, you may see that you spend more time and money on DIY tasks. This refers to wrong decisions and lousy repairs that will require more effort 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 project’s cost and materials before starting any construction or flat roof repair work.
Modern materials like PVC, TPO membranes, and EPDM can be pretty expensive on their own. In addition, the cost of roofing work will also need to be added to the total estimate.
Always compare the roof repair cost with replacing a roofing material with a modern equivalent.
First, repairs require more time and effort and may 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 is the best choice in most cases. 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 on How to Fix Flat Roof Leakages
Here are also some valuable tips for your cheap flat roof repair. Enjoy them and get more results from your DIY practices.
- 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 slight slope on it. Even a small angle will help remove still water on the roof surface.
- Do not forget about the drain system. If there is one on your flat roof, it should be cleaned up regularly not to clog.
- 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 constructed on the roof’s surface. It will save you money in the end.
- 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 repair cost to removing old roofing and laying patches of a new one.
- If things are going badly, applying for a professional roof repair service is better not to worsen them.
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, repairing an old and leaking roof makes no sense. But it is not always the best way. Before planning a complete roofing replacement, answer the following questions:
- In what condition is the roofing material? How worn is it over the entire area? If your roof is over 15-20 years old, it may be worth changing the material thoroughly. The first leaks usually occur after 10 years of operation.
- What caused the damage or leakage? If a strong wind damaged only a small section of the poorly installed roof, there is no point in changing every square foot of material. But if it was hail that damaged the roof over the entire area, that’s another matter.
- 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.
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. Remember that the flat roof can bring you lots of hassle if not mended promptly. 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. It may be easier and more cost-effective to hire a roofing contractor and delegate the task to a 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.