How To Repair A Leaking Flat Roof?
When we were working on a flat roof, it was quite comparable to patching a puncture in a bicycle tyre. This could have been a school, hospital, outhouse, or storage facility.
There will be times when merely emergency repairs will suffice, and other times when a more permanent flat roof repair project will be required.
Roof maintenance is simple. DIY remedies are excellent, but if you're ready to take the next step and do a more advanced and professional repair, keep reading.
Flat Roof Basics
Although they are called flat roofs, they should all be sloped at least 1 in 80. This allows water to drain off it and keeps water from accumulating in spots where it can droop over time and cause additional damage from exposure to harsh seasonal factors.
Among the various covers are:
- Torch-on felt reinforcement / built-up feeling
- Single-layer membrane:
- EPDM rubber (ethylene propylene diene monomer - M-class)
- TPO (thermoplastic polyolefin)
- Membranes made of PVC
- Mastic asphalt with polymer modification
- Metal sheets (zinc, stainless steel or copper)
Early Signs That A Flat Roof Needs To Be Repaired
Dark brown spots of moisture can form even before pouring through the ceiling begins, as damp from a damaged flat roof seeps slowly through.
At this point, you should get the leak repaired or investigated to determine whether it is a minor joint repair or something more serious. If you are unsure about the safety of climbing onto a flat roof or if it can support your weight, please contact a local experienced roofer.
If the roof is ancient and in an exposed location, the timbers may have rotted over time.
Timber can droop beneath pools of water, and old chipboard decks can break apart/disintegrate when damp - watch for concentric circle marks from dried up water in low locations on the roofing, not simply pools of water.
Put a board across the top of the flat roof so that you can walk on it and distribute your weight more evenly. Do not arrange the board so that it is towards the edge of the table, and do not put "markers" in regions that would otherwise be difficult for you to see.
Locating the leak source is not as easy as checking right above where the damp patch is on the ceiling. This is due to the fact that water can seep beneath the surface and travel in a number of different routes in between layers before it can break through the boards and enter the space below.
If the state of the roof has deteriorated to the point where it can no longer be repaired, it may be time to have a professional do a roof inspection or replace the entire roof.
Examine the roof for any serious tears, ripples, or splits, and take photographs to show a professional roofer if this becomes necessary. Attempting to make minor repairs to major issues can lead to longer-term frustrations as well as financial difficulties.
Roof Repair Materials
These are the most typical kinds of materials used for roofing repairs on flat roofs.
If you are a resident of the United States, the likelihood is high that you have one of the following types of roofing:
EPDM, sometimes known as rubber, is a type of roofing material that is comprised mostly of ethylene and propylene and is known for its exceptional durability. It is widely used in the United States as well as in other countries across the world. Because of its composition, which is comparable to that of a tyre, it makes it simple to fix a rubber roof. Firestone is among the most important companies in the world in the production of this kind of roofing.
The term "modified bitumen" refers to a type of asphalt roofing that is manufactured primarily from asphalt that has been mixed with a range of rubbers and solvents before being heated and applied with an open flame using a torch down roofing system.
Built-up roofing, or BUR for short, is also known as tar and gravel roofing. Built-up roofing systems are what the abbreviation "BUR" refers to, and they have been utilised in the construction of roofs in the United States for more than a century now. In order to provide an airtight barrier, they are constructed from several layers of bitumen and fabrics that have been strengthened.
TPO Roofing is a type of single-ply roofing that is made from polypropylene and ethylene-propylene rubber that is polymerised together. This type of roofing can be glued entirely or mechanically and is covered with a reflective white membrane.
PVC roofing is constructed from two layers of PVC roof material, with a layer of polyester serving as a reinforcement in between the layers. PVC roofs have layers that contain chemicals that keep the material flexible, keep it resistant to UV rays, and prevent it from hardening.
How To Temporarily Fix A Leaking Flat Roof
You might decide to put off investing in the essential roof repairs until you have enough savings to cover the cost of the project, which means you'll have to do at least portion of the work on your own.
Find The Leak
Investigate the interior of the structure to find the water leak's origin. Because the water may have flowed along your roof and pooled in a different location after passing through the leak, the leak itself may not be the location that contains the greatest amount of water. Take some measurements of the region where you think there might be a leak in relation to the walls that are close.
Get On The Roof
Utilising the measurements you took from the inside, you can now start looking for the source of the leak on the roof. If there is no evidence of damage, you should check the roof membrane for any signs of damage near any flashing or vents on the roof.
If you need to use a ladder to go onto the roof, be sure it is firmly planted on the ground before you start climbing it. It is possible that you will need to bring in an expert if your roof is too high for you to safely work on, if you feel insecure, or if you cannot locate the leak.
Remove Any Debris
There may be debris on your roof, which may impede your work or lead to additional damage if it is not removed.
Before beginning work, make sure that any foreign objects that may be in the vicinity of the leaking roof are removed carefully. You will also be able to establish whether the damage to your roof was caused by a storm or whether it is simply experiencing wear and tear as a result of its age.
Dry The Area
Because water tends to pool on flat roofs, you need to make sure the area you plan to work on is completely dry before you begin.
If you fix a hole in your roof and the moisture stays there, you can end up encouraging the growth of mould underneath your shingles. It is possible that you will require the assistance of a professional if big volumes of water are already running in between the layers of your roof.
Identify The Damage
Check your roof for any blisters, since these might be an indication that water or air has made its way between the different layers of your roof.
In addition, you need to inspect the roof for cracks or alligatoring, both of which are typically signs of long-term sun damage. The method of repair that is most appropriate for the damage that you have will be determined by the sort of damage that you have. In the event of significant damage, you should get in touch with a specialist as soon as possible.
Cut The Damaged Area
If a blister is the cause of the leak in your roof, the damaged membrane will need to be carefully cut through and any moisture that is present will need to be removed.
You will need to cut away any layers of your roof membrane that are damaged, but you must use caution so as not to damage the roofing felt that lies underlying. Before moving on to the following step, you need to be sure that the areas you wish to repair have been fully dried.
Apply Roofing Cement
After cutting away the membrane layers, you will need to peel back the membrane layers and apply roofing cement to the area where the leak is located as well as the full piece of the roof that is located underneath the membranes that you cut away.
This will stop the leak and give an adhesive for the membrane's flaps to stick to so they don't come loose. After that, reseal the wound by pressing the membrane flaps firmly onto the cement.
Nail It Down
After positioning the blister's flaps where you want them, nail them to the roof to completely fasten them in their new positions and stop the leak. Be certain that you will not be nailing any wires or any other kind of sensitive infrastructure underneath. To prevent any holes from forming in the roof, cover the nails with additional roofing cement before you drive them in.
How To Find A Leak On A Flat Roof
When the roof has been dry for at least three days and in the evening or overnight, when it has cooled down, the flat roof leak "hot-spot" will release heat that has been trapped underneath the hole throughout the day. This is the greatest time to look for a leak.
If you are unable to use this method, there are several additional methods that can be used to locate a leak on a flat roof. When you do locate the leak, be sure to note the area where it is located.
First, take a measurement along one exterior wall of the room along with the ceiling until you reach the area that is damp or dripping. Above this marking, you might discover that there is no water damage or ponding of water, particularly on flatter roofs with greater slants.
After that, it is time to examine straight upwards of this region for anywhere that could be causing the leak – typically around obstacles or junctions – for example, a step or metal flashing that has come loose due to thermal expansion and may need to be replaced or repaired (around chimneys and skylights).
Check for any loose tar or other materials that could create spaces through which water could enter the structure; if it can be pried back while being inspected, this indicates that water is able to enter the structure.
Even though the flexibility of the roof felt should allow it to endure the movement that the sun's heat can create in a roof structure, it is important to keep an eye out for any tiny areas of damage and remove any leaves, chippings, or other debris that may be present.
Check any seams in the roofing material for gaps or holes, since these could be the source of the water damage caused by the leaking roof.
Check to see if any of the roof nails are missing, and if any of the ones that are there have extensive rust damage, as they may be the source of the leak.
Inspect, at the same time, the guttering that surrounds the flat roof for any obstructions or leaks that could hasten the degeneration of the region that has been leaking.
Plants should be preserved for inside flower pots and in garden beds; however, if you observe any plants on the flat roof, this could be another spot where water is pooling, and it is also possible that this is where the leak is occuring.
If there are any imperfections in the top layer, such as extra roofing tar patches or caulking, these are temporary patches that may have quickly degraded owing to inadequate application. If there are any problems in the top layer, the roof will need to be replaced.
If you have not yet located the source of the water damage, it is necessary to begin applying water to the roof in small areas, either with a hosepipe or by hand, while someone checks the ceiling on the inside of the building.
Keep in mind that water will travel the path of least resistance to get to the location of the dripping or moist spot, so you should avoid predicting the leak exactly over it.
This process might be time-consuming, but the more comprehensive and regulated it is carried out, the more accurate the results can be when estimating the extent of the damage to the flat roof.
Repairing A Flat Roof Leak
Even if the source of the leak has been identified, the flat roof still has to be cleaned of any and all debris. This is to guarantee that there is not more damage that needs to be repaired at the same time.
Then, before washing the area that requires work to be repaired, make sure that safety measures have been established and that there is no "through-way" from anyplace on the roof to the exit that is blocked by any obstructions or that is too slippery.
When using a hosepipe or pressure washer, do not leave any trailing piping in areas where it might be easily tripped over by anyone entering or exiting the flat roof area. If possible, wear clothing with high visibility, and if possible, wear clothing with high visibility.
Asphalt Flat Roof Repair
Common forms of damage in asphalt include blistering (bumps of trapped moisture that can burst), cracks, wrinkles, splits, and drooping. Blistering is characterised as "bumps of trapped moisture that can burst."
Concrete Flat Roof Repair
Cracks in the concrete roofing or surface wear are typical examples of damage issues that can occur. It is possible for surface wear to conceal cracks; therefore, it is important to remove any loose material.
Temporary Or Emergency Flat Roof Fix
An application of a thin bitumen primer, followed by an application of a paint based on bitumen, can aid to waterproof the concrete and seal any cracks that may be present.
On a flat concrete roof with larger and more "visible" fractures, a tiny patch of torch-on roofing can be put as a layer on top. This method requires a smooth surface for the top layer to completely seal and waterproof the leaking region.
Epdm – Rubber Roof Repair
Falling debris, such as roof tiles or slates, can cause joint damage on rubber roofs. This can manifest as tears, deep cuts, or holes in the roofing material.
The use of lap sealant is capable of mending even the smallest of tears and holes. It is also recommended that excessive quantities not be used in the event that more work needed to be done in order to achieve a permanent fix.
Leaks and cracks in an EPDM roof can be permanently repaired with the application of a tiny patch. After applying an EPDM primer and allowing it to dry to the touch, add a strip of self-adhesive rubber tape measuring three inches around the flexible flashing that is covering the hole.
By using a strong, hard roller, the patch should be applied beginning in the centre (over the hole) and working outwards. In addition, an additional layer of waterproofing protection can be put all the way around the edges using lap sealant, which is a remedy that can be utilised in the interim.
Felt Flat Roof Repair
The felt used in older pour and roll felt roofing may split, break, or get punctured with holes (often as a result of collision). There is also the possibility of the edging lifting, as well as old flashings leaking against the wall. The surface might also have some depressions or hollows in it.
Leaks can be fixed with a paint-on solution, much like the majority of other temporary flat roof repairs. Rawlins Paints carries a selection of these items, so you can buy them there.
If the previous layer of felt roofing is still in sufficient excellent shape, a liquid system repair can be applied to the roof. For more mature felt roofing, repairing the damage with a patch of charred roofing will add an additional layer. Please make sure that the person who will be using a torch flame to perform repair work on felt roofing is covered by an insurance policy that allows them to work with naked flames and that they always have a fire extinguisher that is readily available and easy to get on hand.
Fibreglass Flat Roof Repair
The presence of leaking GRP flashings near abutting walls or fractures or splits in the vicinity of board joints, trims, and upstands can be one of the primary causes of damage to flat roofs made of fibreglass. The expansion and contraction that are produced by the varying temperatures over the seasons can also lead to the formation of cracks.
After the region has been washed with warm soapy water, an acrylic sealant can be sprayed all the way around and over the tiny crack or hole, and it will be strengthened by plasterers' scrim. This short-term solution can be removed quickly and replaced with a more permanent solution.
Sand down the area that is over and around the damage using grit paper and acetone to get it as smooth as possible.
After that, a chopped strand mat that weighs 600g needs to have all of its bubbles eliminated before it can be laminated into place on top of and underneath a resin covering. After the curing process is complete, the next step is to apply a topcoat in a colour that is identical to the roof's original fibreglass coating.
How Long Does A Flat Roof Last?
If it is built correctly and maintained according to the manufacturer's recommendations, a flat roof should generally last between 20 and 25 years.
If your flat roof leak repairs are the consequence of age and material breakdown, it normally does not make sense to repair it. However, before deciding whether or not to repair it, it is best to understand what type of roof you have and how long your roof typically lasts.
If you are experiencing leaks around this time, it is probably best to look into the costs of completely replacing the roof. Typically, these types of leaks start to show up around the 12 or 15-year mark on a well-made roof. If you are experiencing leaks around this time, it is best to look into the costs of completely replacing the roof.
In addition to this, if the initial installation wasn't carried out correctly, you may find that you need to replace the roof much sooner than expected. Keep in mind that little leaks can be quickly fixed, but major leaks or many leaks may make it necessary to completely replace the roof.
Flat Roof Repairs Vs Flat Roof Replacement Options
It's possible that we're generalising here, but the majority of roofing professionals would like you to believe that repairing a flat roof is a pointless expenditure of both time and money.
They will most likely inform you that if you discover a leak in the roof, the damage to the roof is already so serious that patching or repairing it will be a short-term fix at most and will endure for less than one year.
And what’s worse, water might still be seeping in and causing mould, rot and other major problems.
How can one determine whether or not it would be more prudent to invest the money in a new roof? Put the following inquiries to yourself:
- Is the condition of your roof, on the whole, satisfactory?
- Damage to the roof may have been caused by hail, or it may have been caused by wind damage to the roof.
- Is the area that was damaged relatively small, and is it possible to readily cover it up?
If all of these factors are present, then repairing the roof is most likely your best option.
However, there is one key criterion that must be met, and that is the flat roof repair must be completed in the correct manner. You can do it yourself if you're sure of your skills, but if you're not, you should get in touch with a roofing contractor that has a good reputation and comes well recommended.
Frequently Asked Questions About Leaking Flat Roof
Stop a Roof Leak in the Rain: 7 Key Tips
- Find the Source. Clear the Area.
- Apply Roofing Tar.
- Use PE Plastic.
- Install New Shingles.
- Use Tarpaulins.
- Seal Joints.
For bigger sealing jobs, there are many flat roof sealing products homeowners can apply themselves: Roofer's tape. For slightly larger repair jobs on seams or tears, homeowners can use a 6-inch wide roofer's tape. You'll prime the surface with a bitumen liquid coating and roll the tape over the adhesive.
This liquid rubber provides both water and UV protection and is non-toxic. Since it comes in a 32-ounce or 0.25-gallon bucket, it's a good choice for smaller roofs or minor repairs.
every five years
It's important to seal flat roofs as a pre-emptive measure instead of waiting for leaks or ponding. Any signs of leakage, ponding, or structural damage indicate your roof needs coating. But even if you don't notice such signs, a flat roof should be sealed every five years to safeguard it from water damage.
Flat Roof Coating
Flat roof coatings will cost between $0.15 to $2.00 per square foot for materials and an additional $0.50 to $3.00 per square foot for labour, as broken down in the cost per square foot section above. This price is for a coating over a pre-existing roof system, such as a rubber membrane or metal roof.