We recently got a call from a client at Tornado Roofing Co offices.

“Hey there! I just realized my ceiling in the living room has softened and looks like it’s bulging. When I stood on a stool to touch it, my finger left a mark there. Does that mean my roof is leaking?” he asked hysterically.

Situations like this happen when either the plumbing system is broken or the roof is leaking. So his guess could be right or wrong. We scheduled a checkup meeting later that day and one of our crew members visited his home. Our expert ruled out the plumbing problem because the plumbing system wasn’t passing anywhere near the living room ceiling. In fact, no water pipe was running anywhere in the roof deck. And given that it was a rainy season, his flat roof could be having a crack, a hole, or any other leak issue that was causing the problem.

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What Could Go Wrong With a Leaking Flat Roof

Fortunately, discovering a roof leak on a flat roof is easier and quicker compared to other roofing designs. A professional is able to identify the issue and the extent of the damage. Our client’s roof had a hole at one end of the roofing material. It was leaking but not at the point he was seeing wetness on the ceiling of his living room.

Water was traveling across the roof membrane right above one of the bedrooms, through the roof deck then dripped on the living room ceiling. It was a small hole problem that would not cause any issue on a normal day but the heavy rains made its effects visible. Thankfully, our client’s quick response arrested the issue on time and he wasn’t going to spend a fortune to repair his roof.

If he had decided to ignore the leak, water would seep through his wooden roofing frames and ceiling to cause rot over time. This would compromise the integrity of the entire roof structure, requiring him to install a new one.

When you decide to diagnose a leaking issue in your home, partner with experienced contractors who are able to identify the source of the problem for a better repair approach.

Sometimes roof leak problems are easy to solve because all they require is patching with adhesives. That was the case with our client. Sometimes roof issues are complicated and need replacements of the components. While all roof leaks are problematic, a leaky flat roof comes with a specific set of challenges that if not treated carefully can worsen the situation.

Common Roof Materials and What you Need to Repair Successfully

The type of roof materials and tools you’ll need depends on the type of damage your roof has and the type of roofing materials in use. Also, the age and the existing condition of your roof must be a consideration when you want to make repairs. Some of the most common roofing materials for flat roofs include:

Rubber (EPDM)

Most flat roof Florida homes and around the United States use rubber. Its components include propylene and ethylene like in tires. This roofing system is easy to repair and can give service for 10 to 15 years. Some of the common problems you’d expect from EPDM roofs include:

  • Cuts and holes resulting from impact or vandalism
  • Shrinking of the edges which detach from the walls of the house
  • Poor detailing of the joints or flashings

Modified Bitumen

Modified Bitumen roofing is a combination of asphalt, solvents, and a variety of rubber. This roofing material type is applied using an open flame. You can enjoy its value for more than three decades. Some of the common problems that this roof type encounters include:

  • Blistering because of rough weather
  • Cracking, wrinkling, and splitting
  • Shrinking and sagging

BUR (Built-up Roofing)

Also known as roofing tar and gravel this roofing material is made using fabric and bitumen. This material can last for about 30 years. The most common issue with BUR is:

  • Cracking

TPO Roofing 

TPO Roofing results from a combination of ethylene-propylene rubber and polypropylene. The roofing type is mechanically attached together with a reflective membrane during roofing. Some of the issues to expect include:

  • Blistering
  • Chipping

Concrete

Though concrete roofing is not an attractive roofing option for most homeowners because it requires waterproofing, it’s still one of the most durable and easy to repair. Some of the common problems you’d expect from concrete include:

  • Cracking
  • Surface wear

PVC Roofing

As the name suggests, its composition is layers of PVC roof materials attached together with polyester plus other additives between the two. The additives make the material durable, capable of handling UV rays, and adds flexibility to the roofing material.

All these roofing materials can be repaired when they get damaged in one way or another. All you need is the right materials, tools, and roofing skills. Here are some of the common tools and materials you’ll need for the repair work.

  • A hard bristled brush to clean the roof before you repair it
  • A rag or towel to dry your roof after cleaning
  • A utility knife to slice blistered spots and cut out repair areas on your roof
  • A trowel to even and smoothen the floor surfaces during repair
  • Roofing cement
  • Fiberglass mesh to reinforce and waterproof the repairs
  • Gravel to absorb UV rays after repair
  • Reflective floor coating to protect against sun damage
  • A paintbrush
  • Roof patches (Some roof patches come with sticky backs which can save your roofing cement)
  • Caulk for sealing cracks
  • A pair of scissors to cut roof patches
  • A roller stick to spread solutions over your roof
  • Stirring stick to mix your repair solutions

Method 1: Flat Roof Repair

Diagnosing a Flat Roof Damage

You should first measure how far the roof leak is from the two closest walls. You do this by identifying your wet or stained ceiling. Sometimes it’s a smell of dampness during the rainy season. Then measure the distance from the stain to the nearest walls using a tape measure. Climb up your roof and use the same measurements to identify the damaged part of the roof. The damage is most likely within the measurements you got or anywhere close.

But keep in mind that it’s possible that the damaged part of the roof is far from within your measurements. The reason is that not all flat roofs are perfectly flat. This feature is allowed to let water to flow. Like in the case of our client above, damage can happen at the highest point of the roof then lets in water to flow to the lowest part of your home (where you see the problem).

Examine the Slope

When you get on top of the roof surface and identify the position of the damage, examine the slope. The problem might be a crack, a tear, a puncture, or a missing part of the roof. Find out how it’s possible for the leak to penetrate the roof structure to reach the ceilings below. If your roof has been around for many years, you might realize there are multiple damaged spots. In this case, classify the issues so that you have problems you can tend to immediately and those that can wait. Whatever is letting in water is an emergency – whether big or small.

If the Roof Looks Fine…

Check the seams. The sides of your roof may be the source of the leak. So go around the edge of the roof to identify any weaknesses. You might notice leak problems where the walls attach with the roof, around the vents, or chimneys. There could also be a problem with the water repellents, metal flashing strips.

Clean the Damage

Now that you know what the problem is, it’s time to prepare the place for repairs. A dirty surface makes it hard to get quality results when you decide to repair the damage – the repair material might not bond properly. Also, cleaning the area provides the opportunity to see the problem better. So clean the damaged area by removing the debris, dirt, gravel, and stagnant water. A tough-bristled broom and a mop will come in handy for this purpose.

After cleaning, dry the target area using a piece of cloth or towel. While you can use mechanical ways to dry your roof, it’s better to let it dry on its own for a day or two. Then use a sealant, roofing caulk, or cement to cover it. Ensure you press your repair material so it reaches every corner of the damage, then level it so it’s even with the rest of the roofing surface.

Method 2: How to Seal Small Cracks and Holes

If you realize your roof has blisters, that’s as a result of trapped moisture and overheating. Pop these swollen or blistered parts on your flat roof using a utility knife. Ensure the cut is shallow so you don’t puncture the roof material. Then scrape off any protruding roofing material and throw it away. If it feels wet, wipe the area using a rag until it’s dry before applying a sealant.

In some instances, forcing a sealant on these areas can be difficult requiring you to create a shallow “pothole” for the sealant to stick. So take your knife and curve a shallow cut as you remove the material around the area. Alternatively, cut narrow strips on the damaged spot so it’s capable of holding and bonding with the sealing material. Again, be careful not to slice through the roof material.

Apply a Coat of Roofing Cement

Fill the section you’ve cut out on the roof with a layer of roofing cement. Push the cement into the carve then level it so that it evens the rest of the roof. Cover about 15 cm wider than the damaged area. If the holes or damage is 2.5 cm or less, seal it using caulk. Afterward, take a piece of fiberglass mesh and cover the patch to waterproof it. Make sure the mesh is holding down onto the cement by tapping and pressing it in place.

Open up your can of roofing cement again and cover the fiberglass mesh. This should be thick enough to hide the mesh underneath it. Then use a trowel to smoothen the surface. Don’t leave your repair as it is because UV rays might destroy it by breaking the chemical bonds holding everything in place. Take ballast and spread it over the cement patch then use your trowel to spread it over evenly and to cover all the cement patch. This absorbs UV rays to allow the repair to last longer.

Another important ingredient you shouldn’t forget is applying a layer of a reflective coating. As the name suggests, it will help reflect the sun rays that can break down the chemical bonds in the cement.

Method 3: Using a Roof Repair Kit

You can buy a roof repair kit that contains everything necessary to patch your roof damages. Most kits contain patches that help solve leaking problems from larger surfaces and caulk for sealing cracks and small holes. With a kit, you have everything you need to successfully repair your roof. Make sure you compare the color of the patches with that of your roof color.

Use your utility knife to cut out the damaged area, removing any loose particles, dirt, and grime. You can cut into the roofing membrane as deep as two and a half centimeters. If the damaged roofing material isn’t removed, you can still go deeper but make sure you don’t puncture the lower layers of your roof.

Fill the Damage on the Flat Roof With a Layer of Roofing Cement

Shop a can of roofing cement (make sure it’s labeled for the type of roofing you have to effectively repair the damage). Then spread the appropriate amount of the cement on the damaged area so it doesn’t overflow or is too little. Use a trowel to press it in the damage as well as make a smooth surface, even to the rest of the roof. You want to apply cement around the damage for about 5 centimeters from the damaged section.

Cut a patch that is slightly wider than the area you are repairing. Then take and place it on your freshly spread roofing cement. Press the patch to make sure it sticks. If necessary, cut the patch so it’s the right size to the area covered with cement. After the patch, cover your repair work with a layer of roofing cement. Make sure this coat covers past the patch. Then smoothen it so it’s at the same level as the rest of the floor surface.

To ensure the surface is not exposed to water damage, add another patch to the area you are working on. This time, the patch should also be slightly longer and wider than what you’ve already laid on the floor. You might realize the repair work more protruding this time considering that the last repair layers were leveling the rest of the roof. While it might affect the aesthetics of your roof, it’s a move that makes your work more long-lasting. The good part is that most flat roofs are not visible to the public. The protruding part won’t be a big problem.

Just like before, press this patch on the roofing cement surface so it sticks. Try and make it level your roof surfaces as much as you can. The edges must bond with your roof material to prevent water damage and moisture from penetrating the patch. So get your roofing cement, add it around the edges (while they are dry) then press the edges of the patch to attach it to the roof.

It’s now time to add the final layer of roofing cement. Scoop it and add a thin coat to the patch. Try as much as possible to make the layer even to the roof materials. Then protect the surface from UV rays that can potentially break the chemical bonds in your patch by adding ballast to the repair mark. Alternatively, find a reflective coating material and apply it to your patch to protect against sun damage.

Method 4: Resealing Your Entire Roof

Clean the Roof

Resealing your roof is the option you go with if there is too much damage to your roof. You begin the process of cleaning the roof surface. Use a hard-bristled broom and clean away debris, dust, and clear all the damaged surfaces. Dispose off the dirt according to your local government requirements. Roofing contractors already understand this that’s why you should involve a roofing company from the onset of your repair project.

Apply a Bitumen Primer

Get ready with a paint roller, then pour a generous amount of bitumen primer on the roof surface – from one of the corners. Use your paint roller to spread the primer on the surface. Ensure your spread is even, about 1 cm thick. Coat the roof surface neatly from one end to the other. Add another pour of the bitumen primer when the initial one depletes until you cover the whole roof.

After you’ve successfully spread a coat of bitumen primer on the roof surface, give it time to dry. Not less than 20 minutes. The drying time might take longer during cold seasons. Also, read the manufacturer’s drying recommendations to be sure your bitumen primer coat dries properly. Try the primer after the dry time is over by using your finger to be sure it’s properly dry. If you use a bitumen primer that’s not set, expect the sealant not to bond with it properly, which will result in poor quality work.

Layer Your Dry Primer With a Sealant

Mix your sealant to create a smooth semi-liquid substance. Use a mixing stick to stir through the can so that its components mix properly – the solid part will rise from the bottom to mix with the liquid part. It should be easy to pour and spread across the roof surface.

Then just like you did in the first step, begin by pouring it in one corner of the roof then use a paintbrush to spread it evenly as you move to the other end of the roof. It’s important to work in one direction so your work is smooth and about 1 inch thick all around.

Lay a Fiberglass Mesh Over the Wet Sealant

You can get fiberglass mesh in big rolls. So measure your roof and buy one that fits well. But be careful the size you buy because carrying the mesh up the roof can be an uphill task, literary. If you already bought a big mesh that is making it hard to take to the roof, ask for help from a friend or cut it into manageable bits. When you get it up there, use a pair of scissors to cut its edges so that it fits on the roof accordingly. Clamp one end of the fiberglass mesh to allow you to spread it effortlessly.

Unroll the mesh over the wet sealant if it’s in a roll or unfold it if it’s folded. Use any weights you can find around you to secure the mesh flat on the roof as you cover your surfaces with it. By the end of it, let the mesh be at the same level as the roof surface without bumps or uneven spots.

Cover the Mesh With Another Sealant Coat

Once your fiberglass mesh is in position, take your sealant and brush it over the mesh. This should be another half an inch of sealant coat. Doing this not only holds the mesh in position but also completely seals out moisture in the future. You can let the mesh overlap your roof surfaces for about 2 inches.

Depending on the size of your home, do this process severally until you cover the entire roof. Finally, let your work dry for the next 12 hours. If possible, let it stay for a few days before you can apply another coat of sealant. If you think the roof is dry enough, it’s time to spread your sealant. Then give it time to dry and check your work afterward.

You will notice dark patches and small holes which indicate that the specific sections are not waterproof. So, seal these isolated marks as well as fill the holes. Then spread another layer of sealer all over the roof, half an inch thick.

Add a Reflective Coating

A reflective coating ensures that your work is protected from the sun’s rays. If you leave your roof exposed, UV rays hit it to break down the chemical bonds. So open a can of reflective coating and stir it using a stick to make an even paste. Get a paintbrush to help you reach the hard-to-reach areas of the roof with the reflective coating. Then take a paint roller to quickly spread a layer of reflective coating on the rest of the roof. Ensure your work is even and smooth all around the roof.

You could choose to use rocks or ballast which absorb the UV rays instead of reflecting them away. Your reflective coating might take more than eight hours to dry depending on the weather conditions.

When to Replace Your Flat Roof instead of Repair

Roof repairs are temporary precautions that can help you stay dry in your home but not for long. You’ll realize you have to do regular repairs to the roof over and over as the damage becomes worse. If your flat roof needs complete resealing now, then chances are that it will need replacing soon. So, as you repair it, make arrangements to have it replaced within the coming few months.

Ideally, flat roofs should last for more than two decades. That’s if they are properly installed and the proper regular maintenance is done. Over time, the materials then start to break down and disintegrate. You might start seeing roof leaks when the roof is about 12 years old or more. If you suspect that your roof damages are a result of age and disintegration, repairs will not do much to protect it. Just consider replacing it as s

A single damage to your roof might give you a few months of service, but when there are several leaks, it makes economic sense to replace it soon. The situation can be worse if the initial installation wasn’t done properly.

Comparing the cost of repairs and replacing your roof is another important thing to do when a roof problem situation occurs. You need to add up the material costs and contractor charges. When a roof repair takes as much money as installing a new one, then it’s better if you replaced it. Consult a professional roofer to compare the costs in light of the condition of your home.

Sometimes even a roofing expert is not able to rescue your roof through repairs. The sooner you know your roof’s limit the quicker you will repair it and save yourself the hassle and loss of money.

When to Stop Wasting Money and Time on Roof Repairs

Some roof surfaces look good on the surface but their deck has been weakened over time. In such instances, you are better off replacing your roof than repairing it. It doesn’t matter what the roof surface looks like when the deck is in bad condition.

If the deck is bad, you will notice dips and hollows on the roof surfaces, especially on roofs with timber as their structure and bitumen materials that have lost elasticity.

Sometimes a professional will climb up there to assess the situation. They must be very careful when walking up there.

How to Maintain Your Flat Roof After a Repair Job

We encourage you to invest in a sealer after successfully repairing your roof. It might raise the repair costs but worth the investment. If you properly apply a sealer on your roof, maintaining it becomes easier. All it will demand from you is to regularly clean the dust and debris from the gutters and surface. Also monitor if the flashing is working properly.

Schedule overhaul cleaning every time a storm happens or after every six months. If trees surround your home, you want to make periodic cleaning at least after three months. And considering that flat roofs accumulate leaves faster, which later rot as they collect moisture, keep an eye on your roof anytime you have a chance then clean it.

Whenever you notice a crack, make sure you seal it with caulk immediately. Also replace the flashing pieces to prevent leakages.

The Cost of Flat Roof Repairs and Replacements

The costs of roof installations, repairs, and replacements vary in a big way depending on the materials involved. EPDM, TPO, and PVC roofing materials are costly to repair and replace even without including the contractor costs. The strange bit about flat roofs is that they cost higher to repair if you compare to other roofing designs. This happens because they take longer to repair and requires double the effort you’d put on a sloping roof.

A contractor will charge you according to the current condition of your roof and the work they anticipate doing. The material type will play a big role in determining how much you’ll use. For materials and labor charges, this could be anywhere between $4 and $9. So if you have a 1000 square foot building, you might need to part with between $4,000 to $9,000.

Some of the costs that most people don’t expect include the dirt removal fees and the disposal charges as well. Including ventilation, roof drains, and extra underlayment also raises the costs.

Also, expect commercial flat roofs to have a slightly higher cost to repair and replace. The reason is that most materials used to roof commercial buildings are expensive.

Contact Roofing Professionals at Tornado Roofing Co for Flat Roof Repairs

Going up a ladder onto your roof, identifying the problem, and doing a perfect roof repair job is not as easy as many homeowners would wish. There’s a lot that could go wrong if you decide to do this by yourself. It’s always better to contact a professional roofer to help you do the roof repairs and get quality results. Tornado Roofing Co is your partner when it comes to all your roofing needs. We are affordable and provide quality results on all our roofing projects. We are only a phone call away.

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Tornado Roofing Your Best Florida Roofing Company

Regardless of the roofing system you choose, you want it to be installed properly by an expert roofer. That way, you enjoy the full value of your investment. At Tornado Roofing, we give free quotations on roofs for all types of buildings and do the best installation to achieve durable and visually pleasing results. If you need to install a metal roof on your home or business premises in Florida, reach out to us.