How long do flat roofs last?

water pooling on a black flat roof causing a leak

How do you stop a flat roof from leaking?

Flat roof repair isn’t something you think about every day. Then, you walk into the warehouse on a Monday morning and there is water all over shelves and shipping tables. You look around; you look up, and there it is water dripping from the ceiling. It rained over the weekend, so your best guess is that there the roof has a leak.  The problem is, it is still raining. So, is a flat roof repair in rain possible?  

It is a rainy Monday morning, and it rained all weekend. Every professional roofer you call is booked up right now. So, you need to temporarily repair your flat roof to stop any further damage.  What and how do you do a flat roof repair?  The following are some flat roof repair options that will get that leak, or leaks, stopped until the pros arrive:

  1. Sturdy, Thick Plastic Sheets: Get a few rolls of sturdy, thick plastic sheeting and some heavy blocks or bricks, nails or screws, and duct tape. Stretch the plastic as tight as you can without tearing it over the holes. Then fasten them down with the blocks, brick, nails, or screws and then put duct tape over any seams where you had to overlay the plastic to itself. Remember, this is only a flat roof repair, you still need to find a professional roofing contractor that is experienced in flat roofs.
  2. Waterproof Tarps: Heavy-duty, waterproof tarps are great for temporary flat roof repair too. Using the same method as mentioned above with heavy blocks or bricks, nails or screws, and duct tape. Heavy-duty, waterproof tarps will have metal reinforced grommets, use some heavy rope to tie it down and using the heavy items to hold it in place.
  3. Roof Felt and Tar Paper: Purchase some plastic roofing cement, roof felt, and tar paper. Using a trowel, spread the cement around the holes and over any cracks. Alternate layers of the cement with the tar paper, and or roofing felt.
  4. Patch and Plug: If you find a leak, you can plug it with a cement type material and water.  This will dry and stop the leak for the time being, but you still must have a professional roofing contractor do a permanent flat roof repair.

Can a flat roof be patched?

Routine inspections are a must when you have a flat roof.  This will usually be the difference between having the need for emergency flat roof repair because you can catch possible issues before it happens.

However, the roof is out of sight and out of mind, so it is often ignored, and leaks happen. Finding the leak is usually the biggest challenge because water follows gravity. Where the drip or leak is coming in isn’t necessarily where the water is getting in. Once you have located the area, the patching is the easier part.

They cover most flat roofing in asphalt, rubber, or PVC with an adhesive patch being the easiest and fastest repair for the rubber or PVC coating. You can make an asphalt flat roof repair using caulk or bitumen.

How do you repair a flat roof?

Inevitably, any commercial flat roof, repair or replacement will be necessary sometime.  For the owner of a commercial building with a flat roof, the repair is preferred over replacement when possible simply for the cost factor  If you have a Built-Up Roof or a Hot Tar & Gravel roof, we offer the following on inspecting and if flat roof repair or replacement is the recommendation:

  • Get a gallon of cold tar, a utility knife, and a trowel. Using the knife, cut a square of the membrane and if it is over 3/8″ thick and feels sticky, you can repair any crack or hole with the cold tar.
  • If you see big bubbles, this indicates a roof upheaval and flat roof repair isn’t possible. You need a professional flat roof replacement instead.
  • If you see a crack or two flat roof repairs is possible using the tar and trowel.  You can repair one or two random cracks. When there is an upheaval in the crack, then the problem is more serious.
  • If your roofing membrane is brittle or disintegrating, flat roof repair isn’t recommended.

Do flat roofs always leak?

Not any more than a pitched roof, if they are installed, inspected, and maintained is recommended. Commercial flat roofing is just as dependable as a pitched roof but may take a little more human interaction to keep it as good condition.

  • Flashing Damage:
  • Probably the most common reason flat roofing leak is the flashing along the perimeter has been damaged, which can happen over time. When it gets damaged, it exposes the roof to moisture, water seeps in and leaks start.  A routine inspection will allow you the opportunity to find any cracking or peeling of the flashing and/or your flat roof repaired or replaced before it leaks.
  • Drains Clogged:
  • Flat roofs are not 100% flat. They have some slope toward a drainage system.  If those drains become clogged, you could have a rooftop swimming pool or major leaking. If there is standing water on your flat roof, call your roofing contractor immediately for flat roof repair and drain cleaning.
  • Damaged Membrane:
  • A flat roof is protected by a waterproof membrane, which is exposed to the climate and elements 24/7/365. This causes it to dry out and crack, which you will find during a regular inspection. As soon as you notice any damage to the membrane, call a roofing contractor for flat roof repair.
flat roof repaired with no water damage

How do you waterproof a flat roof?

Water has to have a slope to run off and since a flat roof doesn’t have the same slope as a pitched roof, the water can’t runoff. This means you need to apply a waterproof coating to protect it, which will also insulate it and minimize your need for a flat roof repair.

The first thing you need to do is sweep it, get the flat surface clean as possible. Then apply a gallon of elastomeric coating, using a heavy-duty paint roller to spread it. Start in one corner and while walking backward, go around the roof and then allow 24 hours for it to dry, then repeat.

Regular inspection.  We cannot repeat this and stress it enough. Regular inspection is key to having healthy and leakproof roofing.  Once you find something, you cannot ignore it. Address it right away yourself or have a professional do a flat roof repair.  The roof is an important part of your structure, take care of it and it will take care of you. For your flat roofing repair needs, call 502-228-7717 today!