Flat Roofing - Do You Need Repair or Replacement


If you are thinking about a roof replacement there are a few factors to consider. You may only need a few repairs. When deciding if you need repairs or a replacement, these are the top factors to consider.

Flat Roofing: Do You Need Repair or Replacement?

1. Roof Age

The most important thing to consider is the roof’s age. Some roofing materials have longer lifespans than others, but no roofing system lasts forever. Flat roof materials like EPDM will usually last up to 20 years. How long your roof lasts depends on which materials you use, the quality of your roofing materials, and how well you maintain your roof. Once a flat roof reaches the end of its intended lifespan, repairs will only extend its life for a few years at most. If your flat roof is reaching this age, it’s time to start considering a full flat roof replacement instead of just repairs.

2. High Energy Bills

One of the major benefits of flat roofing materials is its ability to save energy. High-quality TPO, PVC, and EPDM roofing are designed to keep heated or air-conditioned air inside the building which will reduce your energy costs significantly. If you are seeing a substantial increase in your energy bills then your roof may be to blame. A damaged roof or one that is very old will not be as efficient at insulating. When this is the case, there may be one damaged area of the roof that can be repaired, or you may need to replace the entire roof to improve its ability to insulate.

3. Roof Leaks

You must act right away if you ever notice a leak in your roof. Water coming in through your ceiling means that moisture is able to get through a damaged spot in your roof. If left unchecked, the roof can be seriously moisture-damaged which will require a full replacement. If caught early, most water damage can be repaired. As soon as you notice a leak in your roof, call a professional to address the problem as soon as possible.

4. Visible Damage

You can identify many roofing problems by giving it a regular inspection. Luckily, climbing up on a flat roof is a lot easier than ascending a steep-pitched roof. If you have concerns you may want to climb up there and check it out for yourself. If you don’t feel comfortable doing so, you can always call a professional for a thorough roof inspection.

What to Look For

If you decide to look at your flat roof for yourself, there are a few things to keep an eye out for. Some types of damage can be remedied with a roof repair, while others may indicate that you need a full roof replacement.

  • Damaged Flashing: Flashing is an often-overlooked but extremely important part of a flat roof system. If the metal flashing around chimneys, vents, and other fixtures are lifting, damaged, or even missing, you will be susceptible to serious moisture damage over time. When caught early, damaged flashing can be quickly and relatively easily repaired, and replacing flashing will save you a great deal of money and stress in the long run.
  • Blisters and Cracks: Flat roofs have unique signs for repairs or replacement. One of these signs is blistering, bubbling, and cracking of the roofing membrane. If the top layer of your flat roof looks like it’s been damaged by the sun and is showing bubbles or cracks, it’s likely time to replace the membrane. If blistering only appears in one isolated spot, then you may be able to simply repair it with a patch.
  • Pooling Water: One of the most obvious signs that your roof needs to be replaced is standing or pooled water. Flat roofs are actually slightly sloped to help ensure the proper shedding of water and prevent pools. If the roof deck warps due to age or damage, your roof will stop repelling water as effectively, which can cause a buildup of water. Pooled water quickly;y leads to serious damage and is one of the clearest signs that you need a new roof. It is time to call a roofing contractor quickly for a replacement.
  • Impact Damage: If you’ve recently experienced severe weather chances are you may notice gouges or dents in your roof. If you see any impact damage that’s isolated to one small area, you can repair it as it is not extensive damage to the membrane.

Before You Choose a New Roofing System

For new roofing systems, it is important to understand that no one roofing system is the right choice for every situation. Some roofing systems are better than others but it is still extremely difficult to know in any given situation which roofing system is best. For this reason, you should never choose a roofing system only because you heard it was “the best”. You need to do your own research and should carefully examine some factors about your building, your current roof, and what you want out of your new roof. Among the roof factors that you should consider before making a roofing decision are:

  • The Slope of Your Roof: The steepness of your roof may rule out certain roofing options. The slope of your current roof will influence which materials are available to you. Materials like shingles and concrete tile depend on water running quickly off the roof to be effective so you need to evaluate if your roof is too flat for them. Your roof may also be too steep to accommodate rolled on single-ply roofing materials.
  • The Drainage of Your Roof: If your current roofing system has poor drainage that you would like to improve, certain roofing systems will require repairs to be made to the roof deck prior to installation. Alternatively, if you select a more versatile roofing system, such as spray foam and restoration coatings you can apply the material in varying depths and thereby improve the drainage without significant repairs.
  • R-Value: improving the R-value of your roof will save money on your energy bills. There are certain materials that help insulate roofing such as sprayed Polyurethane foam, and others that help reflect the sun such as reflective coating.
  • Roof Deck Integrity: You need to consider if your roof deck is in good condition and will withstand the additional weight of equipment and workers during the installation. If yes, then choose any system that can be installed over top of the old system. If not, you either need to repair the roof deck prior to working, or remove the deck, reinstall a new roof deck, and then install your roof replacement. Before you decide, you should hire a professional inspector to have a look at your roof deck.

Alternatives to Flat Roof Replacement

It may be that you are just not ready for the commitment of a full roof replacement or the budget will just not allow it. Luckily, there are a few alternatives to maintain your roof in the meantime.

  • Patches: In some cases, patching a smaller damaged area can work. It is important to remember that patching part of a flat roof is only effective if moisture damage hasn’t yet spread to the underlying roof deck or surrounding areas.
  • Re-Covering: You can also re-cover your roof by adding another membrane such as EPDM or TPO, over the top of your existing flat roof. Re-covering can work in situations where the roof isn’t leaking or overly damaged but is simply showing signs of aging or minor deterioration.
  • Roof Coating: With roof coating, a roofing contractor applies a thin liquid membrane on top of your existing roof. This is a proactive measure that works when your roof is not showing signs of extensive damage. This option can give your roof membrane additional heat and UV protection

Repair vs. Replacement

Roof replacement is an expensive job but sometimes it is the only option. Before completely replacing your flat roof, don’t forget to consider the possibility of only repairing the damaged areas. Fully inspect the roof to make sure replacement is necessary. Consider the cost of repairs and the expected life of those repairs, and consider the cost of replacement and the expected life of the new roof. Reach out to us today and we can help you evaluate the details, time, value, and expenses of repairs or replacement.


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