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How to Know if Your Commercial Flat Roof Needs to be Repaired or Replaced

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Your Commercial Flat Roof: How To Know If It Needs Repair Or Replacement?

Commercial roof replacement can’t be avoided. There are certain instances where we see roofs that could have been remedied with a repair instead of working on a complete replacement. We may have seen it all and have been called in-between situations. However, it takes more than a single decision to determine whether the roof requires repair, or needs a replacement entirely. There are different factors to take into consideration, including the type of roof and the overall condition it has been in, which we’ll discuss below.

BUR or Built-Up Roof

The hot tar and gravel, also commonly referred to as the BUR is considered to be one of the oldest types of commercial roof there is. Upon inspection, if we found out that your hot tar and gravel roof is covered with aluminum asphalt coating, there’s a higher chance that your roof is more than 30 years. If that’s the situation, we would carefully take it into consideration and go against repairs, unless the overall surface remains smooth and crack-free.

Built-Up Roof or Hot Tar and Gravel Roof Inspection

– You’ll need one gallon of cold tar, this can be purchased from Home Depot or any hardware store. Add in a small trowel and utility knife. From your roof’s membrane, cut a tiny square approximately 6 inches on each side with a utility knife. This is done to inspect the material’s thickness. Gently observe the membrane. If the edges are sticky and the membrane is still more than 3/8 inches, then it is a good indication that the membrane is good for repair. You may patch it up with the cold tar you have purchased.

– Check if there are bubbles. These bubbles are large and can’t be missed as it has a 10-inch diameter. If you see bubbles this big, this clearly indicates that roof repair won’t do the trick and requires replacement. The bubbles indicate that there are a leak and moisture has started to penetrate the membrane layers.

– Other signs to watch out for also include physical cracks. One to two tiny cracks can be remedied with a repair. However, if you’ve noticed that the crack has an upheaval, then it is an indication that there’s a more serious problem underneath that might be beyond repair.

– Disintegrated roofs or those that show brittle areas and damage are more signs to watch out for. If you’ve noticed that your roof’s layers are starting to break apart, it is a clear indication that a replacement is necessary. Otherwise, if you’ve noticed that only small sections are affected, it can be easily repaired by covering the roof up with a fresh new membrane layer.

– If the roof has been patched up and repaired multiple times over the past years, then it’s time for a replacement job.

– When leaks have started to become common and you’ve noticed that the water comes from different sources, a new roof membrane is required. If there’s only an area or two that is affected by leaks, roof repair might do the trick.

– Old roofs, especially those made with Hot Tar and Gravel roofs may start to manifest multiple problems at a time. If that’s the case, it’s best that you consider a roof replacement as it can help you save costs from future multiple repairs.

Modified Bitumen Membrane

Commercial Flat Roofing ContractorsCommercial roofs also make use of the modified bitumen membrane, which is common in commercial establishments and architecture. This makes use of a 2-ply system and applies it over a BUR roof system.

Amongst the different types of roof membranes, this is by far one of the most durable. This prolongs your roof’s life by 40 years. Up to date, there is no other membrane that is up to par when it comes to this membrane’s quality.

If applying a new MB membrane, the old one doesn’t have to be necessarily removed. This is true most especially if the current membrane stops doing its job and starts to portray multiple leak issues. If it has been diagnosed that a new roof is needed, you can use the current membrane as the base and add a new MB membrane. The old and new membrane, when combined, can add more thickness and can hold up to 50 years.

Modified Bitumen Membrane Roofing System Inspection

– A new MB membrane replacement is needed if the roof is said to be more than 30 years.

– Check for seams. Are they loose? Has the roof started to disintegrate? Was there a faulty installation? It needs replacement.

– Do a background check. Has the membrane been recently installed without any base, or it hasn’t been done properly causing the membranes not to fuse properly? If this is the case, a replacement is recommended.

– Ideally, the membrane should come with a ceramic or mineral protectant, if not, coated with aluminum silver. If the previous job failed to do any of these and that fine cracks start to show, it is recommended to install a new layer of MB over the compromised membrane.

– You’ll know that the MB wasn’t properly installed when you notice creases. This can be easily fixed by installing a new MB over the current one.

– When there are leaks, based on our experience, it is commonly because the membrane has started to attach to its metal flashing. Some contractors aren’t aware of how this is properly done, which is why it is important that you hire someone who knows what they’re doing. For reference, the MB membrane needs to be 10 inches shorter, with a new membrane to be installed to complete the transition towards the metal flashing.

– If you’ve performed multiple repairs and you’ve noticed that the tar has started to stain on your roof, a new MB membrane installation is recommended. When the roof is messy, smeared with stains and tar, it’s difficult to assess and find the main problem. The best solution for this is to get a new MB membrane installed.

– Oftentimes, harsh weather conditions such as wind storms may cause damage to the membrane. The good thing is, damages caused by the weather are often easy to repair.

Note: Never try to attempt a roof repair with tar!

We’ve noticed some cases where people try to patch up their roof with tar. While tar is a good way to patch things up during emergency situations, it is never considered as a repair and won’t be a long-term solution. Contractors can easily repair roofs that don’t have multiple tar and silicone applications.

Commercial Flat Roof Repair Contractors With the Answers You Need

EPDM Rubber

EPDM rubber is one of the most commonly used roofing systems most contractors use for commercial applications. However, unlike the MB membrane, this is by far the worst roofing system one could have. Because it’s only a single-ply roof system, it has a thin 1/16″ membrane which would only last for a maximum of 15 years.

The main rubber material used in this system doesn’t last long and can get damaged easily by punctures. Additionally, the glue that’s used in the system has higher chances of causing the roof to degrade faster especially when exposed to high heat temperatures.

EPDM Rubber Inspection

If you’re suspecting your EDPF rubber roof system may have been causing issues with your roof, here are some things that you can watch out for to help determine whether a replacement or repair is necessary.

– For roofs that are more than 10 years and EDPM rubber is installed, it’s time to consider getting an upgrade. Install the better MB 2-ply roof system over the current EPDM.

– Intermittent roof repairs only mean that it’s time to perform a replacement. It’s more cost-effective and saves you from all the troubles of having to experience the same problems all over again.

– Check the seams around your skylights, vents, and A/C units. Are they starting to separate? Maybe it’s time to replace the roof instead.

– Check the edges and watch out for the roof’s membrane – if there are signs of deterioration, a new roofing system is recommended.

– If you’re still experiencing roofing problems and it’s been less than seven years since it has been installed, an EDPM technician might be able to work on some repairs and do something about the current situation.

– Do the seams easily separate? If this is the case, a flat roof replacement is what we strongly suggest.

Take note – Regular roof maintenance and inspections are crucial in making sure that your EDPM roof system remains in its best shape.

Although the EPDM roof system isn’t the best option out there, if you already have it installed previously, you can still make the most out of it and ensure that it lasts longer by making sure that both professional and self-inspections are performed regularly. This way, you can easily find the root cause of the problem even before the leaks start to occur. Water will only cause more problems, which may find its way through the membrane and into the soft board. If this happens, it’ll rot which will cause permanent damage. When this happens, a replacement is required.

TPO Roofing Systems

The TPO system is also a single-ply roofing membrane, with a membrane thickness also similar to the EPDM. This is another popular choice for contractors because of the manufacturer’s warranty and guarantees. By choosing a TPO roofing system, a certified installed will come over and perform the entire procedure. The roofing system has a 15-year warranty. Even with minimal or no maintenance checks, this type of roof can last up to 30 years.

However, the entire process to install the TPO roof system is time-consuming, not to mention expensive too. It starts by using a hot-air heat gun and using it to glue the substrate. This is done to make sure that the seams are held together. Unlike other roofing systems, regular types of flashing cannot be used. This means that if you have regular flashing installed, it cannot be used and a new one must be pre-made to fit the TPO roofing system.

TPO Roof System Inspection

– Consider the roof’s age. If it has been over 12 years with signs of leaks or deterioration, this can be remedied by adding another layer of MB membrane.

– The seams are installed differently around the skylights. Make sure that you check these transition areas as this is where the problems are commonly found.

– Check traffic areas for punctures.

– Degradation caused by ultraviolet rays may be common, despite the fact that the TPO roof system is colored white. It is important that you check areas that are commonly exposed to the sun. Based on our experience, the TPO membrane doesn’t hold well in areas that are exposed to high temperatures.

– If your roof is more than 10 years, check the metal drip edges. We’ve noticed that this type of roofing material may cause tension around the edging because it shrinks over the years.

– Since its lifespan is 15 years, go for an upgrade and install the membrane with a Modified Bitumen on top.

Final Thoughts:

Aesthetically, the single-ply systems are good to look at, is clean, and has a smooth finish. However, it doesn’t last as long as the Modified Bitumen roofing system that has a 2-ply layer. It has been proven that the MB membrane has a lifespan that is twice as long as the single-ply ones, and requires less maintenance.

Armadillo Roofing & Exteriors, (512) 333-7663, provides commercial flat roof repair, commercial flat roof installation and commercial flat roof replacement services to Austin, Texas and the surrounding area cities. When you have questions or concerns about your commercial flat roof, we are your best option for answers you can trust.

Also, if you have questions about commercial metal roofing restoration or repair, you can visit our sister site,

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