Leaking flat roof... please help.

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Old 12-24-15, 02:42 PM
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Leaking flat roof... please help.

Hello to all and happy holidays.

Well, it seems my worst fear in buying this home with a flat roof is coming true. It leaks.

The prior owner said no leaking on the sellers declaration. Well, they lied and now I have to deal with it I guess.

My question here is can I make a fix if and where I can find obvious leaking with some kind of material purchased at a home store? I can try and measure from the inside and then go up there and apply a product in the general area. This assumes the water is not taking a train down a joist to get to where it is coming out. Hard to see just where do to there being a sub ceiling.

What I can tell you, if it matters. The flat roof is around 60+ years old. Looks like wood slats kind of like oak flooring that I can see from the inside. Below that is the original paper tile ceiling. The old 1' by 1' white tiles affixed to wood strips they use to use. Below that is a suspended ceiling grid.

On top of this wood is some type of black rolled material in strips. Owner said they applied this fiber-based tar looking product every so many years to keep it water tight. Did it themselves they claimed.

What can I do before the snow comes and the dripping becomes constant?

Also, What should I being looking for up there to try and nip any future potential leaks before they start or is this not even possible.

Thanks for any help and advice.
 
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Old 12-24-15, 04:06 PM
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DIY installed rolled roofing is the first red flag!
Post a picture.
There's far better ways to do it.
 
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Old 12-24-15, 04:33 PM
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It's hard to do anything after the fact. Look for large puddles you can squeegee away. The roof needs to be dry before any type of patch would even stick.
 
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Old 12-25-15, 04:01 AM
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I'd probably caulk any cracks and then apply a coat of roller grade roof/foundation tar over the roof ..... and start saving up money to have the roof professionally redone!
 
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Old 12-25-15, 06:16 AM
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A visual will go a long way to helping us see the construction of your roof and the current materials used to waterproof it. I would say that you should be talking to a roofing supply company and not with a big box store. Discuss with people who deal with these sort of things daily, not someone who stock shelves and has never been up on a roof before. They can even point you to reputable contractors who can assist if that route is needed down the road.

http://www.doityourself.com/forum/el...your-post.html Keep in mind that pictures are uploaded one at a time and usually have to be resized to a smaller file size for posting to the web.

I would avoid initially just caulking as you need to use materials that can withstand the extreme heat generated on a roof. Start by physical inspection of the overall roof. Concentrate on transition areas such as changes in plane or around roof vents and plumbing vents where the waterprofing poots can dry out and allow water infiltration. Look to previously patched areas where the patching may not have taken well or have dried out and cracked. Water seeks its own level and will flow down hill at all times. If you have access and can see the areas where water is getting through from underneath, that is a good place to start your inspection. I've found that nothing beats crawling on your hands and knees and looking for anything that looks out of the ordinary.
 
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Old 12-25-15, 01:01 PM
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Thanks for the replies. I'm on this site for the very reason it exists. To try, with the kind help from others who know more than I do, to try and do things myself, to learn in the process and hopefully save some money so let's proceed on that basis, please.

First, the home owner did not install the rolled roofing material they only, from what was told via the agents, applied the fiber roofing coating every few years. The last, according to them, was in 2015. There was a half used can of this material (marked "made in 2015" on top label) left in the garage. Roofers Choice #14 Fibered Roof Coating. The rolled material is not original. There is a car port that was added in the last 10 years or so and the roof was redone to include that area all as one.

I went up there today and took some pictures as some of you had asked. This is a wide shot of part of the roof. The yellow post it note is in the area where the leak appears to be, based on where water is coming in from inside. Like I said, cannot see directly the leaking spots (there are three of them in this same area) due to supports, old ceiling, heating duct work, etc.

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Here is a close up of the suspected area. You can see what roofers apparently call alligatoring in this area.

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Same area from the side.

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Finally, some obvious open "slits" can be found way on the other side actually where I happened to set my ladder. No water has been seen leaking from here (garage) but will need attention for sure.

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There are many products on the market for making repairs to roofs. They seem to involve an asphalt based rubber product and the use of small rolls of fiberglass to make patches from.

So my question from any of you who have done this. Does this look like is would be leaking? Most of the roof has this condition although not to the same rough degree and most of the roof is not leaking.

BTW: This article seems to suggest finding these leaks is not that easy to do and looking above the leak may not be the best place.

How to Find a Flat-Roof Leak | Home Guides | SF Gate
 
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Old 12-25-15, 01:16 PM
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I'm not a roofer but that roof doesn't look new. Certainly not touched in the last year.... and yes it could certainly allow water thru. Usually the leaks are worse where the water can pool. Looking where the post-it is located..... looks like lighter in color like there was a pool of water there.

Unfortunately the leak thru the finished ceiling can be halfway across the room from the leak.
 
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Old 12-29-15, 10:28 AM
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So I took the advice of Czizzi, and others, and did a close inspection of the entire roof. I also had a professional come by and give me his assessment. He was also of the opinion the roof had not been touched in many years. Water under the bridge at this point, I guess.

I used Leaker Stopper the first day and Henry's leak fixer the second day. Both are a rubber based asphalt product. Very thick but easy enough to work with using a trowel. They can be used even if the roof is wet. Mostly mine was dry but a few ponding areas were done after I removed most of the water with a brush and towel.

The material on my roof is what the roofer called a "modified fiber rolled product". About 18" wide with overlaps at the seems. Probably applied over an older, similar covering at least one time. The initial leak I had went away after applying Leak Stopper in the suspected area. It has rained hard three times since and there is snow up there today and no leaking.

Once I knew that worked I went after other areas. Basically, my approach was if it looked suspicious I applied some product to it now rather than wait and have it tear open later. There were spots where you could see an opening at the seam. The top most layer was up like a mound maybe 1/8 to 3/16" high. All those got attention as well as those that looked like they might open but were still sealed.

Again, be proactive now.


If you look at the pics I posted those "alligator" areas that look so nasty are the fiber coating that was applied over the years clumping together from the heat. Not a big deal, really. If anything, the sealer is thicker there than where you do not see that issue.

I also have an area about 4' by 4' where the material is raised above the old layer. If you walk on it or press on it you can feel it go down. I'm not sure how I will address that. None of it had any signs of leaking but I'm concerned the flexing of that layer from snow and ice will cause a tear at some point.

The approach probably is to cut that section out completely and apply fresh material with a generous overlap on all sides. I will need to investigate how that is done and if there is some type of cement used to keep it laying flat.

My comment to others is kind of what that roofer told me. Flat roofs are fine if done correctly, he said. I'd also add that inspection every few months is a good approach so any potential trouble areas can be gotten to early. Those one gallon cans of leak stopper were only $14 each. Cheap insurance I'd say.

He also suggested I think about installing "copper boxes" to get those areas where the water is ponding drained off. I will do that in the Spring.

Happy Holidays
 

Last edited by outdoormike; 12-29-15 at 10:57 AM.
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Old 12-29-15, 03:22 PM
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I was hoping that you would get some better feedback. I have done roof repairs, but not my specialty. I was picturing a more of a smooth membrane based on several commercial accounts I have that have flat roofs that periodically get a small leak. My research on aligatoring says that the roof membrane has broken down do to exposure to Ultra Violet Light and has therefore lost its elasticity. Rolling on additional coats of patch will buy you some time, but my fear is that it is not a permanent solution.
 
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Old 12-29-15, 05:21 PM
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I've seen those roofs ripped out here and replaced with rubber roofs.

I just finished an elevator upgrade in the roof top penthouse of a ten story building. They just installed a brand new rubber roof. The old roof was alligatored like in your picture and couldn't be recovered again. They actually rip down to the deck and install a new substrate and then cover that.
 
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Old 12-30-15, 10:45 AM
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With the weather as it is, there is nothing that can be done now other than patch and keep an eye on things.

That roofer told me I had two options. Coat with a special and expensive product that is rolled on, like painting the floor, or apply this EPDM rubber material over it. The rubber coating was $5/square foot if he did it. Around $19K for my roof. The EPDM was actually cheaper at $14K but he was suggesting he'd put it down over the old.

My research said this is not possible. That it needs to be applied to a virgin base like plywood or similar. That means ripping up all the layers and removing the cement or whatever is under there. Then resurfacing the decking/planks or covering with new plywood.

Basically like what your penthouse client had to do. Seems likely that will cost way more than the $14K he is quoting but is probably the way it will have to go.

So he left me a bit confused on what he was really able to do.

I will get more input when the weather gets better.
 
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