How to Remove a Rubber Roof Membrane

Lead Image for How to Remove a Rubber Roof Membrane
  • 8-12 hours
  • Beginner
  • 50-250
What You'll Need
Protective gloves
Heat gun
Pry bar

A rubber roof membrane is an essential part of any successful rubber roofing job. However, if you want to change the style of your roof, you’ll have to remove the rubber roof membrane. This can be achieved rather easily and without much expense on your part. You will only need a few readily available tools.

One thing to consider before performing the tear-off is the way that the roof was initially installed. The following procedure will guide you through the tear-off of a roof that was applied with liquid or latex adhesive. If your rubber roof was nailed down you will need to have a hammer available to remove nails. If staples were used, you will have to be able to remove them as well. Don’t worry, however, rubber roofing is the easiest to remove and doesn’t require a professional.

Step 1—Check the Weather

It is easiest to remove the rubber membrane when the rubber is warm. When the rubber is cold it can become rigid and stiff. If it is at all possible you should wait for warm weather to remove the membrane. Check the forecast to determine the best time to begin the project.

Step 2—Cut the Rubber Membrane

Using your utility knife, cut the membrane into small sections. Make sure to wear heavy-duty gloves to protect your hands during the project. The small sections will be easier for you to remove. When cutting the membrane, look for the seam tape that was applied at installation. You will find that cutting along the seam is easier. Because the rubber membrane is sticky with adhesive you should have a few extra blades on hand. Otherwise, you will have to clean the blade numerous times, especially if you are removing a large section of the membrane.

Step 3—Remove the Membrane

Use your heat gun to warm and soften the outside edges of the first section to be removed. Using the heat gun makes pulling the section up easier because the adhesive is not rigid. Don’t try to remove large sections, only pull up one small section at a time. This makes for a removal that is physically easier while also ensuring that the underlayment below the membrane is not damaged. This is especially important if you are planning to lay a new roof immediately.

Stronger than average adhesive may need to be cut loose. If this is the case in your project, you should purchase a roof scraper. This will aid in the removal process if your rubber roof was laid with very strong adhesive. Make sure to locate screws and staples during the removal process. Don’t attempt to snatch them out. Use a hammer or a pry bar to remove the nails and staples as you go. Be sure to keep the removed nails and staples in a secure location as you don’t want to injure yourself by inadvertently puncturing yourself.

There you have it. Removing a rubber roof membrane can definitely be time-consuming but it is not difficult and can be completed by even a novice do-it-yourselfer.