4 Simple Steps to Effective Damage Control for Your Flat Roof

If you have a flat roof, you want it to last as long as possible. Because these roofs require slightly different maintenance than their sloped counterparts, you may not know where to start. Here are four simple steps to implementing effective damage control on your flat roof so you can prevent leaks and other costly repairs.

1. Inspect

Set aside one day at least twice a year to inspect your roof for any potential problems. You can do this fairly easily yourself or hire a professional roofer. The best time of year to have this done is during the summer and winter, right after the harshest weather has hit, so you can assess any issues from heavy rains and winter ice storms. 

What do you look for during an inspection? Observe for splitting (tears in the roof), blistering (air or water trapped between the layers), cracks, limbs and other foreign debris, and areas of ponding.

2. Remove

Removing debris and trash is important for a number of reasons. If you have a rubber roof, sticks, leaves, and other objects can blow around, scratching and tearing the surface of the membrane. They can also get trapped in the gutters, preventing proper drainage. And anything that prevents a flat roof from adequate drainage can ultimately lead to leaking.

It's generally recommended to hire a professional for debris removal, but if you feel like tackling it as a DIY project, there are a couple of ways to do it. One is with the use of a leaf blower. Just be sure that no one is on the ground when you do this. If you want a method that's not as messy or doesn't have as much potential for injury, you can sweep up the debris, bag it, and toss the bags to the ground below.

3. Repair

Tears

Repairing tears in a rubber roof is a job that should be handled by a skilled professional. But if you're comfortable with EPDM cleaners, primers, and applying rubber patch kits without getting any bubbles under the surface, then you can give it a whirl.

Blistering

Blisters can come and go and don't always need to be repaired unless they're in an area that receives a lot of foot traffic or near a seam. If this is the case, you simply cut the blister down until you reach a flat layer. Next, apply a membrane patch that extends at least six inches beyond the edge of the blister itself. This should provide ample protection from leaks.

Ponding

At times it can be difficult to determine if ponding is occurring on your roof. If you walk up there right after a heavy rain, it's normal to see a few areas where water is collecting. But if 48 hours have passed and you still come across standing water, then you know you have an issue to address.

If ponding is occurring on your tar-and-gravel roof, remove the loose gravel and debris from the sunken area, and then pour in a leveling compound until the surface is flat, using a wooden trowel to help with the leveling process. Similar results can be achieved with rubber roofing, using a type of plaster that reduces the depth of the space.

Cracks

Cracks or "alligatoring" are a normal occurrence from UV rays as well as changes in temperature. These cracks basically look like hairline cracks, similar to the surface of an alligator's skin. Before repairing any cracks, clean the roof, and then apply a protective coating. Again, a qualified roofer is typically best for this type of job.

4. Clean

You already know that a good reason for cleaning your roof is to prevent damage. But did you know that dirty roofs tend to have a higher temperature along the surface? This is definitely something you want to avoid at all costs because it can increase your utility bills, especially in the summer time. Hiring a professional to clean your roof is always advised, but there are a few DIY methods as well.

The first is with a pressure washer, which is perfect for rubber roofs and so you don't have to worry about chemicals damaging the plants on the ground below. If damage to plants isn't a concern, another method involves using a dilute chlorine wash and good, old-fashioned scrubbing, followed by a rinse with the garden hose. And lastly, you can invest in a roof cleaner with a sodium-hydroxide base. This method is a little riskier, though, because if it doesn't get thoroughly rinsed, it can actually damage your roof.

Always consult with a professional before beginning any roofing-maintenance or roof-repair project.


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