Can a Flat Roof Be Repaired?

flat roof coating being applied to a flat roof

Learn more About Flat Roof Repair

It isn’t any secret that here in Woodward, Pennsylvania the winters are often brutal. The inches of ice followed by several feet of snow can cause havoc on a commercial structure with a flat roof. Repairs are common after winter because after the spring rains begin, the winter damage becomes apparent with leaking roofs.

How do ice and snow cause damage to a flat roof? 

Flat roofs are more susceptible to being damaged by ice and snow because they are flat. A roof with angles automatically discards the ice and snow as it melts. It is the sheer weight of ice and snow accumulated on a flat roof that bears down the roof decking. This leads to water being forced under the top roofing layer, and then it leaks into the interior of the building. 

Yes, that white stuff is pretty to look at, and it feels light and airy, but a cubic foot of snow can weigh around 8 pounds. And if the snow is packed, it can weigh as much as twenty pounds per cubic foot. And the ice that usually comes after the snow, another 60 pounds per cubic foot is added to the roof. If that ice and snow aren’t cleared routinely, you can be pretty sure you’ll need flat roof repair or replacement when spring comes around. 

Another cause of ice and snow causing flat roof repairs is the freeze-and-thaw cycle. Flat roofing will fluctuate between contracting and expanding, which is caused by the repeated freezing, thawing, then refreezing routine. 

As the snow melts, it will pond and puddle on a flat roof. Some of the water will evaporate, some will drain off, and what doesn’t evaporate or drain will refreeze. The original freeze and the thawing can cause damage that results in flat roof repair from the water seeping into cracks and crevices of the roofing membrane. This is why monthly roof inspections are recommended, especially when there is communication equipment, electrical equipment, and the HVAC system on the roof. 

Why are there flat roofs then?

After reading about the ice and snow damage that leads to expensive and extensive flat roof repairs, you may be wondering why commercial structures have flat roofs anyway. Well, the primary reason is because of the cost.  A sloped roof construction requires more materials, an expenditure that can be minimized by going with a flat roof instead. Other reasons for flat roofs on commercial structures include: 

  • Height restrictions in some municipalities.
  • Ground space is maximized by placing HVAC and other equipment on a flat roof. 
  • Aesthetics are often a key factor for designers of commercial structures. 

Are there different types of flat roofing materials? 

Yes, and which of the types you choose is important when constructing a new commercial structure. You need one that is within the budget allowed, but it needs to meet all building code requirements and restrictions too. A few options in flat roofing materials are: 

  • Built-Up Roof 

A short name for this is BUR and it is often referred to as a tar and gravel roof. This is perhaps the most common commercial flat roof because it is durable, effective, and budget conscious. The “built-up roof” is named that literally because it is ‘built up’ from the roofing surface using altering layers of asphalt paper and tar on a fiberglass matting for reinforcement. To finish off the build-up, a layer of tar is applied, followed by a layer of aggregate. 

In addition to being extremely durable, another advantage for this type of roofing material for flat roofs is the long lifespan, up to 50 years. The disadvantage of this roofing material is the cost can be higher than some because of the oil-based asphalt, the labor and time to install it, and the odor from the tar. 

  • Metal Panel Roof 

When cost savings are the focus, a metal panel roofing system is a frequent choice. The simple design of metal panels that are installed with a special sealant at the joints and then a neoprene seal at every washer. This is an inexpensive but durable roofing option. The major downside is the short lifespan. 

  • Single Ply

In comparison to other roofing materials, this one is relatively new but is quickly becoming the more popular one. Made with one layer of a synthetic membrane that is flexible, lightweight, and UV resistant. This type of commercial flat roofing is an economical choice based on the thickness chosen. 

Within single-ply commercial roofing are three types: 

  • TPO (Thermoplastic Polyolefin) 
  • PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride)
  • EPDM (Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer)

Of the three roofing types described, which one requires the flat roof repairs more often? 

With proper maintenance and monthly inspections, flat roof repairs should be minimal regardless of the roofing materials. But when flat roof repairs are needed, you want to choose one where the repairs are easy and inexpensive. 

The built-up flat roof repairs are relatively easy using waterproof roofing cement for sealing the small cracks. Larger damaged areas are repaired with the same material as what the roof is made from. 

 Metal flat roof repairs can be done by soldering and small cracks can be sealed with aluminized caulk and fiberglass patches over larger damaged areas.

water damages on a flat roof

Which type of roofing material is best for flat roofs in winter weather?

In an area like Woodward, PA where the winters are longer and more prominent, the best type of flat roof materials are PVC and TPO. Both are single-ply roofing made of thermoplastic and are Hot Air Welded installed instead of an adhesive, making them more durable in the freeze/thaw/refreeze cycle.

Between PVC and TPO roofing materials, when it comes to flat roof repairs, you’ll have less with a PVC roof versus the TPO roof. While TPO is cost-effective on the install side, it has more flat roof repair needs because it isn’t as durable. 

In Closing – Maintenance, Maintenance, Maintenance

It can’t be stressed enough that maintenance is the key to a long-lasting flat roof material no matter which one you choose. With monthly inspections, routine cleaning, and getting any flat roof repairs done as soon as they are noticed is important for a long lifespan.

FIVE STAR ROOF SOLUTIONS, INC. is here to help with your flat roof repair in Woodward, PA. Contact our team at 814-810-6982 to get started.