Small roof repairs


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One of the reasons you may need to do small roof repairs is the failure to find and correct minor deterioration in the earliest stages is probably the greatest cause of premature problems. This is particularly true of materials applied on relatively low-sloped roofs. All materials deteriorate from exposure to the weather at rates determined largely by the kind of material and the conditions of exposure. In general, inorganic materials tend to deteriorate less rapidly from exposure than organic ones. All types of roofing materials may be damaged by hail. Exposure to air pollutants and industrial or salt-laden atmospheres may accelerate the deterioration process of some roofing materials.

Wind Damage:

Roofing materials are subject to damage from strong winds and flying debris. Generally, they are not designed to withstand winds of hurricane and tornado intensity. However, they may also be damaged by winds of moderate intensity, with gust that may reach 50 to 75 miles per hour. The primary cause of wind damage is from the partial vacuum created by wind blowing over the edges. Nature tries to neutralize the low-pressure area by bringing in air from a higher pressure area, usually from inside the building. This air pushes up on the bottom side of the roof assembly and, over time, loosens fasteners and breaks the adhesion making the it susceptible to damage from the next moderate or strong wind. To counteract the effects of wind-uplift forces, the roofing and insulation should be adequately fastened to the roof deck, and a securely-fastened perimeter detail should be provided.


Troublesome and costly problems are often the result of faulty initial design of the roof system. Design deficiencies are costly to correct, and usually can only be corrected during replacement. However, unless design deficiencies are discovered and corrected during repair, the problems relating to them most likely will recur.

Flashing are the most vulnerable part. Their importance and the importance of maintaining them properly cannot be overemphasized. Many early problems are actually flashing problems. Often, repairing the flashing or providing new flashing is all that is needed to make it watertight again. Most flashing problems result from inadequate flashing design or faulty construction. Many flashing problems can be reduced or eliminated by careful examination by competent inspectors during installation, and by regularly scheduled inspection and maintenance. In many instances, leaks occur at flashing where there are no flashing defects. These leaks may be the result of open joints in a masonry wall or coping cap, which permits water to enter behind the flashing and into the building. This problem may be eliminated by "through-wall" flashing.


A drainage system includes the gutters, drain openings as well as the slope provided by the structural deck and sumps. The primary function of the drainage systems is to prevent the retention of water by removing water from the roof as quickly as possible. Every roof must have some provision for drainage. Further, it is important that the drainage system be kept free from debris that might interfere with the proper flow of surface water.

Roof top mountings:

Often, the roof top is used as a mounting place for all types of mechanical equipment, antennas, flag poles, signs, bracing, etc. These items should not be placed here except when absolutely necessary. They should never be mounted or placed directly to the top of the membrane, as leaks beneath or adjacent to the supports for this equipment are impossible to repair. Rather, they should be mounted to a support structure or to raised curb-type supports. Flat flange or curb flashing can then be used to keep the surface watertight, and replacement and recovering can be done without disturbing or removing the equipment. Pitch pans, however, should not be used to keep supports watertight, and should be avoided where possible.

Emergency repairs may be required after severe weather. Caution should be exercised when inspecting after there has been severe weather, or when there is suspect damage to the assembly, because storm damage may have left the it in a hazardous condition. If the condition is questionable, have a professional contractor perform the inspection and necessary repairs. In the event a professional contractor is not available, and to minimize damage to the interior building finishes and contents, emergency repairs may be performed. Emergency repair procedures should be as simple as possible so they may be performed safely by non-roofing professionals. These repairs should be considered temporary. Permanent repairs should be made by a professional contractor as soon as weather permits. If the roof is under a manufacturer's warranty, the manufacturer, and the installing contractor should be contacted as soon as possible.

The leak:

In attempting to determine the source of a leak, locate the point on the surface above the area of leakage in the building interior. From this point, first check the condition of the mechanical equipment and then check all flashing at terminations and penetrations. Second, check the membrane surface for cuts, splits, or punctures. Finally, check the seams (laps) in the membrane.

Once the source of a leak is located, the materials should be chosen. Plastic cement is recommended for use on all Built-Up-Roof systems as well as shingles and roll roofing.

An emergency patch can be made using plastic cement and fabric or roofing felt. Permanent repairs should be made as quickly as possible.

Plastic cement is a trowel-grade product. It is available in “rain patch” or “wet patch” grades, which are somewhat easier to apply to wet or damp surfaces. Avoid the use of a liquid or pour able asphalt repair products. Liquid products do not usually work well and most often only hinder contractors’ attempts to locate the leak source while performing temporary or permanent repairs.

After the surface has been prepared, and making sure that the area to receive the repair is clean and dry, apply a trowel grade asphalt plastic cement to extend beyond the area of repair approximately six (6") inches. The plastic cement should be applied in a continuous application over the membrane split, puncture or hole. Work the material into the membrane by applying a constant pressure while troweling.

Sealants are available at most hardware, builders supply and home discount stores. A variety of tape products are also available. These products typically have a release paper on the backside and are a few inches wide. These products are also available through membrane manufacturers, roofing materials distributors, and contractors.

Storm and Wind Damage:

If damage is observed during a storm, it is generally not advisable to attempt repairs or damage control until after the storm because of the danger of high winds and the possibility of a lightning strike. In some instances, however, repairs during a storm may prevent or minimize further wind damage. For example, if a loose metal edge flashing is observed, securing it during a storm may prevent subsequent lifting, peeling, and blow-off of the shingles. If work is performed during a storm it should be done by a professional contractor at his discretion. Work should not be performed during high winds or electrical storms. If a professional contractor is not available, work should not be undertaken unless wind speeds are moderately low and electrical storm activity has ceased. Following the storm, loose debris that could be blown off in subsequent storm should be removed. Because some roofs are in a hazardous condition after wind damage, debris removal should be performed by a professional contractor if one is available within a reasonable time period. If any of these conditions are observed, a professional contractor should make the permanent repairs. If a professional contractor cannot provide temporary or permanent service within a reasonable time period, it may be necessary to utilize large tarps or sheets of polyethylene secured at the perimeter and temporarily installed as previously described.


The emergency repair procedures described in the previous sections are strictly temporary in nature and must be replaced with permanent and complete repairs by a professional contractor in a timely manner. If the roof is covered by a warranty, notify the manufacturer as soon as possible to obtain instructions and recommendations to facilitate a permanent repair. Go to roof-repairs / leak!

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