Flat Roof Repairs – How to repair EPDM Rubber, TPO and Torch Down Roofs

Materials described for flat roof repairs are EPDM, TPO, and Torch Down Rubber

Before you can start repairing your flat roof, it is important to know what roofing material is on your roof – This can be either an EPDM Rubber, TPO or Torch Down Rubber. By knowing the type of roofing material you can make the proper repair or find the Roofing Contractor that specializes in that particular roofing system.

This video is about “How to Repair a Flat Roof” that has a Torch Down Rubber membrane. Follow the links to see how to make flat roof repairs on different roofing materials.

This video shows how to Torch and Tricks on installing a Rubber Roof
This video shows where a leak could be found and how to repair it.

Why do flat roofs need so many repairs?

It just appears that flat roofs are always in need of repair but in reality, the leaks mostly don’t originate from the flat roof itself. Most leaks are from objects like vent pipes, skylights, chimneys, air conditioner units and siding on walls.

It is not always easy to locate what causes a leak on a flat roof. From experience, we know flashing against brick walls, chimneys are very susceptible causing leaks. Pitch Pockets on commercial roofs are known for causing leaks. Watch the video to see how to look for a leak and then what you are supposed to do to fix a flat roof leak.

How to “Repair a Flat Roof Guide” – Follow the instructions and make a list of things to do

Flat Roof Repair can be as easy as using s little caulk or tar. Finding the leak can be a problem. Things that can be obvious are places like flashing, vent pipes, drains, skylights. It should be relatively easy to spot a problem if there is a leak.

When it comes to seams, then it is harder to find a leak in the roof. This takes an experienced eye to detect a leak.

Look for leaks at the following places:

1. Skylights on flat roofs

Making Skylight Repairs on a flat roof can be tricky. Here are a few tips where you can begin.  Check the following on a skylight:

  • Skylight flashing – make sure that the rubber membrane has not come loose from the metal flashing. In some cases, the rubber membrane is the flashing as well and is tucked underneath the skylight frame. In other circumstances, the membrane is attached to the skylight flashing. Pull up on the membrane and see if you can lift it from the flashing. It should be tight and secure
  • Skylight Dome and Frame – when the glass or plexiglass dome of the skylight is secured with a metal frame, then it is likely that the rubber gasket that seals between the glass and the frame has dried and cracked
  • Corners on skylights – In many cases where the rubber membrane is galvanized around the corners of the skylight, can cause leaks due to the seams separation
    Cracked Plexiglass – The plastic or plexiglass domes on skylights crack due to ultralight exposure

A-List of Manufacturers of Skylights:

More on Skylights Repairs

Cracked Plexiglass skylight causing a leak on a flat roof
Plexiglass skylight with a crack – An easy solution is to repair the cracked skylight with Super Silicone Seal

Cracked Plexiglass skylight on a flat roof causing a leak

Round Domed Plexiglass on skylight can crack over time
Round domed plexiglass skylight on a flat roof. Cracks can occur after 8 years in the sun

The image above is a Round Domed Skylight made by Wasco

2. Bathroom Vent pipes – Flat roof repairs

Vent pipes piercing through a rubber membrane can become the cause of a flat roof leak. The rubber gasket or “roof boot” deteriorates over time and crack causing the leak.

  • Check the “roof boot” around the vent pipe
  • Check the rubber membrane and seams that attach to the metal flange of the “roof boot”
  • Sometimes the “tar” that is used to seal the  pipe to the rubber, gets dry and crack, causing the leak
Bathroom Vent pipe on flat roof repair
Notice there is no rubber boot or sealant around this vent pipe. This is one of the most common causes of roof leaks

Bathroom Vent pipe with a Roof Boot – To make a flat roof repair, you need to identify the leak areas. The vent pipes are prone to leak.

3. Repairing a Pitch-Pockets on flat roofs causes leaks

A Pitch-Pocket is a bottomless container that is placed on a flat roof where airconditioner pipelines and wires are fed through. After the wires and pipes are fed through, the container is filled with liquid “tar” or roof cement to seal around the wires and pipes.

  • Check the pitch-pocket:  and see if it is full to the brim with tar. Many times this tar will dry and shrink and cause a low spot in the container. When it rains, this low spot will collect water, and water will eventually leak through where the wires and pipelines are.
  • Check the foam insulation that covers the pipelines. This foam deteriorates and causes openings where water can leak through the Pitch-Pocket.
  • Fill the Pitch-Pockets with tar – As a precautionary step, these pitch-pockets should be filled to the brim at least once a year.
  • Always check the Pitch-Pockets – When looking for a leak on a flat roof, always check the pitch pockets to see if the tar in them is filled to the brim.
  • Flat Roof Repairs can easily relate to a Pitch-Pocket that has wires and pipes going through it, and all you need to do is make sure the insulation foam around the pipes is not the cause of the leak.
An Example of a Pitch-Pocket -Flat Roof Fixing a Pitch-Pocket on a flat roof. Make sure it is filled with tar to the brim
A pitch pocket. Notice the foam insulation around the copper pipe has deteriorated causing leaks

An Example of a Pitch pocket with Tar. Notice the foam insulation around the pipes is all torn. This cause leaks on flat roofs

4. Flashing on flat roofs causing leaks

Flashing is probably the biggest cause of flat roof leaks. Many roof technicians will not take their time and make a proper flashing transition from a rubber membrane to flashing. This can be attributed to a lack of experience or did not charge enough for the job.

Locating flat roof leaks – This video points out how to counter flashing, if not done right, can cause a leak. 

This video is about paint peeling allowing water getting in above the flashing causing leaks
  • Counter flashing – whenever flashing is used where a roof meets a wall, there must be proper counter flashing. Counter flashing is when siding or stucco or any other methods are used to cover the flashing from the top side. One should never be able to see the edge of a flashing. The vertical section should be covered by stucco, wood siding, or even other metal. The horizontal part that lies flat on the roof, should be covered by the rubber membrane.
  • Test the rubber adhesion on the metal – try to pull the rubber membrane away from the metal, if it comes up easily, then that could be the cause of the leak.
  • Check for cracked stucco or siding – If the siding or stucco has cracks in it, then the counter flashing is compromised.
Fixing a Flat Roof Installing Counter flashing - This is where flat roof leaks starts - Flashing is a very important part of a flat roof

Installing Counter Flashing – To fix the roof leak on this flat roof we had to install counter flashing. We used an angle grinder to cut a slot into the wall where the metal flashing can be inserted.

5. Flat Roof Repair – Installing Counter Flashing

The brick wall in the image shows that the membrane comes up the wall about 12 ” high. The technician then adheres the roofing membrane to the wall. This way of making flashing doesn’t work. The rubber will eventually pull away from the wall. We cut a slot into the brick wall at a 30 degrees angle and insert a metal flashing.

After the slot was cut, we inserted a metal counter flashing that hang over the membrane. This is what counter flashing is and how it is done.

Flat Roof Repairs mostly involve flashing on flat roofs that were not done correctly.

Flat roof repair - after installing cutting the grove in the brick wall, the counter flashing is installed

Counter Flashing Installed – After cutting the slot into the brick wall, a metal flashing was inserted into the slot and that went over the membrane to cause the flashing.

6. Chimney Flashing Repair – the Cause of Flat Roof Leaks

The counter flashing on chimneys is always a problem with chimneys. Many times, the counter flashing has to be embedded in the stone or brick wall. This is where most people don’t get it right.

  • Check if the sealant that is used on the counter flashing still holds
  • Check if the counter flashing is still intact
  • Check for cracks in the chimney
  • Inspect the chimney crown – This is the topmost part of the chimney – Most of the time, these cement slabs crack and causes leaks.
  • Make sure the rubber membrane is properly attached to the flashing on the chimney.

In the image, notice where the metal flashing meets the cement grout. That little crack is where water leaks from on a flat roof more on Chimney Repairs

How to Fix a Flat Roof - Flashing on chimney is leaking. Seal the flashing where it meets the cement
Notice the crack above the flashing. Chimneys are notorious to leak where the cement and the flashing meets

Chimney flashing causing leaks – to be able to fix flat roof leaks, you need to identify what causes the leaks. See the flashing in this image

7. Drains – Flat roof repairs around drains

When a drain is leaking, it is not always necessarily what causes the leaking. Because the drain is normally lower than the rest of the roof, a leak could start somewhere else and flow towards the drain underneath the roof membrane.

To locate a leak around a drain area do the following:

  • Try to open the ceiling where the drain is coming through the roof and make a visual inspection
  • Clean all debris that has accumulated around the drain and strainer
  • Remove the strainer to make a visual inspection of the drain pipe from above
  • Make a close-up inspection of the roofing membrane and the drain flange to see if it hasn’t separated
  • If you can’t find an obvious problem, call an experienced roofing technician to find and repair the leak

Flat Roof Drains are the most important part of a flat roof. If not maintained or installed properly it can cause a lot of damage over the years resulting in expensive repairs.

More about Roof Drains

Flat Roof repair - Membrane is not attached to drain and caused leaks
The roofer who installed this rubber membrane never tied the rubber in with the drain

Flat Roof Repair – The rubber membrane was never attached to the drain flashing in this image

8. Drip edge – Locating the roof leak at the perimeter of the roof on the drip edges

Drip edges are made of metal and make the transition from the roofing membrane to the gutter or edge of the roof

Things to inspect to see if the drip edges are causing roof leaks:

  • Inspect to see if the membrane is still attached to the metal edging on the perimeter of the roof
  • Check where two drip edges overlap for a potential gap or crack on the roof
  • Make sure the drip edges are still properly attached to the substrate
  • If gutters are present, make sure the drip edges are pointing into the gutter and not behind the gutter
Lose membrane form drip edge on Flat Roof causes leaks

A rubber membrane should be attached to a drip edge. In this case, the adhesives have failed and the rubber membrane was lying loose on the drip edge

What type of flat roof material is on your roof?

The type of roof determines what materials and tools you will need to make the necessary repairs.

What does a Torch Down Rubber Roof look like?

The image below shows what a Torch Down Rubber Membrane looks like. The membrane comes in three-foot wide rolls and the seams are fused together with a torch.

When making flat roof repairs on a Torch Down Roof, you can use any petroleum product as in tar, butyl caulk. This roof in the image has a white granular embedded on the surface to protect it from ultraviolet rays.

Many times a plain torch down membrane is installed with no granular, then a silver coating must be applied to protect it.

This is a Torch Down Rubber membrane over Tar and Gravel
This image shows a Torch Down Roof in progress. This rubber membrane was installed directly over stone

Torch Down Rubber Membrane – Fixing flat roofs and making repairs Westport, CT

What does an EPDM Rubber Roof look like?

The image below shows what an EPDM Rubber Roof Membrane looks like.

  • EPDM Rubber is black and has a smooth surface.
  • The seams can be from ten feet to twenty feet apart.
  • The EPDM Rubber surface feels the material of an inner tube of a tire

When you need to make flat roof repairs on an EPDM rubber membrane, the first thing to check is the seams. The adhesives that are used to bond the seams together, prematurely fail, due to the extreme heat and ultraviolet.

The adhesives that are used to bond the seams together, prematurely fail, due to the extreme heat and ultraviolet. EPDM rubber roofs generally don’t last more than 8 years without severe issues and repairs.

EPDM Rubber Roof over a commercial roof
This image is of an EPDM Rubber Roof. These roofs get extremely hot during summer causing the glue to fail on the seams

EPDM Rubber Roof Membrane – Repairing, patching and making EPDM Rubber flat roof repairs

What does a TPO Roof Membrane look like?

This image shows what a TPO Roof Membrane looks like. These roofs are generally good and will last up to 20 years. It is a better roof than that of an EPDM Rubber membrane but it is still susceptible to ultraviolet rays. In the video above I showed how the TPO Roof is at its end due to ultraviolet degradation.

TPO Roof - This TPO roof is 15 years old and was leaking from day one
This image is about a TPO Roof. Although the TPO is white when installed, it does get dirty over time

TPO Roof Membrane – Mending and fixing flat roofs is what we do. Patching TPO membranes

Erik Ferreira - Roofing Contractor in Norwalk, Stamford and greenwich

Erik Ferreira – Commercial Roofing Contractor – Flat Roof Repairs

Erik is my oldest son (roofing contractor) and is 27 years old. He has been in Flat Roof Repairs before he left school during vacations. He has decided to take the business further and keeping it in the family. With all the roofing experience and knowledge passed down, you can be assured to get the best service and product.

Fix, Patch or the Repair of Flat Roofs

We are Roofing Contractors for the Installation and Repairs of Flat Roofs. With our experience of over 30 years, we can troubleshoot and repair any roof leak. Commercial and residential roofs are all the same. Most roofs can be repaired even if they were badly installed. We service Westchester County and Fairfield County.

Free Estimate call:

203 858-0080

Andre Ferreira - Roofing Contractor in Stamford, New Canaan and Westport

Andre Ferreira – Commercial Roofing Contractor

Andre is the second oldest son (roofing contractor) and is 25 years old. He started when he was 16. He has always been hands-on in all aspects of roofing. When it comes to troubleshooting a leak, he is the one that beats everyone. Now that my sons are running the business, you can be assured of receiving quality service and knowledge that is passed down.

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19 thoughts on “Flat Roof Repairs – How to repair EPDM Rubber, TPO and Torch Down Roofs”

  1. I have used Flat Roof Doctor for all my flat roof repairs and they have been very good.
    The repairs damages on my flat roof were extensive due to Hurricane Sandy. I had several trees fall on my roof and the rubber membrane was pierced in many places.
    Flat Roof doctor came to my rescue very fast and it took several days to make the necessary roofing repairs.

    1. Thanks Corneliu
      You have been a great customer to work with. I hope all the roof repairs are at an end now.
      When we got a call from Corneliu, we knew he had suffered major damaged to his roof. We gathered our roofing teams together and rushed to get his flat roof closed up before the next rain.

      Hurricane Sandy damaged many roofs in Westport, New Canaan, Wilton, Ridgefield, and Greenwich areas.

      Because most houses are surrounded by tall oak trees, the chances are high that a strong wind could blow some of the trees over or even brake limbs off and blow them on any roof nearby.

  2. Flat Roof Doctor is been a great help for me.
    It let me do my own repair without spend a fortune.
    Thank you guys!!!!

    1. I am glad you could do your own flat roof fix. Being able to do it yourself is a wonderful accomplishment

  3. It has been a great advantage to be able to have help from a professional. Your videos have been a great help to me and I would recommend you for any project.

  4. I have a flat roof that has been leaking for a few months now. I have had several roofers try to come and fi the flat roof. No one so far could find the leak.
    What do I do now to get this leak fixed on my flat roof?

    1. Hi Shawn
      I am sorry about your issue with your flat roof. After reviewing the images you have sent to me via text message, I could tell that the leak was not coming from the flat roof. What appears to me from the image is that the siding on the one wall has many cracks. These cracks will bring water in behind the siding and behind the flashing on the flat roof.
      I suggest you repair the siding boards that are cracked and paint the entire wall and I am pretty sure the leaks on your flat roof will come to an end.

  5. Flat roof doctor did my roof more than 10 years ago and it looks impeccable. Now he is doing my friend’s roof, he is a professional and I highly recommend him!

  6. I need to repair my flat roof. I have a Torch Down Roof. Can I use Alsan Waterproofing Polyurethane Flashing liquid to make the necessary repairs? I don’t want to buy a torch and a big roll of Modified Bitumen Membrane to make a small repair. So, I was hoping to be able to use this flashing liquid. Can you please advise.

    1. Hi James
      The answer is yes. I have used this product many times and it is great. A little expensive but very easy to use to make a flat roof repair.
      Here are the steps to follow if you are going to buy this product and make flat roof repairs:

      1. Make sure there is no Aluminum Paint in the area where you will apply this liquid
      2. If possible, use a wire brush to brush the surface as to remove the oxidation on the surface
      3. Make sure the surface is completely dry before making the repair
      4. Do not apply this material below 45 degrees F.
      5. Brush Alsan Flashing Liquid liberally on the surfaces covering the crack or leaky area. Make sure you go at least 5″ on each side of the crack or hole
      6. Cut the fiberglass fleece to the size of what the liquid was painted on
      7. Press the fleece into this painted surface with your brush and get all the bubbles out
      8. Apply another coat of Alson Flashing over the fleece
      9. Wait 24 hours and do a final coat of this Alson Flashing

      I hope this helps you to make a perfect Flat Roof Repair. Good luck

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  8. Where can a person purchase the wide membrane as shown on your video? I’m unable to find a site that sells it. What I have seen are only 4″-6″ wide.
    Thank you, C Burke.

  9. I enjoyed the video forward to my friend who is selling her house and was looking for help. You made it look very easy and showed the steps on how to use the products. I think this is great help for people who need some roof work done. Thanks

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