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Commercial Flat Roof Repair – Hot Tar Gravel Roofs

Commercial flat roof repair with the old Hot Tar and Gravel on it. These roofs have come a long way, but time has come where they are not repairable any longer. Over the years the hot tar becomes brittle and start to crack. The stone aggregate hides these cracks, so it is not easy to spot them.

The downfall of the Tar and Gravel roofs were:

  1. Difficult to find a leak in the stones
  2. They get brittle over the years and start to crack
  3. Repairing such a roof is almost a nightmare
  4. More expensive than a rubber roof to install
  5. Life expectancy is less than that of rubber roofs
  6. More costly to repair than rubber roofs

The following suggestions are equally good. It is how the flashing and other obstacles are on the roof that will determine what method to follow.

There are two ways to deal with such a roof when it is time to replace it.

First Choice

  1. Rake the stone evenly and remove debris.
  2. Install 1/2″ fiberboard over the stone.
  3. Install a base paper.
  4. Install new metal edging
  5. Install a rubber membrane.

Second Choice (as the pictures show below)

  1. Remove the existing tar and gravel.
  2. Clean the roof and flashing.
  3. Install a base paper over the plywood.
  4. Install rubber membrane.
DIY Flat Roof Repair Videos and Instructions - determine type of flat roof

DIY Flat Roof Repair Videos and Instructions

Before making a Flat Roof Repair, determine what type of roof you have

Help me with Google - please!

Click the 5 Stars at the top. If you have time write a comment at the bottom - Thanks

These videos show the process of removing an old asphalt roof and installing a Two-Ply Rubber Membrane Roof

2nd Video – Installing Fiberboard and Base Sheet

3rd Video – Completion of Installing and repairing a commercial roof

Steps on Removing an Old Tar and Gravel roof to prepare for a new rubber roof

Step 1 – Removing the old tar and gravel

Tar and Gravel roof is removed to prepare for new rubber roof. The stone was to protect the roof from UV’s. It’s very labor intensive to break up an old roof. The weight of the aggregate adds to the cost of carting the roofing debris away.

Step 1 - Removing the old tar and gravel. Commercial Flat Roof Repair - After stripping the gravel roof, all the preparations need to be done to replace it with a rubber roof.


Step 2 – Breaking up the old roof

It takes a lot of energy to strip and remove an old gravel roof. Many dumpster loads are necessary removing the aggregate.

Labor intensive – all the people involved

A top view of stripping a roof. A lot of hands make light work but also costly.
It’s one of the time-consuming parts of the roof – drains and skylights and air conditioners. All of the flashings have to be cleaned and prepared

Step 2 - Breaking up the old roof. Commercial Flat roof repair - removing old roofing material takes a lot of effort. After lifting and breaking the old roofing up, it is thrown into a dumpster.
It took many people to strip this flat roof in Greenwich. Care must be taken not to ruin the flashing around the drains and skylights.

Step 3 – Commercial Flat Roof Repair and Replacing old drains

The drains on a roof affect the cost of redoing a roof. It is always a battle between replacing or reusing the existing drain.

Re-using a drain avoid the plumbing cost and the installation of a new drain. The problem sometimes is that the old cast iron drains have so much tar build up and some of them are cracked, meaning it will cost more to repair them than replacing them. Drains are the more expensive and time-consuming part of a roof installation on a commercial roof.


Using Torch heat to melt the old tar to make the necessary repairs to be able to use the old drains again.

Step 3 - Repairing or Replacing old roof drains Commercial Roof repair - All tar and old roofing material must be removed to be able to install the new rubber roof. Using Torches to clean drains
If everything else fails, just kick the drain. After melting the tar around the strainer, we were able to remove the strainer.

Commercial Flat roof – Drain Repair

As the images indicate, while preparing the roof, someone is repairing and preparing the drains for the new rubber roof installation.

The location of a drain is critical on a roof. Watch this video on Flat Roof Drains Location

It is really the biggest issue on a roof. For the installer and for the home owner. The roof surface is already clean and ready for a new rubber roof but the drains are still been worked on.

Step 4 – Roof Levels

Finally, the roof is stripped and cleaned. Some areas of the roof were lower than the drains. We installed 1/2″ fiberboard to build the roof up. Some places we had to build it up as much as three inches. Flat roofs are not completely level and can cause water ponding if caution is not taken.

It is important to check the roof levels before installation. It is common that the drains are not positioned correctly for water flow. This where the roof has to be built-up in areas to create a positive water drainage.

Step 4 - leveling the roof to cause positive water flow.

Step 5 – Removing and repairing Skylights

Since the levels of the roof were too low, we had to lift the skylights also about 3 inches.

After making sure the levels are right, we then fasten the fiber board with long screws and big washers to the plywood. It is best to use a laser leveler over long distances to get an accurate level. Once a rubber roof installation is complete, there is no turning back to make corrections.

Step 5 - Repairing skylights and repositioning them. Sometimes it is necessary to remove the skylights if the roof has to be raised in that area. The skylight is then reinstalled after the levels are good.

Step 6 – Fiberboard used to built-up levels

After making sure the levels are right, we then fasten the fiber board with long screws and big washers to the plywood. Sometimes as much as five layers of fiber board are stacked up on each other to get the right levels

Step 6 - Fiberboard used to built-up levels
To fasten the fiber board, special screws and washers are used. We have been installing rubber roofs over 25 years.

Step 7 – Flashing is the most important part of a roof

When repairing or preparing a commercial flat roof, flashing is the most important part of the roof. There is flashing against the siding, Air Conditioners, Drains, Vents, and other obstacles. It is important not to damage the flashing when removing the old roof.

The most important part of a roof is the flashing. Care must be taken not to damage it while stripping a roof.

Step 8 – Dumpster – having it close to the roof

It is important to spread a tarp over the grass and plants for protection against all the roofing debris. It also will help with cleaning up later.

We contract a company to provide a dumpster. The dumpster is placed on boards as not to damage the grass or paving surface. It is very important to have the right size dumpster for removing roofing debris. At all cost, the dumpster should be placed as close as possible to the roof so debris can be thrown into it from the roof.

When pitching roofing debris over the side of a roof, it is best to spread a tarp. It makes cleanup much easier. We are the flat roof experts.
Step 8 - Dumpster - having it close to the roof. Make sure you get a big enough dumpster to remove all the roofing debris. Always put boards down for the dumpster to stand on to protect the surface.

Step 9 – Preparing a Commercial Flat Roof

While roof technicians are installing the roof, some areas need preparing as in flashing around the air conditioners. Flashing on any commercial roof takes time to prepare or to install.

Step 9 - Preparing a Commercial Flat Roof - Flashing around a air conditioner is always very hard to clean. Care must be taken not to damage the flashing while cleaning the flat roof.

Step 10 – Copper flashing repaired and prepared for rubber roof

This is what the flashing around the air conditioner is supposed to look like when everything is cleaned. All roofing tar and old wood and debris are removed. Many times new flashing must be installed.

Step 10 - Copper flashing repaired and prepared for rubber roof - It is very important to remove all roofing debris and material; around flashing on a flat roof.

Step 11 – Installing Base Sheet

After installing the fiberboard and the levels are satisfactory, then it’s time to install a base sheet. This is a self-adhering peel and stick base layer. Very costly and is almost the same price as the rubber membrane itself. But this is the best system for any roof. This system will outlast any other roofing material as in EPDM or TPO.

Step 11 - Installing Base Sheet - After the fiberboard is installed, then a base sheet has to be installed. The peel and stick base sheet is the best for any roofing system.

The image shows what it looks like after installing a base sheet and before the installation of a Torch Rubber Roof. All the flashing is clean and ready, all the levels are good. The hard part is over, and the drains look new again.

The roof is ready to receive the final rubber roof. Notice that the base sheet is under the flashing. The best rubber roof system is to have a peel and stick base paper with Modified bitumen Torch down rubber installed.

Step 12 – Installing Rubber Membrane

Running the torch and melting rubber is much nicer than cleaning drains. Preparing and repairing a Commercial Roof for a rubber roof will determine what the final product ends up looking. The ultimate goal is to see an even smooth surface with as little as possible water pooling after rain.

 Step 12 - Installing Rubber Membrane - After all the flashing and base sheet is taken care of, it is time to install the rubber membrane. We used white granulated surfaced rubber material.
This is the best part of installing a flat roof. The hard work is over. All preparations are done. No other roofing system can be as good as this.

Step 13 – Torch Down Membrane – Welding the seams

Too much heat and the rubber gets destroyed, too little heat and the seams don’t get welded. You will notice that all our seams are clean. We work with a white granular rubber membrane. The granules are to protect the rubber membrane from the ultraviolets.

It takes time to develop the proper technique when it comes to using a torch. The daily temperature determines how much heat is necessary to weld seams together.

Step 13 - Torch Down Membrane - Welding the seams - A rubber membrane that is torch down have better seems than EPDM that is glued together. attaching the rubber roof to the flashing is very crucial.

Step 14 – Final Commercial Roof Repair and Installation

Over the years we have improved the installation technique. I believe we have a superior roof technique that will outlast any other roof system on the market.

Finally – this is what the roof looks like when it’s done. Another Commercial Flat Roof Repair and Installation well done!

Step 14 - Final Commercial Roof Repair and Installation - This is what the roof looks like when it’s done. The rolls are three feet wide and you will notice the seams. The seams are welded together with heat and will not leak.

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