Time for a New Roof? 10 Signs Your Roof Needs to be Replaced

Installing a new roof is a significant expense, and it’s one you don’t want to face too often as a homeowner. Whether your roof is leaking and obviously damaged, or it’s just approaching its expected lifespan, there are some tell-tale signs to help you decide if you need a roof replacement. Capitol Improvements has been installing and replacing roofs of all types for over 30 years. In this article, we’ll use our expertise to help you determine whether or not you need a new roof.

Top 10 Signs You Need a New Roof

How can you tell if you need a new roof or just a roof repair? Below are the top 10 ways to determine whether your roof is due for replacement.


1. Your Records Say So

As a homeowner, keeping accurate records can save you time and reduce unnecessary costs. If you owned your home when the current roof was installed, you might still have the work receipts and contracts, including any warranty information.

First, check to see whether you’re still within the roofing manufacturer’s warranty period. Typical roof manufacturer warranties last between 10 and 30 years and cover defects or failure of the materials, or premature aging.

You may have a manufacturer’s warranty that covers labor in addition to materials. In this instance, your warranty will cover certain types of installation errors, too.

Additionally, you may have a warranty from your roofing contractor. This type of warranty often lasts for a shorter amount of time (one to five years) but covers both material failure and contractor error.

If your manufacturer’s warranty period has expired, your roof is likely approaching its intended maximum lifespan. After this point, the roof can be expected to need replacing or repair at no fault of the manufacturer or contractor.

2. It’s More Than 20 Years Old

Not every homeowner is a master record-keeper, and that’s OK. If you no longer have the paperwork for your roof, you may still know the approximate age of the roof.

If you know your roof is approaching 20 years old or older, it’s a good time to have the roof inspected by a licensed contractor.

It may not be necessary to replace the roof quite yet, but having it inspected can help you repair minor problems and keep your roof intact as long as possible.

How long does your roof last? Below are the approximate lifespans of different roof types:

Roof Type

Average Lifespan

Slate, Clay, or Cement Tile 100 years or more (A tile roof can last the whole lifespan of your home.)
Standing Seam Metal 30-50 years
Rubber Roof (EPDM, PVC and TPO) 20-25 years
Asphalt Shingles 25-50 years
Fiber Cement Shingles 20-25 years
Built-Up Roofing (BUR) 15-20 years
Modified Bitumen Systems (MBS) 12-15 years
Asphalt Roll Roofing 5-10 years

Learn more about your roof’s average lifespan.

3. A Licensed Contractor Recommends It

As mentioned above, you should have your roof inspected by a trusted, licensed contractor if it is approaching the end of its expected lifespan.

You should also have a professional roof inspection performed as part of routine home maintenance, and especially if you have any concerns about your roof.

If your roofing contractor determines your roof is at the end of its life and cannot be restored with repairs alone, it’s likely time for a new roof.

As with any large home improvement project, it’s a good idea to have multiple contractors inspect your roof and offer bids for a new roof replacement. You may find that one roofing contractor recommends replacement, while another recommends holding off and making repairs instead.

Compare and contrast roofing contractors to find one that you trust to help you decide whether to replace your roof.

4. Your Attic Has Great Natural Light

If your roof is approaching the end of its expected lifespan, or you have other reason to suspect that you might need a new roof, the first place to check is the attic or crawlspace.

It’s often much easier to tell if there are holes, cracks, or leaks in the roof from underneath than from above.

One reason for this is that accessing the crawlspace is usually safer and more straightforward than accessing the roof, especially if you have a sloped roof.

It’s also easier to detect sunlight streaming in through a hole or crack in the ceiling of your attic than to try and find small defects in the roof beneath your feet.

The first giveaway that you need a new roof will often be a leak in within the attic or top floor or your home. But keep in mind that a leak does not always mean you need an entirely new roof.

Take steps to manage leaks as well as you can before professional help arrives, and have the damage analyzed by a licensed contractor before more extensive damage occurs.

5. Your Shingles Are Deteriorating or Missing

Next to unwanted sunlight or moisture in the attic, the most noticeable sign of a roof that needs to be replaced is deteriorating shingles.

If you have a shingled, sloped roof, you can observe the most obvious damage to your shingles (like pieces that are missing entirely) from the ground.

To detect more subtle shingle deterioration, you’ll need to climb up onto your roof. (If you don’t feel safe doing so, or you don’t have a ladder that reaches above the gutter of your roof, call a licensed contractor to inspect the roof, instead.)

Once you’re there, check to make sure all of the shingles are lying flat. Look for patches that are cracked, lifted, bent, curled, or appear damaged. Smaller areas may be fixed with a quick repair. More extensive the shingle damage or aging will require a roof replacement.

Another sign that your shingles are at the end of their useful life is the shedding of granules. As shingles age, they begin shedding the granules which coat their surface, making them less effective.

To determine whether your shingles are shedding, look for bald patches—areas where the granules are missing—and check your gutters for the sand-like grains.

6. The Roof is Sagging or Drooping

The most obvious sign that a roof needs to be replaced is sagging and drooping. This is a sign that you can usually observe from the ground—in fact, if your roof appears to be sinking, you likely shouldn’t climb up there yourself.

A licensed contractor will check the surface of your roof for trapped water and rotting boards and suggest either a repair or roof replacement before further damage is done to your home.

7. You Have a Rooftop Garden (But You Didn’t Want One)

Rooftop gardens are modern and in-fashion. One exception to this rule is unintentional rooftop gardens which consist of moss, mold, and fungus.

If you have unwanted foliage on your roof, you may be able to brush the debris away with a brush fairly easily. However, make sure to check for water damage and signs of decay underneath and around the mossy area, if you do so. Moss and fungus can trap moisture against the roof, which will eventually lead to more extensive underlying deterioration.

If you think your roof might be compromised by a buildup of moss or other plant life, call a roofer to inspect the area thoroughly.

8. It Was Installed or Repaired Poorly

You may not have known it when the roof was installed, or you may not have owned the home at the time, but your roof may have been installed hastily or incorrectly.

It can take years for a poor roof installation to manifest in damage to your home. Worse yet, poor roof installation often comes paired with the lack of a reliable warranty or guarantee.

You can check for the following signs that your roof may have been installed without the proper know-how or correct systems:

    •  Flashing

The flashing around roof fixtures and chimneys should fit perfectly into the rest of the roofing system to prevent moisture from entering the roof.

Poor flashing may be fitted improperly or made of cement or caulk rather than metal. If you suspect you have bad flashing, go into your attic or crawlspace after a heavy rain and inspect the area, or call a roofing contractor.

    • Gutters

Gutters are more critical to the integrity of a roof system than many roofers give them credit for.

If your gutters were put in poorly, or portions of the gutters are missing, water will flow to the underside of the roofing fascia and slowly cause moisture damage and rot.

    • Drill Holes

People purposely drill holes in their roofs for many reasons, such as satellite dishes and antenna mounting brackets. When these features are removed, it leaves drill holes that allow water to enter the roofing system and cause rot over time.

Drill holes are often left uncovered patched incorrectly. A small hole is easy to fix, but one that was filled with caulking or cement will still allow water to seep into the roof.

Drill holes need to be fixed with a proper spot-replacement, or they could result in roof damage that leads to an early roof replacement.

9. Your Flat Roof’s Seams Are Separating

Flat roofs have unique indicators that it’s time for a new roof. One of these is seam separation.

Separating seams is most common with seams that are sealed with adhesive—such as EPDM. TPO and PVC roofs are hot air-welded, which gives them added strength when done correctly. But seam failure can occur with these roof types, as well.

To check for seam separation, climb up on your flat roof and examine the seams for lifting, splitting, cracking, or curling. A separated seam will allow moisture to seep underneath and rot the underlying structure over time.

A separated seam is often an easy fix, but it can also be a sign that your roof is reaching the end of its useful life.

10. Your Flat Roof is Torn, Heat-Damaged or Has Pooling Water

Flat roofs are also prone to aging due to heat and UV exposure. If your flat roof’s membrane is discolored or cracking, it may be time for a full replacement.

Built-up roofing (BUR) and modified bitumen systems (MBS) are prone to tearing from impacts like falling trees, as well as wind damage that can lift the upper tar layer. Look for torn sections or pieces that may be missing altogether.

The most critical issue to look for if you have a flat roof is pooling water. If the roofing structure underneath the top membrane is beginning to warp, your roof may be suffering moisture damage from standing water. When this is the case, your roof system may need to be replaced, including both the underlying roof platform and upper membranes.


How to Pay for a New Roof

Determining whether or not you need a new roof is the first step. The next step is figuring out how to pay for your roof replacement.

Luckily, many roofers offer financing for new roofs, and your insurance may cover part of the cost depending on the age of your roof.

If you’re in the D.C. area, Capitol Improvements can help you pay for a new roof with flexible financing through Enerbank.

Torch Down Roofing Guide: Materials, Installation, Benefits, and Disadvantages

Torch down roofing—also known as “torch on roofing”—is one of the most common types of roofing for flat and slightly-sloped roofs. Torch down roofing consists of multiple modified bitumen membranes, applied with a propane torch. This installation process gives torch down roofing a uniquely watertight seal, making it a great choice wherever water damage is a serious concern.

This watertight seal—and many other advantages offered by torch down roofing—makes it a popular choice for homes with flat roofs. But torch-down roofing isn’t for everyone or every home. If you’re trying to decide whether a torch down roof is right for you, continue reading. We’ll cover what makes up a torch down roofing system, as well as its particular advantages and disadvantages, below.

Two-Layer and Three-Layer Torch Down Roof Systems

There are two different types of torch down roofing systems: two-layer and three-layer.

A two-layer torch down roof consists of one base sheet and one smooth cap sheet.

A three-layer torch down roof features the same base and cap sheets, as well as an additional cap sheet with a granulated surface.

Two-layer torch down roofing may cost less to install, but it doesn’t last as long and doesn’t offer as many benefits. The granulated cap layer of a three-layer roof adds to the roof’s energy efficiency, fire resistance, curb appeal and durability.

What is Torch Down Roofing Material?


Torch down roofing comes in the form of rolled sheets. Your roofing contractor will unroll each sheet individually during the installation process (two sheets for two-layer, three sheets for three-layer).

Each sheet of torch down roofing material consists of multiple membranes stacked and adhered together. These are the membrane layers of torch down roofing material, from the bottom up:

Layer 1: Thermo-fusible film.

Layer 2: Modified bitumen.

Layer 3: Reinforced polyester.

Layer 4: Modified bitumen.

Layer 5: (For the third layer of a three-layer roof) Granulated mineral surface.

A compound known as modified bitumen makes up the second and fourth membrane layers of each sheet of torch down roofing material. Bitumen is an asphalt compound. It is used in roofing and other construction applications like road construction and repair. Modified bitumen is asphalt bitumen mixed with a plastic or rubber additive. There are two main types of modified bitumen membrane that are used to create torch down roofing material: Atactic Polypropylene (APP) and Styrene Butadiene Styrene (SBS).

  • Atactic Polypropylene (APP)

APP is a type of plastic used to produce modified bitumen for torch down roofing. APP modified bitumen membranes are especially flexible. They respond well to both high and low temperatures.

  • Styrene Butadiene Styrene (SBS)

SBS is a type of rubber used to create modified bitumen for torch down roofing. SBS modified bitumen membranes are also flexible, and they have a lower melting point than APP membranes. This means that SBS membranes can be used in torch down roofing, as well as self-adhering and cold-processed roofing systems.

Torch Down Roof Application

Both two-layer and three-layer roof systems feature the same base and support components, applied in the same order. These are the steps your roofing contractor will take to install your torch down roof:

Step 1: Attach insulation.

Insulation is especially important in colder climates, but it’s an essential part of any flat or low-sloped roof system. Insulation may be attached with screws and plates, or it may be adhered using glue. This depends on the type of roof deck your home has and other factors.

Step 2: Lay down a moisture barrier.

On top of the insulation, your roofing contractor will lay down a vapor barrier. This will help prevent condensation within the roofing system.

Step 3: Install the overlay board.

Next, the contractor will put an overlay board in place. This acts as a support surface to which the torch down membranes will adhere. This step requires precision to make sure the overlay board is correctly installed. Otherwise, you could end up with a roof that isn’t level, causing water to pool.

Step 4: Apply the base sheet.

Next, your contractor will apply the first layer of torch down roofing material. They may attach the base sheet to the overlay board using a heat fusing method or adhesive.

Step 5: Apply the cap sheet.

Next comes the second layer of torch down roofing material: the smooth cap sheet. As this sheet of material is rolled out—on top of the base sheet—the roofer will heat the underside of the cap sheet material with a torch. As the heated cap sheet is pressed onto the base sheet underneath, the two will fuse and form a watertight seal. If installing a two-layer torch down roof, this is the final layer of rolled roofing material the contractor will apply. If installing a three-layer torch down roof, the contractor will install a third layer—with a granulated surface—in the same way.

Step 6: Install flashing.

After applying the rolled roofing, the process is almost complete. To finish up, your roofing contractor will apply flashing around any features that penetrate the roof.

Benefits of Torch Down Roll Roofing

Water resistance.

The first job of any roof is to keep water out of the building below. With flat roofs, this job becomes much harder to do. This is especially true in regions where snow builds up on the roof and may melt off very slowly. Heat-sealed seams and ultra-waterproof membranes make torch down roofing one of the most highly water-resistant flat roof systems. When installed correctly by a roofing professional, torch on roofing prevents water from collecting and pooling on the roof and promotes drainage. Torch down roofing is also ideal in protecting structures from damage from snow buildup.

Flexibility and durability.

One of the most significant benefits of torch down roofing is its flexibility. The modified bitumen sheets expand and contract as the temperature changes, without cracking or splitting. Where other roofing materials are rigid and may be damaged by changing temperatures, torch on roofing works well in any climate. This flexibility makes torch down roofing durable and long-lasting. Torch down roofing also has a consistent thickness (about 3-4 mm) across the entire roof, unlike other roofing materials that may vary in thickness. This conformity across the roof surface makes for a more durable roof.

Energy efficiency.

Torch down roofing provides protection against UV rays and heat, especially with the added cap layer included in three-layer roofs. The surface of your torch down roof can help lower your cooling bill in hot weather.


The lifespan of a torch down roof is one of its main selling points, at 15 to 20 years. Torch down roofing is more long-lasting than some other types of flat roof systems. This is due to its flexibility in hot and cold temperatures, as well as its resistance to water damage.

Fire resistance.

Especially with a granulated cap layer, torch down roofing can be highly fire resistant.

Less harmful fumes.

If you’re deciding between a torch down and mop on roof, one factor to consider may be the fumes. Torch down roofing isn’t free from unpleasant smells, but it emits much less harmful fumes than mop on asphalt roofing. With mop on roofing, your roofer may need to take more breaks to ensure they aren’t breathing in too much.

Easy repairs.

Last, but not least, torch on roofing is very easy to repair when compared to other roofing materials. Because it rolls on and can be sealed relatively quickly, the process is less intensive and less expensive than fixing different types of roofs.

Disadvantages of Torch Down Roofing

Fire hazard.

The primary downside of torch down roofing is that it is applied with an open flame and, therefore, always poses some level of fire hazard.

As a construction material, modified bitumen is highly fire resistant. However, if overheated during the installation process, the compound can break down and become flammable. Additional flammable materials, such as the wood frame of a house (and any residual sawdust from construction or repairs), or dry foliage add to the potentially hazardous nature of torch down roof application. When you work with a professional, licensed, and highly trained roofing contractor, all of these factors will be thoroughly inspected and resolved before the installation of a torch down roof. This makes the process relatively risk-free when you work with a roofing professional. Torch down roofing is not a safe DIY project!

Seam failure.

If the seams of torch down roofing material don’t seal completely, it can result in roof leaks. This is less common with a three-layer roof but may still occur. If this does happen, a repair to seal the roofing seam is relatively quick and easy.

Trapped water.

It is possible for water to get trapped between the layers of rolled roofing during installation or repair. For this reason, torch on roofing should only be applied or repaired during dry conditions.

Not resistant to scuffs and tears.

A torch down roof may be highly flexible and durable, but it isn’t impervious to scratching and tearing. The waterproof seal of a torch down roof is essential to its performance, and if it gets torn or scuffed, the roof system is compromised. This can be avoided with regular roof maintenance, inspection, and minor repairs when needed.

Disadvantages of a flat roof.

Torch on roofing is a flat roof system, which means it must be highly water resistant and durable. However, even with the most durable flat roof system, you have to make sure to maintain and inspect your flat roof regularly. Flat roofs are more prone to pooling water and piling snow, as well as built-up debris. If you have a flat roof, make sure you have it inspected by a certified roofing professional to make sure it is stable enough to withstand torch down roof application, as well as everyday wear and tear.

Cost of Torch Down Roofing

The cost of a torch down roof depends on the contractor you choose and the quality of the components they use. As with many other types of construction projects, there are lower-quality torch on roof materials and higher-quality torch on roof materials. With higher-quality torch down roll roofing, you may have to pay a little bit more at installation. However, you will also get a longer-lasting roof that needs fewer repairs during its lifetime, which will end up saving you money, in the end.

For a quote on your torch down roofing project in the DC area, call Capitol Improvements at 301-769-6909

Capitol Improvements offers flexible financing with Enerbank to help you with your torch down roof and other projects.

Is Torch Down Roofing Right for You?

A torch down roof system works best for slightly pitched roofs, where flexibility and water resistance is your primary goal. Torch down roofing stands up to harsh elements, including high and low temperatures, heavy rain, and even piled-up snow.

Torch down roofing must be installed by a roofing professional and isn’t something you can take on as a DIY project. However, if you want a roof that is long-lasting, highly durable, and easy to repair, torch down may be a good option for your flat roof.

How to Get Insurance to Pay for Your Roof Replacement

roof replacement insurance

The roof is your home’s first line of defense. Damage in the roof can quickly lead to damage elsewhere in the structure of the home, calling for more costly repairs in the future. Fortunately, most insurance companies appreciate the importance of an intact roof system. But roof replacement insurance is a complicated topic, and it isn’t always easy to tell whether your home insurance will cover the cost. So how do you get insurance to cover the cost of a roof replacement?

Roof Replacements and Insurance

Insurance companies have different rules when it comes to replacing or repairing damaged roofs. However, there are some general rules that apply to most policies. You will always need to check your homeowners insurance policy to confirm whether these are true in your case.

  • Most insurance companies cover severe damage that was outside of the homeowner’s control. This includes damage from fire, extreme weather like a tornado or hurricane, or vandalism.
  • Damage caused by a lack of roof maintenance is considered the responsibility of the homeowner and is not covered.
  • Coverage for damage from normal weather like wind, snow, and hail often depends on your roof’s age.
  • A typical homeowners insurance policy will only cover roof replacement if the roof has been damaged by an act of nature. Replacing a roof that has exceeded its intended lifespan is considered the homeowner’s maintenance responsibility and is not eligible for coverage.

Depreciated Value

Many policies base their reimbursement rates on a roof’s depreciated value. This takes the age and wear of your roof into account, meaning the value of your roof decreases over time. Other policies cover the full roof repair cost—whether that means repairing or replacing your roof fully or partially.


Your insurance policy may have a deductible, which can be a consideration when you file a claim. This means that even if your insurance covers the cost of a roof replacement, you could still end up paying a certain amount out of pocket.

A common deductible is 2% of the home’s value for inland homes or 5% of the home’s value for coastal homes. If the repairs to your roof will cost less than your deductible, you do not need to file a claim since you won’t be reimbursed.

Getting Your Roof Replacement Covered by Insurance

roof replacement insurance

Capitol Improvements recommends these five steps when you're filing a roof replacement claim.

1. Understand Your Policy

The first and best step in getting a roof replacement covered by insurance is making sure you understand your policy. The particular details of your homeowners insurance policy could surprise you, so it’s important to go over the fine print.

When you understand your insurance policy and what it covers, you can be better prepared to file a claim with all of the information they require.

Look for specific information in your policy about deductibles and depreciated value. Also look for information about their timeframe for filing claims and how they assign adjusters.

If you have questions or concerns about what your insurance policy covers, contact the insurance provider to clarify. You can do so after damage to your roof has already happened, but it’s even better to get those questions answered before you’re preparing to file a claim.

2. Take Pictures and Detailed Notes

When you file a claim for your roof replacement, you will need to provide certain information about the damage. This can include written information as well as photo documentation.

As soon as you notice roof damage, take down the date and time it occurred. Often, this will be after a storm or weather event, so it’s important to write down the exact date for the insurance adjuster’s reference.

If you can safely get a view of the roof damage, take a few clear pictures of the damaged area, as well as the surrounding area. If pooling water or debris (like a fallen tree limb) caused the damage, take pictures of the roof before removing the debris or soaking up the water. This will help your insurance company clearly identify and verify the cause of the damage.

It’s also important to pay attention to and document any potential damage below the roof. For example, if you have a leak that’s reached the attic or even through to the ceiling, take pictures of the leak and document when it began. Insurance companies appreciate the importance of a secure roof in avoiding more extensive damage.

This documentation can also include photos and written evidence you get from a roofing contractor.

3. Call Your Insurance Company

As soon as possible after any damage occurs, you’ll need to call your insurance provider. (If your roof or home has been damaged by vandalism or an illegal act of any kind, call the police to report the incident first.)

Contacting your provider will begin the claims process, and you’ll be assigned a claim number. Make sure to keep track of this number. In the case of roof replacements or extensive repairs, insurance companies will usually assign an adjuster to your case.

The adjuster is responsible for assessing the damage to your roof and estimating the cost of repair or replacement. While your insurer will likely assign an adjuster, it can also be a good idea to hire your own contractor to provide you with an independent estimate.

4. Call an Experienced Roofing Contractor

The next step is contacting a roofing contractor with expertise in insurance claims and policies. Like the insurance company’s own claims adjuster, a private contractor will come to your home to examine the damage and determine the cost of the roof replacement. 

If the private contractor’s estimate is higher than that of your claims adjuster, you will need to pay out of pocket. The insurance company will only replace the roof "as-is".  Roofs today are built differently than 20 years ago so you will generally have to cover the overages to get a Lifetime Warranty. 

Another reason to call a contractor you trust if you’ve experience roof damage is to make repairs. If the damage in your roof is causing damage elsewhere in the home, the contractor can make a temporary repair. This will help reduce damage while you wait for your insurance company to approve the claim.

Working with a locally-known and well-certified contractor when it comes time to have the roof replaced will also increase your chances of getting the cost of a roof replacement covered.

At Capitol Improvements, we’re experts in assessing roof damage and helping you file your claim, as well as in replacing your roof in a timely manner. If you’re ready to begin the estimation process and you live in the D.C. area, call us at 301-769-6909.

5. Hold Onto Receipts

Throughout the claim and roof replacement process, make sure to hold onto the receipts for everything. This includes anything you spend money on related to the roof damage, such as the following:

  • Temporary repairs or tarping done by a contractor.
  • Lodging bills if the damage made your home unlivable for any period of time.
  • Work invoices by your roof replacement contractor.
  • Receipts for anything else you paid for as a result of your roof’s damage.

You'll need to give these receipts to your insurance company to ensure you get a full reimbursement for the money you paid out of pocket.

Take Precautions to Get Roof Replacement Insurance

The steps above will help you prepare and file a claim if you want to get your roof replacement covered by insurance. However, one of the best things you can do to make sure your roof replacement is covered is take precautions ahead of time.

Taking precautions to protect your roof will not only show your insurance company that any damage was outside of your control, but it will also extend the lifespan of your roof. That means you won’t need to worry about replacing it as often.

Check for damage.

Whenever your roof goes through a storm or other weather event, it’s important to check and make sure the roof is still intact and undamaged. Look for any signs of damage to the shingles and other roofing materials, as well as debris and pooling water. You can also investigate your attic or crawlspace to make sure no moisture is coming through.

Have your roof inspected regularly.

While you can check for obvious signs of damage yourself, it’s still a good idea to have a professional roofing contractor give their stamp of approval on a regular basis. This can help show that you’ve been practicing good roof maintenance, improving your chances of having a roof replacement covered by insurance.

Take care of your trees.

Nearby trees can pose a big risk for your roof, and a fallen tree limb may or may not be covered by your insurance policy. This depends on whether the tree fell as a result of a storm, or whether it fell due to negligence.

If your claims adjuster finds that the tree was dead or unhealthy, and it did not fall solely as a result of severe weather, you could be stuck paying for your roof replacement yourself.

The best way to avoid this is to take care of the trees on your property and around your house so that they can withstand even severe storms. If a tree near your home is dead or dying, have it removed as soon as possible so that it doesn’t pose a liability to your home.

Fix small problems now.

The best way to avoid your insurance company denying your claim is to practice good roof maintenance. That means keeping an eye on your roof and taking care of problems as soon as they arise, no matter how small they are.

Piling leaves and debris, for example, can quickly lead to a leak, which can quickly lead to more extensive damage. If you notice debris on your roof or in your gutter system, make sure to fix the problem quickly.

Similarly, if a leak or other problem does occur, call your roofing contractor as soon as possible to fix the problem while it’s still fairly small. You may choose to file an insurance claim for the roof repair cost, but it’s only necessary to do so if the cost of repairs exceeds your deductible amount.

Take pictures after maintenance.

When you file an insurance claim for a roof replacement, you can provide pictures to show the severity level of the damage. It’s an even better idea to provide pictures of your roof before the damage occurred, alongside those pictures of the damage. That way, your insurance company can confirm that your roof was in good shape before the incident.

You should take pictures of the condition of your roof—or have your roofing contractor do so—on a regular basis. Make sure to take pictures after you or your contractor perform any maintenance.

How to Cover the Cost of a Roof Replacement

Your roof replacement may not be completely covered by your insurance policy. Fortunately, there are still ways to make the cost for roof replacement more bearable.

If you’re replacing your roof because it has reached its intended age limit, you’ll most likely need to pay for the roof replacement yourself. Additionally, if your roof needs more minor repairs that don’t surpass your deductible, your insurance won’t pitch in to cover the cost.

Capitol Improvements offers special financing that can reduce the stress of replacing your roof when it comes time. To receive a free quote or learn more about how we can help you with roof replacement insurance, call us at 301-769-6909.

Our Comprehensive Guide to Flat Roofs: Materials, Application, Design and More

flat roof guide

Flat roof systems require special attention that pitched roofs do not. If you own a home with a flat roof, it’s important to understand flat roof materials and construction, maintenance requirements, and everything else involved in taking care of your roof.

  1. Flat Roof Materials & Construction (top)
  2. Maintenance
  3. Flat Roof Myths and Facts
  4. Flat Roof Financing and Warranty with Capitol Improvements

Flat Roof Materials & Construction

Homeowners can choose from several different types of flat roof materials, each of which has its own application and construction process, as well as its own pros and cons. The three main types of flat roofs are:

  • Modified Bitumen Systems or MBS, including:
    • Torch-down systems
    • Self-adhering systems
  • Thermoplastic polyolefin or TPO
  • Ethylene propylene diene monomer or EPDM

1. Modified Bitumen Systems (MBS)

Modified bitumen roofs are one of the most popular types of flat roof systems in commercial/industrial applications, and they're used residentially, as well. Modified bitumen systems (MBS) have become a popular alternative to built-up roofs (BUR) because MBS is lighter and more durable.

Modified bitumen is a type of bitumen (tar or asphalt) combined with a modifying compound, thus improving its performance. The two most common compounds used to modify roofing bitumen are: atactic polypropylene (APP) and SBS (styrene-butadiene-styrene).

The two common methods for applying modified bitumen flat roof systems are:

  • Torch-Down Application (Torch Application)

Torch-down roof application is the process of adhering levels of modified bitumen (APP type) through the application of high heat.

  • Self-Adhering or Mop Application

SBS modified bitumen can be applied “cold” or without the use of high heat because of the addition of the styrene-butadiene-styrene compound. This process consists of applying self-adhering sheets or mopping the bitumen onto the roof platform.


10-12 years when properly applied in appropriate settings.


  • It comes in a variety of different types/applications to suit each home and homeowner.
  • It is less complicated and requires less labor time to install than built-up flat roofs.
  • Less complicated installation also means there is a smaller possibility of errors during installation.
  • It is relatively low-cost.
  • Modified bitumen is more flexible than built-up roofs, making it more elastic and durable against freezing temperatures.
  • It can be recycled at the end of its lifespan.


  • Torch application requires an open flame to apply, which requires special safety considerations.
  • Extra attention must be paid to overlapping joints and pieces to avoid leaks.


2. Thermoplastic Polyolefin (TPO)

TPO roofing is a type of synthetic “rubber roof”, consisting of a single-ply layer or membrane of thermoplastic polyolefin material. TPO is a popular material used in residential flat roofing applications because it is light-weight, highly reflective, and weather-resistant.

It comes in a standard white color, which helps prevent the absorption of heat. TPO roofing is also a popular choice for homes and buildings which have low-pitched (as opposed to flat) roofs because it can improve curb appeal with a unique appearance and is highly energy-efficient.


The average lifespan of TPO roofing is 20 years with proper installation and maintenance.


  • It has superior water resistance and leak protection.
  • It is resistant to heat and UV rays.
  • It is relatively cost-effective.
  • TPO is relatively low-maintenance and easy to repair.
  • TPO roofing is 100% recyclable.
  • It offers reduced energy costs, especially in cooling costs.
  • Relatively resistant to tearing and scratching.
  • TPO is very lightweight, so roof decks and joints do not need reinforcement.


  • TPO will age faster in regions with hotter temperatures.
  • It’s important to make sure your TPO roofing product is high-quality and installed by a qualified professional, since many poor-quality TPO roofing products exist in the market.


3. Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer (EPDM)


EPDM, or ethylene propylene diene monomer, is another type of synthetic rubber roofing material. Like TPO, EPDM is commonly used as a single-ply membrane. However, EPDM differs from TPO in several ways.

EPDM is an older roofing technology than TPO, so it is considered more time-tested and trusted. However, EPDM does not offer the same heat-resistance and energy-saving technology as TPO roofing.

Over the years, EPDM roofing has evolved and is now available in peel-and-stick membranes, making for quick application.


The average lifespan of an EPDM rubber roof is 25 years when properly applied in appropriate settings


  • EPDM rubber roofing is waterproof (leaks are rare) and highly durable -- EPDM roofing doesn’t scratch easily.
  • Repairs are relatively simple.
  • EPDM is lightweight, so the roof deck typically doesn’t require reinforcement.
  • EPDM roofing has a longer lifespan on average than either TPO or MBS.


  • Exterior pipes, HVAC systems, chimneys, etc. can cause leaks unless properly flashed.
  • It can be damaged by branches and storm damage.
  • It is more prone to damage from foot traffic during and after installation.
  • EPDM does not reflect heat like TPO.



One of the biggest reasons homeowners avoid flat roofs is because they require more maintenance than pitched roofs. However, if you know how to properly maintain a flat roof, you can mitigate this issue and enjoy the benefits of your flat roof without worry.

The following are the most important considerations when it comes to maintaining your flat roof.

1. Traffic Damage

This is number one our list because, to perform any type of maintenance or check on your flat roof, you’ll need to climb up and step foot on the roof. Your weight shouldn’t be enough to cause damage if the roof is properly installed. However, scuffing, scratching, or digging into roofing materials with sharp tools can damage a flat roof’s moisture-protectant layers.

2. Drains and Scuppers

Keeping the roof’s drains and scuppers clear is the second-most important step in maintaining your flat roof. Clogged drains make it impossible for water to drain off of the roof, forcing water to pool up on the roof instead.

3. Leaves and Debris

Gently sweeping the roof to prevent leaves and debris from building up can go a long way in maintaining your flat roof. Especially in the autumn months when leaves begin to fall, you’ll want to make sure you remove them from your roof before they turn to mulch.

4. Low Branches

Check the trees surrounding your house for low-hanging branches that touch--or come close to touching--your roof. These can easily begin to scrape and damage the roof before you have time to notice.

5. Caulking and Flashing

When you check your roof for damage, always check the caulking and flashing. These two parts are easy to replace, but if not maintained, can damage your entire roof system.

6. Professional Help

While some minor damage can be fixed DIY with patch kits from your local home center, larger or deeper cracks and splits require professional tools, experience, and equipment. If you’re not confident that you can seal any damage in a way that is completely watertight, call in a professional contractor for help.


Flat Roof Myths and Facts


Flat roofs improve energy savings.


TPO flat roofs work to repel UV rays and prevent heat absorption, which means you can spend less money on cooling your home during the hot summer months.


Maintenance and repairs are easier on flat roofs.


While it may be easier to climb up and walk around on a flat roof, they also require special equipment and knowledge to maintain and repair. Flat roofs also require much more regular maintenance than pitched roofs.


Flat roofs add usable space to your home.


If you’ve ever been in the upstairs or attic space of a home with a steep-pitched roof, you know just how much space those roofs can take up. Valuable square feet can be saved by choosing a flat roof, which leaves all of the space underneath fully usable.

A flat roof also adds extra usable space to the exterior of a home, whether that means attaching the HVAC unit to the roof or installing a garden or rain buffering system atop your home.


Flat roofs are less expensive to install or replace.


Because they require special training and expertise to install correctly, flat roofs are typically more expensive to install or replace than pitched roofs.


Flat roofs are perfectly flat, so they can’t shed water.


Building codes usually require even “flat” roofs to have a minimum pitch of at least 1%, or ⅛” per 1’. Some building codes even require a slope of at least 2%. This minimum slope is enough to accommodate water runoff and to help prevent water damage. Flat roofs also utilize waterproof membranes to deter moisture.


Flat roofs don’t last as long as pitched roofs.


Because they are more prone to moisture, debris, and heat damage over time, flat roofs must be replaced more frequently than pitched roofs. However, modern materials like TPO and EPDM have extended the lifespan a great deal in recent decades, and flat roof technology continues to improve.

Flat roofs are a bad idea in hot regions.


While they may not last as long in areas of extreme heat, flat roofs made of materials like TPO can work well in even the hottest regions. We recommend TPO because it is white in color and works to reflect heat away from the home. Issues like cracking and blistering usually occur from improper application of roofing materials like modified bitumen and synthetic rubber.

You can replace a flat roof yourself.


DIY sites may claim that installing new flat roof materials like TPO and EPDM is simple enough to do yourself, but doing so can result in leaks, damage, and a roof replacement that lasts no more than a few years. Correctly replacing a flat roof requires the proper equipment, as well as professional training and experience.


Flat Roof Financing and Warranty with Capitol Improvements

With Capitol Improvements, you can trust your new flat roof to last for years or decades to come.


Capitol Improvements Flat Roof Warranty

Material Warranty Period
Modified bitumen 12 years
TPO 20 years
EPDM 25 years


Capitol Improvements also offers easy financing for projects like flat roof replacement, with options for great and not-so-great credit.

If you live the DC area, contact us at Capitol Improvements to learn about how you can finance or get started on your flat roof project.