Flat Roof Replacement vs. Repair: When to Repair and When to Replace Your Flat Roof

Your flat roof is starting to show its age. Maybe it’s even been damaged by a storm or impact. But is it really time for a full flat roof replacement? If you have a damaged or aging flat roof, you may be wondering if you can get by with just a few repairs, instead.

For over 30 years, Capitol Improvements has been helping homeowners and business owners make tough decisions when it comes to their flat roofs. In this article, we’ll discuss your options for flat roof replacement and repair, as well as a few alternatives.



Replacement vs. Repair: Top Deciding Factors

If you’re wondering whether it’s time for a full replacement of your roof or just a few repairs, the following factors can help you decide. These are the top factors to consider in the decision to repair or replace a flat roof.

1. Roof’s Age

The number-one thing to consider if you’re not sure whether to replace your roof or not is the roof’s age. Some roofing materials have longer lifespans than others, but no roofing system lasts forever.

Flat roof materials like EPDM generally last up to 20 years, with an upper limit of about 25 years. How long your roof lasts depends on the quality of your roofing materials and how well you maintain your roof.

Once a flat roof reaches the end its intended lifespan, repairs can only extend its life for a few years at most. If your flat roof is reaching this age, it’s time to start considering a full flat roof replacement.

2. High Energy Bills

One of the major benefits of flat roofing materials is their ability to save energy. High-quality TPO, PVC and EPDM roofing can go a long way in keeping heated or air-conditioned air inside the house, reducing your energy costs significantly.

If you’ve recently noticed a substantial hike in your gas or electric bills, and you can’t pin the increase on anything else, your roof may be to blame.

A damaged or too-old flat roof will begin failing in its job of insulating the home. When this is the case, there may be one damaged area of the roof that can be repaired, or the entire roof may need to be replaced to improve its ability to insulate.

3. Roof Leaks

If you notice a leak in your roof, it’s important to act fast. Water coming in through your ceiling means that moisture is finding a way in through a damaged spot in your roof.

If you act quickly in this situation, you may be able to simply repair the damaged and leaking spot. But if leaking goes unchecked for an extended period of time, the roof can become severally moisture-damaged and require a full replacement.

As soon as you notice a leak in your roof, take steps to manage the leak on your own and call a professional to address the problem as soon as possible.

4. Visible Damage

One of the best ways to determine whether your roof needs to be repaired or replaced is by giving it a once-over. Luckily, climbing up on a flat roof is a lot easier than ascending a steep-pitched roof.

If you’re concerned that your roof may be damaged and in need of repair or replacement, you may want to climb up there and check it out for yourself. If you don’t feel comfortable doing so, you can always call a professional for a thorough roof inspection.

Roof Damage: What to Look For

flat roof replacement signs

If and when you examine your flat roof for yourself, you’ll want to keep an eye out for the following signs of roof damage. Some types of damage can be remedied with a roof repair, while others may indicate it’s time for a full replacement.

Damaged Flashing

Flashing is an often-overlooked but extremely important part of a flat roof system. If the metal flashing around chimneys, vents, and other fixtures is lifting, damaged, or even missing, your flat roof will undergo severe moisture damage over time.

If caught early, damaged flashing can be quickly and relatively easily repaired. Replacing the flashing on your flat roof before more extensive damage can occur will save you a great deal of money and stress in the long run.

Blistering and Cracking

Flat roofs have unique signs and symptoms that it’s time for repairs or replacement. One of these signs is blistering, bubbling and cracking of the roofing membrane.

If the top layer of your flat roof looks like it’s been damaged by the sun or high temperatures and it’s beginning to bubble or crack, it’s likely time to replace the membrane. If blistering only appears in one isolated spot, a patch repair might just suffice.

Pooling Water

One of the most tell-tale signs that a flat roof needs to be replaced is standing water. Although we call them “flat roofs,” all roofs are actually slightly sloped. This is to help ensure the proper shedding of water and prevent pools of standing water on the roof.

If the roof deck and materials warp due to age or damage, your roof will stop repelling water as effectively, which can cause a buildup of water. These pools and puddles will quickly lead to even more damage as the moisture makes its way into the roofing system.

If you notice your flat roof sagging, or you seeing puddles starting to accumulate on the roof, it’s time to call a roofing contractor quickly for a replacement.

Impact Damage

If you’ve just experienced severe weather or a major storm, you may notice gouges or dents in your roof. If you see any impact damage that’s isolated to one small area—such a as a small tear or puncture in the membrane—a patch repair may be a viable option.

How Do You Replace a Flat Roof?

Once you decide it’s time to replace your flat roof and hire a reliable roofing contractor to do the job, you’ll be in for an extended process. You may be wondering, what is the flat roof replacement process like?

Below, we’ll go over the flat roof replacement process, step-by-step, so you know what to expect.

Step 1. Remove roofing membranes

Step 2. Clean the roofing system, including flashing, vents, and wood areas.

Step 3. Remove and replace rotted plywood.

Step 4. Remove and replace rotted fascia.

Step 5. Install new HVAC stands and features if required.

Step 6. Install new insulation.

Step 7. Install new roofing membrane.

Step 8. Install perimeter flashings and fascia caps.

Step 9. Clean up debris.

Alternatives to Flat Roof Replacement

flat roof replacement

If you don’t feel ready for the full commitment of a flat roof replacement, you have a few different alternatives. Below are your options if you’re avoiding replacing your flat roof.

1. Patching

Understandably, you may be wondering if you can patch the damaged areas of your roof rather than replacing the entire roof. In some cases, patching a smaller damaged area can work. However, patching part of a flat roof is only effective if moisture damage hasn’t yet spread to the underlying roof deck or surrounding areas.

2. Re-Covering

A second option for avoiding flat roof replacement is roof re-covering. This is the process of adding another membrane (like EPDM or TPO) over the top of your existing flat roof without removing the damaged materials first. Roof re-covering can work in situations where the roof isn’t leaking or overly damaged but is simply showing signs of aging or minor deterioration.

3. Roof Coating

A similar process to roof re-covering is roof coating. With roof coating, a roofing contractor applies a thin liquid membrane on top of your existing roof. This is a proactive measure you can take if your roof isn’t already showing extensive signs of damage. A roof coating can give your roof membrane additional heat and UV protection. This alternative works best when there are no insulation issues and no underlying structural issues.

Flat Roof Replacement Tips

flat roof replacement tips

If you have to replace your flat roof, there are some steps you can take to make the process simpler and get the best result. Here are a few flat roof replacement tips from Capitol Improvements:

Know Your Options

No matter what kind of flat roofing system you have currently, there is a wide range of flat roofing materials from which you can choose. Before you begin your flat roof replacement process, be sure to review all of your flat roof options so you can decide which is best for you.

Get Guaranteed

A roof replacement is a major home improvement process and one that you want to go correctly the first time. But if something does go wrong, you’ll want to make sure you have a warranty and quality guarantee in place. Before you start the roof replacement process, double-check with your roofing contractor that both the materials they use, as well as their work, are backed by a warranty.

Check Your Insurance

In most cases, a roof replacement is the homeowner’s responsibility. An exception to this rule is if the roof replacement is required prematurely, before the roof has reached its expected lifespan, due to damage or inferior quality. No matter when you choose to replace or repair your flat roof, it can never hurt to check with your home insurance provider to see what’s covered and what’s not.

Hire the Right Contractor

The single most important factor in getting the most of your flat roof replacement is working with the right flat roof contractor. Hiring the right contractor can mean you get high-quality roofing materials rather than low-quality materials, a long-lasting roof rather than a roof that only lasts a few short years, and a stress-free roof replacement process rather than a stressful one.

Choosing a Flat Roof Contractor

If you have a flat roof, you need a flat roof contractor. Many roofing contractors specialize in sloped or pitched roofs but have little to no experience working with flat and low-sloped roofs.

Whether your roof needs repair or a full replacement, it’s important to find a flat roof contractor you can trust to help you make major decisions regarding your home. A good flat roofing contractor will be able to inspect your roof and let you know for sure whether it’s time for a flat roof replacement or not.

When you choose a flat roof contractor, don’t choose solely based on the price. By investing in a high-quality flat roof replacement with professional and expert installation now, you can rest easy for years to come.

Contact Capitol Improvements for a Flat Roof Replacement Quote

If you live in the D.C. area, contact us at Capitol Improvements for a quote on your flat roof replacement.

We work with Enerbank to offer flexible financing that can help you pay for a high-quality flat roof replacement as soon as you need it.

Best of all, we have experience working on flat roofs for over 30 years, and we offer a quality guarantee for our work and the materials we use.

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