Single-Ply Roof Repairs: What You Need to Know

March 23, 2021

Whether you see a burn, cut, hole, or puncture on the roof or detect a leak inside the building, it’s time for a roof repair. It might surprise you to learn that the cause is often man-made. “Most flat roofs are utilized as a work platform where personnel or contractors perform maintenance or repairs to rooftop equipment. This is when damage typically occurs,” says James (J. J.) Longerbeam, Vice President Service, D. C. Taylor Co., Cedar Rapids, IA.

It is always best to repair the damage as soon as possible. Moisture intrusion can cause lost product/profit, increase liability due to slips and falls, and reduce the thermal performance of insulation, among other things. Even if the timing isn’t ideal, don’t wait. A permanent repair can be scheduled for a later date when the weather is favorable after a temporary repair is performed in unfavorable conditions.

Don’t DIY the Roof Repair

You might be tempted to make the repair yourself, but most likely the materials you use won’t be compatible with the roof system. “Silicone does not have good adhesion and does not last long at all. Black Jack breaks down quickly with the sun’s UV rays,” explains Longerbeam. A professional contractor will know how to complete the repair according to manufacturer’s specifications. They also know how to work safely on the roof and can deploy fall protection and PPE to ensure the repair is completed without incident or injury.

If the roof system is still under warranty, it’s especially important to hire a contractor that’s licensed and certified by the roof system manufacturer. Additionally, a professional roofing contractor can usually tell you if the repair is going to be covered by the warranty.

When you contact them to schedule the repair service, share as much information as possible. Provide photos so they know the significance of the damage. Describe the problem in detail (i.e. what’s occurring, how many problem areas are there, and what are the dimensions). Also relay information about the roof system type(s), manufacturer, brand, thickness, slope, age, etc. This will ensure that the contractor comes ready with the appropriate tools and materials, and in the right quantity. “If it’s more than five repairs, we’ll need more than truck stock,” says Longerbeam.

The Repair Process: Step by Step

Roofing contractors with knowledge and years of experience understand how best to complete the repair based on the nature of the problem, roof system type, and its age. Generally, these are the steps they follow:

Step 1: Inspection. Typically, a visual inspection is performed to identify the roof defect(s). Once the roof leak source is identified, the trade work begins.

Step 2: Fall protection. The crew will set up safety to load equipment and material to the roof for repair.

Step 3: Prep the area. The single-ply membrane is cleaned and prepared for the patch.

Step 4: Apply the patch. The roofing contractor will heat-weld a new membrane patch over a TPO or PVC roof depending on the age of the membrane. If necessary, primer and peel-and-stick tape may be necessary (typically for an EPDM or thermoset repair).

When it Can’t – or Shouldn’t – be Repaired

Making a repair to a roof system that is more than 15 years in age requires a different approach. “Heat-welding a patch to an old membrane could very quickly (6 months from the time of the repair) cause deterioration to a brittle membrane,” warns Longerbeam. It’s likely the roofing crew will clean the area with soap and water (not solvents that can accelerate deterioration) and put down double-sided tape and membrane.

There are some instances where a roof is beyond its expected life and repairs are no longer an option. This is why proactive maintenance and routine inspections are critical to the life expectancy of every roof.

Contact D. C. Taylor Co. today at 319.731.4118 to schedule roof repairs.

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