As you may know, we specialize in the installation of IB roofs – premium grade PVC flat roofing membranes, with fusion hot-air welded seams, which ensure permanent lap bond, and as a result, leaks-free performance. At the same time, if you have a rubber roof, which is in fairly decent shape, but has developed some leaks due to lap sealant (epdm rubber glue) failure, we can repair it fairly inexpensively, as compared to installing a new IB membrane, and extend the service life of your rubber roof. Learn more about our rubber roof repair services in MA, CT and RI. We want you to know that although we repair rubber roofs, we will not install one, because for us it is an inferior roofing material with too many limitations and extremely high probability of developing leaks.
Here we will explain you how these repairs work and what you can expect, as well as show a few roof repairs in Massachusetts, which we have done recently. We also recommend that your read our Rubber Roofing guide, which explains the shortcomings of rubber roofs, and why we advise home owners to stay away from EPDM rubber roofing systems due to product limitations and an overwhelming number of dishonest roofing contractors eager to install rubber roofs, without proper knowledge of this system. Instead, we recommend installing IB Flat Roof – a PVC single ply flat roofing system with hot-air welded seams, which will not break down, as rubber roof seams tend to do after 5-7 years.
We also want to let the flat rubber roof owners know that any rubber roof repair or installation must be performed in temperatures above 40 degrees F, as the primer / adhesives will otherwise freeze or be too cold to properly dry/tack, and provide proper adhesion. Unless your roof repair is more of an emergency, we recommend postponing it until warmer temperature sets in. If your roof repair is an emergency, special measures can be taken to keep the adhesive warm, and on a sunny day black rubber will be warmer than outside temperature, so repair can be done even on a colder day. We strongly advise you against installing a new rubber roof in general, and in the winter especially. Read more info on pros and cons of winter roofing. Keep in mind that IB flat roofs can be installed in any temperature, because they are not glued, but hot air welded.
EPDM rubber roof repair in Brookline, MA
As you drive on Newton St. in South Brookline, there is a big apartment complex, located right next to the Exxon gas station. This apartment complex has a fairly recent Carlisle EPDM rubber roof, which is about 7-10 years old (according to the property manager), but due to some ponding water, this roof has developed leaks in some spots, which the management had to repair, before small leaks escalated into bigger problems. Also, the skylights which were spread throughout the roof, created additional potential leaks. Since EPDM rubber roofs are not warrantied for any type of ponding water (water that stays on the flat roof for more than 48 hours after the rain), I made a note for the complex management that their small leaks can turn into bigger problems if actions are not taken. However, this ponding water problem was not as severe as in other cases, because the water was able to drain through the Roof Drains located in different parts of the roof.
We have inspected the roof with a seam probe to find obvious separated seams, and to the owner’s relief, the seams were in more or less decent shape. However, the corner flashing on the roof fire exit was worn out and developed holes, which had to be repaired. We used the peel-and stick quick-applied rubber flashing, which is an uncured rubber material and can stretch to conform to the required shape (and inside or outside corner, pipe flashing, etc.). After installed, uncured flashing material will cure under the sun’s UV rays, while keeping its new form. Peel and stick rubber flashings are applied with the EPDM primer, which ensures better adhesion and longer lasting repair.
Once the uncured flashing is installed, it is already watertight and just needs to cure and take its new permanent shape. Then the edges of all flashings are also caulked with EPDM lap sealant for additional water-tightness. The uncured EPDM flashing material is installed on odd-shaped roof penetrations. If you need to flash a straight line, such as lap seam, a special EPDM rubber cover tape is used. It is also a quick-applied peel and stick materials, but already cured, and will retain its existing shape. Read on to learn how EPDM cover tape is used to re-seam a commercial roof to dramatically extend its service life.
Rubber roof repair in Boston, MA
This is a commercial office building in Boston, which has developed leaks in different parts of seam overlaps between separate sheets of rubber membrane. The roof is a 60-mil EPDM rubber, made by Firestone, with river rock ballast to hold the membrane down. We had to shovel off all the ballast away from the seams, so we could clean and repair them.
Once the loose gravel was broomed and shoveled off the seam joints, the seams had to be wiped clean with the EPDM rubber cleaner. You should know that many “rubber roofers” will use gasoline to clean the seams, instead of the cleaner, which costs almost twenty dollars per gallon, instead of gasoline being under $3 right now. However, rubber should not be cleaned with gasoline, as oil based products will actually break down the EPDM membrane with time. Even though gasoline will evaporate before it will have a chance to do any real damage, it will certainly not be beneficial to you as a roof owner if your roofing contractor washes seams down with gasoline. Rubber roof manufacturers strongly object to roofers using gas to clean the seams. However, they can do very little to enforce this, so it is often the responsibility of an honest contractor not to use gasoline to clean the membrane, and the roof owners should also inspect the contractor’s work, while the roof is being installed, to make sure they get quality installation.
Notice in the picture above, while one roofer is cleaning and soaking the seam area with membrane cleaner, the other roofer uses a rough push broom to clean off the tough dirt, so that there is proper adhesion between the rubber membrane and seam tape.
Once the area is cleaned with the membrane cleaner, a rubber primer is applied to the area of contact, and left to be dried to the point of being tacky. After the primer is dry, peel and stick seam tape can be applied. The special chemical on the peel and stick tape makes use of the rubber glue (splice adhesive) unnecessary. The primer acts as a glue and actually creates a stronger bond than the splice adhesive.
In fact, the introduction of peel and stick seam tapes and other flashing materials for rubber roofs, made the entire system a lot better than it was when the only option was the splice glue, which would often fail in 5-7 years after the original installation. With peel-and-stick roof accessories, rubber roofs now can last 10-12 or longer, before re-seaming is required.
Once the EPDM primer is applied and allowed to dry for a few minutes, the Peel and Stick cover tape is installed and carefully rolled in using a Silicone roller to push out any air bubbles and ensure stronger, even adhesion between the roof and the cover tape. When all tape is installed, edges are caulked with EPDM lap sealant for additional protection. Now this roof should last at least 5 more years, before additional repair or replacement is required.
On commercial re-seam repair work, we can offer a bi-annual roof inspection / service contract with three years water-tightness warranty, which VERY few roofing contractors can offer. Warranty and service contract can be discussed separately, when we give you a roof repair estimate. Neither is included by default into our standard rubber roof repair service.
Rubber roof repair in Lexington, MA – chimney cracks and copper counter flashing
A more recent, residential rubber roof repair, that was done on the roof of a “newly historic home” in Lexington, Massachusetts. Homeowners had a new rubber roof installed in 2002 by a New Hampshire construction company, which is now out of business, and could not provide roof repair. After about seven years, the roof began to leak around the chimney. Prior to this leak, the original roof installer was supposed to install a lead counter flashing around the chimney. They skipped this part of roof installation, and had to come back to finish it after the homeowners confronted them with the issue.
As I came to inspect the roof, I noticed that there were large soft spots around the chimney corners. The lead flashing was eaten by squirrels on all four corners of the chimney, and the chimney itself had multiple cracks in the brick, mortar, as well as old cracks that were sealed with some type of exterior caulking, which was now failing. Other than that, to my surprise I could not find any actual leaks in the rubber roof. The design of the house, which is a butterfly roof sloped down from the center, makes this roof virtually leak-free unless the installation is a complete hack job. It was also more or less properly installed with 3″ peel-and-stick seam tape, seams overlapping in the downward direction, and single-piece pipe boots. The only part that could leak was the chimney membrane flashing, but it was also in very decent shape, and the seam-probe test showed no separations between the roof and chimney flashing.
Only after the lead flashing was removed, I found a small separation in the chimney flashing at the corner, which was eaten by squirrels. This flashing separation could potentially leak, though it would be a minor contributor. I concluded that most of the leaks came through the chimney cracks, which had to be thoroughly cleaned off and wire-brushed, to allow the new sealant to properly adhere to the brick. I also recommended to replace the damaged lead counter-flashing with new Copper flashing, which would last a lot longer and squirrels would not chew it.
I started out by removing the old lead flashing and cutting a continuous 1″ deep grove into the chimney, in which new copper flashing would be permanently inserted. This grove was made in the brick itself, and not into mortar joints, which are much softer and do not provide sufficient strength for the counter-flashing. Once the cuts were made and all the brick dust was cleaned out of the grove and the roof, I began cleaning out the cracks in the brick and removing the old caulking.
Once all prep-work was completed, it was time to flash the only rubber material separation found around the chimney. I thoroughly cleaned the rubber membrane with the rubber cleaner, applied EPDM primer and installed the peel-and-stick, uncured flashing, which covered both sides of the corner, as well as the base of the corner flashing and the seam separation that I found after the lead counterflashing was removed.
After all cracks were thoroughly cleaned, wire-brushed and the corner flashing was installed, I began making the new copper counter flashing. We used a 16 oz. copper sheet to cut and field bend a 12 inch wide flashing, which would be inserted into the groves. The 16 oz. copper is very thick, as compared to aluminum or steel – it is almost 1/16″ thick metal. This makes it a bit difficult to work with, even though it is softer than steel.
The new copper flashing pans were first cut and bent to properly fit around the chimney, but were not permanently put in until all four sides of the chimney were done. The first pan was installed at the bottom of the chimney. Then, the side pans overlapped the bottom pan at the corners of the chimney, and then the back pan overlapped the the side pans, making it an completely watertight chimney counter flashing.
As we were installing the copper pans, we had an unexpected visitor on the roof. The visitor snuck up behind our backs, and quietly climbed onto the roof. This visitor was more than unexpected, as we would never imagine seeing one climb on the roof. It turned out to be a neighbor’s cat, which was very pretty and absolutely not afraid of us, or the noise we were making. The cat climbed up the ladder, inspected the situation, made sure we were doing a good job and disappeared for a while. It later came back for a final roof inspection.
Under the strict supervision of the neighbor’s cat we carried on with the installation of the copper counter flashing. Once all pans were cut, bent and tightly fitted, we removed them from the chimney and installed a premium roofing caulking sealant (Solar Seal 900), which would hold the pans in place, as well as make them watertight. We also sealed all the cracks in the chimney, to make sure water was not getting through those cracks.
Once all the caulking was applied, the pans went back in, and permanently sealed with additional bead of caulking. The pans were also locked into each other to prevent separation by strong wind. The chimney and rubber roof repair was now complete with a new, long-lasting copper flashing reglet.
Rubber roof repair in Massachusetts
You can learn more details about our rubber flat roof repair service and schedule an appointment for us to fix your rubber roof.
Upon the completion of your roof repair or instead of, we can provide you with a quote to install a new IB Roof. You can calculate an approximate cost to install an IB membrane and compare prices with EPDM Rubber as well as Built-up and modified bitumen roofs, with our online roofing calculator. We can also provide you with a complete roof inspection and a roofing estimate which will include the exact cost of a new roof installation, as well as our suggestions about insulation and roof repairs.