If you own a commercial building in the Las Vegas valley, the odds are that it has a flat roof. While these are popular among builders and business owners due to their low cost and ease of maintenance, if you fall behind in keeping up with repairs, your roof could quickly deteriorate in the event of a major storm. Sometimes you may not know you have an issue until it’s too late and your leaky flat roof turned the inside of your building into a swimming pool.
What to Do When Your Flat Roof Leaks in Heavy Rain
It doesn’t rain often in Las Vegas, but when it does, it pours. It’s not uncommon for a sudden storm to bring us the lion’s share of our annual rainfall. Your building’s roof may have been damaged over the years, but you won’t notice it until you get a call from an angry tenant telling you the roof is leaking in the middle of the work day.
It's important to get your roof repaired as soon as possible to prevent water from further damaging your building. In many cases, you can patch damage to a flat roof on your own. However, if your roof has any of the following types of damage, you should seek out expert assistance or you could make the problem worse:
- Large holes in the roofing felt
- Severe cracking (alligatoring)
- Puncture caused by debris
While on rare occasions you’ll need to replace your roof if it has some major leaks, in most cases a few repairs will suffice. You may even be able to do it on your own if you can easily access your roof.
How to Temporarily Fix a Leaking Flat Roof
You may want to save money until you have the budget to invest in the necessary repairs for your roof, which means you’ll need to make some repairs of your own.
Find the Leak
Look for the source of your leak from inside the building. The water may have run along your roof through the leak and pooled in a different spot, meaning the leak may not be the spot which has the most water. Take a few measurements of the area where you suspect a leak relative to nearby walls.
Get on the Roof
Take the measurements you made from the interior and begin looking for the leak on the roof. If no damage is apparent, look for any damage to the roof membrane near any flashing or vents on the roof. If you have to use a ladder to access the roof, make sure it is securely positioned on the ground. If your roof is too high or you feel unsafe, or if you simply cannot find the leak, you may need to call a specialist.
Remove Any Debris
Your roof may have debris which can obstruct your work or which can cause further damage. Carefully remove any foreign objects from the area near the roof leak before starting work. You’ll also be able to determine if your roof was damaged in a storm or if it is simply facing age-related wear and tear.
Dry the Area
Flat roofs often collect water, so be sure to dry the area you intend to repair before you begin to work on it. If you repair a hole and trap moisture underneath your patch, you could cause mold to grow under your roof. If large amounts of water are already running in between layers of your roof, you may need professional assistance.
Identify the Damage
Look for any blisters on your roof, which can indicate that water or air has seeped between the different layers of your roof. You will also want to check for cracks or alligatoring, which usually indicates long-term sun damage. The type of damage you have will determine which repair method is most appropriate. In cases of severe damage, it’s best to call a professional.
Cut the Damaged Area
If your roof leak is due to a blister, carefully cut through the damaged membrane and remove any moisture that may be present. You’ll need to cut away all damaged layers of your roof membrane, but be careful to not damage the roofing felt underneath. Make sure to thoroughly dry the areas you want to repair before moving on to the next step.
Apply Roofing Cement
Peel back the layers of the membrane you cut and apply roofing cement to the leak and to the entire section of the roof underneath the membranes you cut away. This will plug it and will also provide an adhesive for the flaps of the membrane to stick to. Press the membrane flaps to the cement to reseal the cut.
Nail it Down
Once you lay down the flaps of the blister, nail them to the roof to fully secure them in place and to seal the leak. Make sure you won’t be nailing any wires underneath or any other sensitive infrastructure. Cover the nails with more roofing cement to seal any holes you may create.
Flat Roof Repair Costs
If you're looking to skip all of this and go straight to a professional, Home Advisor reports that the average price to fix a roof leak is between $300 to $500. Depending on what type of roof you have and what damage it has sustained, a more comprehensive set of repairs could cost anywhere between $250 to $350 per 100 square feet of a flat roof. However, this is a small price to pay compared to a full roof replacement, which can cost anywhere from $3.50 to $10 per square foot. That means it’s vital to regularly maintain your roof and to repair any leaks as soon as possible.
Flat Roof Coatings as a Repair Option
Instead of simply patching a leak, you might want to go a step further and get a roof coating. This consists of a thin layer of synthetic material that can give your roof long-term protection from the elements. A roof coating can be painted on in as little as a day (or over the course of several depending on the size of your building) and does not require tenants to vacate during work. This option provides much more comprehensive coverage than a few repairs and costs far less than a full roof replacement.
In addition to stopping leaks, a roof coating can also drive down power costs by up to 50% since it will reflect more sunlight off of your building. A roof coating can also extend the roof's life by anywhere from 5 to 7 years, which can give you time to save up for a replacement. You can also claim a federal tax credit after obtaining a roof coating, which isn’t something available with full roof replacements.
While you can’t avoid every leak, with regular maintenance you can spot damaged areas on your roof before they become major problems. You should get a roof inspection to assess what the damage is to your commercial building to avoid a full roof replacement. Your building is a major investment and a working piece of capital, and your roof absorbs damage daily while protecting it. By conducting regular maintenance and inspections, you can be sure it will keep producing value for you for years to come.