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mreber 03-05-2013 04:12 AM

Built up roof maintenance
I live in the city, and my house has a flat built up roof of some type. I say flat, but there is a pitch to it...not sure what the pitch is exactly. The roof seems like it's in good shape. I haven't had any issues with leaks, even with some big storms (tropical storms/depressions) coming through the area in the past 2 years. There is one section of the roof that holds water. There is a slight depression, and the water will form a puddle about 4' in diameter, and at least an inch deep. Is there a good way to take out this depression? Also, is there general maintenance that should be performed every few years? Should some type of sealer be applied every so often? Is the Henry Solarflex coating worth its cost?

jagans 03-05-2013 07:52 AM

Built up roof maintenance
Hi I am in MD also. If you can post some pictures with a close up, we can tell you what to do. I suspect you have a smooth surfaced Built Up Roof, but we need a couple of pictures. Post some pictures. Ponding means deflection. I dont like the fact that its an inch deep over 4 feet, as that might indicate wet, deteriorated insulation, bad decking or other structural deficiency. If you are in a row house in Baltimore, you will have a wood deck. The usual procedure for the original roof would have been Rosin seized paper, followed by a base sheet nailed through the red rosin, then a three ply smooth surfaced BUR. I suspect you have at least two roofs on there and maybe more, so there will probably be a recover board or two in the mix. My point here is that you may have water getting into the present roof system, but not through the original roof. I have instruments that can detect the presence of moisture without harming the roof.

The correct term for your roof is Low Slope, not flat, but that's what most people call them.

mreber 03-05-2013 08:51 AM


I appreciate the quick response. I may have been a bit liberal with saying the water is 1" deep, but I'm sure it's at least .5" deep. I'll try and take pictures, though I probably won't get to that until the weekend.


AndyWRS 03-05-2013 07:44 PM

The pros hang out here too:thumbup:

OldNBroken 03-05-2013 08:05 PM

Welcome mreber, don't let jagans scare ya. Just tell him to heel and answer your questions.

As far as building up depressions. Yes it sort of can be done but most of the time it will just create other issues somewhere else on the roof. Unfortunately depressions forming like that are a sign of leaking and degradation of the underlying material and it will only get worse. No "coating" will fix that problem. If the problem area can be located it can be cut out and repaired.

Yes, periodic maintenance is a must for a long-life BUR and, for the most part it is DIY-able. It involves cleaning (just a good sweeping most of the time) and inspecting for cracks or defects. Most of the time they can be addressed with mastic and webbing. After this is done just apply a coat of aluminum coating. It's cheap and just roll it on.

The sun is your roofs worst enemy and the aluminum protects the roof from this. It is not a water-proofing (that's what your roof is for) it just slows down the deterioration of the roofing.

Too many owners ignore and neglect their roofs until it leaks and then wonder why. It's not difficult maintenance but I guess it's the old addage "out of sight, out of mind". Oh, and JUST MY OPINION (for those on here that don't like this) I would not waste my money on that henry's or any other "high performance" roof coating. As long as it's shiny, it's good. When the shiny wears off, put some more on. Should be looked at every two or three years generally.

Hope this babbling helps

beenthere 03-05-2013 08:41 PM

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mreber 03-07-2013 06:44 AM

Thanks for the response OldNBroken. I think I'm fairly handy and I like doing things myself, but I have no experience with built up roofing. Do you think it would be a good idea to have a professional do an inspection of the roof? I can go up there, throw down some mastic/fabric/sealant, apply a coating to the whole roof, but I have no clue if I'm really doing the right thing. Bought the house two years ago, and the inspector just said the roof could use a coating in a few years. And I don't know how much I can really trust his recommendation.

jagans 03-07-2013 08:45 AM

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I do not know where in Maryland your home is, but if it is toward the west, you will have some snow on your roof this morning. Baltimore got mostly rain so it wont work there. If your roof is now covered, keep an eye on it. If you see areas that melt faster than others, it usually means that heat is escaping from below faster in those areas than it is over the rest of the roof.

Since wet insulation has little to no R value, it is quite possible that your roof has a leak in the areas that melt first. This is what we in the business call a poor mans non destructive roof survey, and it is usually pretty darn accurate. You can also use this method with frost.

You can also find wet insulation just by applying foot pressure on the roof. If your insulation is organic like fiberboard, or perlite, it will turn to mush, and it will be soft underfoot, relative to the rest of the roof. This does not apply to fiberglass, which is soft underfoot to begin with. This method usually requires some experience.

The best way to get an accurate assessment is with an Infrared roof Survey, backed up with other methods like capacitance and conductance probes. This will give you the Big Picture of what you have.

My intention here is not to scare you as implied by OldNBroken, and I am sorry if that's the way it sounded. I am just trying to help you out. It is much better to find a problem and fix it early with a BUR, as damage spreads fast on low slope roofs.

It may very well be that you have no problem at all, and your ponding is due to a build up of bituminous materials where the drip edge stripping plies have been installed. A common design problem on your type of roof.

Let us know what you see as the snow melts today, if you have snow on the roof. Take photos.

Below is an IR image of wet insulation on a large low slope roof. The light areas clearly show where the insulation has wicked water. IR surveys are performed at night when the roof radiates the heat gained during the day back into the atmosphere. Wet areas hold heat longer due to their higher density. This is not my image, but was obviously made by an experienced thermographer under ideal conditions owing to its clarity.

mreber 04-07-2013 06:43 PM

2 Attachment(s)
So I finally got around to getting on my roof and taking some pictures. The one picture shows the puddle that I previously mentioned. I took this picture two days ago. We haven't had considerable rain in a few days, so it takes a while for this to dry up. The puddle is about 2' x 3' and about 1" deep at the deepest.

The other picture shows some of the typical conditions of the roof around the vents. The material is cracking and starting to fall apart.

I think I may be leaning toward having a professional come and do an inspection. jagans, feel free to private message me.

RoofContractor 04-09-2013 05:12 AM

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