Tar roofs are an easy and effective way to cover and seal a flat roof. Such roofs are easy to install, relatively inexpensive and, if maintained properly, can last up to 20 years.
Flat Roof Basics
Flat roofs are an attractive alternative to the traditional pitched–or slanted–roof. They are frequently used in new construction for modern-looking, modular-type homes as well as in traditional homes for porches, storefronts or other add-on rooms. However, flat roofs are not without their problems. Because they don’t have gravity’s assistance to drain water, puddles tend to form on a flat roof and can undermine the roofing seal.
A properly installed and well-maintained flat roof can last up to 20 years without leaking. However, such roofs are much less forgiving of roofing errors than traditional roofs. Some leaks can be stopped with a simple tar roof repair; other issues are better left to a roofing professional.
How to Make a Tar Roof Repair
Work on your tar roof when the outside temperature is between 70 and 85 degrees (Fahrenheit.) You can apply a tar patch when the temperature is as low as 40 degrees, but it won’t seal completely until the temperature rises. Applying a tar patch when the weather is too hot can cause the tar to drip and run.
To make a tar roof repair, identify the source of your leak. This is not as easy as it sounds. Water has a tendency to travel down beam and joists and the damaged part of the roof can be feet, if not yards, away from the leak in your ceiling.
Clean the damaged area and let it dry thoroughly. Carefully cut out the part of the roof that’s compromised. Apply a layer of roofing cement and cover with a roofing patch (available at major home improvement stores). Cover the patch with a layer of roofing tar and allow to dry in the sun. Wait 24 hours and apply a second layer.
Maintaining a Tar Roof
To keep your tar roof leak-free for years to come, avoid walking on the roof unless it’s absolutely necessary. Some people try to make roof-top patios out of their flat roofs. That’s just a disaster waiting to happen. One wrong footfall can compromise the entire roofing seal.
You should also clear the leaves and other debris from the roof at least once in the fall and once in the spring as well as drain any standing water within 48 hours. If you live in an area that gets heavy snow accumulation, you should shovel the snow off of the roof to avoid the weight damaging the roof.
When It’s Time to Call a Contractor
Not every tar roof repair job should be handled by a homeowner. Large patches and replacing the tar on the entire roof are best left to the professionals. Flat roofs can be tricky to work with and with a large job, it’s generally better to spend a little more up front and avoid problems in the months and years to come.