Dear PoP – Roofing Question

Leaky Roof, originally uploaded by drw25.

“Dear PoP,

I’m new to the DC area recently bought a small duplex/rowhouse in Brightwood/Manor Park with 3 small bedrooms. The house has a flat, sloped roof called “modified bitumen”. We recently noticed a water spot on the upstairs ceiling and have asked a contractor to take a look at either repair or replacement. The roof size is about 30 by 15 ft. My question is: What does it typically cost to replace this type of roof? I really have no idea what to expect in terms of estimates for these types of roofs. Any reader help would be greatly appreciated!”

Can anyone provide any guidance here. I know when I had my roof replaced it cost like $8,000 or so.

16 Comment

  • I paid about $5200 for a new roof 4.5 years ago. Same type of roof, “flat” roof, torch down rubber roof. 20×60 (?). 3 story plus basement in CoHi

  • I am also getting bids this week for a roof repair/replacement so this is a very interesting topic. Any other replies?

  • It depends on how much work needs to be done. It could cost you as little as a few hundred dollars if the issue is a leaky seal around an exhaust stack or a broken seam between different sections of the roofing membrane, or it could run you several thousand dollars for a full membrane replacement. It could also be much, much more than that. Our experience with a leaky roof ultimately involved a poorly installed skylight, damaged and missing roof support members and a completely split main support–the leaking just happened to be the only evidence of the myriad problems that lay beneath our roof. When all was said and done, the total cost to fix the problems came out to about $17000. That included completely dismantling the entire roof and attic structure and installing new main supports, support members, decking and roofing membrane. Granted, our experience was likely on the extreme end of the repair experience spectrum, but you should be aware that you may find more problems than you initially counted on once you take a closer look.

    There are a few bright spots, of course. If fixing your leaky roof will entail anything more than a simple patch of the existing bitumen membrane, you ought to consider completely removing the old covering and replacing it with something much more modern, like a white TPO (thermoplastic olefin) surface. We did this as part of our project and we couldn’t be happier–it has dramatically helped with temperature moderation on the second floor of the house. You also may find during inspection that your attic lacks insulation. If so, you may want to consider taking the opportunity to have insulation added. Assuming you don’t wind up having to remove the entire structure as we did, you could hire an injected insulation firm (such as Summit Insulation in Maryland – to take care of that issue at the same time. And if you do have to rip the whole thing off, you can go the less expensive route and install fiberglass batts. (This is of course much easier to do when there isn’t a roof to get in the way!)

  • If you can ID where it is leaking a new roof may not be warranted. Had the same issue, patching is easy and cheap and doesnt take much time. If anyone is interested in the step by step let me know. rg

  • We paid about $6500 this past December to replace our modified bitumen roof which included a skylight installation. After getting a few quotes we went with Certified Roofing they did a good job and had the best warranty from the companies we spoke with.

    Still, from everything we heard, these roofs have a relatively short life span– 10-15 years, so I’m curious to hear what other options are available for these roofs…

  • The Mercedes-Benz of roofing material is metal. It lasts 80-90 years. I was quoted $20K for my 12X50 roof. Modified bitumen was quoted at $7K.

  • I’d say about $3,500.

    And don’t forget to use a White roof coating over top. Good R Value and good for the environment. Can be bought at the Roof Center. I think I used Henry 280DC White Roof Coating.

  • If it’s a simple repair, patch and seal, you’re looking at only $500-$300. If it’s a full roof replacement, thousands of bucks.

  • We’ve been in the exact same spot as you with the exact same roof. I’d advise talking to a variety of people/companies and don’t automatically assume that you need to replace.

    It was determined that ours was a seem problem (like a previous commenter mentioned) and the cost to reseal all the seems and put on a protective coat over everything (in case any other seems started to com loose but weren’t spotted) was about $1200. According to the roofer, that bought us about two more years use out of the roof. Then we will have to replace.

  • The lifespan of these bitumen flat roofs (and about everything else) is dramatically understated in my opinion. I’ve owned three different houses in DC, and all of them have had roofs that looked to be at least 20 years old.

    Two of the three of them leaked at some point (either when I moved in or a little later) and I fixed them both myself with some rubberized roof-patch asphalt stuff and mesh. Then I painted them with aluminum roof coating. The first house I had I was in for 10 years and never had another problem with the roof after that.

    Flat bitumen roofs are really not rocket science. While flashing and other types of roofs can be tricky, figuring out where a 20 x 50 square flat roof is leaking is just not that hard.

    Look at the edges, where the rubber bonds with the flashing, and wherever something sticks through it. Chances are some asphalt dried up and separated. You can fix this yourself in about five minutes.

    Unless the entire roof itself is clearly compromised I can’t imagine why you would replace even a really old roof if you can just fix the place it’s leaking. And the aluminum paint does great things for attic heat, as well as adding a lot of life to rubber that’s starting to crack.

  • I just bought 10 gallons of white roof paint at Lowes and painted my roof white. It used to be black tar. I’m amazed how big of a difference it has made in keeping the house cool; when I come home the 2nd floor is in the 70’s rather than the 80’s, and in turn my AC unit doesn’t have to work as hard. I spent less than $150 on the paint; I’m sure it will pay for itself by this fall.

  • I’m a licensed contractor and I’ve done several modified bitumen roofs. A full replacement should be between $4k and $6k. However, you probably don’t need to replace the whole thing if there are only a few problem spots. Make sure if they repair a crack between the seams of the roofing material that they use mesh fiberglass tape underneath the roofing compound. Otherwise it will crack and just come up again next winter. Decent repairs should cost you somewhere in the $1000 range, give or take.

  • First off, give L+M Roofing a call. I like them. Friends had problems with Maggio’s “B Teams,” you know?

    We paid $5000. They wanted to redo the whole roof for $20k, but I wanted to sell the house before I paid that.

  • We had a complete tear-off and redo on our rowhouse back in late 2006. At first we were just going to put a 2nd layer on it, since it only had one layer up there (it’s legal to put 2 layers on we were told)…but then we got a 2nd opinion, and found out parts of the roof were around 30 years old! So rather than just cover up future problems, we went with the whole kit-and-kaboodle. This way we KNOW we don’t have to worry about the roof for many years.

    Oh, and the cost was about $12,000, but they did a fabulous job – and they did the 1-story extension roof with a special membrane that can handle having a deck built on it. Roof Solutions Inc. is a great company to work with.

  • If you’re looking for an honest roofer that is reasonably priced, I suggest you give Adam’s roofing a call:

    (703) 392-9091.

    When I lived in petworth, he did roof work for me, and when I moved to northern virginia, I called him again when I thought I might need some work. He came out, took a look, and said that everything was fine…..didn’t try to do work that wasn’t needed.

  • Adam’s roofing is great. I had a small mystery leak for a couple of years, and after several examinations and patching around pipes etc. myself, finally called in the pros. The roof was less than 10 years old and appeared to be in pretty good shape. Christian Brothers Construction said it needed sealing all over, plus a sealer/coating and “general repairs” and gave an estimate of $1,700, though since they had “guys working in the area this week” it would only be $1,550 if I scheduled it for the next day.

    Then Adam’s roofing came out and said the roof was actually in good shape, outside of a few possible tiny little spots that I could patch myself (he told me what to get and how to do it!) and that sealers & coatings were basically bunk. (My roof was already done with light colored reflective material.)

    Then he figured out the source of the leak was most likely some loose and poorly fitted flashing around the 3rd floor windows (this was the half-roof over the second floor of a rowhouse) and told me how to fix that too. I haven’t got around to doing that yet, but just the way he tucked the flashing back that day appears to have done some magic – it hasn’t leaked since!

    He didn’t charge me a thing! There is nothing quite like the feeling of knowing about a good honest company.

Comments are closed.