Chimney and Flat Roof Leaks 

Most chimneys and parapet walls are covered with tar, as a repair, to prevent leaks, however, the tar dries, hardens, and cracks creating fine fissures that expand over time. Water will penetrate these cracks and seep under the roof’s membrane making it appear as though the roof is leaking. Over time the roof will be compromised due to these leaks.

While installing a roof on a Brownstone in Brooklyn, we made a video explaining our technique, to prevent any leaking, by covering the walls and chimney with a Modified Bitumen Rubber Membrane.

Video Transcript - Chimney and Flat Roof Leaks

Chimney and Flat Roof Leaks

Hi, I’m Erik with commercial roof USA. This video is for you brownstone dwellers out there. We’ve been doing a lot of work here in Brooklyn, especially recently because there’s a few maintenance issues that have been coming up, um, besides doing roofs in a lot of times you know the seams being bad and everything like that. The other most frequently, the most frequent problem we have people are people with their chimneys.

Smearing Tar on a Chimney Does Not Last

The problem is here they just smeared their old chimney that was cracking and spalling and water is getting in there freezing and breaking it open and causing leaks um so they decided to fix that and the cheap way to do that is to just to smear the whole bunch of tar all over it and that’s a temporary fix and it seems to work for a while but then after a while you start seeing it like right here I can see brick right through there because the tar doesn’t last forever it dries up and then leaves a fisher and when water gets in there it gets even worse it breaks up the stone even worse.

So this is a big problem here on these Brownstones so uh people smear with tar but that is not the correct way to do it and you can see this whole wall has been smeared this is a brick wall and the whole thing has been smeared and now they have a very big problem Now the correct way to do it I’ll show you in just a second.

The Correct Way

Alright, this is the correct way to uh maintain your brick wall. Now when your brick wall starts to get old and instead of putting tar all over it have us put one of these wraps on Now we use our modified bitumen membrane just like we use here on the uh roof then we just go directly up onto the parapet wall and then on top of it also so now this all becomes one piece with the roof there’s no there’s no attaching here there’s not stopping and having to make a transition and there’s no way the water is gonna get into the brick and then underneath our roof.

Rubber Membrane from Wall to Roof

Okay this all becomes one unit one unified membrane Okay that’s the correct way to do it And now earlier we talked about those chimneys Let me go show you um the correct way to maintain a chimney like that Alright here’s um here’s how to maintain a chimney like that When your chimney gets old just like the wall same principle we just wrapped it with our membrane We came up when we did the roof we came up halfway up with our membrane and then we wrapped the rest of the chimney and on top.

Completely Sealed

So now this thing is completely sealed and it is one with the roof okay this is essentially just one membrane over the whole thing There’s no way water’s gonna penetrate into this chimney and then get down underneath. Okay therefore also you’re also not gonna get water getting in there in the winter time like through the tar when you smear tar on there and then start you know start breaking up your stone So this is gonna stay like this pretty much forever Uh so this is the correct way to do it especially on these Brownstones you know getting around this age. This is what you need to do.

Leak Repairs: Modified Bitumen Torch Down – Brooklyn and New York

The best roofing material to use on a flat roof is a 2 Ply Modified Bitumen Torch Down Rubber Roof System. New York and surrounding boroughs have made the installation of new Torch Down roofs illegal, but it can be used to make repairs.

Flat Roof Chimney and Parapet Wall Repairs on a New York Brownstone

The image below shows an example of a chimney that has been covered with a Modified Bitumen Torch Down Rubber Membrane, sealing it permanently. This technique should be applied to all parapet walls and chimneys.

Flat Roofs and Architects

A roof is one of the most expensive components of a building. When architects design buildings, they specify the materials to be used on flat roofs and normally go with the roofing materials they are most familiar with. Most architects will specify EPDM or TPO membranes. An architect’s specifications carry a lot of weight. Therefore, most buildings have one or the other types of roof systems. Although specified, these roofing materials do not provide the best protection. When a roofing system is considered, the cost of the material, its longevity, and its maintenance, all play a role in achieving the best, overall value.

Chimney Flat Roof Leaks - Brownstone Brooklyn and Manhattan chimney transition to flat roof

Brownstone Roofs in Brooklyn

Below is an image of a group of roofs in Brooklyn. Notice that they are all Modified Bitumen Torch Down Rubber roofs. The one in the foreground, where Erik stands, is the roof that we installed. We used a Torch Down rubber membrane that has embedded ceramic granules to provide protection from UV rays.

The second roof is also a torch down roof; however, it is a plain rubber membrane because it does not have embedded ceramic granules to protect it from UV rays. Instead, this membrane has a painted-on aluminum asphalt coating for protection that is reapplied every 3-5 years.

The 3rd roof from Erik is also an aluminum coated torch down rubber membrane. The 4th roof is black because it is an unprotected torch down membrane, which does not have ceramic granules or coating for UV protection.

Also, notice the chimney to the left of Erik. Both the chimney and parapet walls were smeared with tar. We not only recovered the roof, but we covered the parapet walls and chimney with the Modified Bitumen Torch Down Rubber, as well.

Brownstone Roofs in Brooklyn - Both the chimney and parapet walls were smeared with tar. We not only recovered the roof, but we also covered the parapet walls and chimney with the Modified Bitumen Torch Down rubber

We are preparing a chimney’s surface by scraping off old tar so it can be covered with a rubber membrane.

Flat Roof Chimneys and Flashing - This chimney had been continually smeared with tar but the leaking continued.

This chimney has been completely sealed with a Modified Bitumen rubber membrane that has been embedded with white ceramic granules for protection against harmful UV rays.

Flat Roof Chimneys and Flashing - Here we are scraping off the old tar and preparing the chimney to install a rubber membrane.
Chimney has been sealed with white ceramic granules embedded in the Modified Bitumen Rubber membrane.