Repairing a Rubber Roof: Step by Step Guide


EPDM roofing systems, sometimes called rubber roofs, are a very popular choice for low-slope roofing applications. For most designs and applications, they are predicted to have an extended warranty life span of 15 to 20 years. Compared to modified roof platforms, they are safer to install when using an open flame torch or warm asphalt to adhere to the roof structure. In the event of a leak or damage to the roof surface, they are also easy to maintain and repair. Repairing rubber roofing is a relatively easy DIY task if you have the right equipment and materials.

Repairing a Rubber Roof – Step by Step

The choice of the appropriate repair materials and the adequate planning of the area to be repaired are two of the most important aspects when repairing rubber roof and maintaining an EPDM roof structure. Using unsuitable materials or approaches to complete a rubber roof repair and manage the EPDM roof structure can result in damage to the roof membrane, reduced lifespan, or premature roof breakdown. The use of inappropriate repair materials can also void the warranty granted by your supplier.

In this tutorial, we will try to give you all the relevant information on how to repair a leakage roof all by yourself.

Things You’ll Need

Reliable repairs on an EPDM roofing structure involve the right repair components and careful preparation of the repair region. The EPDM roofing membrane is constructed from synthetic rubber and is incompatible with products based on asphalt. It includes any form of cement flashing on the roof as well as any roof covering built on asphalt, including aluminum roof protection. Such products will contaminate the rubber EPDM membrane, which will require removal.

Patching components for EPDM roofing are available either as normal membrane materials requiring separate adhesive or as pressurizing materials pre-applied to the underside of the layer. Patching supplies are also sold in a cleaner, primer, roller and other repair kits that are suitable to adhere to the patches.
Equipment and material you will need are:

  • Household cleaners for all purposes – This fluid is used for dissolving and scraping contaminants from the roof that can not be washed off with water
  • Rags – used for patch area cleaning
  • Nitrile gloves – to avoid irritation of your skin
  • EPDM patch material – used for patching
  • Lap sealant – used for sealing of surface edges
  • EPDM roof primer – to stick patches to the rubber membrane
  • Shears or scissors – for cutting flash corners off patches to the right size
  • Paintbrush – used for the primer/glue application
  • Steel roller – for applying a patch to the roof

heck the Conditions

The conditions below should be satisfied:

  • Exterior temperature MUST be 40 degrees F or above, or the primer will either freeze or the bonding will not be as solid as you would like so that your seal will leak prematurely.
  • Reparation area MUST be dry when primer and patches are applied, or the patch won’t last.
  • You must thoroughly clean the repair surface before applying the patch, remove all debris, dirt, tar or other adhesives that could have been used.
  • It is advised (but not essential) to remove old lap caulk in certain cases, before putting the new patch.


Find the Leaks

Generally, when you remove all dirt and debris from the roof, a rubber roof field sheet will not leak except if a hole is inside it and you can usually see these cracks. So look for leaks in other spots that are not so visible. Most leaks manifest in common spots on the roof, where are rainwater pools. If you have a seam that runs through one of these low spots, there is a 95 percent chance of leakage there. Use a probe, or perhaps even a nail, to test the seam repair for any additional voids or holes. Other locations include inside and outside edges, like chimney curbs, or wall and roof attachment or flashing pipes.

Prepare the Surface

The very first step in the repair of your EPDM rubber roof is the preparation of the roof surface for the patch. EPDM has carbon inside the membrane and as the membrane grows older, the sheet produces a carbon film that can be seen when you rub your hand across the surface. This carbon film, along with dirt and other oxidation, must always be cleaned from the sheet surface to guarantee that the patches will have adhered to the roof membrane.

Use a cleaner to clean the roof surface that leaves no residue, such as household cleaner for all purposes. Clean the patch area and wash well beyond the area where the patch is being applied. Use cloth rags to eliminate the oxidation from the EPDM surface and remove all traces of humidity from the patch region.

Apply a Primer

Use a clean paintbrush to apply a good EPDM primer coat, ensuring that it spreads at least 2′′ beyond the corners of the patch you are planning to apply. Apply the primer equally so you don’t have much in one area and insufficient in the other. Ensure you don’t have dense priming “ponds,” as it won’t dry entirely, and your patch won’t adhere properly. After the primer is applied, allow it to dry for about two to three minutes, depending on conditions, temperature, and thickness of the coat you have adhered to. Do a tack and pull check until you believe the primer has dried.

Use a dry, clean finger to touch the center of the primer and pull it off. IIf the primer doesn’t adhere to your palm, you are ready to apply the patches. If you pick some primer with your finger, let it dry and repeat the check-in another minute. Besides, if you apply primers over old glue or some other type of adhesive or sealant, that means that you have not properly cleaned the surface of the roof, the primers will dissolve this old adhesive and it will take a lot longer to dry before applying the patch again. Don’t add more priming over this location, but you may need to re-apply the priming to the region around such an area, as the priming must not dry long.

Optimally, you must remove any of these old glue or sealant spots entirely and the rubber surface should be free of any external components for better adhesion to the patch. You can use a plastic or metal scraper to peel off the rubber of old stuff. For improved results, use an extra cleaner and a brush. Just make sure you don’t damage the rubber membrane.

Install the Repair Patch

Remove the film from the patch, and then apply the patch to the roofing membrane using a press-sensitive patch and press it tightly. With a steel roller, roll the patch in various directions to eliminate any air pockets and seal the patch completely.
A single-ply EPDM adhesive is applied to the back of the patch and the roof surface in the patch area using a glue-down patch, following the official manufacturer’s guidelines. Be mindful that adhesive must be conceived to seal EPDM to EPDM. Don’t use yellow glue to seal EPDM to substrates or insulating boards. Leave the adhesive to flash off, until the contact is no longer tacky. Push the patch onto the roof, push it with a steel roller, move in different directions, eliminate air pockets and tie the patches.

Seal the Patch Edges

Apply a large bead of EPDM lap sealant across the patch surface, covering all the edges. With a plastic brush, smooth and flatten the sealant so that the edges are well protected and the outer surface feathers are sealed. After that use the steel roller to level the whole patch and make sure it fits the current EPDM roof surface properly. You should use a bead of EPDM lap adhesive around the front edge of the patches to provide extra protection against water leakage.

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I’m a former member of the national swimming team. Now, I work as a lifeguard and a fundraiser for the community. Being a lover of my neighbors, I never consider myself any less valuable than those who have been working to improve people’s lives. It has been over two decades that I’ve been maintaining a safe, healthy, and conducive swimming environment for my nearby people. With a broader vision to help those living in distance, I’ve started contributing to this blog where you’ll find some of my findings, experiences, and insights into pool usages and maintenance. I hope you’ll enjoy!


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