flat roof leaked during Sandy

I own a brick colonial in MD. When I bought (2008), the home inspector said the flat roof (10x20, over an addition) was pretty old and would have to be replaced sooner than later.
I didn't do it right away, but after a storm I noticed a leak where the drywall in the ceiling abuts the old outside (brick) wall of the house. The wall is straight, except for a chimney, and the leak was at one of the corners of the chimney.
I found a guy willing to do it for less (less than $2000, as opposed to $3000+). He wasn't in any internet rating system (Checkbook, Angie's List), but I found a guy on a HOA committee who posted that this contractor was OK.
The work was OK, but I wasn't happy about having to hassle him to come back and repaint the new roof. (With that reflecting stuff. The first time he did it was OK, but it rained too soon after he put it on.)
Only thing I noticed in the year that passed after the work was done was that the room smelled of tar/whatever when the roof got really hot. But I figured that wasn't necessarily a big deal, and it stopped after awhile.
So, now, Sandy's come and gone. Main thing we were worried about was power going out. (Our local utility has tons of outages, but this time less than 10% of customers in our locality lost power.) I went into the addition last night to get on a computer and smelled something musty. Looked over, and the leak was back. (It was worse than before, but this was a hurricane. Last hurricane---Irene---was just before the roofer came to install the new roof, but it didn't leak (or not much) cuz I put a huge tarp over the roof.)
So...now I'm not sure what to do: (1) Shrug it off---"it was a hurricane so it's a one-time event" (2) Try to figure out where the leak is coming from (but teh Intertubes suggest it's very hard to figure out, at least for flat roofs if I recall correctly) (3) Get the warranty out, and have the guy come back and fix it, despite my reservations about his competence (4) Get some kind of general contractor guy to try to fix it (5) Get a different roofer to fix it (6) Get a different roofer to repair it
I'd spend more of my own time to try to figure this out, but I've got two small kids, so there's no time to get anything done around the house---have to beg SWMBO for time (we both work) to get much done on the house these days.
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On Tuesday, October 30, 2012 9:55:57 AM UTC-4, snipped-for-privacy@jqpx37.cotse.net wrote:
[snip]
Whoops. Meant: (6) Get a different roofer to replace it.
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snipped-for-privacy@jqpx37.cotse.net wrote:

Flat roofs leak. Repair all you want but it will leak again someday (sooner than later). Better that you turn it into a shed roof with a decent gradient.
--

dadiOH
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wrote:

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On Tue, 30 Oct 2012 12:53:51 -0400, snipped-for-privacy@snyder.on.ca wrote:

X3. I would never buy a house with a flat roof, .. they are just ticking timebombs.
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dadiOH wrote:

I wouldn't say that. I have two, two-car garages with flat roofs. Once upon a time they both leaked and the former owners had them, um, repaired with a membrane thingy. They haven't leaked since and I've been here 24 years.
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wrote:

They don't leak if you maintain them, even with felt and tar. They don't last for decades like a shingled roof. Maybe 10 years without a recoat, but you have to inspect them, especially edges. The answer is (6) Get a different roofer to repair it. He'll be happy to tell you what the first guy did wrong.
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wrote:

I lived half my life in flat roofed houses. None leaked. Like any other roof, it has to be maintained and replaced when worn. They all have pitch for drainage.
Biggest problem is they are not visible so people tend to let them go as they can't see the bubbles forming and cracks opening. If I can't see it, it can't be broken, right?
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On Oct 30, 9:55am, snipped-for-privacy@jqpx37.cotse.net wrote:

I'd modify (1) slightly.
I wouldn't shrug it off per se, but I might wait until after the roof dries out and then check things out during the next rainy day. In other words, with the winds associated with a hurricane, rain water can find it's way into places where it normally wouldn't.
I might consider seeing what happens when you have a "normal" rainy day, without the 90+ MPH winds, and see how the roof does.
BTW...roof leaks can be hard to locate, whether the roof is flat or not. For example, surface tension can hold water to the bottom of a rafter and cause it to flow far from the entry point before it actually drips off. Imagine a leak near the peak with the water flowing down the rafter until it hits the top of the wall and shows up on the drywall in a corner, 15 feet or more from the source.
The same thing could happen with a flat roof if the water found an interior path to flow along until it puddles someplace and finally soaks through. Good luck!
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On 10/30/2012 6:55 AM, snipped-for-privacy@jqpx37.cotse.net wrote:

the flat roof (10x20, over an addition) was pretty old and would have to be replaced sooner than later.

drywall in the ceiling abuts the old outside (brick) wall of the house. The wall is straight, except for a chimney, and the leak was at one of the corners of the chimney.

$3000+). He wasn't in any internet rating system (Checkbook, Angie's List), but I found a guy on a HOA committee who posted that this contractor was OK.

and repaint the new roof. (With that reflecting stuff. The first time he did it was OK, but it rained too soon after he put it on.)

the room smelled of tar/whatever when the roof got really hot. But I figured that wasn't necessarily a big deal, and it stopped after awhile.

going out. (Our local utility has tons of outages, but this time less than 10% of customers in our locality lost power.) I went into the addition last night to get on a computer and smelled something musty. Looked over, and the leak was back. (It was worse than before, but this was a hurricane. Last hurricane---Irene---was just before the roofer came to install the new roof, but it didn't leak (or not much) cuz I put a huge tarp over the roof.)

suggest it's very hard to figure out, at least for flat roofs if I recall correctly)

small kids, so there's no time to get anything done around the house---have to beg SWMBO for time (we both work) to get much done on the house these days.As long as you are using a petroleum product, ie tar, to coat the roof, it will leak. Personal experience on two homes. Tar evaporates and shrinks. Natural process. Back when coal tar was used, it was self healing, but that can't be used any more.
The best you can do is hire a professional roofer to remove the old covering, down to the plywood sheeting, and apply a rubber sheet. I forget the proper name of the material, but it will allow the roof to move with heat and cold and not open up cracks. That will be a permanent fix.
Paul
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On Tue, 30 Oct 2012 06:55:56 -0700 (PDT), snipped-for-privacy@jqpx37.cotse.net wrote:

It will leak again.

What was done before? If just fixed, it is time to replace it and do it right. Get a good roofer.

kids, so there's no time to get anything done around the house---have to beg SWMBO for time (we both work) to get much done on the house these days. The house is probably the biggest single investment you will ever make. Stop being pussy whipped and take care of it.
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On Tuesday, October 30, 2012 6:19:20 PM UTC-4, Ed Pawlowski wrote:
[snip]

Yeah, I agree that it's very important. SWMBO is very "female" and just doesn't look at these things the way I do.
Aside: Pussy whipped? LOL. That would require having sex more than once in a blue moon as a result of having kids, plus sexual urge not having been replaced by the "godamnit I need to #$*!ing SLEEP!!1!" urge as a result of having kids.
:-P
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5 or 10 min out of how much time once a week or so...
or the (insert target name of person or group here) sex manual ... in out repeat if necessary.
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On Tue, 30 Oct 2012 06:55:56 -0700 (PDT), snipped-for-privacy@jqpx37.cotse.net wrote:

is straight, except for a chimney, and the leak was at one of the corners of the chimney.

<snip>
I'm surprised no one who responded said anything about the brick wall and chimney. You keep concentrating on the roof. Forget the roof for a while and look at that brick wall and chimney. Water can get between loose or cracked mortar and work it's way down. The hurricane probably drove the water into that brick like a sledge hammer.
Carefully check the brick. Hire a bricklayer if you dont know how. There are sealers that can be put on brick too.
One way to test it is to use a high powered hose or pressure washer and blast that brick on a dry day. Try to shoot all the water against the brick, not the roof. Then look for leaks.
Loose, cracked, broken mortar is not too hard to spot. Go take a look. Especially near the leak area, but water can travel, so look at ALL of the brick. There should be a metal flashing embedded in the mortar a half foot or more above the roof. That is where there is often leaks because metal expands and contracts at a different rate than brick. Plus it can rust where it meets the mortar.
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On 10/31/2012 2:26 AM, snipped-for-privacy@bookface.com wrote:

to flash this situation properly. If and when the brick work (which is NOT waterproof) takes on water, there is nothing to turn the water out. YOu need to find a roofer who is well versed in counter flashing and get a reglet sawed into the brick work. It is still prone to long term problems, but miles more professional than smearing another coat of tar on a moving joint.
--


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On Tuesday, October 30, 2012 9:55:57 AM UTC-4, snipped-for-privacy@jqpx37.cotse.net wrote:
[snip]
Thanks for all the informative replies, guy.
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