Flat Roof Leaks

I have a four unit apartment building with a flat roof in Washington DC. It's two stories with two units on each floor. The top two units have experienced leaks in the ceilings, to the point where the dry wall in one of the units is actually sagging. The leaking only occurs when it rains hard I'm in the process of getting quotes from different roofers, and so far I'm recieving very different estimates. When I bought the building 18 months ago, it passed the roofing inspection. The roof was installed around 5 years ago.
The first roofer actually went on top of the roof, and looked for possible problem areas. He said the roof was pretty good(made of ruberoid bitumen?) and that he could tell it was pretty new. However, he said the flashing was done in an inferior manner. He recommended rdoing the front flashing wall, and around the vent pipes, skylght and where ever it's needed. For this he'd charge $3500
The second roofer, didn't go on top of the building(the receptionist told him it was an estimate for aluminum siding so he didn't have a ladder with him). I showed him the leaks from inside the two units, and he said I needed to replace the whole roof. He said he could do it for $6200.
I'm still taking estimates, but it seems strange that the second roofer could redo my entire roof for less than twice what the first roofer would charge me. Any insights, or thoughts would be appreciated.
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kimathi snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com wrote:

IMO the second roofer (no ladder!?) doesn't give me a good feeling. He thinks a 5 year old roof needs to be replaced? The fact that it only leaks from hard rain tells me the roof is generally sound.
I'd go with the flashing fix the roof still has a lot of years left in it.
btw how big is the roof?
cheers Bob
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Probably about 35 ft x 45 ft. Thanks for the input. I'm going to try and get a few more estimates before I choose someone.
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kimathi snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com wrote:

The guy who said you needed a new roof w/o looking at it is a bone head. Cross him off your list.
I would probably agree with the first guy who said its just the flashing. (now I'm the bonehead for telling you what you need and don't need, sight unseen) Flashing is a common problem on a roof like yours. If he didn't try and sell you a completely new roof then I would suspect he is likely not trying to scam you. Get 2 more estimates. If the first guy is similar priced, apples to apples, then go with him. He gets rewarded for being honest and promptly responding to you inquiry. If he is a lot more expensive then ask him back to explain why. If you like his answer then go for it. If any roofer tries to tell you what you need w/o spending some time looking at the job then he would get crossed off my list. I, personally, would pay more for the guy who returns my call requesting a quote quickly, shows up for the appointment on time and can communicate the issue to me in a way that I can understand.
Good luck
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Many times, a roof leak is due to improper flashing. Another reason for a leak (in the case of modified bitumen), is the failure to weld the seams together. For the leaks to show up on your ceilings, it might be the fact that you have both: areas where water is pooling, faulty seams. If you do not have adequate slope for drainage, a portion of your roof will have to be re-done to build up a slope to a drain.
In the case of a minor leak around flashings, all qualified roofers should be able to spot the area where water is getting in. Roofing compound with a UV top-coat is a pretty good fix that can last you a couple of years.
In the case of a re-roof, you should opt for a hot-mopped (tar) roof with a cap sheet (preferably granulated) roof. It's cheap (though they might charge more for labor) and it lasts a lifetime. Roofers hate it.
-Vic
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