Brownstone Flat Roof Leaks – Watch Video

Brownstone Flat Roofs 

Brownstone flat roofs are separated by parapet walls and chimneys. These walls and chimneys are smeared with tar to protect against leaking. This tar will eventually dry and crack, causing fissures that expand and create leaks.

Instead of smearing tar on the walls and chimneys, as regular maintenance, we cover them with a Modified Bitumen Torch Down Rubber Membrane. This membrane will protect the walls and chimneys from leaking for the next 30 years.

We have Serviced These Brownstone Addresses in Brooklyn, NY 

  • 557 Decatur St., Brooklyn, NY
  • Clinton Ave., Brooklyn, NY
  • 350 Clermont Ave., Brooklyn, NY
  • 22 Fort Greene Place, Brooklyn, NY
  • 417 Clermont Ave., Brooklyn, NY


Conditions of Brownstone Roofs 

The conditions of most Brownstone roofs are fairly good because they have a Modified Bitumen Torch Down membrane, which is the type of membrane we specialize in when installing roofing. Another positive is that most of them are coated with an aluminum asphalt paint for UV protection. Areas that may need attention, are the parapet walls, chimneys, skylights, and hatch doors, which can develop leaks due to improper flashing and transitions to the roof.

If you are having leaking issues, or just need a new roof, you should not remove the existing roof, rather, the installation of a new Modified Bitumen rubber membrane over it, is best.

We also advise that the 2-ply membrane with ceramic granules embedded for protection against harmful UV rays, be your first choice, as there was no mistaking the number of roofs we saw painted with an aluminum asphalt coating. This coating only lasts a few years, as protection from harmful sunlight.

 A Brownstone Chimney is Wrapped 

The image below shows 2 chimneys. The one in the foreground is wrapped with the same membrane as the roof. Here, there is no flashing between the chimney and the roof; it is a continuous membrane.

The chimney in the background is covered with tar to seal it. The roof membrane stops at the base of the chimney. Over time, the tar will degrade and peel away and cause leaks.

A Brownstone chimney is wrapped with rubber roof membrane.

 Hoisting Materials to Brownstone Roofs 

Above is a video of a hoist we made especially for accessing Brownstone rooftops in Brooklyn and Manhattan. The hoist makes getting roofing materials to the roof, easier and without having to go through the client’s living space.

Laws for Torch Down Roofing Applications

Currently, there are laws against using a torch to install new roofs, but not to repair one. It is best when 2 torch down membranes are fused together. It becomes a reinforced 2-ply membrane, able to withstand the elements for many years to come.

Chimneys and walls are smeared with tar for leak protection in Brooklyn and Manhattan.

Tar is Smeared to Seal

The wall and chimney show that tar was smeared on them to seal them from water leaks. This is not something that will last because the tar will dry and crack. The best way to seal a chimney or wall is to cover it with a Modified Bitumen Rubber Membrane as you can see in the image above.

Brownstone Chimneys in Winter Conditions

Most of the chimneys in Manhattan and Brooklyn are smeared with tar. When the tar cracks, water will seep into those cracks. During the winter, the water will freeze inside these cracks and cause the mortar and the brick to crack, making it vulnerable to leaks that will come with the first thaw.

Best Repair Practice for Brownstone Chimneys

When it comes to parapet walls and chimneys on a Brownstone, the best way to repair them is to cover them with an MB rubber membrane.

Drain Strainers for a flat roof. Custom strainers are better. Watch this video how it works
Improving-drainage-for-a-flat-roof by lowering the drain Watch video
Installing a Retrofit Drain on a flat roof - Watch Video
Best draining system for a flat roof - See this video about a drain that was lowerde 15 years ago
Cracked skylight seal causing leaks - watch this 3d animated video to see where a skylight can leak
Installing a flat roof over Tar and Gravel roof. This is a two ply roofing system that is the best in the industry -Watch the video
 UltraViolet beating a EPDM rubber roof - watch this video to see how a EPDM rubber got destroyed
EPDM Rubber Seam Problems - the most common place for EPDM rubber roofs to leak is at the seams - Watch Video
Deciding when to replace or repair a flat roof - Watch this video to help you make decisions
Ultraviolets will damage EPDM Rubber roofs prematurely - Watch the video to see how bad ultraviolets are for a rubber EPDM roof
Metal Roof Rusting Through - Almost any metal roof can be recovered or repaired - Watch this video
Flat Roof Drains and Strainers on Commercial Roofs
A/C Unit Installed on an EPDM Roofing System
Brownstone Flat Roof and Chimney Leak Repair
Five Commercial Flat Roof Systems Explained

 Repairing Flashing on a Brownstone Chimney

Repairing flashing on a Brownstone in Brooklyn, New York, sometimes requires us to climb and rappel using safety equipment.

Rappelling to repair flashing on a chimney in Brooklyn, NY.

Dad’s Watchful Eyes

Dad worries and prays.

Watching Andre repair flashing on a chimney in Brooklyn, NY.

Membrane Instead of Tar

Instead of smearing tar to seal a parapet wall, we covered the wall with a Modified Bitumen roofing membrane. This is, by far, the best way to ensure that there will never be a leak between the wall and the roof.

Membrane Instead of Tar - Walls and chimneys are covered with a rubber membrane Brooklyn

Flat roofs in Brooklyn Brownstone Building

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  1. Steve White

    The modified Bitumen membrane sounds much sturdier than tar. Flat roofs seem to have lot of problems, but you guys seem to know how to keep those issues to a minimum. Thanks for the info!

  2. Bonny J. Baron


    Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine writing a positive review about a roofing company. However, Commercial Roof USA is so deserving of praise. I live in a Brooklyn Brownstone apartment with a flat roof that has been leaking. Multiple prior roofers evaluated the leak and a new roof membrane was placed, however, the problem persists. To make things more complicated there is now a roof deck above the new roof membrane.

    Desperate to find someone that could help me find and repair the leak, I scoured the internet and came across Commercial Roof USA and Naas Ferreira. They had previously received wonderful recommendations in the Brownstone forums.

    I spoke with Naas directly. He could not have been more helpful on the phone and made it clear he was always available. His business is family owned. He sent his sons Erik and Sven to check my roof. They could not have been nicer, more professional or more honest. Erik crawled around under my deck and evaluated every inch of the roof to look for problems. He found several spots on the flashing of the new roof that were the likely culprits. Needless to say, this job would have been much easier if there was not a roof deck, but Erik was determined to do all in his power to not damage anything unnecessarily.

    More work will be needed, but I won’t let any other roofer near my roof deck other than Naas and his sons. It is such a breath of fresh air to see a small family business maintain such high standards and be so successful.

    Congratulations and thank you Naas and family at Commercial Roof USA!

    Bonny J. Baron
    Brooklyn, NY

    • Naas Ferreira

      Thank you, Bonny
      We would be happy to assist you in the future. It was a pleasure to serve you.



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