New torch down cracking

We put down a couple of squares of modified bitumen using the torch method. My husband did this yesterday and we are noticing some cracking today. Could it be that the weather is too cold? and what is the remedy?


How old was the material?

Where are the cracks?

we just purchased the material and my husband said he just opened a new roll and it looks like it is cracking from the cold. We are in NY and it is pretty close to freezing here in the day and probably freezing at night. Someone else suggested that he may have pulled too tight when rolling it out and it shrunk with the cold.

youve got bad material from the mfgr.however you are going to have to be an approved installer before said mfgr will honor any defect the salesman from the supply house and complain that unused, cracked roll

You’re not supposed to torch under a certain temperature. Check the specs on your material or contact their tech dept. via phone or e-mail.

You should store the materials somewhere warm. (above 60 degrees would be nice.

Roll out the entire sheet and allow it to “relax” for a few minutes prior to application.

Sadly if the roof is cracking I’d say rip and try again. Your lesser options include but are not limited to.

"stripping in" the cracks with new modified
tar and fabric the cracks

You can also go over the existing with another top sheet but don’t forget to imbed your granules like you do when lapping.

is the cracking long and sporatic or does it look like alligator skin?

he said it looked like alligator skin. He heated it up again and said it looked fine. The weather warmed up a bit as well. If worse comes to worse we will just have to replace it for the homeowner in the spring. Good thing it is only 2 sq. Live and learn. You guys are very helpful.

My hubby just brought home some pics. I will post them.

Right at the back of the chimney is where there was some concern about water puddling but I don’t think it will leak. As for the cracking, this is the first that I am seeing the photos and it doesn’t look bad does it? Anyone see any concerns here?

Yes I do have critiquing!

It looks as if there are open fish mouths or mouse houses along some of the seams.

The seam overlap at the one edge is bucking the direction of water flowage.

Does the membrane tie into the top of the shingles? If so, it is not secured properly with a termination bar.

The membrane by the right side window corner looks like a likely candidate to leak and it once again looks like there is no termination bar to secure it to below the sill. Also, there seems to be a poor attempt to curl the material onto the lower sheet along that wall.

How is the material fused to the sheet metal edging detail? Did he prime the sheet metal with an asphalt primer first? If not, the material will pull away from the metal edging.

The corners are pointed and not rounded, but that is okay sometimes if the job is properly torched.

There seems to be width wide humps in the rolled out membrane in multiple locations. I tend to think that he cheated in the torching application. It looks as though he only fused the seams together and not the entire sheet across the roll.

If he does not know how to install this material, he should hire someone to work for him who does so that he could watch and learn.

Probably more if I look at it closer, but this is just my initial glance over opinion and I do not have any more time right now…


Was the roll stored vertically (where it had a chance to retain it’s “round” shape) or horizontally (where, if left in this state for long or something else was stacked on it) the roll might have flattened out some?

He said that the ripples you see are from the wood under the base sheet because it is an old roof. He also said that he heated the entire roll and not just the seams. Where the membrane meets the window he caulked and screwed and ran the membrane up under the siding. He feels confident I guess we will just wait and see. I truly appreciate the feedback.

id bet that those cracks return within 6 months.

It should hold up over the winter and we can inspect it again in the spring. If we need to replace it, we will.

Wait & see = “well, I guess we can hope it doesn’t leak & if it does, I suppose we should go back & do a repair.”

Now, that may not be exactly what he meant but that’s how I’m reading it.

It looks as though the rolls may have had flat spots.
Perhaps it was too cold for the modified to relax.

What type of base sheet did you use?
How was it fastened and what pattern did you use?
Was all the old decking firmly fastened?
By firmly fastened I mean new nails\screws in the loose decking (planks?) Not just the loose rusty nails pounded back in…
If you have loose decking (especially with planks) you will have deck movement and nail pops.

Temps of “around freezing” are not usually too cold to apply Torchdown, you should keep your material warm and only expose to the cold what you are going to immediately apply.
*Preheat the base sheet a little in the area you are going to torch.
Roll out the torchdown and position it, let it relax, *Preheat it a little before you roll it back up, then apply as usual.
The idea is for the base sheet and torchdown to be close to the same temperature at application.

By preheat I just mean warm it up a little, don’t melt anything or get it too warm, you should have a feel for this.

It could be a defect, probably not.
What brand is it?
I don’t do as much torchdown as I used to, but of the brands I have used most I have noticed that Ruberoid and Firestone seemed like it cracked more than Brai.

You really do need to trowel in the fishmouths and some of the seams though.

[quote=“RanchHandRoofing”]Wait & see = “well, I guess we can hope it doesn’t leak & if it does, I suppose we should go back & do a repair.”

Now, that may not be exactly what he meant but that’s how I’m reading it.[/quote]

That is not what I meant as we are not that type of roofer. What I meant is that the roof is new and so far it is not leaking and may not leak at all. If it does we will certainly go back and fix it. What I meant is that we will look at it again in the spring and if we or the customer is not satified with it, we will replace it. We are a very young company and I am still learning. That is why I turn here for advice lots of times. Axiom-I am not sure what the answers are to most of your questions as my husband is not here at the moment however, the brand of Mod Bit is Polyglass, that I do know. I will keep all of your advice in mind. Thanks

You did not answer all of my questions.


Termination bar?

The membrane will become loose between the fasteners against the siding due to expansion and contraction.

He either did not know how to do the job properly and was over his head or he did not care enough to follow the manufacturers specifications.

I consider you husband to be one of the “hacks”, which are so common in the industry. He may be your husband, but at this point and time he had no business doing an improper job and having to have you ask questions about how to do it right after he was already done.

Even if it does not leak by next spring time, it is still done wrong.


Thank you very much Ed. I’m glad you were born with all of the answers and never had to learn. I will come to you with all of my questions. I am trying to get the specs as we speak. There is nothing on the roll and the supply company has no idea. I am going to the manufacturer to get some info. My husband is not a hack, he is trying to make a living for us and I am proud of him. If he does something wrong, he will fix it. Knock on wood we have not had 1 complaint yet.

Mexi, please take my comments from a perspective of constructive criticism.

Knocking on wood is akin to wishing upon stars that callbacks don’t happen.

One of the most famous coaches ever to work in collegiate football, Darrel Royal, had this quote:

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” He also said “You’ve got to be in a position for luck to happen. Luck doesn’t go around looking for a stumblebum.”

From what you said, it sounds an awful lot like you’re not 100% confident in the work being done & that’s not a great way to work - @ least not on the customer’s behalf, that is. The only variable should be in the manufacturer’s quality, not in the labor perrformed, so I can understand your questions about the cracks from a perspective of whether or not the product could have been in failure from an aspect of how it was made, not in how it was applied.

My other comment is in “knowing everything”… there comes a time when you just have to say “well, I really don’t know how to best approach this / do this project.” Just 2 weeks ago I turned down a light commercial job where I was only marginally confident we could do the work required. In the end, the customer was happier with me because I declined the project & I may get more residential from him.

None of us woke up knowing everything, but we certainly have our share of apprenticing or learning from others a) while on the job & b) in stages. You don’t bite off more than you can chew & then hope it all goes well when it’s all done.

How would you like it if you were the customer? Would you be confident in that sort of approach by your contractor?

Nobody here said you shouldn’t put food on the table. What we are trying to do is advocate for the customer by showing how things can be avoided from the very start. Proper preparation goes well beyond the right tools & parts.

I certainly appreciate what you are saying. It is not that I am not confident in my husbands work. He is very good at what he does. We too have turned down jobs that we thought were beyond what we could manage. My husband spent many years working for someone else watching, learning and asking questions. The other thing that I would like to say is that I think our customers appreciate the fact that we are very honest with them. If I do not know the answer to their question I tell them I will get it and then I do. We are not trying to cover up mistakes and I don’t think that it is just “good luck” that we don’t have problems. My husband is a good roofer. I also spoke to a rep from the maunfacturer of the material we used and was very pleased with the outcome. Please keep in mind that not everyone does everything the same way. If you look at all of the threads on this site you will see that even among yourselves there are arguements about the “correct way” to do things. So my husband’s way may not be your way but it works. This rep informed me that 90% of roofers don’t apply the torch down method correctly and walk behind the roll instead of pulling it towards them. I don’t know but I will not be scared away from asking questions here from some harsh words from some.