Leaking Roof? Try These 9 Tips to Protect Your Commercial Roof

By: John Thurber

Your roof is your building’s first defense against all outdoor elements. A compromised commercial roof can spell disaster for your business and pocketbook. 

The key to preventing leaks is to keep your roof in tip-top shape. Check out these 9 easy ways to prevent leaks and protect the integrity of your commercial roofing system. And learn what can happen when you for-go these tips and experience a leaking problem. 

9 Ways to Protect Your Commercial Roof from Leaks

1.) Check for Ponding Water 

Pay attention to accumulating water on flat roofs—particularly after heavy rains—most manufacturers warranties do not cover ponding water. Ponding water can lead to seam failure, flashing failure, or deck deflection.

2.) Watch Out for Damaged Flashing

Flashing is your roof’s seal. When it becomes damaged, moisture can easily penetrate the roof and lead to leaks and mold. Replace any damaged flashing upon discovery to protect your roof and your building’s interior.

Leaking pipe on commercial roof.3.) Inspect the Roofing Membrane

Did you know that commercial roofs are sealed with a membrane? Storms, debris and extreme temperature changes do a number on roofs. Over time, this protective membrane can blister, crack or seams can let loose. This situation provides easy access for unwanted moisture. 

Our advice: Repair or replace the membrane if its integrity is compromised.

4.) Periodically Investigate Roof Penetrations

Commercial buildings have spots where HVAC, drains and pipes extend up through the roof’s surface. While these openings are sealed to ward off water intrusion, seals break down and can let in water—damaging your roof and building fixtures. Repair and replace seals as necessary.

5.) Keep an Eye Out for Water Spots, Mold and Mildew

Sometimes, one of the first indicators of a leaking roof is the presence of spots on the ceiling, mold or mildew on interior ceilings and walls—a telltale sign that the roof has been leaking for some time. 

If mold or mildew are discovered, demo the affected area—removing wet insulation and drying out the interior walls. Then inspect the roof to determine the water point-of-entry and make necessary repairs.

6.) Remove Debris

Leaves, sticks, branches, acorns, critters (remember, your roof is both a resting place and a nesting place!) for a host of natural elements. Periodically removing debris can reduce the likelihood of clogged drains, scuppers, and gutters and will allow your roof to drain properly.

7.) Trim Overhanging Trees

If your roof enjoys shade from overhanging trees, be more vigilant when it comes to cleaning off your roof—particularly after strong winds and heavy rains.

8) Enact Periodic Inspections

Regular roof inspections allow you to catch little problems before they become big problems! A small cost and a little work upfront can save you thousands down the road.

9.) Schedule Regular Roof Maintenance

Performing annual or bi-annual roof maintenance allows you to detect and fix small roof issues. It can greatly extend the life of your commercial roof, too.

These tips can help you protect the integrity of your commercial roof and avoid costly repairs or a full replacement down the road.

When a Leaking Roof Goes Unchecked

In our business, we've seen what can happen when building owners neglect these 9 steps. Here's a little lesson we'd like to share on why you should never ignore small leaks. 

It all started atop a 6 story building. 

Our service manager, Justin Marsh, was called out to a customer’s building for what he was told was a “small leak.” Instead, what he discovered was an EPDM (rubber) membrane that no longer adhered to the substrate board. 

How Bad Was the Damage?

The loose EPDM membrane reminded him of waves rolling across Lake Superior. The ballooning membrane was pretty much hanging on by a thread—clinging to only the roof hatch and PRV vent.

This type of situation requires immediate action, before loss of the entire roof. But how do you make repairs to a giant trampoline?

Quickly and with the utmost care.

A loose membrane isn’t something to mess around with. We’ve seen it knock guys over and move 500 pound rolls of material around. 

- John Thurber, All Elements founder and president.

So, What Happened Next?

Donned in harnesses, safety vests and hard hats, the All Elements crew was called to the scene. With the use of a crane, 230 sandbags were used to secure the 19,500 square foot roof so that repairs could be completed. The entire process took 6 crew members 7 hours from the first phone call until they were back at the shop.

The Morale of the Story

Don’t take your roof for granted. Remember our 9 tips for protecting your commercial roof, including regularly checking for damage, aging, or worn areas. 

If your property does sustain damage from wind driven rain, have repairs completed as quickly as possible. The longer storm damage remains without repair, the greater the risk is for more extensive damage.

A Quick Side Note about Roof Damage

We all love the springtime, but did you know the magnificence of spring is often counter-acted by powerful storms with strong winds, heavy rain, and destructive hail. And unfortunately, the end result is damage to your commercial roof.

Because it’s overhead and out of sight, your roof’s condition is the last thing on your mind. If your roof suffered damage over the winter months, spring storms can wreak havoc. 

Wind can damage buildings, that’s why it’s specifically covered in insurance policies. Tornadoes, straight line winds, or driving wind and rain can find a roof’s weakest link. 

- Shawn Brannan, commercial division manager with All Elements

Many times, customers will contact our office to report a leaking roof after a storm with powerful winds and driving rain. However, some of those little leaks are anything but little.

Need a Commercial Roof Inspection?

Whether you're noticing some water damage, or it's been a few years since your last commercial roof inspection, contact our team for help.

Remember, if it wasn’t for the observant building manager, who reported the leak in our story, we would have shared a much different version. Thankfully, the individual said something. 

If you have questions, or just want our crew to come out to assess the situation, give us a call today, so we can ensure your roof is keeping you and your tenants protected!

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