What You Need to Do When Your Flat Roof is Leaking - RoofTek

What You Need to Do When Your Flat Roof is Leaking

The first shift arrives ready to produce your company’s sought-after product. Then the report from the floor comes to your offices: water is pouring in from a leaking roof. Inventory, stock, or equipment can be ruined when water infiltrates your commercial building’s roof. Make the call, but while waiting for your local, helpful commercial roofer, take these steps, too.

Clear Out

If water is actively dripping through your building’s roof deck into your building interior, clear out all that makes your company thrive:

  • People
  • Equipment (if practical)
  • Inventory
  • Raw materials

Even as you dispatch your facilities crew (whether a crew of 10 or just, well, you) to the roof to see what can be done, you need to protect your inside assets. If equipment is too large or heavy to move, or inventory is stacked so that quick relocation is not feasible, spread plastic sheeting over the items to keep moisture out.

Roof Work

Never dispatch anyone to a steep-slope roof. While most commercial roofs are low-slope (3:12 or less), some are steep-slope and unsafe for anyone but highly trained professional roofing crews.

If your facility’s roof is safe for your maintenance staff, dispatch them to lay out a tarp down over the suspected leak area. This is harder than it may seem. On low-slope roofs, a seam may be open at the northeast corner but the water may drip in at the southwest corner.

The tarp is temporary, but may lessen the damage in the roof deck and in your building. Avoid mechanical fastening (staples or nails). Instead, use concrete block to hold the tarp in place. This prevents further damage to the single-ply membrane, BUR, or modified bitumen you may have on your roof.

Along with getting your guys and gals on the roof, get your commercial roofer on the phone. Make the call quickly, once the leak is found, so your roofer can preserve your roof, protect your equipment, and keep your business humming.

Most roofers will provide emergency service, dispatching a crew within a day of the call, weather permitting. They will assess the leak, tracing it from the interior back through your deck to its origin on the rooftop.

Where to Look

Since we already know low-slope roofs provide scant clues, how can your crew make an educated guess about the source of a water leak? Experts at Facilities Net suggest three prime suspects:

  1. Roof penetrations — Penetration flashings are usually the same material as the single-ply membrane and are bonded to the field membrane by the same method used for seams elsewhere. This means the sealants can fail around roof penetrations with the same frequency as seams fail.
  2. The perimeter — Transitions from membrane to metal flashing are always prone to leakage. Expansion joints are also a common source.
  3. Within the deck — Condensation or thawing may cause drips to develop during colder months; this is usually caused by an inadequate air flow, a subpar vapor retarder, or poor insulation.

If water is standing on your roof, work swiftly to remove it by brush or squeegee. If drains and scuppers are clogged, clear them immediately. The dryer the roof is, the easier your task will be in hunting down the actual source of the leak.

Who to Hire

A lot (and we do mean a lot) of roofers claim to be both residential and commercial roofers, as if 20 squares of shingles can somehow scale up to be the equivalent of a single-ply membrane.

Not every roofer is qualified to handle a commercial roof. When searching for a savior for your leaky roof, avoid leaping at the first contact. Look for an acknowledged expert in commercial roofing:

  • Expert workmanship
  • Skillful engineering
  • Experience in TPO, PVC, EPDM and other roof systems

You need somebody with a local physical address and all necessary documentation (license, workers compensation insurance, liability insurance).

The roofer you partner with should have adequate equipment, a record of employee training, and a willingness to go above and beyond the single job. Look for a company dedicated to creating a long-term relationship with you. That same company that solves the water leak can perform annual inspections, cleanings, and reroofing when the time is right.

Long View

Facilities Net’s experts also emphasize the importance of regular inspection and maintenance. This strategy prevents leaks, turning your reactive scramble to deal with a leaky roof into a proactive prevention program.  

Take the long view; solve the immediate leak by tapping the power of your local professional roofer, then have the roofer back for semi-annual inspections, roof cleaning, and regular maintenance.  

Making the lives of facilities managers and building owners easier is part of RoofTek’s mission. Contact RoofTek® Roofing Solutions today by calling 1-833-ROOF-TEK to learn how we can find and stop your water leak and preserve your business.


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