Commercial Roof Leaks: Causes, Signs, And Repair

commercial roof leak

A commercial roof leak can cause many problems. The leak can damage inventory, break equipment, and even cause serious structural issues to the building. It can also alarm guests and employees, leading them to question the building’s maintenance standards.


Commercial Roof Leak: The Most Common Causes

A leaky roof can have serious consequences and damage the integrity of a commercial building. According to the Journal of the American Institute of Architects, over 70% of construction litigation involves water intrusion. Moreover, roofs are often the culprit of these water intrusions.

Now, it can be easy to fall into a panic when a commercial roof is leaking. Roofs are supposed to last up to 20 years. But, without proper hard facilities management, roofs can quickly leak and lead to decay. Here are some common causes to watch out for when there’s a leak in a commercial roof.


1. Improper Drainage

Improper drainage is often the main culprit for commercial roof leakage. When the drainage system is not working properly, water can easily pool on your roof and cause leaks. Apart from leakage, standing water can also add weight to the roof and damage the building’s structure.

Improper drainage can sometimes be due to poor design. But, more often than not, the gutters, drains, scuppers, and downspouts need cleaning or repair. Keeping these well-maintained is vital so water drains easily off the roof.


2. Damaged Roof Flashings

A commercial roof leak may also be the result of damaged roof flashing. Flashing is simply the metal pieces nestled on the roof’s conjoining areas like roof edges, skylights, chimneys, and interior walls. The flashing may be damaged due to weather, age, or improper installation.


3. Open Roof Penetrations

Open roof penetrations may also be the cause of a leaking commercial roof. These occur when the seals around HVAC units, gas lines, drains, vents, pipes, and electrical conduits on the roof break down. At times, this could be due to inappropriate sealing. But, it is more often caused by harsh weather and degradation over time.


Damaged Roof Membrane or Substrate4. Damaged Membrane or Substrate

A damaged roof membrane or substrate can also cause commercial lease roof leaks. This usually happens because of flying debris from wind, mechanical damage, heavy equipment, or heavy foot traffic. Sometimes, the cause may also be unknown. Regardless, it’s best to ask professionals to repair the roof if this is the case.


5. Weather

One of the most common causes of a roof leak is bad weather. This includes everything like hail, high winds, heavy snowfall, and hurricanes. Freeze and thaw cycles may also cause damage to roofs over time, introducing cracks and leaks. The weight of the ice can create leaks and seep through the roof’s weak points.


6. Age

A commercial building roof leak may be the result of age. Like most things, roofs have a lifespan. Once the roof’s lifespan is up, it may be time to replace it entirely.


Signs of a Commercial Roof Leak

Commercial roof leak detection can be difficult. Unless there is a roof inspection, people often cannot spot an industrial roof leaking until it’s too late. But, there are some early warning indications people can watch out for. Here are the most common signs.


1. Musty Odors

Water damage may cause mold growth, which may give off musty odors. The smell may not seem alarming initially, especially if it is faint. But, it is best not to ignore any foul or musty smells inside a building. Certain types of mold can be detrimental to human health. Whether it leads to a roof leak or not, it’s best to find the source before it worsens.


2. Visible Water Damage

Most warning signs of water damage are visible to the eyes. Some examples include wall or ceiling stains, soft spots in walls, and sagging ceilings in the interior space. It’s vital to get these checked as soon as they’re spotted. Otherwise, these can compromise the building’s integrity and lead to structural failure.


do insurance cover roof leaks3. Higher Energy Bills

Monthly energy bills often remain stagnant for businesses. But, these costs can gradually increase when there is a problem with the roof. This is because air can enter from outside the building through the roof’s cracks and holes.

As a result, the HVAC system will need to work harder to cool or heat the building’s interior. This leads to higher energy consumption and increased energy costs.


4. Blistering Roof Membrane

The roof membrane is situated between the foam and the wood decking of a commercial roof’s outer layer. Over time, this membrane can trap air and moisture, causing it to blister. These blisters are a good early warning sign of water damage in the roof. The affected areas will look raised or appear to have bumps that look like blisters.


How To Conduct a Commercial Roof Leak Repair

Perhaps the maintenance team has already conducted an inspection. Now, they suspect there might be a leak in the roof. What are the next steps? While conducting an industrial roof leak repair is not easy, it is doable. Don’t panic, and follow the steps below.


1. Clear the Affected Area Inside the Property

The maintenance crew should minimize interior damage as much as possible. To do this, it’s best to clear the area of all supplies, equipment, wall art, and furniture. This can minimize losses and preserve inventory quality. If the area cannot be cleared, the maintenance team can also cover the equipment and supplies with a plastic tarp.

Afterward, place a bucket under the leak to collect the water. If anyone works around the area, ask them to relocate or stay away to prevent contact with potential mold.


2. Mark the Entry Point

Mark the area where the leak is coming from. This can help the roofing contractor and insurance agent know what they’re dealing with. It also allows the repair crew to quickly identify what to do without wasting time identifying the source all over again.

To mark the area, use bright-colored tape and stick one piece near the entry point. Do this quickly while the roof is still leaking. When the area dries up, it might be harder to relocate where the entry point is. Moreover, ensure all employees and staff know there’s a problem so they stay away from affected zones. It’s also a good idea to rope off the affected walkways so nobody slips or falls because of the leak.


3. Identify Other Issues

commercial roof leak repairAfter finding the leak, continue to inspect the rest of the property. Look for other signs of leaks and water damage. Hopefully, the leak is confined to one area because water has a knack for reaching other areas and damaging other parts of the building.

Try to complete the inspection while it’s still raining. Once the weather clears up, it may be harder to identify the other issues. If there’s a leak even on a clear day, the cause may be faulty plumbing or a busted HVAC unit. Flat roofs may also gather standing water that causes leaks even without rain.


4. Contact Your Insurance Agent

Does insurance cover roof leaks? Oftentimes, they can. But, it will depend on the insurance policy and what is outlined in its coverage. An insurance policy often covers internal damage from roof leaks. At times, it also covers the cost of commercial roof repair services.

Regardless, remember to call your insurance agent and tell them the problem. You can work with them to determine what the policy covers. The insurance agent can also help you review the warranty. The company may not need to pay for the repairs if the roof is still under warranty.


5. Call the Owner/Call a Contractor

Who is responsible for a leaking roof on a commercial property? Generally, roof repairs are the owner’s or landlord’s responsibility. If you’re a commercial tenant, you can inform the landlord of the leak and damages. The landlord will call the contractors or repair services if needed.

However, you must call a contractor if you are the building owner. Contact one right away and schedule the earliest possible time. Addressing the roof leak quickly can minimize future losses or damages.


Address a Commercial Roof Leak by Seeking Professional Help

A good commercial roofing contractor can resolve all the damages on the roof. They can inspect the entire roof system and quickly find the leak’s source. Moreover, they can recognize signs of aging and the repairs a roof might need — even those unrelated to leaks.

Maintenance Specialists Inc. offers reliable roof maintenance and repair services to commercial properties. Call us at 704.405.6000 or contact us online today to learn more!



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