All roofs, regardless of material, construction and installation method, deteriorate over time. From cedar shingles on homes to membranes on commercial buildings, all roofs are exposed to the elements 24/7. Sun, rain, snow, hail, ice, wind and debris – any of these can combine to cause damage even to the sturdiest of roofs.
Commercial building owners and managers often wonder what’s causing the damage to their property’s roofing system. Here are the most common culprits behind commercial roofing damage:
Penetrations cause leaks, and they can be caused by different factors. Even a routine maintenance check can cause a penetration if a roofer walks on a weak spot of the roof and causes a scrape. Someone sweeping debris off a roof can puncture it with their boot or with a rake or some other tool.
However, in most cases of roof penetration, the reason is a faulty installation of flashings. Flashings are supposed to prevent water intrusion in different areas of the roof that are also its weaknesses. Flashings are used where the roofing membrane or other material meets the walls. It’s also installed around the curbs and other objects that protrude from the roof.
Adding new roof protrusions and penetrations (skylights, outdoor HVAC units, etc.) can lead to leaks as well if the flashings around those penetrations are not installed correctly or fail prematurely.
Commercial roofing professionals are supposed to be experts in the installation of flashings. But if you hire a roofer with limited experience, particularly with commercial roofs, they might make some mistakes with the flashings. Before long, those faulty flashings will allow water intrusion.
The same can happen if you try to cut costs by choosing the cheapest flashings you can find. Manufacturers of cheap flashings often fail to account for the expansion and contraction of the roof due to weather changes. If your flashings can’t handle the changes in temperature, they will fail quite soon.
Some homeowners and building owners are guilty of this, thinking that it’s best to invest more in the roof material – cedar shake, asphalt shingles, metal, membrane, etc. – and cut costs with the rest of the materials. If you do this, you will end up spending more money and wasting more time dealing with the damage.
Another reason behind roof leaks due to penetrations is foot traffic. Your roof should be off-limits to anyone who doesn’t have any business being there. They are not likely to know how destructive it is for a roof to be walked on all the time.
If you bought a cheap roofing material, the same thing can happen. Cheap roofing materials don’t last long and often can’t handle the changes in temperature, which, for a roof, is a big problem. Before long, you’ll be spending more money replacing that cheap roof. Your business might also be affected if the leak starts to access the building interiors, costing you more money due to downtimes.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re dealing with cedar shingles or modified bitumen roofing, if it’s not prepared to handle strong winds, it will fail. As mentioned earlier, flashing plays a huge part in how your roofing system handles the wind. Broken or incorrectly installed flashings easily give in when the wind is strong.
Wind pressure can combine with internal air pressure (because your flashings are failing, or your roof was not installed properly) to create wind uplift. A commercial building is typically taller than a house, and the taller a structure is, the more prone its roof is to wind damage. Strong wind uplift can cause tearing along the seams and on the membrane itself, leading to water penetration when it rains or snows.
Homes with cedar shake, asphalt shingle, metal, or any other roofing material typically benefit from the roof pitch when it comes to water shedding. Gravity does most of the job.
Commercial roofs, however, are typically flat or very slightly sloped. Commercial buildings are wider and taller, so if you install a pitched roof like that of a house, it would be more difficult and dangerous to install and maintain. It will also suffer much more because of the wind. Flat roofs have to be specially designed with a system to help them drain water whenever it rains or snows.
However, if your roof’s drainage system doesn’t work properly or if the roofing system was poorly designed, water can pool in different places. A clogged HVAC unit can also lead to standing water on your roof. When standing water remains on your roof long enough, it will lead to roof material deterioration. This is what makes a flat roof leak.
No matter what type of roof you have, it won’t last forever. Roofs, just like anything, get old. Your roofing system has a projected life span. With diligent and regular maintenance, your roof can reach that lifespan with minimal issues. It might even last longer than expected. However, it will still age until it becomes prone to damage.
Fixing a leaky roof is fine, but there will come a point where repairs will fail to do anything more than give you a few days, weeks or months until your roof starts leaking again. At this point, continuing to repair your roof becomes more expensive than replacing it. Make sure to call a reputable contractor to replace your old roofing system.
Some regions have harsher weather conditions than others. If you are located in an area where the weather changes often or has particularly strong winds and storms, your roof is not likely to last as long as one located in a fairly temperate climate. If your building has to deal with harsh winters, you’ll have to be extra diligent about maintaining it, or you’ll risk strong leaks. And, it won’t be just water leaks; it will also include heat leaks that will force your HVAC system to work twice as hard.
There are no shortcuts when it comes to maintaining your roof. The only way to prevent leaks is to sign up for regular maintenance with a reputable professional. Get in touch with Summit Renovation. We can install a top-quality commercial roofing system and help you maintain it. We also offer residential roof replacement and other services. Fill out the form on this page to get started.