My roof leaks…..now what? | Date: 22/04/2015

For most people, their commercial / industrial flat or low slope roof is “out of sight, out of mind” and only comes to the forefront when it begins to leak. It’s at this point where Bel-Con are often called in to investigate the cause.  If the leak is minor, irregular or relatively new, we are looking for a method to repair the roof. If the leak is major, constant or ongoing, we are tasked with looking for longer term solutions including possibly re-roofing the facility.

We start with a physical inspection of your roof

In order to determine a course of action, we start by visiting your site and conducting a review of the facility. Our review is more than simply having a look at your roof.  It also includes the following:

  • Review of the inside of the facility to find any evidence of leaks. This often helps to pinpoint a number of common ‘roof’ issues; e.g., roof penetrations, transitions on roof heights or systems, etc. Sometimes condensation is the issue and there actually isn’t a roof leak.
  • A discussion with the occupants of the building to gather additional information such as when, how often, or if the leak(s) occur under specific conditions.
  • Armed with this information, we undertake a thorough physical inspection of the roof.

There are many types of industrial, commercial and institutional roofing, but the main systems are asphalt/tar and gravel, single ply membranes including PVC and EPDM both ballasted and fully adhered, modified bitumen and metal systems (both through-fastened and standing seam). Where applicable, our inspection looks at the following for each of the above noted roof systems:

  • Overall appearance
  • Surface condition
  • Roof profile
  • Drainage systems
  • Parapet wall conditions
  • Mechanical units mounted on roof and penetrations from these units
  • Skylights
  • All other roof penetrations for vents, services, etc.
  • Utilities and services mounted on roof
  • Transitions between roofs
  • Seams, joints and connections in roof materials
  • Damage from  ice, snow and extreme weather
  • Other outside influences that affect the roof, e.g. overhanging trees, birds, etc

The above items are examined in combination with the knowledge gained in the interior inspection of the facility to determine the cause of the roof issue(s).  At this point, we establish a plan to implement the required repairs or, in more extreme cases, a replacement plan is formed.  The further along in the life cycle of your roof, the more likely multiple factors could be the cause. The older your roof the more likely a roof replacement is going to be the best and, in some cases, only solution.

What causes your roof to leak?

Workers work on repairs to a commercial flat roof.Generally speaking, most leaks are the result of one or more of these factors:

  • Poor detailing – one of the main elements in all roof systems that causes failure is movement.  All roof systems expand and contract to some degree with temperature changes; if this movement is not dealt with properly, then leaks will occur.
  • Lack of maintenance – as noted above, roofs tend to be out of sight and out of mind for most building owners and consequently roof maintenance is often over-looked.  Consistent reviews will help find simple issues that need attention (drains plugged with leaves are very common!). If the minor issues are attended to regularly, then major issues and/or leaks can be avoided.
  • General wear and tear – all roofs have a life cycle and, depending on the system, that life can typically vary between 15 and 40 years.

One of the things we often see is the use of the wrong materials to make a repair, resulting in a short term fix but compounding the problem for the future.  To avoid this, the key factor (whether it be annual maintenance, finding the cause of a leak and/or repairing a leak) is to have this done by a person familiar with the roof system. This person will know how your facility’s roof should be detailed and how it should be maintained; in other words contact a professional!

We’re always happy to help. Please get in touch if you would like us to perform an inspection of your building’s roof. Our service area is GTA to Kingston, north through to Peterborough. This includes the Quinte region (Belleville, Trenton, Picton and surrounding area) as well as Port Hope, Cobourg, and Napanee.

In our next blog post we will review options for repair and replacement of metal roofs.

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