Why Do Commercial Roofs Leak? Understanding the Common Causes

Written on the 17 January 2024 by MRA Roofing & Construction

A leaky roof can turn into a business owner's nightmare, causing damage not only to the building but potentially disrupting operations as well. This article will delve into the most common reasons why commercial roofs may start to leak.

1. Improper Installation

One of the primary reasons for commercial roof leaks is improper installation. A poorly executed job can leave your roof vulnerable to leaks and other damage. Whether due to inexperience or haste, subpar workmanship can lead to costly repairs down the line. Case in point, a local business had to endure severe water damage due to a hurriedly installed roof that lacked proper sealing, costing money and time for the business.

A commercial roof consists of multiple features that are vulnerable to water exposure, such as:

  • Drains
  • Vents
  • Pipes
  • HVAC systems
  • Gas lines
  • Roof lights

It is vital to ensure these elements and any other areas on your roof are properly sealed to keep water from infiltrating the roof's membrane and causing a leak. Once an establishment verifies that all building outlets are securely sealed, it becomes essential to conduct regular inspections of these features to avoid additional roof damage.

2. Insufficient or No Drainage

Adequate drainage is crucial to maintaining any roof. The longevity and leak-resistance of your commercial roof can greatly be influenced by its drainage system. A lack of adequate drainage can lead to the accumulation of water on your roof, which can subsequently permeate through gaps or crevices over time, leading to leaks within your building or adding undue weight to your structure. This stagnant water may also encourage the growth of moss or other plants on your roof, or expedite the deterioration of roofing materials.

In order to prevent this water build-up, a drainage system is often incorporated during the roof installation phase. Key elements of this system include drains, downspouts, scuppers, and gutters. It is essential that these components are kept free of any debris that could hinder the smooth flow of water off the roof.

Water accumulation due to inadequate drainage systems can cause leaks and deteriorate the roof's structure over time. Regular checks of your gutters, downspouts, and drainage pipes can help you avoid such issues.

3. Poor Quality Materials

Substandard roofing materials are another significant cause of leaks. An initial low-cost installation using poor quality materials will eventually lead to higher maintenance and repair costs. Quality should never be compromised when it comes to roofing materials.

4. Lack of Regular Maintenance

Regular inspections and maintenance can prevent minor issues from escalating into major problems. By conducting regular inspections, potential weak spots can be identified and addressed early, preventing leaks and saving money in the long run.

Flashing Wear and Tear

Flashing is a crucial component of your roofing system. These metal strips line the edges and intersections of your roof, providing a barrier against water and other external elements. Over time, exposure to weather changes and temperature fluctuations can cause the flashing to warp, expand, or contract. This deformation creates opportunities for water to bypass the roof's protective membrane, potentially damaging your commercial structure.

Damage to the Roof Membrane

Roof membrane damage is another common cause of leaks in commercial roofs. The function of the roof membrane is to seal the flat structure with a waterproof layer, thereby protecting the underlying structure. However, factors like sunlight exposure, foot traffic, extreme temperatures, and mechanical damage can compromise this protective layer. Signs of membrane damage include holes, cracks, blisters, or shrinkage that expose the insulation beneath.

Water saturation of the underlying insulation can lead to leaks. Depending on the extent of the damage, you may need a simple repair or extensive maintenance work to replace large sections of the damaged membrane.

The Effects of Aging

Like any other structure, your commercial roof is not immune to the effects of time. Despite the quality of materials used and regular maintenance, there comes a time when your roof will succumb to the elements, leading to potential leaks and other issues.

If you notice leaks and suspect that your roof is nearing the end of its lifespan, it might be time to consider a roof replacement. Proper maintenance and care can extend your roof's life, but ultimately, age will have its say.

5. Weather and Environmental Damage

Severe weather conditions like heavy rain or high winds can cause damage leading to roof leaks. Additionally, environmental factors like falling tree branches can also cause damage. Ensuring your roof is structurally sound and weatherproof can help mitigate these risks.

There are several factors could lead to commercial roof leaks. It's vital to ensure professional installation, regular maintenance, and the usage of high-quality materials. Remember, a well-maintained roof is integral to your business's smooth operation.

As a call to action, we encourage all business owners to get their commercial roofs inspected by trusted professionals like MRA Roofing & Construction. From regular inspections and maintenance to quality repairs, we've got you covered. Stay ahead of the leaks and safeguard your business, contact us today!


Author:MRA Roofing & Construction