Commercial Roofing Management-Secrets To Finding Roof Leaks

Roof repair is indicated when the roof is in generally good condition yet isolated leak areas appear.

We have learned to isolate roof leaks that have confounded roofing Contractors for years without resolution by following a careful systematic approach.

Step one is accuracy. Most contractors are under pressure to maximize earnings by moving quickly through projects and on to the next. Identifying roof leaks can be learned, but takes time in implementation. Don’t rush. It is true that you may sometimes find something obvious, but there are many cases where the leak is hidden and not obvious.

The best way to track a leak that is difficult to locate is to identify the point of water entry from inside the building. If ceiling tiles block the view of the deck underside, remove them. Look for any identifying characteristics nearby such as pipe penetrations, air handling equipment or ductwork penetrations that will help locate the precise area on the roof above.

It is easy to think you are looking at the correct roof area and actually be off by several feet or even much more. While still inside the building, find a reference point that you can identify from the roof top and measure from there. You might use the front wall, a side wall, a corner, a tree sighted through a window to mark a wall location or any clear landmark, then use a walking stick type measuring wheel to lay out a grid and make a small diagram to carry with you up on to the roof. This way you can precisely pinpoint the area to check and you are ahead of most individuals that often guess, sometimes right, sometimes wrong.

Often you will have already seen something from the underside of the roof deck that tells you what kind of roof leak problem you have. The water could be entering at a drain sump, at the base of a parapet wall, at an HVAC unit, or pipe, or heated pipe flashing. By carefully inspecting those areas you will often find the source easily.

Remember sheet metal enclosures like ductwork form an open path to the interior so tiny voids at corners, or missing sheet metal screws on filter covers, or dislodged gasketing materials may be all that is needed to allow rain water to enter.

The roof system type will influence the type of defect. For single ply thermoplastic membranes look for tiny punctures around equipment serviced by personnel. Also check termination bar sealant and seams for signs of incipient peeling. For built up roofs note carefully any blisters underfoot. These are areas where moisture has penetrated and become trapped, so they serve as guides to leak areas. Also watch for areas of cracked roofer’s mastic especially at any spot where sheet metal flashing touches the roof because the metal moves with temperature changes and the mastic becomes brittle with age. Check scupper drains inside and also at the drain outlet on the other side of the parapet.

For tricky leaks use a moisture meter to read dampness beneath the surface and guide you to the spot that may not be visible.

Finally, check non roof related areas such as EIFS sheet metal foam covers on shopping centers, drainage problems at the base of exterior walls, and other miscellaneous decorative features in construction that may be above the roof yet still allow water to enter through the interior spaces in a wall.

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