Commercial roofs are in a league of their own. They require a different set of demands than residential roofs, which is why spotting and understanding common problems can be difficult for the untrained eye. If you own or work on commercial properties pay close attention, because we are about to explain the most common problems associated with commercial roofs.
Unlike the roof on your home, most commercial roofs are flat. They are designed that way for many reasons, but primarily to support heavy roof-top equipment like air conditioners and heaters. These units take up a lot of space and are very noisy, which is why they are typically placed on the roof. The process of initially placing the machinery on the roof and routine maintenance on the units can cause more damage than you might think. Moving the heavy equipment around can cause small holes and tears on the roof, which leads to leakage. And a small leak can quickly become a large one, causing damage to not only the roof, but also the interior of the building.
Ponding of water
Small ponds of water can appear on the roof for several reasons: clogged or blocked drains, the age of the roof, or poor roof design. The National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) has classified undesirable ponding water as standing for more than 48 hours, although ponding can pose a threat in even shorter time spans. Even more, a 1-inch deep pond weighs 5.2 pounds/square foot. And multiple ponds around the roof can cause a lot of additional weight and stress, which can eventually lead to structural damage to the building.
Faulty pitch pans and flashing
Flashing is a material, typically made from aluminum, that is placed over joints, walls, pipes, and chimneys during the construction of commercial roofs that prevents water from getting inside. Pitch pans are also used as a seal around piping to keep water and other debris out. According to the NRCA, 95% of leaks occur due to faulty flashing and pitch pans. Because of the extreme heat that roofs are exposed to during the summer, pitch pans and flashing start to expand and contract, causing them to tear. And when they tear, small leaks start to form.
When roof damage occurs, the owner’s first instinct is to fix the problem as quickly as possible. This could mean using the first contractor you find, without doing your due diligence, such as checking their references. Improper repairs are one of the top problems facing commercial roofs. Attempting to fix the issue by using improper material, or material that is not up to code, causes long-term damage and can turn a problem that started out small into a big and expensive one.
The National Roofing Contractors Association rated the above as the most common problems for commercial roofs. The lesson to learn here is to always make sure you hire a reputable and reliable company to do the work right the first time.