What's Wrong With Your Flat Roof? 4 Clues Worth Checking Out

The flat roofs typically found on top of commercial buildings may help a business maximize its use of space, but they can also pose some special challenges for their owners. If your commercial flat roof is acting up, you need to get to the root of the problem before your building suffers extensive (and expensive) structural damage. Here are four trouble signs that can point you toward specific flat roof issues that require prompt evaluation and repair.

1. Leaks

Nothing alerts building occupants to a roof problem more clearly than water dripping onto the top floor or water spots forming on the top floor's ceiling. The cause of the problem may be surprisingly small, such as a puncture in your single-ply membrane or pinhole openings in roof flashings. It may take the practiced eye of a commercial flat roof repair specialist to spot such a culprit. You should also inspect the perimeter of the roof, where the surface membrane meets the edges. If the material is pulling away from the edges, the resulting gap is a leak waiting to happen -- if it hasn't happened already.

2. Standing Water

Why has a pond developed on your flat roof? More often than not, it means that your drainage system has failed, allowing water to collect. If you're lucky, you may simply have accumulated twigs, leaves, and other debris in your gutters or downspouts, in which case a thorough cleaning will sets things right. If you have an inner drain system, cleaning the strainer may also do the trick. But if the blockage occurs lower down in the drain itself, you'll need a commercial flat roof repair specialist to fix the problem. 

Sometimes a flat roof isn't as flat as it looks. If your roof has uneven spots or has sagged inward, water can pool in the depressions. A sagging roof may need more than resurfacing -- the heavy weight or seasonal snow and ice could have caused the internal structural supports to buckle. 

3. Cracks

Surface cracks in your flat roof don't necessarily signal an emergency, but they do indicate that your roof might be nethe end of its useful life. Asphalt roofs are prone to a phenomenon known as "alligatoring" in which a network of connected cracks resembling alligator skin forms on the surface. This means that your roof has sustained its full share of weather and UV damage and can no longer react properly to temperature changes. The stiffening of the roof leads to cracking when the materials expand or contract. You can fill these cracks as they occur or apply a UV coating, but you're only buying a little time for a failed roof. This is a case where total roof replacement makes sense.

If you see any cracks on your roof, have a commercial flat roof repair service examine them closely. Deeper cracks may be stress fractures that extend all the way through the roof, allowing moisture to enter and treated air to escape.

4. Excessive Energy Usage

Have you noticed a steady, worrying increase in your building's energy usage? This is yet another red flag that should alert you to potential gaps, punctures, or other breaches in your roof. Pay special attention to the flashings or around your rooftop HVAC curb units since breaches in these areas can directly affect your air conditioner performance. Check out the flashings around any skylights as well, since these components can cause leaks when they fail.

If your building has always been an energy hog, you might need to to make some long-overdue major changes to the roof and its components. For instance, an ancient rooftop air conditioner cannot hope to compete with todays energy-efficient models, so you may want to replace your old unit with a new one. If the curb adaptor joining the air conditioner to the roof fits poorly, your fan may be working overtime to little effect. This is another replacement that could save you money in the long run. For the ultimate in energy efficiency, invest in a "cool roof" membrane that covers the entire rooftop. These white coatings deflect the sun's rays while also providing an extra measure of leak protection.

Commercial flat roof repair is an occasional fact of life for commercial facilities, but you can minimize the damage by scheduling regular inspections. The earlier any problem is caught and dealt with, the smaller your roof problems will be!.