How Do You Fix a Flat Roof That Leaks?

Fixing Flat Roof Leaks

Commercial structures in the Great Lakes area, including Pennsylvania and Iowa, can take on a lot of elements. With the winter weather of ice and snow along with hot sunny summers, in addition to hard rains and high winds. At least once in the lifetime of a flat roof, repairs will be needed, it is an unstated fact in this area of the country. 

What is the lifespan of a commercial flat roof?

It will depend on the type of material that is installed, whether flat roof repair needs are not neglected, and if routine maintenance is kept. For average, the three most common rubber roofing materials offer the following lifespans: 

  • EPDM: Lifetime of 20 to 40 years
  • PVC: Lifetime maximum of 30 years
  • TPO: Lifetime of 20 to 30 years

What is the best material for a commercial flat roof?

Of the three commercial flat roof materials listed above, PVC has the longest history because of its durability and longevity of up to 40 years. Like EPDM, it typically comes in white, but you can choose brown, gray, or rust-colored PVC. White PVC has the best energy-saving effect. However, it is worthwhile to ask your commercial roofing contractor about other materials: 

  • EPDM (Ethylene Propylene Diene Terpolymer)

Another durable rubber roofing membrane is found on many commercial flat roofing surfaces. It has a lifespan of 50+ years and is known for its heat absorption. For areas where temperatures are cooler than hot, this can be an advantage in absorbing UV rays to keep the building warm. 

  • TPO (Thermoplastic Polyolefin) 

This is a single-ply, white roofing membrane that reflects sunlight, best for areas where the temperatures are hot more than cool year-round. With proper installation and flat roof repairs done as needed, this durable roofing material will last up to 25 years. Where aesthetics is a concern, this material tends to yellow with age. 

Other materials to ask your roofing contractor about are standing-seam, BUR, and Modified BUR as well as spray foam roofing. Inquire about the installation process, the required maintenance, and the frequency of flat roof repairs. 

What issues are common for commercial flat roofs?

The most common issues for commercial flat roof repairs or replacement are:

  • Workmanship

Proper installation is crucial for a commercial flat roof. This ensures there are minimal problems and can extend or shorten the lifespan. A BUR commercial roof system installed on a roof surface that hasn’t been properly cleaned and allowed to dry before the primer is installed is a must. Blisters, leaks, and crinkling can happen when the commercial flat roof isn’t installed correctly. 

  • Ponding Water

Commercial flat roof repairs are frequent due to ponding water. This is caused by clogged roof drains, clogged HVAC drain lines, and an improper slope to the roof.

  • Lack of Maintenance

The need for flat roof repairs for leaks, moisture, and ponding water can be attributed to a lack of maintenance. It is important to have the roofing contractor train the maintenance staff on what is needed or have a maintenance contract with the roofing contractor.

  • Leaks and Moisture

Leaks and moisture can be for a variety of reasons depending on the type of flat roofing material. For instance, a BUR (built-up roof) can develop a leak where the flashing details are improperly fastened when the roof is installed. A modified bitumen flat roof can leak if a moisture barrier isn’t installed and lack of maintenance can cause leaks and moisture buildup.

  • Penetration and Punctures

A common problem that requires flat roof repairs is foot traffic which can cause cuts and scrapes on the membrane. Besides the risk of leaks, damaged roofing membranes can be caused by tradespeople. Having walkways installed with the commercial flat roof installation will minimize the foot traffic and tradesmen damaging the roof. 

  • Improper Flat Roof Repairs

Using only the proper materials in the proper manner can minimize flat roof repairs or replacements. A metal roof or single-ply roof should not be repaired with caulking and plastic roof cement.

How do you know when a commercial flat roof needs replacing instead of repairing?

With the monthly flat roof inspections, check for any blistering, bubbling, and cracking. Check for splitting seams, and loose or missing flashing. A roof check after rain is recommended to check for clogged drains and/or ponding.

the top of a wet commercial roof

What do commercial flat roof repairs cost? 

Commercial flat roof repair jobs will depend on a few factors: 

  • The square footage needs flat roof repairs
  • The extensiveness and type of damage
  • The roofing material
  • Penetrations in the roof

What does a new flat commercial roof cost? 

If you were to ask a roofing contractor the most common question, they will all tell you “What’s this going to cost?” There isn’t a flat rate or set rate for this project. Like flat roof repairs, replacements are based on key factors that include the size, type of roof material being installed, and the condition of the existing roof. 

What is the warranty on a commercial flat roof?

The most common warranty for a commercial flat roof is between 20 and 30 years. The warranty will depend on the new roofing material being installed and the brand of the material. 

How are commercial flat roofs maintained?

The recommended flat roof maintenance starts with routine roof inspections. With routine roof inspection, you’ll find issues that flat roof repairs can fix before they become bigger problems. The basic maintenance step after that will depend on the type of roofing surface. It is recommended to discuss this with the roofing contractor, many will provide written instructions along with the warranty.

In The End

When getting quotes on flat roof repairs, just like with getting a new replacement, do not go with the most expensive quote any faster than you would the least expensive. You should get 3 to 4 quotes and review the process and warranty of each one. 

Great Lakes Commercial Roofing provides assistance with flat roof repair in Pittsburgh, PA. Call 412-256-8050 to get scheduled. 

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