Do All Flat Roofs Leak?

How many times have you heard the statement, “All flat roofs leak.”? Our commercial roofing experience over the last 74 years has revealed that the majority of leaks in an existing low-slope “flat” roof system can be traced to these three factors:

  1. A manufacturing defect in the roof system components (product)
  2. The technique employed when installing the roof system (workmanship)
  3. Inadequate roof maintenance (owner)

On occasion, roof system components have manufacturing defects that compromise the integrity of a low-slope roof. For example, a roll of single-ply roofing membrane in a TPO roof system application may have been manufactured in a defective manner. One of the challenges with manufacturing defects is that it may take several years for a defective roof system component to begin to fail. In these cases, roof system defects are often not known until a leak is visible inside a building; however, if you have a roof maintenance program in place, roof system failures due to manufacturing defects can often be caught and addressed before water makes it through the building envelope into the building’s interior.

More frequently, when we see TPO or Modified Bitumen low-slope roof system failures many years before we should, based on the age of the roof, the diagnosis is improper installation. Unfortunately for the client, in many of the cases we see, the roofing contractor that improperly installed the roof is no longer in business.

As the two examples above point out, having a roof maintenance program in place on existing roofs carried out by a reputable roofing contractor can help identify roof system problems in advance of a roof failure. Roof maintenance programs also help identify many other commonly overlooked issues related to commercial roofs and, very often, these programs help clients get 5 or more years out of their existing roofs beyond the warranty duration. Roof maintenance programs are also a great way for building owners to be more informed about the condition in general of their roof and how much more life they might expect before a replacement roof needs to be considered. This facilitates more accurate budgets.

Most often, commercial buildings have valuable contents, sensitive operations and/or a tremendous investment in the interior build-out. So, when you consider hiring a roofing contractor for a repair or re-roofing project, it is well worth the extra effort to find several stable, reliable and reputable roofing contractors to bid on your project. Start by following the processes outlined in this Prequalification of Bidders article for some easy-to-follow contractor requests and easy-to-execute due diligence that will help you identify reputable roofing contractors to assess and/or bid on your project.

And remember, if you are considering a roof maintenance program, you don’t have to hire the same roofing contractor who originally installed your roof (and sometimes this is even better) to also provide a roof maintenance program. Contact Standard at 800.239.5705 to see if our roof maintenance program would be a good fit for your commercial roof and building envelope maintenance needs.

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