Why is my commercial roof leaking? Common causes for roof leaks

Posted: 24.04.18


You never want to find a leak in your roof. Even if you maintain your roof regularly, harsh weather can get to any roof over the years. Finding a puddle on the floor can be a sign of something much worse.

At Leafield Projects, we’ve seen this countless times over the years. But if you’re prepared to maintain the leak, you’ll prevent further damage and save your business from any potential downtime.

What are the signs of a leak?

  • Stained walls or ceilings: that yellow/brown colour stain is water damage. Whether you have ceiling tiles or other types of ceiling systems, extended exposure to water will create a discolored area that you’ll need to get checked out.
  • Dripping water of puddles inside: you’ll be surprised how many people ignore this. The most surefire sign of a roof leak is when you can actually see water inside your building, whether on the floor or dripping down from the roof.

  • A damp smell or mould. A mould smell in your building can be a red flag for hidden mould damage, which is where you’ll usually find a leak. Mould loves moist environments, so if water is continuously entering the building, there’s a high chance mould will grow and spread.

Common causes for commercial roof leaks

Poor or no drainage

A contractor will take into account where water will drain down when installing a roof. There will be multiple points where the roof is vulnerable when it comes to draining away water: drains, gutters and downspouts All these will need regular cleaning out to make sure water can flow safely from the roof.

If water is not draining as it should, standing or ponding water will be left in the gutter.

Open penetrations

Roof penetrations are found on most commercial roof structures. Penetrations are HVAC units, vents and piping: anything that comes through the roof structure. These are potentially vulnerable areas for leaks that need sealing properly during installation.

Damaged roof flashings

Roof flashings are installed around conjoining parts of the roof. They’re found in chimneys, ridge lines, skylights, roof edges or exterior walls. If not installed properly, or if wear and tear happens by weather, water can potentially escape into the roof.

Damaged membrane

Membrane is a type of waterproof layer applied to some roofs. If the membrane is damaged from weather, foot traffic, mechanical damage or other numerous reasons, water can be allowed to leak through the membrane and saturate the underlying insulation.

Aged roof

Typically, a commercial roof lasts 20 to 25 years: this can vary depending on the type of roof or location. Regular maintenance can extend the lifespan of your roof, but after a certain number of years it will need replacing.

What to do when your commercial roof leaks

If you suddenly walk into a puddle or find water dripping on your head, one of the first things you’ll think about, after safety, is are you going to face a potentially costly roof project?

First things first, don’t panic!

Here’s a simple action plan should you ever find yourself in that situation:

Minimise the interior damage

When you see water flowing into your building, clear the area of any people, equipment and supplies to reduce damage.

Mark the point of water entry

Make sure you mark where your leak is located. This is important for when you talk to your roofing contractors and insurance company.

Look for more problem areas

Hopefully, your leak is only limited to one area, but there might be other leaks in your building: water has a habit of finding the smallest gaps. Look around your building for more problem areas.

Call a commercial roofing contractor

After the situation is under control… you need to get that leak fixed! Find roofing contractors and have them assess your roof and provide a project quote.

Ring your insurance company

If your building has received internal or external damage, make sure you let your insurance company know.

Review your warranty

Look back over your current roofing system warranty. Your roof may be under warranty from the contractor or manufacturer, and it may be covered depending on what the damage is from.

It’s important to control a commercial roof leak swiftly to avoid any potential higher costs or business downtime. Even the smallest leak can quickly grow to become a serious problem. If you’re in this situation, please contact us to discuss your options.

Next: Hiring an industrial roofing contractor - What to know Back to News & Blog