Roof leaks are one of the biggest problems commercial building owners face when it comes to maintenance. That is because commercial roofs are more susceptible to leaks than residential ones, as they endure the more tremendous strain and weathering.
If left unattended, a minor leak can damage the inside and outside of the building, risking electronics and equipment which can affect your business. Over time, it can lead to serious problems like mold, decayed framing, sheathing, and destroyed insulation and ceilings.
A leaking roof has several different causes. Some possible reasons include:
- Poor-quality roof installation
- Defective or cracked shingles
- Damaged roof valley
- Accumulation of water or debris
- Punctures due to hail, falling tree branches, or other objects
- Natural phenomena such as rain, storms, UV rays, and snowfall
- An outdated roof that requires a replacement (a roof typically lasts 20-30 years)
It is possible to repair minor leaks by yourself however if the leak is significant, hire a professional roofing contractor with at least 5 years of experience before the damage worsens.
In case you hear a drip in the middle of a heavy downpour, arrive at your office to see a puddle, or notice damp stains on ceilings, here are the 10 tips on repairing a leaking roof:
Tip 1 – Finding The Leak Source
Think like water to find the source of a roof leak.
Most water stains and spots are not exactly close to the leak source. In order to locate the source of the leak, you have to think like water and follow its path. Water travels downhill from the sheathing, rafters, or the top of the ceiling, so the actual leak could be several feet higher, left, or right on the plane of the roof. Another way is to remove the shingles which will reveal rotted wood or damp felt paper below the leak.
The intent is to search for any roof penetrations, which are the most common sources of leaks. These penetrations are mostly –
- Broken or missing shingles
- Poorly sealed or damaged flashing around chimneys
- Plumbing and roof vents
- The intersection of different planes
- Loose or missing nail spots
If you have access to the attic, go there and search for water stains, dark-colored marks, or mold. If you don’t have an attic or vaulted ceilings, you will have to examine the cause from the outside.
A commercial roof repair company will identify the problems as quickly as possible and recommend solutions to help you get back to work.
Tip 2 – Fixing A Roof From The Inside
Seal the leaking spot by making a temporary patch.
During heavy rainfall, water will quickly seep into the drywall and soak the insulation. Follow the path of the dripping water to where it is coming from. Once you have found the leak source, circle the targeted areas with chalk. Wait until the rain subsides and the affected areas are sufficiently dried up. Here’s how to fix the roof from the inside with the help of a temporary patch:
- Make a temporary leak patch using some plywood or shingle along with roofing tar.
- Use a knife or tool with a flat surface to spread the material to the leaking holes on the inside of your roof.
- Place the shingle or plywood onto the tar and apply more around the edges of the patches.
- Press firmly to secure the circled areas with proper adherence.
You can also seal the whole area with caulking applied with a scraper. Finally, map out the leaking area using measurement tape. When the rain stops, wear rubber-soled shoes to repair the leak from the outside.
Tip 3 – Fixing Shingle Roofs
Shingle roof repairs are relatively simpler than the other roof types.
Leaks usually occur due to cracked, curled, or missing shingles. Wherever two surfaces meet and around every vent or chimney, look for cracks in the flashing, caulking, or the lines of the roof cement.
Curled-back shingles can be repaired using asphalt cement or compound tubes applied with a caulking gun. In cold weather, make sure you soften the shingles with a propane torch before they are flattened out.
If shingles are torn, rotten, or missing, they need a replacement. Here is how to replace shingles:
- Lift the edges of the surrounding shingles and carefully pluck nails with a pry bar. Remove leftover cement and protruding nails.
- Slide the new shingle into the gap properly aligned and fasten it with nails.
- Cover with roof cement and smoothen the shingle edges.
- When you are replacing shingles, round the corners at the intersections of the top and bottom rows.
- Ridge shingles or tent-shaped shingles can be replaced the same way.
You can also replace the pulled or missing nails with rubber-washered screws and caulk the shingles down. This you can do without removing the shingles.
Tip 4 – Fixing Flat Roofs
Leaks in flat roofs are caused by a blistered or cracked area.
Flat roofs are built up of layered roofing felt and tar. Hence, such leaks occur at low spots or damaged areas. If there is water pooled in the leak area, dry it up and clean any gravel. Look for cracks or large blisters in the felt or where the top layer has parted.
To repair a blister in the flat roof:
- Use a sharp utility knife to cut the membrane open. Remember the cut should penetrate the membrane fully without reaching the roofing felt beneath it.
- When there is water inside the blister, press from the edge in toward the center to squeeze it out. If the layers are completely saturated, use a propane torch with a flame-spreader nozzle to dry out the felt.
- Reapply a thick coating of roof cement on the bottom and firmly press down the edges of the blister. The new membrane should extend at least 6 inches around the blister edges to completely seal it.
- Nail the blister with a row of 6d galvanized roofing nails at each side of the cut, and then coat a layer of cement over the entire blister.
If water is coming from a large area, chances are it is flowing from an adjoining pitched roof surface. In this case, it is best to call a professional roof repair contractor.
Tip 5 – Fixing A Wooden Shake Roof
As wood attracts water, it becomes highly vulnerable to cracks and leaks.
The constant cycle of swelling and shrinking of wood results in broken or split shakes. The sunlight invades the spaces between the shakes, called keyways, leaving the felt exposed.
A wood shake repair consists of replacing split shakes and installing wood segments in the keyways to block the exploded felt.
For wooden shake roof repair, follow these steps:
- Slant a sharp chisel up into the shake at the same angle as the pitch of the roof and split it carefully using a hammer. Remove pieces of damaged shake. Use a hacksaw to eliminate nail heads.
- Cut the new shake 3/8 inch smaller than the previous gap measurement (the shake swells the first time it rains), using a fine-tooth hacksaw.
- Install the new shake with its top edge placed on overlapping shingles. Nail down the shake with two roofing nails, one on each side.
- With a nail set, secure the nail heads and seal them with a caulking compound.
If you were not able to cut off old nails, you’ll have to carve the new shake to fit in the gap.
Tip 6 – Fixing An Open Roof Valley
Open valleys have exposed flashing that gathers rainwater and debris, leading to leaks.
Cracked roof tiles, damaged flashing, and underlay allow water to enter roof valleys where the accumulation of debris and rainwater gives rise to leaks. As an emergency leak fix, you can locate the leak source and apply a sealant to prevent any further leaking.
Here are the steps to repair an open roof valley:
- Check for small holes along the joint. Patch them with the same type of sheet metal from which the valley is made, otherwise, it will corrode. Most valley metals are either aluminum or copper.
- Using a wire brush, clean the entire valley surface.
- Cut sheet metal patch about 2 inches larger than the hole.
- Apply a thick layer of cement on the targeted area and press the patch into the shape of a valley. Spread more cement to seal the edges of the patch.
Repairing an open roof valley means replacing roof tiles, flashing, membrane, or all three. You will need professional help in case of a full repair or replacement of toxic lead flashing or roofing underlay.
Tip 7 – Fixing Metal Flashing
Detecting the metal flashing damage beforehand saves from expensive repairs.
Roof flashing is thin galvanized steel used to secure joints of valleys, dormers, chimneys, vent pipes, and skylights, any area where the roof meets other structures. When flashing deteriorates, it succumbs to water leaks.
There are different ways to repair flashing, such as:
Patching Small Holes
If there are small holes due to corrosion, patch them using cement or a patch of the same material as the flashing. Cut the patch slightly larger than the hole to overlap its sides.
Replacing Corroded or Damaged Flashing
Highly corroded or damaged flashing needs replacement instead of repair. You will have to remove several rows of shingles to reach the base of the flashing. Hence, this work should be assigned to a professional company.
Cleaning Old Mortar and Caulk
Pull the cap lip flashing out of the mortar joint and clean the old mortar using a hammer and chisel. Brush off the debris and fill the cement mortar in the joint with a small trowel. Press the lip of the flashing into the mortar until dry. Finally, caulk around the joint with butyl rubber caulk. Use silicone caulking compound or urethane roofing cement to seal the seam between the cap and step flashing.
Tip 8 – Fixing A Vent Pipe
Vent pipes develop leaks when the metal flashing holding them together wears out.
Pitched roof vents are fittingly flashed with a metal sheet around the pipe and a protective collar that surrounds its base. For perfect replacement, the diameter of the replacement flashing must be the same as the old one.
The process of flashing around a vent pipe is as follows:
- Remove the old shingles along with the flashing. Clean the pipe from the outside and remove the old caulk.
- Install rubbery underlayments around the penetrations like nails to prevent water from seeping.
- Apply a layer of roof cement at the aluminum base and place the flashing on the pipe. Nail the flashing to secure them in place.
- Put the shingles back over the top of the flashing. Cut the shingles to leave half an inch around the base, meaning the flashing’s bottom must be left exposed.
Always wear gloves while working with metal flashing as they have sharp edges.
Tip 9 – Maintaining And Fixing Gutters
A well-maintained drainage system is an important component of a building’s structure.
Due to bad drainage, blocked gutters, downspouts, and scuppers, commercial roofs tend to accumulate leaves, debris, and bits of detritus from shingles. Excessive debris can lead to ponding of water, damaging the building’s infrastructure in the form of leaks, mold, and insects. That is why conducting regular inspections and maintenance of the gutters is necessary.
- Regularly cleaning gutters to identify any roofing problems and to ensure that they can transport water flow properly.
- Check if there are any corrosion, stains, loose fittings, or separations along the seams. Separations can be fixed by resealing, but corrosion will need replacement.
- Trim the trees away from the roof by at least 3 feet to prevent natural debris.
- The gutters and downspouts should be securely fastened to the building. In high-wind areas, employ hurricane straps to secure them.
- If the drainage system is frequently clogged, inspect commercial gutter guards that act as a shield against debris.
Clogged gutters should be immediately cleared, as they put considerable strain on other roofing components.
Tip 10 – Applying A Waterproof Paint
Waterproof paints are a protective barrier against harsh weather and other damage.
Last but not the least, to maintain your roof’s integrity, invest in high-quality waterproof paint for your commercial building. Advanced, durable paints work as a protective layer and are more resistant to harsh chemical and environmental factors.
It prevents damage from external elements like thunder, rain, scorching heat, and radiation that can cause leakages for a long period. Masonry paint, a waterproofing paint made from ceramic and latex paints is one of the most preferred options for concrete roofs.
Epoxy and acrylic waterproofing paints are some other reliable paints.
Commercial Roof Repair Services:
When you are not able to locate the source of the leak or don’t have the necessary skills, time, or tools to fix your commercial roof, it’s time to seek professional help. Commercial roofing contractors carry the expertise and equipment to fix most types of leaks quickly and efficiently.
How Much Do Roof Repairs Cost?
Generally, the roof repair costs range from $3 to $7 per square foot. The price also depends on the roof material. Asphalt shingles cost between $3 to $7 per square foot whereas barrel tile costs from $6 to $20 per square foot.
Commercial contractors and roofing companies will provide you with a free repair quote for the work that is required, the timeline, and the cost needed to complete it. If your facility has suffered internal or external damage, make sure your insurance claim covers the cost of repairing.
Commercial roofs are an essential element of any building’s infrastructure. Regular inspection, estimates, and small repairs or replacements can minimize your expenses, enhance your roof’s condition, and maximize its longevity. As soon as you spot leaks, you should deal with them right away. Always wear rubber gloves and shoes while working on repairs.
It’s important to know when to seek professional help as roof repair works include several safety concerns. A professional roofing contractor carries the proper tools and experience to conduct assessments, repairs, and replacements.
At Constructive Solutions, Inc. our skilled specialists will check for leaks or other roofing problems and provide you with longer-lasting solutions.
If you want to schedule a roof repair or replacement, contact us today.