Roof leaks can be difficult to find and rarely happen directly over where you find the damage. The reason for this is that water finds the path of least resistance and can flow under roofing material or along rafters. Believe it or not, flat roofs can be more difficult to find a leak in than steep roofs. In most cases you have no access to look at the underside of the roof deck to determine where the leak starts.

Single Ply Roofs: If the roof is a single ply material such as TPO, PVC or EPDM all it takes to create a leak is a guy in heavy work boots that have a rock caught in the sole walking across the roof where he isn’t supposed to and now you have a leak. The problem is it takes a very small hole to cause a problem. Underneath s single ply roof membrane there usually is one or more layers of insulation as well as screws and plates or adhesive. Water enters the roof at the hole or possibly at a seam and then absorbs into the insulation or flows under the roof material until it can gain entrance into the building sometimes far from where it started. Tracking back to the site of the problem can be difficult, look for a bubble or blister in the material, also feel for soft spots in the insulation by walking and pushing on it with your foot always check your seams as these can be a problem area. Look for small bubbles of water coming up when you walk.

BUR- Built Up Roofing– This consists of various plies of felts and adhesives usually with a cap sheet. The fact that there are multiple layers separated by asphalt or adhesives means this roof is less susceptible to the same issues as a single ply. Typically you can see where this roof is leaking because it requires more significant damage to leak. However seams and edges can hide problems. As in single ply if water finds its way to the roof deck it may flow for quite a distance before entering the building and becoming visible.

Some of the first places I suggest checking is around details such as scuppers, crickets, curbs, penetrations and parapet walls. In many cases the roof isn’t leaking at all, cracked stucco or brick in a parapet wall allows water to get to the roof deck and then flow underneath the roofing material and show up far away from where it originated. Just because there is a spot on a ceiling in the middle of the room does not mean the roof is really leaking, in many cases the parapet walls are the culprit. If the parapet wall is not the cause and the roof looks good then most likely the problem is in the flashing details.

Ultimately finding a leak and repairing it in a flat roof takes some knowledge and possibly special equipment. Putting roofing tar on an EPDM membrane will cause more damage than you are trying to fix, some products are compatible and some aren’t. There are products like elastomeric coatings that if used properly can solve many leaking problem and get you additional life out of your roof.

Unless the damage is truly apparent and you have some knowledge of the product on the roof and compatible products to repair it. I suggest you contact a professional, trying to resolve these issues yourself can cause much more damage than you started with.

Cornerstone Roofing – where Integrity is the cornerstone of our business! Serving Southern Colorado for over 30 years. Call our toll-free number to be connected to the office in your area. 877-564-5470

Rory Huskin- owner