Commercial Roof Repairs 101: How to Save Time and Money!

Owning and managing a commercial roof is a lot like owning a car; while the initial purchase is the biggest expense, getting the most out of it requires routine maintenance, proactive care, and, inevitably, repairs.

Commercial roof repairs could be necessary for any number of reasons, but it almost always boils down to a leak. Whether that leak was caused by blocked drainage and ponding water, a puncture caused by another contractor, or unseen damage from a severe storm, most people don’t think about their roofs until it starts leaking. By then, the roof may have been leaking for days, weeks, or in some instances even months.

Because commercial roof repairs are inevitable, we want you to be prepared with all of the knowledge, insight, and wherewithal you need to understand everything there is to know about taking the best care of your commercial roofing system.

What are the most common commercial roof repairs?

9 out of 10 times we hear from building owners or managers about the need for roof repairs because they’ve just found a leak. Sometimes this is a result of them not being diligent about conducting their own roof walks to ensure there aren’t ponding water issues or any obvious issues with their roof. However, leaks can also be the sudden (and unfortunate) result of extreme weather. In any case, the common theme here is that these calls are almost always reactive as opposed to proactive.

Some roof repairs could be routine corrective issues like open seams and punctures, which are often considered normal wear and tear. In addition, other very common commercial roof issues and sources of leaks include:

  • Roof flashing failed
  • Curb flashing failed
  • Pipe penetrations
  • Pourable sealer pocket failed
  • Roof drain blockage
  • Failing sealant (often on exposed termination bars and pipe penetrations)

Many of these issues can be easily identified and often repaired on-site when your bi-annual inspections are conducted by a certified commercial roof contractor, which is why we lump them into the preventative maintenance category. If left unnoticed for too long, these are small repairs that have the potential to grow into very costly, time-consuming repairs by the time you recognize a leak.

Which commercial roof types are considered the lowest maintenance? Which ones are the highest maintenance?

Every single roof is unique and requires both a different approach to prep work and measures for repair. As much as it frustrates some people, there simply is not a one-size-fits-all approach to any commercial roofing task.

That said, there are certainly some trends as to which types of roof more often require repairs versus others.

Single-ply membrane roofs, for example, which include TPO, EPDM, and PVC, only offer one layer of protection, meaning they’re more susceptible to roof damage than multi-layered, redundant roof systems like modified bitumen or built-up roofing. Yes, single-ply membrane roofs are noticeably more cost effective to install and repair but you can expect those roofs to require more regular, albeit cheaper, repairs over the course of its lifetime.

Modified bitumen and built-up roofs, on the other hand, will generally create fewer issues over time but it’s repairs are, on-average, more intensive and costly than single-ply membrane roofs.

How can building owners or managers recognize when they need commercial roof repairs?

The most common (and least fortunate) way of finding out your roof needs repairs? An unexpected leak appears.

However if you’ve scheduled bi-annual inspections with a commercial roofing contractor, identifying roof repairs is never something you’ll have to worry about; the commercial roofing expert knows exactly what to look for and will bring any areas of concern to your immediate attention.

Do your future self a favor and trust in the pros!

How often do commercial roofs require repairs?

Again, commercial roofing is not a broad strokes, one-size-fits-all subject. It all depends on the age, location, condition, and type of roof and we address each repair on a case-by-case basis. The biggest takeaway is that people who maintain their roofs will have to endure fewer “surprises,” whereas reactive owners who wait for leaks are gambling with the devil.

Like cars, older roofs generally require more frequent repairs as the problems will increase with age. Proactive roof maintenance can squash a lot of these would-be headaches before they become really problematic and extend the lifespan of your commercial roof by years.

Reactive owners, in short, are paying more and getting less over the long run. Keep in mind that around 90% of the calculated cost for a leak investigation repair is just the labor required to identify the source of the leak. Repairs themselves are often straightforward, but because leaks can travel extensive distances within your building before you notice them, the investigative process can be time-consuming…and potentially costly.

Recently, we performed an inspection of a customer’s ballasted EPDM roofing system and found that most if not all of the pourable sealer pockets had deteriorated sealant. As a quick remedy, we recommended topping off with new sealant, however the customer politely declined. Fast forward 2 months, and we’re back on the same roof, this time for a leak investigation. The customer’s budget was spent discovering that the source of the leak was (you guessed it!) the pourable sealer pockets.

No matter what type of roof, repair, or work we’re discussing, 10 out of 10 times it’s cheaper to do things right the first time with a certified commercial roofing contractor.

Spend a little money now, save a lot of money later!

How do commercial roof repairs affect my manufacturer’s warranty?

For every major commercial roofing manufacturer who offers No-Dollar-Limit warranties to cover workmanship, labor, and materials, the biggest and most common exclusion is always a lack of preventative or basic roof maintenance. This isn’t a gambit to void building owners/managers of their warranties but rather draws a line saying that the manufacturer refuses to pay for major repairs that are a result of negligence.

If the drains of your roof are backed up, creating a ponding water issue that leads to roof seams opening up, that falls on the building owner’s shoulders. That doesn’t necessarily mean the warranty will be voided, however the manufacturer certainly won’t cover that specific repair.

Ultimately, the commercial roofing contractor conducting the inspection or repair will provide a full service report to the manufacturer, who will then determine whether the building owner is responsible for the repair. Although they are highly uncommon, there are also some manufacturers who will provide incentives to perform basic maintenance, meaning warranties could be extended if that maintenance is documented and reported.

Every warranty and scenario is unique, however, so be sure to check your own policies and manufacturer before assuming anything!

The moral of the story? Conducting basic maintenance on your commercial roof, including routine, wear-and-tear roof repairs, will save time and money in the long run and help maintain your existing warranties. Proactive maintenance, combined with swift repairs of any issues that do arise, will prevent “surprises” and greatly reduce the likelihood of emergency costs down the road.

Be in control of your time and budget and extend your commercial roof lifespan by years!

Ready to schedule your FREE roof inspection with Simpson Unlimited? Give us a call or drop us a line so we can start helping you today!


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