Flat Roof Leaks And Inspection Checklist

Top 4 Things to Inspect on Your Flat Roof

If your building has a flat roof, there are 4 things you should look for that can be signs or symptoms of damage or failure:

1. Ponding Water

The first thing to look for that can be a sign of major roof problems: ponding water. You’ll need to get up on the roof, or on a deck or parapet overlooking your roof to get view of this—a drone inspection is also a great way to take a look! Ideally, you’ll be able to walk around the roof and take a look at areas of standing water.

When is a good time to look for ponding?

Obviously, you want your roof to always be draining properly, even during a heavy downpour (which come fairly frequently around our service areas in Seattle, Portland, and Salt Lake City). But if you get up on your roof about 48 hours after a rain event, when the weather has been dry for a couple days, is there still standing water present? Are those puddles still hanging around? Do you see pools of water in dips on the roof, or around the drains? Ponding water is a big problem you’ll want to take care of ASAP, and you can call an expert to help you diagnose the cause of the problem.

2. Penetration Failure

The next things to look at are the roof perimeter and penetrations. A roof penetration is any interruption or opening in your roof membrane that was made to install components like HVAC, vents, skylights, chimneys, etc. Another example of a penetration is a perimeter edge, especially gutter edges. Around edges of penetrations, you might start to see sealant coming up and peeling apart. Each and every interruption in the roofing material is an area of potential failure.

How to inspect your roof penetrations

Take a close look at your base flashings and every potential penetration. One past mistake in the installation or maintenance can cause a leak or failure. 75% of all roof leaks come from roof penetrations, base flashings or the perimeter edge. Remember to be extremely careful when looking at your roof perimeter edge; always follow standard safety protocol when inspecting your roof.

3. Tree Vegetation and Debris

The third thing to look for is your roof’s proximity to trees. If you have branches coming down within 15 feet of your roof, you will have a constant buildup of debris throughout the year. Foliage and other debris can plug up your roof drains and cause ponding water (See step 1!). Trees around your building can be beautiful and provide shade to your building, but you should always keep them trimmed back. If you don’t, it could cost you money in the long run.

Another cause of debris on the roof, if you live near a body of water or in an urban area: birds. Seagulls like to collect shells, seaweed, and other debris and collect it on your roof. Pigeons like to build nests on roofs, and bird droppings can cause damage to the membranes. It’s recommended to get up on your roof every quarter to clear out the drains and gutters.
Keeping your roof clean can make a big difference in its lifespan!

4. Curling Shingles & Granule Loss

Many flat-roof buildings are complemented by a sloped shingle roof design. For shingle roof areas, we recommend you keep an eye out for granule loss. A common sign of granule loss is when you’re cleaning debris from your roof, drains, and gutters, you’ll start to notice a buildup of the shingle granules.

Another thing to look for with shingles: curling. When shingles are old, sun-damaged, or exposed to other extreme weather, they start to curl up around the edges. This is a sign of failure and an indication that they are ready to be replaced. When they start to show spider cracking, it’s time to call in an expert.

Those are telltale signs of roof failure and damage. Once again, if you notice any of these symptoms, it’s a good idea to call in an expert to take a look, diagnose the cause, and prescribe a treatment plan for the issues.