Posts

5 Things to Know About Commercial Flat Roof Repair

Whether or not you have experience with roofing projects, you’re probably aware that the flat roof of a commercial building must be handled differently than other types of roofs. It’s precisely because the roofs of most commercial buildings are flat that they have different needs, in maintenance, care, and of course, repair. While in some cases, it can be easier to deal with a commercial roof, in others, it can be significantly more challenging. Here are five of the most important things you should know before beginning any commercial flat roof repair:

Understand Why Your Roof Is Flat

Many people don’t give any consideration to why commercial buildings usually have flat roofs, but have you ever thought about it? What benefits does a flat roof provide to the owner of a building? Why do almost all commercial buildings make use of them, from grocery stores to factories to hospitals? While the majority of residential buildings have sloped roofing.

As you may suspect, the primary reason is cost-effectiveness, however, there is a lot more to it. Building a sloped roof requires a lot more materials, which can be an unnecessary expenditure when your building is required to be practical but not flashy. There’s also another practical reason for commercial buildings to have flat roofs: in many municipalities, there are height restrictions on buildings. You can maximize the space available to you if you simply keep your roof flat. There’s an aesthetic element to all of this as well: try to picture your local grocery store trying to pull off a sloped roof!

It should be noted that a flat roof is never completely flat. There always has to be at least a slight slant to it to allow for proper water drainage.

Know the Different Types of Commercial Flat Roofs

When you’re constructing a commercial building, it’s not as simple as just ordering a “commercial flat roof.” Actually, there are several types of flat roofs that you can consider. Which one you choose depends on your budget and requirements, but no matter which, you’ll have to consider things like drainage and UV protection. Here are a few of the options available to you:

Built-Up Roof System (BUR)

Also known as the “tar and gravel” roof by some, the built-up roof system was one of the most common types of commercial flat roofs for decades. This particular style of roof is one of the oldest types of roofing still in common use, and its continued popularity speaks to its effectiveness and durability. The name “built-up roof” comes from the fact that this type of roof is literally “built up” out of layers of tar and asphalt paper. The layers of roofing material are then reinforced with fiberglass matting. Finally, another thin layer of tar is added to the top of the roof, which is then covered by a layer of aggregate stone.

Advantages of this particular roofing system include durability—these types of roof can last for up to 50 years with proper maintenance—but the chief disadvantage is cost and fumes. Because it requires many hours of labor, this is one of the most expensive flat commercial roofing systems to install.

Metal Panel Roof System

If you’re looking to save on costs, a metal panel roof system may be the choice you should make. It is very simple in its design: metal panels with a special sealant between the joints and a neoprene seal anywhere there are washers in place. These roofs are cheap and have a relatively short lifespan, and so they are usually only used for warehouses and factories.

Single Ply

A relatively new product to the industry, single ply has quickly become one of the most popular choices. The synthetic membrane is applied in a single layer, is flexible and lightweight, and is UV resistant. Single-ply roofing is fairly economical to install, depending on the type of membrane used and preparation needed. It has a comparable lifespan, depending on millimeter thickness used.

Understand Your Warranty

Most commercial roofs are under some type of warranty after they’re constructed. Your warranty can last anywhere from 5 years all the way up to 20 years. If your roof is still under warranty, you won’t have to worry about repair for most minor issues: it will be covered. Other, larger issues, and certain unusual circumstances, may not be covered. If you are in an older building, it may also not be covered. Do some research on, and try to understand, the warranty that covers your roof (if you have one).

Fixing Minor Issues

Now that you have some awareness of different types—and the purpose—of commercial flat roofs, let’s discuss some of the more common minor issues. Both residential and commercial roofs are prone to leaks, and even the most sophisticated roofing technology occasionally requires repair. In some cases, you’ll be able to fix problems yourself. Under most circumstances, however, you’ll want to seek out the services of a qualified professional.

One common example of a problem with a commercial flat roof is a leak. If you have noticed a leak in the roof of your building, the first thing you must do is locate it. Doing so can be relatively easy, or difficult, depending on where the leak is located. Try to tape off an area about two feet around in either direction from where the dripping is coming from. Once you have done that, you can search the roof for any signs of damage. Occasionally, you’ll easily find an obvious hole. However, more commonly, you’ll need to call a professional to help locate the leak for you. Contact a professional at Interstate Roofing if you are having trouble finding the source of your leak.

Finding a Qualified Professional Roofer

With most elements of commercial flat roof repair, you’ll need to find a competent professional to do the job for you. Finding one involves a fair amount of research. While there are many roof service professionals out there, choosing the right one involves a little homework. Read online reviews, check references, and talk to other satisfied customers. You will also want to check what, if any, certifications your prospective roofer has.

If you are in the Portland area, Interstate Roofing is your best option. They have earned the highest possible certification level from GAF, which is the largest roofing manufacturer in North America. This status, combined with their other awards and years of experience, make them a top choice for commercial flat roof repair in and around Portland, Oregon.

Will My Business Be Interrupted During Commercial Flat Roof Repair?

There’s only one thing that matters most to your business: customers. Without them, your business would fail.

That means your business has to be open during your scheduled hours.

It also means having a safe place for your customers and employees.

What happens when you’re in need of commercial flat roof repair?

As a business owner, you probably spend a lot of time fixated on the bottom line. It’s a natural part of doing business. Budgets are everything. And when an emergency happens that threatens to throw that budget out of whack, what’s a property manager to do?

Thanks to technology, the internet is only a click away. In just a few seconds, you can have a world of advice right at your fingertips. You can find millions of results telling you how to do the project yourself. You can find just as many results offering helpful solutions from supposedly reputable companies.

What advice do you trust?

And how will it impact your business during the process?

Do You Need a Repair or Replacement?

When you first discover you are in need of commercial flat roof repair, it’s usually something big. Maybe a leak is dripping through your ceiling and into an office. Or there’s an overflow from the roof down below and the damage is starting to build up.

Once the initial shock wears off, the next question that runs through your mind is the one we hear the most: repair or replace? And honestly, it’s impossible to answer that question without an evaluation of the current condition. Anyone who tells you otherwise isn’t giving you the best advice.

An experienced low slope roof contractor will tell you that the decision can only be made after a thorough inspection of all aspects of your flat roof. The following needs to be assessed:

  • Roofing Materials – Roofing Seams – Are they all sealed properly to not let moisture move down underneath
  • Roofing Flashings – Are they still connected to the membrane?

An investigation will show where the weaknesses are, what condition the materials are in, and your best options.

Fixing Leaks is Best for Business

The sooner you identify leaks and problem areas, the quicker commercial flat roof repair will have you back up and running to normal capacity. Typically we find that flat roofs have problems due to:

  • Damage caused by storms, and people/contractors accessing the roof
  • Failed flashing around the perimeter of your commercial building
  • Poor drainage
  • Bad workmanship in the original installation or in past repairs
  • A roof that has reached the end of its life

At the first sign of a leak, if you fix it the right way, it won’t cause problems in the short term. Those promises of “spraying” something on for a quick fix? Anytime you hear the term “quick fix” you should think twice.

The most cost-effective way to maintain a commercial flat roof is to handle each situation as quickly as it appears. That means never taking the current condition for granted. Regularly maintaining it will ensure the biggest of problems don’t happen unannounced.

What are the Biggest Risks?

The three biggest threats to commercial flat roofs here in the Pacific Northwest are moisture, biological growth, and wind.

Moisture
There’s no denying your roof has to be designed to drain away water. Just when you think the rains have moved on, it starts raining a little bit more. If your roof isn’t designed to carry away the moisture as it comes down and settles, problems will quickly arise.

Biological growth
There’s also the potential of biological growth when cold moisture from the winter months meets the warmth of a well-insulated building. This is the perfect breeding ground for mold, mildew, and other damage to the roof structure or building materials. Proper installation and a regular maintenance cycle are key to ensuring a long life.

Wind
High winds can cause damage in a variety of ways. One good burst of energy can send loose fasteners flying, destroy weak flashing, or rip apart imperfect seals in seconds. And depending on where your commercial property is located, tree damage can increase the likelihood of further damage.

The Commercial Flat Roof Repair Process

Sometimes a simple repair is enough. If flashing is missing, securing new flashing in place may be all it takes.

In other cases, an entirely new roof is needed to protect your investment.

Once you know your options, together with your trusted commercial flat roof technician you can decide the right option for you.

Restoring your roof involves making whatever repairs necessary to bring it back to working condition. Sometimes that involves a protective flat roof coating applied directly to all roofing materials. This is an extremely effective way to give your roof its full-service life.

Other times it involves replacing a roof; tearing off the old one and installing a new. Consider this your last resort.

If you work with a commercial flat roof specialist, they can create a maintenance plan that works for you to keep your roof in good condition, to give your flat roof as full of a life as possible. Restorations are the best choice whenever possible because they are:

  • More cost effective – they cost much less than full roof replacement
  • Easier to complete – sometimes work can be finished in just a day or two
  • Energy efficient – if you haven’t had work done in a while, the newest coating may increase your energy efficiency, saving you money over time

What to Expect During the Process

With a reputable commercial flat roof repair company, you can expect:

An honest quote with no hidden charges. Be sure to ask about extra charges that aren’t in a quote, and how they are applied. If you don’t feel comfortable before you sign a contract, you’ll never be comfortable during the process.

A professional company from beginning to end. A reputable company cares about the business and works hard to keep customers happy. It’s licensed and insured to protect both you and the crew. The owners care about safety and work hard for your approval.

Full disclosure of the process. You’ll have an estimated timeline before the work starts. You’ll understand how it will impact your business from beginning to end.

Bottom line: if damage to your roof is a threat to anyone at your commercial location – employees, tenants, customers – your best course is to take action immediately.

A reputable commercial flat roof repair specialist will always think safety first and provide you with a job well done.