Flat roofs are a common choice for commercial buildings throughout Southern California.
While a flat roof provides your building with clean lines and modern look, these types of roofs can present their own set of potential problems.
If you have a flat roof and you’re concerned about its condition, read on for seven telltale signs it may be time for a replacement.
1. Pooling Water on a Flat Roof
Perhaps the most common issue with flat roofs, ponding water can become a serious problem in a very short amount of time. Since a flat roof has little or almost no slope, water cannot properly runoff the surface.
If you’re seeing regular pooling after it rains, it might be time for a roof inspection. You can purchase products that will add a little extra slope to your roof if it’s not too late.
When water settles on a flat roof, it runs the risk of collapsing or buckling. Have a professional assess the damage due to water pooling to determine if it can be repaired before it needs to be completely replaced.
2. Visible Rips and Tears
Flat roofs do not typically use shingles, so it’s not always easy to notice when something is damaged. You may notice tears or even holes that are clearly visible in the roofing material.
If this damage is ignored, it can eventually lead to tearing at the seams. A ripped roof seam will cause extensive leaking that can affect the entire building’s structural integrity.
For minor rips and tears, you should be able to patch the problem. However, if the damage is extensive, you may need to have the entire top part of the roof redone.
3. The Flashing is Separating
From multi-family housing to commercial buildings, flashing should be installed on every roof. The purpose of this roof component is to cover any potential areas where water could seep into the structure.
Vulnerable seams that are starting to separate can cause serious issues. Take a closer look to see if the flashing on your flat roof feels loose or if it visibly appears to be flapping in the wind.
Catching problems with flashing early can be a much simpler and less costly repair than a roof replacement. If you’ve caught the issue too late, you might have to replace the flashing and the entire roof together.
4. Water Spots
No matter what kind of roof you have, water spots on the ceiling is a serious red flag. Sometimes you’ll see water damage as a result of condensation from your air conditioning system.
If the water spot on your ceiling is larger than normal or extremely discolored, this is a sign that your roof could be in distress. For most roofs, large water spots on a ceiling indicate that you have a leak somewhere.
Take a close look at your roof to see if you can identify the source of the leak. It’s always best to enlist the help of a professional roofer who can determine whether the leak can be fixed or if you’re going to need a brand-new roof.
5. Membrane Problems
Most flat roofs utilize a protective membrane rather than shingles to keep them safe from water damage. Over time, that membrane may not be able to provide your building with adequate protection.
If you live in an area with high winds, the membrane may end up coming completely loose. Keep an eye on your roof and if you notice that the rubber membrane is carelessly flapping in the wind, it’s time for an evaluation.
Most roof membranes can be reapplied without needing a replacement. Check with your local roofing company to ensure that it’s a quick fix rather than a total redo for your flat roof.
6. Cracks in the Coating
Some flat roofs use a coating system that’s white in color. The purpose of this white coating is to give the building better energy efficiency and provide it with a lightweight option.
Over time, this coating can start to crack. If you can see cracks in your roof coating with the naked eye, the time to act is now.
For most flat roofs with this type of coating, the average lifespan is around 15 years. If you have an older roof, be aware of any cracking you see so you can have it repaired quickly.
7. Fasteners are Loose
When a single-ply flat roof is installed, fasteners are used to keep the membrane and other roofing materials securely attached. These fasteners can start to come loose as a result of weather, temperature changes, and general aging.
If you notice that your flat roof is starting to look bumpy, it’s likely a result of loose fasteners. Thankfully, this should be easily remedied by a roofer who can reattach or re-secure the loose fasteners.
Don’t ignore loose fasteners since the gap between them and the roof membrane can allow water to penetrate.
Know the Signs of Potential Damage
If you have a flat roof on your building, it’s good to know the signs that could indicate possible damage. By identifying these problems early, you can prevent serious repairs that can cost you a lot of time and money.
Always consult with a professional roofing company if you think your roof may be leaking or in trouble. With a good eye and understanding of how flat roofs work, you can prevent the issue from becoming catastrophic.
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