Commercial roofs can be tricky when there are issues with it. Whether there are is a small leak or the problem is more severe, you and your roofing contractor need to take action right away. Not only to stop the damage in its tracks but to prevent it from spreading and damaging other areas of your roof. In this article, we go over signs to look out for and the most common causes of leaks.

What To Do Right After Finding the Source of the Leak

After you notice a leak, its important to try to reduce the damage as much as you can. If water has passed through and is entering your building, placing a bucket right underneath it right away. This way, the bucket collects the water drops in one place and prevents other items from getting wet. This is the best temporary solution in this case. Mop any water that is on the floor and make sure the area is dry. Next, move and disconnect any electronics, cover other nearby items with plastic sheets if these are movable.

Let’s say you notice the leak while or right after it rains, approach this in a proactive way and mark or take a photo at the source of water entry. This way, you can tell the roofing contractor where to look from the outside during their inspection. While finding the right leak area when its not raining is possible, it can be harder and more time consuming for the roofer to find the source of entry. If the leak keeps occurring long after a rainstorm, there could be an issue with either the building’s air conditioning or plumbing.

Leaks can be a bit of a guessing game, however, most people start with roof inspections first. The roofing contractor will perform a water test, which is a more fool-proof way to find the source of the leak instead of doing guess work.

commercial roof leaks interior damage bucket to stop draining

Other Signs of Damage to Look Out For

  • Mold or strange odors: If you or someone in the building is perceptive to strange smells that do not seem to go away, this is a a red flag that you have some leak issues. Nothing should be getting through a well installed and maintained roof. If there’s mold, that means moisture is building and water is most likely entering the building at a constant rate.
  • Staining: Discolored walls or ceiling are signs of water getting inside. The water has not leaked through the ceiling or walls yet, but over time, it will. Its time to take action now.

What is a Water Test?

A water test consists of using controlled water sources, usually using a hose and letting water fall on a specific area or multiple areas of the roof. The goal is to see how and where the water is coming in from. Typically, a roofing contractor starts on the flat side of the roof, if there’s any and moves towards other areas that look promising. Water tests are best made by two inspectors at the same time. While one pours water onto the roof, the other goes inside to see the water come in. When performing a water test, its important to know that these can take some time. Water tests typically last at least 30 minutes, if not longer.

Let’s say that the roofer has tested all areas of the roof, starting from the bottom and worked up the roof, then tested the flashings and vents next. If no water entry is found, then the issue is most likely chalked up to be with the plumbing or HVAC unit.

Leak Damages and Your Commercial Building

Age of Roof

Typically, a commercial roof’s lifespan stems from 20-30 years, with proper maintenance and weather conditions. While proper maintenance is crucial and helps to extend your roof’s life, eventually like all things, the roof wears down. Issues start to appear and the best solution is to do a complete replacement. Don’t just take it from us, 9 out of 10 roofers will agree. Some won’t even want to do repairs on roofs that are extremely deteriorated. Temporary band-aids do not help a roof if the damage is too severe. We do recommend to read about your local building codes. You might be able to see if an additional roofing system can be installed or if a complete re-roof is best.


While we may not think that leaks require urgency, they can become extremely harmful in no time. Not only to yourself but your building as well. If left unattended, they can affect the electrical wiring of the building and cause blackouts or even fires. While these are extreme cases, what comes with commercial building leaks includes a more hidden inconvenience down the road, moisture.

Moisture occurs because a roof stays colder on the outside and the temperatures clash with the warmth of the inside of the building. This warm air rises and becomes moisture, which penetrates the surface of the roof. This moisture can lead to corrosion on your roof and eventually, leaks.

Poor Drainage

Check to make sure that gutters, downspouts, and drains are working properly and no items are blocking the water passage. Poor drainage can make water pool and start entering the building. Not to mention, pool water can add extra weight to the roof, especially if left for a long time.

roofer on building installing TPO material new

Open Areas

If a roof is incorrectly installed, one thing to inspect is for any open penetrations. Check around pipes, gas lines, vents, or HVAC units to see if there are any open holes or loose installations or caulking. If parts are improperly sealed, then water can slowly trickled down and get in.

Membrane Damage

Commercial buildings differ from asphalt roofs in that rubber membrane is the main material. While it is more durable when it comes to weather issues, its not damage proof. The roofing contractor inspects the roof and can decide if a replacement or a repair is the correct choice. Commercial roofs are costly but the good thing is that when its time for repairs, they cost a fraction of the installation amount.

Weather Damage

The most common cause of commercial roof leaks occur due to constant bad weather. For us in the Midwest, its unavoidable. From high winds, rain, hail, snow year after year, it causes normal wear and tear. Freeze and thaw cycles during winter time damage your roof over time. By weather fluctuations, the rubber hardens and can possibly crack with the changing temperatures. Since thick ice build-up melts from the bottom up, the addition of weight from this causes the water to pool and can start to make its way in over time. Routine maintenance from your roofer helps pinpoint for these issues, when they arise.

TPO white material recently installed on a commercial building


What If the Damage is Too Severe?

Whether you experience one or all of the signs above, contact a professional roofing company right away. From their inspection, they are able to provide more information and options you have for your roof.

The roofing inspector is sure to ask about your warranty as well, a good company works with manufacturer warranties and insurances. In case that they do not ask, be sure to mention it and see if they can help you work with your insurance.

In case that serious damage is found, then there’s no other option than a roof replacement. Head to our article here to read more about it. Routine roof maintenance prevents the need for roof replacements, however, many factors can cause it to need one. Your roofing contractor should explain why this is the best option, provide an estimate and material options that you can pick from.

In Summary, the Best Steps to Help Your Commercial Roof Are:

  1. Contain interior water damage: Clear the area of any equipment, furniture or supplies. Make sure there is a warning sign if people walk around the area.
  2. Pinpoint or snap photo of point of water entry: Marking the exact spot where the water is coming in from makes the roofer’s job slightly easier. Additionally, if you are working with your insurance, it also helps their adjuster when they inspect the building.
  3. Look for other potential problem areas: While one area might be the only issue, you never know. Its important to be on the look out for other areas with possible damage, that way, the roofer can fix all areas as needed.
  4. Call your local roofing company: Containing the damage is the first step, now its time to reach out to a contractor to help fix the problem. Have a roofing contractor or two provide you quotes for the repairs.
  5. Reach out to your insurance: Depending on your situation, you may want to work with your insurance. Do see if they can cover the expenses for any repairs or possible replacements.
  6. Look over your warranty and labor installation: Its always a good idea to know the warranties and rights you have. Especially if the roof is relatively new, then there’s a strong chance that the installer can help and see what the issue is.

No matter the size or cause of the issue, its best to be proactive and act right away. Small leaks can become big problems in a short amount of time when not treated.