Commercial Roof Repair


While similar to residential roof repair, commercial roof repair can differ in a variety of ways. Depending on your location, most commercial roofs (warehouses, strip malls, factories, etc) are commonly referred to as flat roofs. The term flat roof can be a bit misleading. These roofs are actually slightly pitched to allow for proper rainwater drainage. The pitch on these roofs is minimal, but to the untrained eye, the roof would appear to be flat.

Complications of commercial roof repair.

Due to the nature of the specific businesses that operate out of these commercial spaces, often the roofs are complicated. They can have rooftop air conditioning units and duct-work. For example, restaurants often have rooftop grease collection and exhaust fan systems. There can also be various penetrations for vent piping that can add to the complications of installing, repairing and maintaining flat roof systems. It is recommended that these roofs receive routine maintenance to not only secure these sensitive areas but to extend the overall life of the roof. General maintenance would involve yearly inspection and sealing any and all areas where there are seams and penetrations.

An Ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Many years ago, we were contacted by a small auto repair business for garage roof repair. The remnants of a severe tropical storm blew through the area and tore off not only the roofing material of the shop, but also the underlayment and plywood sheathing. Upon examination, it was discovered that this roof had not received any maintenance or repair work for over twenty years. Had the proper, necessary maintenance work been completed over the years, this extremely expensive situation could have been avoided.

With the growing unpredictability and increasing strength of storms in the country, storm damage roof repair inquiries have increased. An improperly maintained flat commercial roof is at greater risk for wind driven storm damage than a properly maintained roof. Large flat surface areas can be prone to damage from uplift due to high winds, so it is important that materials are properly installed. Due to the size of many larger commercial properties, the cost in repairing this damage can reach into the tens of thousands of dollars or more to fix. This is one reason that we strongly recommend getting on a maintenance schedule to prevent the potential for any catastrophic material failures.

Routine maintenance is the most important thing you can do to protect your building from damge caused by the elements.

Considerations for your flat commercial roof.

What things should you consider if you own a commercial property? Well, the good news is, commercial property owner’s roofing concerns are similar to residential property owners.

Contractor Selection

Make sure that you contact reputable roofing contractors who stand by their work and offer reasonable guarantees on their work. Find out what the recommended maintenance requirements are for the roof type you have. Often times maintenance is a requirement of a warranty and is necessary to keep the warranty in good standing.

Material Selection

In the Philadelphia area, flat roofs are very common. You’ll find them on commercial properties and single family row homes alike. If you are from outside of the Philadelphia area, you would probably be most familiar with seeing flat roofs only on commercial properties. Because of the minimal slope of these roofs, materials such as shingles (asphalt or wood shakes) or slate would not be appropriate for these applications.

If you were to install a material meant for a sloped application, there is an extremely high risk of water running along and under the tabs of asphalt shingles and slates. Those types of roof depend on a steeper slope to function properly. Water could penetrate the roof and cause severe property damaging leaks. For this reason, specific rolled roofing materials have been developed for flat residential and commercial roofs.

For commercial roof repair, rolled roofing is the appropriate material type that all reputable roofing companies and manufacturers would recommend. Rolled roofing comes in different material types including; modified bitumen (granulated or smooth variations) also known as “rubber roofing”, TPO (Thermoplastic Polyolefin), EPDM (Ethylene Propylene Diene Terpolymer).
Depending on the type of material chosen, these systems can be installed using mechanical fasteners, adhesives, or heat welding.

Repairing these roofs involves various types of material. There are adhesives, cements and other waterproofing materials and coatings. Many of these products come in winter grade and summer grade, make sure your contractor selects the right material for the job.

Discuss different material applications with your contractor. While many architects will often recommend TPO or EPDM for commercial jobs, sometimes it is not the right choice. Things like repair costs, and connections to adjoining properties need to be taken into consideration. Roofs in Philadelphia are mostly asphalt based, and in many cases it is difficult to interface a newer material like TPO or EPDM with an older asphalt based system. In these cases it may make more sense to install a modified bitumen roof that will be compatible and long lasting.

Coating the roofs with a variety of coatings may also be suggested. Many of these products are petroleum based. More recently, acrylic and silicone roof coatings have been gaining a tremendous amount of popularity. While expensive they outlast traditional oil based coatings and also server to help waterproof. These coatings are in demand in not only the commercial but also the residential markets.

Roof Decks

Many people ask if their flat roof can also be used as a deck. The answer is yes, but with some considerations. The roof itself should have minimal foot traffic to ensure that none of the sensitive seams are disturbed, and the material is not damaged. That being said, if a wood deck or walkpad system is properly installed over the roof, it is perfectly fine to use it as a deck area.

We recommend you have your deck contractor and your roofer work together to make sure that, if any penetrations are needed, that the proper sealing is done to avoid any potential leaks or material failures. Another thing to consider is making the deck easy to remove if the underlying roof is in need of repair. Our recommendation would be an interlocking walkpad system. The removal of this type of decking is much easier compared to dismantling a traditional wood deck. Also, when removing a traditional deck, there is a risk that some of the deck boards will break in the process. A walkpad system would eliminate those concerns. Many of these interlocking walkpad systems have channels built in that allow for proper roof drainage.

Maintenance Schedules

Talk to your roofing contractor about setting up a regular maintenance schedule. We typically recommend twice yearly inspections, one in Spring and one in the Fall. During those inspections the roof drains should be cleared and resealed as needed. Depending on the type of material the roof may need to be resealed or coated on a periodic basis. Planning is the key to success when it comes to keeping a flat roof leak free.

Commercial roof repair may seem daunting at first but with the right contractor, all of your concerns can easily be addressed. The main thing to remember is to approach your roofing needs with a preventative mindset. Treat it like you would an oil change for your car. If you look at it in that context, you’ll be sure to have a well maintained and well functioning roof system for many years to come.

Give us a call and we’d be happy to discuss which option is right for your roof. Reiter Roofing has been roofing Philly for over 30 years.

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