Just as there are different types of commercial building roofs, there are different types of commercial roof leaks — and a lot of them can be prevented by simply maintaining your roof. Four of the most common are pitch pan leaks, metal flashing leaks, HVAC vent leaks and gutter leaks. Below, we explain each type of commercial roof leak and how regular roof maintenance can stop them in their tracks.
Pitch Pan Leaks
A pitch pan, also called a “pitch pocket,” as defined by the International Facility Management Association (IFMA) is a “flanged, metal container placed around a pipe, conduit, or other roof-penetrating element and filled with bitumen or flashing cement to seal the joint.” Pitch pan leaks are especially common in roofing systems of manufacturing facilities that have a large number of penetrations, but they can also occur in roofs that have a single penetration.
The most common reasons for pitch pan leaks include the sealer in the pan has dried and shrunk, the building has experienced structural movement, or a roof penetration that the pan surrounds has experienced movement. Pitch pan problems almost always result in leaks but a qualified roofing maintenance technician knows what to look for and can resolve the problem before it damages your building.
Metal Flashing Leaks
Problems with metal roof flashing can also cause commercial roof leaks. Flashing is the impervious material that’s installed at joints where the roof terminates or transitions from a horizontal position to a vertical one. Flashing surrounds penetrations on commercial roofs. Many flashing leaks result from some failure to adhere to the joint it is meant to seal. Common reasons for flashing leaks are building movement, improper flashing installation, or moisture behind flashing from an adjacent wall, window or masonry section.
Part of your regular roof maintenance service will include checking all flashing for wear-and-tear and other issues. Any problems will be repaired either as part of the maintenance service or, if it’s more involved, as a separate work order.
HVAC Vent Leaks
HVAC vents are extremely common roof penetrations on commercial buildings with multiple areas requiring flashing, sealing, and maintenance. Consequently, roof leaks associated with the vents are often classified as a specific source of flashing leaks. When a pitch pan is also involved, the vents are especially problematic because they often emit heat that causes the filler in the pan to dry out sooner than expected, compounding the problem. An experienced roof maintenance technician will pay particular attention to HVAC vents and take steps at the first sign of trouble to correct problems before they start.
Gutters are part of your commercial roofing system. Gutter leaks are generally caused by one or more of the following situations:
- Improper seals between gutter segments
- Clogged front elbows and/or downspouts
- Downspouts whose diameter is too narrow for drainage volume
- Corrosion that creates holes in gutter components
- Improper gutter cleaning measures that damage the gutter structure
The first three of these problems have to do with installation — your best option for preventing them is to hire a commercial roofing expert that understands how the gutter system should function integrate with the roof. A gutter company may well understand a gutter but not how it will need to work with the roof drainage design. Regular inspections by a qualified technician can identify problems in any of these areas, and spot corrosion problems before they lead to building damage. Keeping the drainage system free from debris is one of the most important tasks of regular maintenance.
Being proactive and avoid these kinds of leaks altogether!
It costs a lot less to fix a small problem than a big one — and even less to find an issue before it even becomes a problem. If you don’t already have an annual maintenance plan to help prevent commercial roof leaks, Sentry Roof Care can get you where you need to be. We perform seven services during each visit and provide comprehensive reports with photos so you can see what’s going on with your roof and track its condition. Discounts and priority scheduling are included as part of the program, as is an annual three-year capital budget to help you plan for major expenses. Not only do maintained roofs leak less, they typically last 25% longer, too.