Metal Tubing Roof Leaks

Metal Tubing: 2 Ways It Can Fool You When It Comes To Roof Leaks

We admit it — water can fool even our top leak specialists sometimes. Here are two examples — in the past! — of how metal tubing that had nothing to do with the roofing system created what appeared to be roof leaks. Now, of course, if there’s metal tubing around, it’s one of the first places we look when on a leak-repair call. Here’s why:

Tricky Tubing #1, in Macon, GA

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation crime lab called us about a leak in a roof we had installed. They had installed some screens around the mechanical equipment on the roof using two-inch round tubing that supported fencing. The tube steel penetrated the roof system down to the deck and was welded onto the structural beams.

We installed the roof around this tubing and flashed all necessary areas. But there were roof leaks. So we replaced the flashing. There were roof leaks again. So we fixed it again. This happened many times.

On the last visit, I crawled into the ceiling to look at the assembly myself. It turned out that the water was not coming from around the tubing or flashing. Those areas were completely dry. Which meant only one thing — the water was coming from inside the tubing, like plumbing. This was because the welding on the fence pipe wasn’t watertight, as that’s not a typical requirement for fencing. So rainwater was entering the inside of the tube, bypassing the entire roofing system and ending up inside the building. To fix the problem, the metal tubing had to have welds replaced so the owner took over from there. And no longer had “roof leaks.”

Tricky Tubing #2, Atlanta, GA

Probably one of the toughest roof leak cases we’ve ever faced was in the J.W. Marriott Atlanta Buckhead hotel that’s attached to Lenox Mall. The breezeway between the hotel and the mall would occasionally leak on one side during a rainstorm. And it wasn’t just a drip-drip leak. It was a gushing leak that indicated water was backing up somewhere and then bursting out onto the floor once a certain threshold was reached.

The roof above the breezeway was pitched like an inverted V and there were beautifully crafted stainless steel gutters on either side of the V roof. The gutters were sound — no problems there. So we put a camera down all of the downpipes, looked at the possibility of plumbing leaks and basically went on site every time it rained to try to locate the source of the water. We thought we had finally found it and fixed it when soon afterward the owner’s representative and property manager happened to be standing right there on that side of the breezeway when the gushing leak happened again. They got soaked!

It turns out that there was indeed a roof leak but it was on the OTHER side of the inverted V roof, which is totally counterintuitive to the way water flows — water does not run uphill. However, the leak on the other side was allowing water to enter some decorative tubing that ran from one side of the breezeway to the other, making it appear as if the “leaking” was taking place on the perfectly functioning side of the roof. We had all been fooled by the benign-looking tubing. We then fixed the leak on the spot.

If you have a challenging commercial roof leak, we won’t rest until we find it and fix it.

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