When Commercial Roofs Go

When Commercial Roofs Fail, They Can Fail Big!

Have you been postponing re-roofing your commercial property for too long? This client found out the hard way what can happen when your roof is past its prime and commercial roofs fail.

This EPDM roof was kept in place seven or eight years longer than we recommended but the property owner wasn’t ready to replace it yet. We aim to please so did everything we could to maintain the roof and repair problem areas as needed but even the best maintenance program can’t prevent old materials from degrading.

When Atlanta experienced some horrendous summer storms, the roof couldn’t keep it together, literally. The strain from thermal shock was too much. The EPDM split wide open during the overnight hours in several places.

And, as you might imagine, substantial amounts of water entered the building. Large areas the roofing insulation got saturated and buckled, creating the wave effect that you see in the photos. The damage was clear the following morning when this retail store opened for business.

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Our crews made relief cuts in the buckled insulation and reattached it to the structural deck to provide a flat substrate for repairs. The damaged insulation was removed and replaced with new, dry insulation with the re-roofing that followed. Then we stitched up all of the membrane tears like wounds. 

Once the membrane was securely fastened, the splits were patched with compatible EPDM material and fully adhered over the prepared existing roof surface.

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We had everything repaired in seven hours and by the end of the day, the roof was watertight again and did not leak during the following day’s rain. We’re pretty sure the damage to the interior of the building (and the building contents that had gotten wet) took longer than a single day to make it right. 

After this experience, the property owner moved forward with replacing the entire roof. 

We also had to replace about 5,000 square feet of insulation during re-roofing, which increased the reroof cost above conditions that existed a week earlier. Wet insulation is not thermally effective and promotes premature deterioration of the roof and deck materials. 

wet insulation metal decking2This photo is an example of how the underside of a metal roof deck fails from corrosion after contact with wet roof insulation over a prolonged period. Saturated roof insulation will normally never dry out when its encapsulated within the roofing system so it will continue to affect the roof material and deck structure. Wet insulation should not be reused.

Now our client’s building has a new, fully performing, warranted TPO roof that can be properly maintained to protect the property and its contents for 20 or so years. A commercial roof failure like this one is a hard lesson to learn but it’s certainly one that a property owner won’t forget!

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