Behind The Scenes Of Flat Roof Leaks & Electrical Problems

Like any roof, a flat roof will eventually leak at some point in time due to a number of factors such as weather conditions, ponding water, and wear and tear. Water doesn’t run off of a flat roof surface quickly which gives it more time to find even the smallest openings.

Whether you’ve dealt with a leak before or this is the first time, you should know a leaky roof is more than just a structural problem. If the leak is around electrical cords it could pose a fire or electrocution threat from shorted wires.

Here we’ll look at some of the main causes of flat roof leaks, the electrical dangers involved, and why you should not put off repairs.

Ponding Water

If your roof has water that doesn’t drain away or dry within 48 hours following precipitation, it is considered ponding water and you probably have a drainage problem. Ideally, a flat roof should be designed with a low slope to allow water to easily find its way out.

But even a well-designed flat roof can struggle with ponding down the line, especially if there’s a depression somewhere on the roof. A depression in your roof could be caused by compressed insulation, broken wood, or rusted metal.

Ponding is also likely to form around large rooftop equipment such as water tanks and air conditioners. The weight of these structures deflects the underlying structure of the roof, creating a ponding area. Ponding also occurs when vegetation grows where it shouldn’t or when the drainage system is excessively clogged with debris.

The best way to overcome this issue is to have a reliable, local roofer diagnose the underlying cause of ponding damage. If the issue is minor, the roofer can clean your roof or drainage system and apply roof leveling compounds to restore the slope required for proper drainage. In serious cases, changes to the underlying structures may be necessary.

Old or Damaged Membrane

Single-ply membrane is an increasingly popular choice for many commercial properties. It is less expensive, easier to install, and offers an effective form of protection against water damage. But as the membrane ages, it becomes brittle and loses its expansion and contraction ability under temperature fluctuations.

When the mechanical fasteners contract and expand, they will tear holes in the material. An old membrane is also prone to cracks, blisters, puncture, and splits.

Apart from age, other causes of roof membrane damage include:

  • Dropped hand and power tools
  • Foot traffic
  • Addition or change out of rooftop equipment
  • Damage from liquid chemicals

Bad repair work, such as the use of wrong patching material or adhesives, is another possible cause of a leaky roof. In most cases, a competent, local commercial roofing contractor can undo the damage resulting from a poorly repaired membrane.

A compromised membrane will expose the insulation and give water a clear path inside. More insidious forms of leaks will develop if the insulation becomes waterlogged.

Depending on how severe your membrane problems are, your roofer may suggest replacing the damaged portions or the entire membrane (if it has reached the end of its expected lifespan). Reflective waterproof coating and chemical sealants may solve some leak issues.

Environmental Causes

Whether suddenly or over time, environmental elements can do a number on your roof. While most commercial roof systems are built to withstand heavy rains, high winds, high heat, snow, and direct sunlight, these weather conditions will eventually wear down your roof.

Constant exposure to the sun’s heat and UV rays can cause many roofing materials to dry out, become brittle, and crack. And with wide expanses, a flat roof is completely exposed to the sun’s beating.

Powerful winds can tear away or puncture the roofing membranes, especially if they’re old or already loose. And hard rains that seek even the smallest cracks won’t give your roof ample time to dry.

While these environmental issues are beyond your control, an expert roofer can easily determine if your roof can withstand all that Mother Nature has to offer. Solutions for environmental causes of leaky roofs vary. Your local roofer may recaulk the roof with fresh, UV-resistant caulk, replace flashing, improve ventilation, and apply a waterproof coating to minimize damage.

Your Roof Leak May Cause Electrical Problems

Can a leaky roof cause electrical problems? Yes, it can. Depending on the location of a leak, water could be making its way to your electrical wiring and junction boxes.

Let’s say there’s a small crack on your roof membrane that’s allowing water to travel to your building’s interior. The insulation is waterlogged and the roof deck has started to rot. When there’s heavy rain or ponding water on the roof surface, a steady flow of drops will continue its path downwards.  

The water can drip into walls, follow the path of electrical wiring, and infiltrate the junction box. A junction box is an enclosure housing electrical connections to distribute power to multiple outlets.

Water and electricity don’t mix, but when they do, they create very dangerous conditions. A mix of water and electricity can cause a fire and dangerous shock if a person touches exposed wiring.

Some of the signs that a leaky roof is causing an electrical problem include:

  • Tripping circuits
  • Flickering lights
  • Unexpected shock from an outlet
  • Water dripping near or from an electrical outlet or light fixture

When you suspect a leak near anything electrical, turn off electricity at the main panel and get a roofer and electrician immediately. Remember, the longer you put off roof leak repair, the longer the danger exists.

Hire a Professional Roofer for Your Leaky Roof Repair

If you have a leaky roof, take some time to look for a local, reputable roofer who knows what they are doing and can do it effectively. A general contractor or your facility’s team can do an adequate job. But it would be best to hire a roofing contractor who has an in-depth understanding of how to find even the most hidden leak sources, determine how or why it occurred in the first place, fix them, and prevent them from being a problematic spot in the future.

A professional roofer will also provide regular inspection and maintenance services to keep on top of potential issues and prevent you from having to pay for expensive repairs.

For commercial roof leak repair, contact Midwest Roofing for a free quote. We serve commercial building owners and managers from Columbia to Springfield (Missouri).