Commercial Roof Leak Detection Methods in 2015
Published on by: James H. Hobson:
Commercial roof leak detection is usually far more complicated than finding residential roof leaks. Commercial roofs, especially buildings with flat roofs, are usually very large areas. Additionally there are almost always hundreds of feet of flashing and membrane seams, numerous roof penetrations for equipment, and complex drainage designs.
Commercial roof leak inspectors must have specialized equipment and a thorough knowledge of the many types of roof systems. It is worth mentioning that having an understanding of how other trades impact roof integrity is important. A roof that was professionally and properly installed may seem to suddenly fail, and the problem is found to be where a plumber or electrician improperly sealed a roof penetration. Sometimes a roof leak may be the result of wind damage or normal wear and tear.
There is a very important consideration beyond finding a roof inspector with the physical capability to perform a successful roof inspection. A critical consideration is finding a roof leak detection company that will respond quickly. Typically a commercial roof leak can cause very unhappy tenants, damage to equipment or inventory and even slip-and-fall hazards for employees and customers. When a property owner expresses urgency, a roof inspection company should be able to be on site within 24-48 hours.
A good roof leak detection company will complete their work and provide the property owner or manager with a detailed report. The inspection report, which often includes photographs or infrared images, should include a detailed description of the problem and locate the specific cause and area of the leak.
In many instances the roof inspector can recommend a qualified roof leak repair contractor. Many roof warranties have specific requirements on the qualifications of roof contractors, and how to repair or modify the roof system. Choosing an unqualified roofing contractor, even if the leak repair is successful, can void a valuable roof warranty.
Best Roof Leak Detection Methods
There are several options for finding leaks in commercial roofs. The type of roofing system, and how the building is constructed, will largely determine the best methods for finding roof leaks. For example, where there is a finished ceiling it is best to use thermal or infrared imaging equipment. This situation is preferred as this is a non-destructive inspection method that allows you to effectively see behind the drywall ceiling. For open ceilings, such as warehouses, it may be possible to need only a visual inspection. Following are the most common types of leak detection methods for commercial roof systems.
Visual inspections require a physical walk through of the building, both inside and outside. The roof inspector looks for obvious signs of damage, wear and failed installation work. Roof leak inspectors also look for tell-tale signs such as discoloration and water stains. The water stains often visually map the flow of water coming from the roof leak. Water may simply drip through a hole, or enter the building and run across beams or trusses and fall some distance from the actual leaking point. Visual inspections are common where the leak area is generally known. When a visual inspection process is inadequate the next step is to utilize specialized equipment and methods.
Available since the 1970s, infrared detection cameras clearly uncover moisture-laden areas of a flat or low-sloped roof. Also called thermal imaging, this infrared roof leaf detection technology displays obvious temperature differences on rooftops that can threaten the structural integrity of the covering and initiate costly repairs. This roof leak detection method does this by showing the wet, potentially problematic areas of the roof as a different gradient color than the dry, obviously intact building materials along the roof.
Because infrared (IR) thermography cameras are lightweight and portable, roof leak detection professionals can usually identify problems quickly and easily. These cameras also permanently record the problematic areas. This hard-copy record helps business owners see printouts that show the damaged areas that need immediate replacements and the compromised areas which need further attention.
Infrared detection works best in clear and sunny conditions. It works well with most types of commercial roofing materials – including fiberglass, cork, perlite and polyurethane – but not so well with roofs with concrete pavers, gypsum or highly reflective metal materials.
Nuclear Scan Inspections
While IR cameras are the standard for detecting leaks in flat roofs, nuclear scan inspections are essential for ballasted roofs, or roofs that have pavers, vegetation or gravel situated on top of the basic building material. This type of roof leaf detection system is also considered by many roof detection experts as the only reliable protocol for multi-roof buildings. Under these circumstances, roof leak detection experts temporarily remove the gravel, vegetation or pavers from the test site. Then, the team uses a neutron moderation machine to detect hydrogen ions that conform the presence of water or moisture damage on the surface or subsurface of the roof.
Electronic Field Vector Mapping Inspection
Where infrared detection and nuclear scan inspection discover leaks indirectly, electronic field vector mapping inspections uncover leaks directly at the source. During this state-of-the-art method of roof leak detection method, a trained inspector uses specialized equipment to uncover breaches in the membrane of the roof.
Electronic Field Vector Mapping inspectors use a low-voltage method to find leaks on flat roofs and a high-voltage method to find leaks on sloped roofs. Commercial businesses that have a combination of flat and sloped roofs can utilize the ELD Fusion method, which is a low- and high-voltage hybrid that offers comprehensive , total-building roof leak detection.
Because electronic field Vector Mapping inspectors locate the leaks instantly, business owners can schedule immediate repairs and re-test those repairs to make sure that the roofs are indeed fixed and secured. This type of roof leak detection is more inclement-weather tolerant. Electronic field Vector Mapping inspection can also be used to test green roofs without removing the soil overburden.