“IT PAYS TO MAINTAIN”: Have a Leak? Don’t Blame Your Roofer
From time to time, we get calls from our clients about roof leaks. Even though some are actual roof leaks, sometimes these “roof leaks” are not roof related. Some leaks we find are due to poor window installation, wall joint failures, mechanical equipment on top of the roof, damaged cause by others and other none roof related items. I remember inspecting a “roof leak” when it hadn’t rains for days. The ceiling was dry, but a large water puddle ran through three rooms. Our client instead that they did not have this problem prior to us re-roofing the building. After a closure examination and water testing the walls, we noticed that one window was left slightly opened. By looking at the window, you couldn’t see the small gap until the water testing revealed the true problem.
Steven A. Mandzik is an in-house roof consultant in charge of more than 12 million square feet of roofing. He and his associate walk 400 roofs every year to review their condition, specify repairs, and more. Naturally, Mandzik has become familiar with where leaks come from and, more importantly, why they don’t get fixed.
Thanks to a sophisticated property management department, Mandzik has tracked leak calls from more than 1,600 tenants and where those leaks came from. Amazingly, only 21 percent of leaks came from the roof itself! Poorly designed filter access covers on HVAC ductwork; improperly sealed joints, seams, and holes on HVAC ducts; holes and loose edges on HVAC intake hoods; and wind-blown rain through skylight louvers all contribute to roof leaks.
The rest of the roof leaks surprisingly come from mechanical equipment. The roof is a working platform and drop spot for every construction trade including mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, plumbers, etc. — but many times, the mechanical equipment they use is not waterproof. As a result, years later, faulty mechanical equipment can cause leaks — usually when the warranty has already run out.
This dilemma is compounded on poorly maintained roofs. A roofer may look at the roof to fix the roof leak while the air conditioning units or skylights continue to go unnoticed and continue to take in water. Roofers typically have concentrated experience in roofing — not mechanical, electrical, or plumbing. They may even be instructed by their management to not inspect or repair rooftop equipment because they do not know how — or for liability reasons.
In the roofing industry, we are starting to see a few knowledgeable, full-service roof contracting companies that are starting to take rooftop equipment in consideration along with the roof itself. While they may not be able to fix all the leaks, they are starting to document these problems for other trades to fix. In the roofing industry right now, there’s an open market for any savvy person willing to learn all the aspects of roof repair — including the repair of rooftop mechanical equipment.
Before you get upset at your roofer because of a “roof leak”, I suggest waiting until the actual problem is identified.