Did your flat roof take a beating this winter?

This winter has been wild, with record-breaking temperature drops and more snow than the northeast has experienced in recent memory. Many flat and low slope roofs took a severe beating in the extreme weather and many buildings in the northeast even collapsed under the tremendous stresses forced on them.

Winter can be quite hard on a flat roof, particularly if the roof has signs of wear and tear.

Extreme temperature changes

Extreme temperatures can damage a roof. During the winter, it is not unprecedented for the daytime high temperatures to be above freezing. When the temperature gets warmer, the building’s structure starts to expand. Then when the temperature gets colder, the building’s structure starts to contract. This expansion and contraction can wear on a roofing system and lead to leaks, especially in the winter months.

Ice dams on rubber and membrane roofs

Ice is rarely the direct cause of damage to a rubber or membrane roof. However, the creation of ice dams can compound problem areas in the membrane and increase the chances of leaks. Ice dams can hold water on a roof and not allow it to drain properly. As the ice melts, the water can drain into small cracks in the roof and then re-freeze. The expanding ice can make the hole even larger. This freeze and thaw cycle can repeat many times a day in some areas. Overtime the roof system will start to show signs of wear and tear. The roof should be inspected periodically for necessary repairs that can extend the longevity of the roof membrane.

A qualified thermal infrared flat roof inspection can save money

It doesn’t matter if a flat roof is rubber, or other membrane, the roof will eventually need to be repaired or replaced. The components that hold a roof system together can deteriorate in as quickly as a few winters. If the roof system is not properly repaired, it can damage the sub-structure of the roof and eventually migrate into the building. This will lead to increased costs of repair and cause potential health problems due to elevated moisture levels and potential mold contamination. Every roof is unique, and there is not a one size fits all for roof repair. Thermography is a very valuable and non-destructive tool to find leaks and wet areas in the roof assembly.

The roof pictured here has evidence of moisture saturating the insulation below the membrane. The thermogram clearly shows the warm area caused by moisture beneath the topmost layer.


The small temperature differences between wet roof insulation and the dry areas allow a skilled thermographer to determine where a possible leak exists and to determine the overall integrity of the roof surface. If a roof is showing signs of wear and tear, a qualified thermographer can assess the roof system, mark damaged areas not otherwise visible, and recommend the necessary repairs. Building owners and property managers can use this information to increase the “life expectancy” of their roof system and in many cases avoid the substantial cost of a complete roof replacement. Preventive maintenance is especially important on flat roof systems. An ongoing maintenance plan can save them significant money over the life of the roof system.

If the roof on your building is more than 3 years old you should consider investing in a maintenance plan that can help extend the life of your roof by many years and defer the cost of a new roof well into the future. With the average lifespan of the typical commercial or industrial roof being seven years, regular inspections and a proper roof maintenance program are required if the owner wishes to properly maintain the roof. The lifespan can be increased by as much as 300%, resulting in significant savings for the roof owner.

For more information on all of our thermography services please visit http://buffaloinfrared.com/flat-and-low-slope-roofs/