While the Farmer’s Almanac and AccuWeather predict a relatively mild start to winter, both services project a very cold January 2020. Precipitation levels accompanying frigid temperatures can spell trouble or, in some cases, a disaster for owners or managers of buildings with flat or low-slope roofs.

This is because commercial flat or commercial low-slope roofs are at a greater risk because snow doesn’t slide off which allows heavy snow to accumulate and ice to form. Roofs with known trouble spots, near the end of their life or possessing drainage problems are particularly vulnerable to the winter climate. The last thing a business owner or building manager needs is to have a significant leak during the middle of winter causing building damage and lost business or tenant productivity.

With the prospect of another harsh winter approaching, now is the time to start looking at your commercial roof to determine if it repairs, maintenance or even a replacement is necessary before winter. The following are areas to watch for signs of wear that could lead to more damage.

Drains, Gutters & Downspouts

Your first step should be to make sure the water drainage system is working properly. Check to see that the pathways for excess water to leave the roof are free of blockages and in are in good condition. Make sure leaves, sticks or other windblown debris have not clogged drain or gutter systems. If your drains or gutters aren’t working properly, chances are much greater that you are going to have roof leaks.


There are many penetrations on a commercial flat roof – holes in the roof which accommodate various pipes, vents and structures for HVAC, solar lighting systems or communications equipment. These penetrations are sealed with flashing to keep water from seeping down into the roofing system. The flashing can be metal, plastic or rubber which, over time and if not properly maintained, will wear out and start to crack, rust or separate from the roof membrane causing leaks. Loose or damaged flashing is a leading cause for leaks, it is an area you should inspect carefully and often.

Roof Surface and Seams

Most low-slope or flat roofs are constructed by fastening strips of EPDM, PVC or TPO together to form a watertight membrane. There are two potential areas of failure in this technique: the material itself or the seams where pieces are connected. For the roof surface itself, inspect for problem areas such as bubbling, cracks, or warping. Standing water is also a concern. With regard to seams, check for pulling or separation, which may have been caused by expansion and contraction. You should pay special attention to areas where snow may drift and accumulate causing extra weight and stress on the roof.

Roof Edge

The perimeter of a flat roof, including the edge and corners, are often exposed and vulnerable to high winds and precipitation. If the edge flashing – generally metal – that fastens the roof material to the edge of the building has failed, there is a considerable danger of sections of the roof lifting during wind events. This exposes the roof system to water incursion. Be sure to inspect the entire roof perimeter carefully for signs of damage or deterioration.

If you are concerned about the shape of your commercial flat or commercial low-slope roof and seek a second opinion, we are experienced and know exactly what to look for in determining the viability of your roof. Contact us today – the best time to do this is now – as opposed to when you have an issue impacting the building or its use.

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