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Why Does Roofing Fail? 5 Causes of Commercial Roof Failure

Posted by Art Valentz on May 3, 2023

Roof failure is a problem that occurs for many reasons, but in an ideal scenario, your commercial roof will last at least as long as its intended lifespan. You can help your commercial rooftop last as long as it was intended to last by taking good care of it. Measures such as regular inspections or adding a rooftop support system can add years of life to your roof. Knowing the potential causes of roof failure and what you can do to prolong its lifespan can help ensure that your roof will endure for the longest length of time possible. 

Average Lifespan of Commercial Roof

A typical commercial roof lifespan is about 25 to 40 years. The factors that affect how long your roof will last are:

Environment. There are a variety of environmental factors that can cause rooftops to fail. Thermal cycling (the changing of the seasons from hot to cold) can cause parts of the roof to become brittle or crack, while extreme heat can take a toll on all rooftop structures, as well as the roof itself. Big storms with high wind and falling debris can likewise cause roof failure.

Material used. Some roofing materials last longer than others. Some common examples of how long commercial roofing materials last include:

  • EPDM: 22-35 years
  • TPO: 22 to 30 years
  • Metal: 30 to 45 years
  • PVC: 20 to 30 years
  • Asphalt: 20 to 40 years

While you can choose the material you want when your roof is installed, your commercial contractor will likely recommend a roofing material based on your budget, the slope of your roof and other factors. 

Maintenance factors. Commercial rooftops need to be maintained properly. How often you inspect your roof and what you do to maintain it will impact how long your roof lasts. If you're properly maintaining your commercial roof, and it was properly installed, then it should last the expected length of its service life. 

Causes of Commercial Roof Failure - and Their Solutions

Below are five reasons that commercial roofs fail, and what you can do to avoid these problems.

1. Improper installation. 

Improper installation can cause premature roof failure due to leaks and deterioration of the roofing materials. You can avoid this problem by hiring a reputable, skilled roofer to perform. When you're hiring a roofer, check their references and licensure. Meet with at last three roofers before choosing one for your commercial roofing project. Read the contract thoroughly before signing to ensure that the scope of the project meets your needs.

2. Use of poor quality materials.

Poor quality materials deteriorate quickly when exposed to the elements. Don't skimp on the roofing materials just to save yourself money. You'll end up spending more on your commercial roof in the long run if you purchase lower grade materials that deteriorate faster and need more ongoing maintenance. Work with your contractor to get the best possible materials installed.

3. Lack of proper maintenance.

Your commercial roof should be inspected every year, and ideally, every six months. Inspect your roof on a regular basis. During the inspection, look for problems that could affect the service life of your roof. For example, look for puddling water. Puddles can cause your roofing material to deteriorate, and can eventually lead to leaks. Other problems to look for include cracked and missing caulking, deteriorating flashing and gashes in the membrane. If you find causes for concern on your commercial roof, have your roof inspected and repaired by a professional as soon as possible. 

4. Natural deterioration.

Your roof will only last so long, even if it's well maintained. As it nears the end of its service life, your roof will start to need more maintenance. Know the signs that your roof is nearing the end of its service life. Recognizing the signs can help you get the care for your roof that it needs, so you can make it last as long as possible. 

5. Damage from rooftop equipment. 

If your roof is used for equipment storage - and many commercial rooftops are - that rooftop equipment can leak and do damage to your roof membrane. You can prevent this problem by using a rooftop support system. Your rooftop support system will make maintaining that equipment easier, thus preventing leaks and damage.

There are many types of rooftop support systems. Work with your professional roofing company to decide which one is right for your roof, whether that's duct supports, pipe supports, a platform system or general equipment supports. All of these products help keep your rooftop equipment safely off the ground. 

Protect the Integrity of Your Roof with Products from PHP Systems/Design

Protect your commercial building from roof failure with products you can trust. PHP Systems/Design creates safe and effective rooftop products for flat commercial roofs. Call today to get a price quote

Topics: Roof Safety

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