Punctures on Membrane Roofs: Causes and Prevention

Commercial roofs are known for being high-performance, long-lasting structures, especially when compared to residential roofing systems. Despite this, certain problems still occur that many property owners and managers notice. Leaks are the most common, which is often caused by punctures on the roof membrane.

Punctures on Membrane Roofs: Causes and Prevention

Read on as we discuss the reasons flats roofs suffer punctures and the various ways this issue can be prevented and fixed.

What Causes Roof Punctures?

Roof punctures develop due to various causes. Here’s a look at some of the most common according to membrane and metal roofing pros:

  • Foot Traffic – This is the primary reason why punctures develop on membrane roofs. Most of the equipment installed on commercial roofs, including outdoor HVAC units, exhaust fans, and solar panels, tend to lack the reinforcements around them. As such, the membrane that covers the roofs’ substrate becomes stressed whenever the maintenance crew performs fixes on these installations. Also, the tools the workers use are often dropped while they do their work. This, combined with foot traffic, can cause the roof membrane to sustain punctures and tears.
  • Animals – Raccoons, squirrels, birds, and even stray cats can get onto rooftops. Just like in residential roofing systems, these animals can also be a problem for commercial flat roofs. Aside from turning them into their breeding ground, some of these critters peck or scratch at the surfaces, leading to punctures.
  • Severe Weather – Commercial roofs can sustain storm damage that results in punctures. Dense hailstones falling from the sky pelt the roof surface and leave holes and tears. Punctures may also develop during strong rains and winds through blown debris. In some cases, mechanical equipment installed on the roof can get dislodged, pulling the surrounding membrane along with it and exposing the roofing substrate.

How to Prevent Roof Punctures

Preventing the problem of punctures starts with a strong roof membrane. Commercial and residential roofing contractors recommend installing thicker, multiple-ply membranes to keep the whole roofing systems sturdy and capable of withstanding the elements. Walkway pads can be added to shore up protection against constant foot traffic. These are placed on the perimeter of the mechanical equipment and the pathways authorized personnel will take to reach it.

As the property owner or facilities manager, it is your responsibility to educate mechanical workers about the best ways to work on your commercial roof. Remind them of this, especially if your roof is still under warranty. This will encourage them to be more careful when handling their tools. You can place warning stickers or signs by the roof hatch and mechanical items to keep the maintenance crew informed when walking on the roof.

How to Fix a Punctured Roof Membrane

Even with the best precautions, commercial roof membranes can still sustain punctures. Fortunately, this doesn’t necessarily mean a complete replacement is due. Membrane and metal roofing pros often patch them up. The way this is done depends on the type of membrane—some membranes require patches applied over the punctured area while others involve cutting out the punctured area and replacing it with a new membrane.

When applying patches, roofers first clean the punctured area thoroughly using special solvents to make sure the new material will stick properly. The patch is often made by placing a piece of fabric on top of the puncture and then pouring hot tar on it. The tar is then spread out to the surrounding area to create a seal. Roofers finish this repair off by putting gravel on top of the tar to protect the patched area from weathering.

For your commercial roofing needs, turn to Alpine Roofing Construction. Through careful adherence to the highest project management standards, we deliver the highest quality, on-time roofing work. Count on us to install metal roofing and flat roofing systems, as well as repair and replace them. Call us today at  (214) 528-9897 or fill out our contact form to request a free quote. Our Texas service areas include Arlington, Fort Worth, and Dallas, TX.

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