The Do’s and Don’ts of Roof Leaks







Anyone who has had to deal with a roof leak knows what a hassle they can be. At the very least, they can result in a disturbance for residents in the affected units or common areas, costs for interior remediation and roof repairs, and potential for health hazards like mold growth. In extreme cases, especially when leaks go undetected for prolonged periods of time, their presence can compromise the structural integrity of a building. Whether navigating a leak is a new experience for you or you’re a seasoned professional, the following tips will help ensure a more seamless and stress-free process.


Do: Complete a Thorough Investigation When a Leak Occurs


The process of the investigation starts from the interior, where the leak is presenting itself. Measurements are taken from the affected area to the nearest wall, to be referenced once the roof surface is accessed. Where possible, investigating behind the ceiling can be key to figuring out where the leak is coming from. If a drop ceiling is present, tiles can be lifted to inspect behind. In other situations, drywall can be cut, provided authorization is granted. If there are any spaces between the interior leak area and the roof surface, those areas are also inspected to identify if they are affected by water infiltration or if the leak is coming from those spaces. This may include an attic, crawlspace, mechanical room, or another unit.


On the roof surface, the interior measurements are used to trace out the area directly above the leak, as a starting point for the investigation. When investigating a protected roof system, like an inverted or green roof, multiple layers must be removed and set aside to expose and inspect the membrane. With any flat roof system, cut tests can be performed to determine the make-up of the roof system, identify is there is moisture beneath the membrane, and discover if water is potentially travelling. If there are no damages or defects in the area directly above the leak, cut tests also provide guidance when determining which direction to expand the investigation.


Investigating a leak takes away the guess work and helps identify a viable solution to resolve the occurrence. Through the process of an investigation, it is also possible to determine if the leak is coming from a source other than the roof, like plumbing or HVAC, if there is moisture and potential mold growth present in unseen areas like behind the ceiling, if water is travelling beneath the membrane, and in cases where attics are present, if there are deficiencies that may be contributing to the leak or to ice damming.


Don’t: Rely on Band-Aid Fixes


Especially in emergency situations, the goal is to stop any immediate water infiltration, by any means necessary. This can sometimes result in products and materials being used that are only meant to be in place temporarily, until further, more extensive repairs can be completed. It’s important to be able to discern the difference between temporary and permanent repairs so you aren’t left with a “band-aid” fix.


Two products that many roofing companies use in case of emergencies are tarps and roofing cement. The use of tarps to mitigate any immediate weather damages is generally understood to be a temporary solution, but often we encounter situations where roofing cement has been applied and presented as a long-term repair, which it is not. Roofing cement can stop water in its tracks, as it hardens and dries quickly, even in wet conditions, however, it does not offer lasting compatibility with roof membranes or shingles and can cause damage to internal piping if it enters the roof drains. If roofing cement must be used, we recommend following-up with the contractor who applied it to confirm what their next steps will be for permanently repairing the leak area.

Finally, be cautious about the use of caulking as a solution to a leak. Although caulking has its place throughout the roof and building envelope, it is not a miracle material that will seal and repair all roof defects. Caulking should not be used to repair damaged or deteriorated membrane or shingles, flashing that is too large, corroded metal, damaged drains, and more.


Do: Encourage Residents to Report Early Signs of Leaks


As a property manager, you can only report a leak that has been made known to you. In cases where damages have become extensive or where water is actively pouring into a unit, it makes sense that a resident would report it immediately. In other cases, residents may not realize a leak is occurring right away or may not think it’s a big deal if its presence is minor and non-intrusive.

Periodically checking in with residents and encouraging them to report early signs of a leak may help to prevent a minor situation from turning into a major catastrophe. Initial stages of a leak may include dripping sounds, soft spots, minor staining or blistering, drywall separation or a musty smell.

Don’t: Have a Superintendent or General Contractor Address a Roof Leak

Many of the superintendents we encounter are extremely familiar with the buildings they oversee and can be helpful resources when investigating a leak. They are often a wealth of knowledge and can provide valuable guidance, however, it is not recommended to have a superintendent or general contractor repair a roof leak. If the person addressing the leak is not well versed in the specific roof system and compatible roofing materials, this is where you tend to see band-aid fixes like caulking and roofing cement.

Where superintendents and other building staff can be extremely helpful is in the early detection and reporting of leaks. When completing walk throughs of the building, ensure areas below roof surfaces are being checked to determine if there are any active leaks or early signs such as staining or blistering. Keeping an eye out for openings where daylight can be seen in areas like mechanical rooms can also help to catch potential water entry points that can then be reported for repair.


Do: Hire a Reputable Roofing Contractor to Investigate and Repair Roof Leaks

To ensure leaks are being accurately diagnosed and repaired, always hire a qualified and reputable roofing contractor to investigate them. With an abundance of roofing contractors throughout Southern Ontario, you want to make sure the company you contact is experienced, trustworthy, and has a proven history of exceptional service.

Confirming the company you contract is well-versed in the roof system at your building can also make the difference between quality of repair. Some roofing companies specialize in one specific type of roofing, like sloped shingled roofs or single ply roof systems. If they are not familiar with other roof types, the likelihood of poor workmanship and incompatible materials is greater.

Never be afraid to ask qualifying questions, see previous work examples or seek out peer reviews before hiring a contractor.


Don’t: Hold Off on Resolving a Leak


If a known leak occurrence is not addressed, it will only become worse over time. No matter what time of year it is or what other projects are occurring at the building, it is important to report a leak right away to mitigate further damages. During the winter months is when we encounter the most hesitation related to handling leaks, but this time is also when we experience prolonged wet weather from snow and ice accumulation, subsequent melt, and rain during milder periods. Waiting until spring will only allow the leak to persist and cause more harm.

By hiring a reputable roofing contractor, you can ensure that safety, manufacturer guidelines, and best practices for winter are all being strictly followed when addressing a leak or any other roofing matters. At the very least, the leak can be investigated, and temporary repairs applied to prevent further water infiltration until permanent repairs can be completed.


Do: Complete Routine Inspections & Preventative Maintenance


There is no way to predict when and where leaks will happen but completing routine roof inspections and conducting preventative repair and maintenance recommendations provides the best chance to reduce their presence. The goal of preventative roof maintenance, like maintenance in any other area, is to extend the serviceable life of the system and ensure it will perform as well as possible for as long as possible. During regular inspections, areas that are showing signs of deterioration or that have been damaged by natural elements or man-made occurrences can be identified and addressed. If inspections are happening often enough, this can help to catch defects that may otherwise cause a leak.

Items to look for include, blocked or inadequate drainage, deteriorated sealants, membrane, or shingle damages, missing or damaged roof flashing, loose or detached metal, loss of UV protective granules, rust on metal surfaces and gas lines, heavy debris build-up, natural vegetation growth, displaced gravel on inverted roof systems, and more.


Don’t: Complete Interior Repairs Before the Confirmed Resolution of a Leak


The last thing you want is to spend money on interior repairs only for a leak to continue and negate those repairs. Before completing interior remediation, ensure the recommended roof repairs have been completed and have stopped the leak. When first reporting a leak, it is helpful to note if it has been active at any point and what type of weather occurrence was happening when it was. If the leak only occurred when it was pouring rain, when rain was wind-driven, in the days following rainfall, or when it was extremely cold, waiting for that particular weather to take place again is recommended before completing interior repairs.


Addressing Drain and Gutter Maintenance for System Longevity

In the world of roofing, it’s important to dispel a common misconception: flat roofs aren’t entirely flat. Instead, they’re designed with a slight slope, often referred to as a “low-slope” structure. This subtle incline serves a critical purpose – it ensures effective water drainage. This design feature may seem counterintuitive, but it’s what prevents water from accumulating on the roof’s surface, which could lead to significant issues.


Maintaining Proper Drainage


The low slope on flat roofs is a deliberate and essential component of their design. It directs rainwater, melted snow, and other forms of precipitation towards strategically positioned drains or scuppers. By doing so, it diverts water away from the roof’s surface. Without this slope, water pooling could become a persistent problem, posing a risk to the structural integrity of both the roof and the building it covers.


To maintain the proper functioning of a flat roof, it’s crucial to pay attention to its drainage system. Over time, debris, leaves, dirt, and various other materials can accumulate in the drains or scuppers, obstructing the flow of water and leading to potential water buildup. Regular maintenance, including drain cleaning, is essential to ensure the drainage system operates as intended.


The Significance of Roof Seams

Water pooling on a roof drain for an extended period of time can be a cause for concern, particularly if the roofing system’s seams are not in optimal condition. The integrity of a roof’s seams plays a pivotal role in preventing water from infiltrating the building. Let’s delve into this issue:


When water accumulates on a roof’s drainage system due to clogs, blockages, or poor drainage design, it can linger for an extended duration. This prolonged exposure to moisture can place undue stress on the roofing system, making the integrity of the seams a critical factor in preventing potential leaks.


Roof seams are the joints where two sections of roofing material meet, such as where two rolls of roofing membrane come together or where a roofing material connects with flashing or other components, such as drains. These seams are typically sealed to create a watertight barrier, ensuring that water is channeled towards the drains and away from the roof’s surface.


Regular inspections are vital for the maintenance of these seams. They should be carefully examined and, if necessary, resealed. The expansion and contraction of the roof membrane caused by weather changes, shifts in the building’s structure over time, and prolonged exposure to standing water can compromise the seals and create vulnerabilities. If the seams are not in excellent condition, they may start to deteriorate, crack, or weaken, allowing water to infiltrate the roofing system and ultimately make its way into the building.


Consequences of Drain Blockages


In the event of drain blockages or failures, the consequences can be significant. Water accumulation on the roof can seep into the roof membrane at any vulnerable points, resulting in damage that may manifest as hidden leaks within the building’s interior. Furthermore, the added weight of pooled water can strain the roof’s structural elements, potentially causing weakening of the membrane or even structural damage. Excess moisture within the roofing system can create a conducive environment for mold and mildew growth, leading to health concerns and costly remediation efforts. Leaks making their way into the building’s interior can damage ceilings, walls, insulation, and electrical systems, requiring extensive repairs.


From a financial perspective, repairing a damaged flat roof and addressing interior damage can be a substantial expense. In severe cases, it might necessitate a complete roof replacement, which can be a significant financial burden. Beyond the immediate financial implications, such issues can disrupt operations and affect the comfort and safety of building occupants. Proactive maintenance and repairs are recommended as they can address points of potential water ingress before a leak can occur.

Gutters: A Vital Component
Drains often become leak points due to their location at the lowest part of the roof system. While this is the intended design, regular inspections are necessary because deterioration is inevitable with exposure to the elements. Like flat roof drains, gutters are responsible for redirecting rainwater away from buildings, protecting them from water damage.


Debris, including leaves, twigs, and dirt, tends to accumulate within gutters over time, particularly during seasons marked by heavy foliage and rainfall. When this debris is left unattended, it becomes burdensome and can lead to several issues, such as gutter sagging, clogs and blockages, fastener damage, and gutter separation.


The weight of waterlogged debris can cause gutters to sag, impairing their ability to efficiently channel rainwater. Additionally, excessive debris can obstruct the flow of water, resulting in overflow and the potential for exterior damage. Furthermore, the extra weight from debris can strain gutter fasteners, possibly causing them to loosen or detach. In severe cases, the weight of debris can cause gutter sections to separate or detach, creating gaps that render the system ineffective.


The Value of Routine Inspections


To avert these issues, regular gutter cleaning and maintenance are essential. This process involves clearing debris and reinforcing the system’s efficiency through resealing where necessary. Neglecting this maintenance can lead to permanent damage, impacting both the gutter’s functionality and the exterior of the building it serves.


Regardless of the specific characteristics of a building’s gutter or drainage system, it’s crucial to emphasize the importance of regular inspections. Investing in routine maintenance and inspections proves to be a cost-effective strategy when compared to the substantial resources required for remediation once gutter or drainage systems start to falter. Furthermore, addressing repairs during fair weather conditions presents a distinct scheduling advantage, reducing the stress associated with making decisions when confronted with a critical leak situation.


The Lookout Housing and Health Society Makes a Difference in the Lower Mainland




The Lookout Society provides housing and a range of support services to adults with low or no income who have few, if any, housing or support options. Because they have challenges in meeting needs and goals,  barriers to accessing their services are minimal. The Lookout Society has 1,750 housing and shelter units in 55 buildings including 23 emergency shelters. They serve thousands more people through programs in 15 municipalities.

This Organization transforms peoples’ lives. They help people with all kinds of issues that have led them to become homeless: issues like poverty, disabilities, mental illness, addiction and social integration issues.

They provide health services and help people gain skills and find employment. Check out their website to find out more.

Giving back to the community is important to us and we’ve been supporting the Lookout Housing and Health Society as they make a big difference in the Lower Mainland.  On January 19th we donated $10,000.

A Message from Design Roofing on COVID-19



Safety has always come first at Design Roofing and we are paying close attention to the current public health situation related to COVID-19. Design Roofing is open and operating for all services: repairs, maintenance and roof replacements. To ensure your tenant’s health and safety, as well as our employee’s and their families, I want to assure you that we have implemented the following measures:


  • All Roofing Technicians have been given gloves and respirators to use at their discretion.
  • Each truck is equipped with extra sanitizing material including alcohol-based hand rubs to use frequently.
  • All employees are practicing prevention measures as set out by BCCDC.
  • Employees are staying home if they are ill or meet any self-quarantine criteria.
  • We are minimizing interior access whenever possible.
  • If in-suite service is required, our scheduling team will be asking questions to the tenants:
  • Have you been sick?
  • Have you or anyone in your household been out of the country?
  • Have you been around anyone with symptoms?

Please understand that we may not be able to attend in-suite if technicians could be at risk.


While working outside, our technicians are able to keep a safe distance of 6′ to anyone and we are confident that there is no need to hold off on roof work at this time. Please do not hesitate to contact us for any reason.

Roofing Specialists Recommend Maintenance over Repairs

For anyone who has been in charge of building maintenance in any capacity, it is not exactly breaking news that the roof over your head is absolutely critical to the building’s usefulness and safety. And for those who are in charge of commercial properties, the stakes are even higher. Not only are roof concerns a matter of safety, they are a crucial component of many people’s livelihoods. Any shut down due to building safety concerns means that revenue is not being earned, and the bottom line is being hurt.

For this reason, most roofing specialists strongly recommend implementing a regular maintenance schedule to monitor and address any problems long before they become an emergency situation. With the help of an expert eye, even the smallest permeations can be detected before they have a chance to accumulate.

Once water has permeated the building, there is no limit to the damage that accrue. The most obvious danger is that that the water itself will simply seep into stock, purchases, or outgoing orders, rendering them a complete loss. But beyond that, the water can easily freeze and expand within the building’s structure, causing severe safety concerns over potential collapses. And even of these dangers are avoided, the build-up of mold can cause serious long-term concerns for employees and customers.

To nip this problem in the bud, the only solution is a twice yearly inspection; usually in the spring and fall. This will allow for small repairs to be completed long before they have a chance to grow into larger concerns. By far, the easiest way to fix water damage is to avoid it altogether…but in order to do that properly, you must trust in a team of qualified experts. As the old saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.

“Stay on Top of Roof Maintenance” – Vancouver Experts

According to experts on roof maintenance, Vancouver represents a very challenging physical environment when it comes to the proper care and upkeep of both commercial and residential roof tops. With balmy summers featuring wave after wave of heat, and often times drought, the province can be as challenging as any warm climate for the months of July and August. Of course, the notorious rainy weather is also a challenge, with constant dampness and dry interior heating all becoming factors.

During the summer months, the main reasons for concern most often center around two factors–animal activity and weather patterns. Birds and other small animals often find Vancouver rooftops to be a perfect environment for nesting. For obvious reasons, these nests can become a problem very quickly, allowing interior access to exterior elements as well as blocking drainage paths–simply creating a mess. Weather patterns also allow for the accumulation of things such as small branches and leaves, that can also trap water in place where it will eventually seep through to the interior, causing water damage both along the way and at its final destination. The key to avoiding these summer time hassles is the regular performance of roof maintenance, Vancouver experts say.

Of course, the summertime is actually the less worrisome of the two worrisome seasons. The regular performance of inspections is also recommended in order to help avoid roofing problems at the worst possible time–during the bone chilling dampness of winter. When moisture has entered the building through small crevices, created by either natural wear and tear or by animal activity, this water will seep into the roof after a certain period of time.

According to experts, twice yearly is the minimum recommended frequency for roof maintenance. Vancouver, in particular, has a climate which would be best served by performing this maintenance once in the early spring and then once again in the early fall, allowing building owners time to react to any potential problems long before they have a chance to accumulate.

Source: Image Courtesy of Flickr's Marcus T Ward.

Source: Image Courtesy of Flickr’s Marcus T Ward.