Flat roofs represent a significant investment and protect the rest of your building. When they fail, they cause a huge scramble for professional help and replacement—which also costs you too. So, avoiding flat roof failure is an important part of caring for any building. To avoid failure, you need to know what causes it in the first place. Here are the most common causes.

1. Poor Installation

Small installation mistakes from reputable companies are often caught during the final walkthrough and corrected. The type of poor installation that causes premature roof failure is often done by inexperienced roofers or companies that are looking to cut corners. So, to avoid this potential cause, you should work with a roofer who has a solid reputation in your community and who has been around for some time.

2. Drainage Issues

Flat roofs have a system of drainage pipes that take water from the roof and drain it safely beyond the building’s foundation. Small drainage issues can quickly become compounded on flat roofs. Any water pooling near a partly clogged or completely clogged drain can depress the insulation in the flat roof, creating a depression near the drain. This can further slow drainage, and as the roof retains water it will start to suffer water erosion and even more insulation compression. Eventually, this causes failure. So, spotting and resolving drainage issues quickly is essential to protect the lifespan of your roof.

3. Poor Integration

Commercial flat roofs must often play host to other vital building systems, such as HVAC systems and lightning protection systems. They usually also have smaller features, ranging from practical plumbing vents to beautiful skylights. If any of these systems are installed after the roof, you’ll want your roofer consulting on or performing the installation. Poorly integrating these features and systems with the roof can result in roof failure, especially major leaks.

4. Pests

Commercial roofs may have to deal with a whole swathe of pests that residential roofs rarely need to be concerned with. It is common for large commercial roofs to attract nesting birds, large bug problems, and even mammals such as raccoons and possums. If left alone, the presence of these pests on the roof can seriously compromise its performance and result in failure. It is important to regularly check for pest activity on the roof and get professional guidance if you notice an issue. Resolving ponding is especially important to prevent pests, as most are attracted to pools of water as a drinking spot.

5. Time and Lack of Maintenance

Over time all flat roofs will wear out, become eroded, be affected by the sun or by water exposure and need to be replaced. But, there are things you can do to slow down the process and keep your roof from failure for as long as possible. Routine inspections and maintenance of the roof are the best things you can do. Work with a roofer to get yearly inspections and address the small issues that pop up before they become so serious that they cause roof failure.