How To Check For Roof Storm Damage From Inside Your Building

Commercial roofs may appear flat, but they are still dangerous. Facilities crews, building managers, and building owners will do well not to venture out onto a low-slope roof after a storm (or anytime). So, if you cannot go out on your commercial roof, how can you find storm damage

Keep Off!

When we say roofs are dangerous, we mean it. We can back that up with some grim numbers: the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that Florida roofers suffered 16 fatal injuries in 2019 and 11 in 2020. Historically, roofers suffer nonfatal injuries at a much higher rate than most other professions. So, stay off your commercial roof!

Roofers are trained to handle low-slope roofs safely. Yet we know that they can still be injured. Imagine your unskilled, inadequately equipped facilities crews on your roof checking out seams, looking for storm damage. They can become preoccupied with their task and forget the roof perimeter. So, again, please, keep everyone off your roof except your commercial roofer. 

Where to Go?

A safe place to look for storm damage is inside your building, where you are far less likely to be injured. You may have to step up your detecting skills a bit, but you can spot many signs of storm damage inside your commercial property: 

  • Stains — Fresh stains on walls and ceilings can indicate moisture beneath the surface; most of that moisture will be from stormwater infiltration off your roof.
  • Temperatures — Storm damage on your roof can cause cool or cold water to filter inside, affecting the temperatures of surfaces and the interior air. Cold spots on walls may indicate roof leaks.
  • Sniff Test — If you smell musty, moldy, or mildewy odors, you may have observed storm damage without ever seeing it; mold only needs a few days of still (unmoving), very moist air to establish a foothold.

Roof Deck

Many commercial properties have interior access to the roof deck itself. If you can safely access this area, examine it using some essential tools:

  • A powerful flashlight
  • A camera or cell phone capable of recording photos and video

Before shining the light anywhere, see if you can find any light filtering in from your roof, indicating worrisome gaps associated with storm damage. Then shine the light and look for high reflectivity, where water may be actively leaking. Record areas of concern with both photos and video to show your commercial roofer.

You are looking for water, water stains, mold, corrosion, or rot. Do not venture into the depths of the deck, since metal structural members may have been weakened or damaged by the storm and wooden timbers may be rotten. 

Prairie Dog

Your roof may be accessible by a roof hatch, in which case you can safely survey a large part of the roof for storm damage without stepping out onto it. Sure, you will pop up like a prairie dog, but you will be safe. Look as far as you can in all directions, checking:

  • To see if any seams are visibly raised
  • To see that ponding has not begun, in which insulation is compressed and water is not evaporating quickly
  • If storm debris is strewn across the roof or has scoured your ballast
  • If internal drains appear clogged
  • Whether or not parapet scuppers are draining or obstructed
  • That HVAC curbs seem to meet the roof with no visible gaps
  • That a membrane is not torn, peeled back, or gouged by storm-tossed trash

If you have a rooftop stairway and full-sized access door, you can check the same areas without having to pop up like a prairie dog. Avoid the temptation to walk far away from the access door, however. The roof perimeter is closer than you think, and your commercial property is taller than you realize.

Who, Then?

If you, your facilities crew, and building owner should not be treading the boards of your commercial building’s roof, who should? For storm-related repair, the same commercial roofer you rely on for maintenance and inspection is your best resource. 

You play a role in getting the needed repairs, however. Your roofer will use your gathered data to determine the most likely areas of water infiltration, spots that need urgent attention, and the extent of the storm damage. 

Roofing crews on storm damage repair know how to set up warning flags and ropes on the roof’s perimeter, provide fall arrest gear to prevent accidents, and work as teams supporting one another. They get the job done quickly and efficiently but never at the sacrifice of safety. 

In the greater Ft. Lauderdale area, PSI Roofing is your trusted partner in all aspects of commercial roofing. Contact us today to let us help with all your roofing needs, including roof repair due to storm damage.