How To Tell If Your Commercial Roofing Insulation Is Damaged And Why It Matters

Posted on: 13 June 2016

Modern commercial roofing is durable enough to last for years, but some parts of the layered system are more susceptible to damage than others. Spray or board foam is usually one of the first layers installed, and it's also one of the most fragile material used on a commercial roof. Learn how to spot signs of damage to your roof's insulation layer and why it needs prompt repair.

Signs of Damage

There are two major types of damage that usually affect commercial roof insulation foams. The first is crushing damage, which is usually easy to spot with a visual inspection because you'll notice areas where the top membranes are sunken in. You may also notice standing water or small holes in the surface, depending what caused the damage originally. Look for fasteners that appear to have popped up higher than the surrounding membrane. These fasteners are actually surrounded by insulation and membrane that has sunken without taking the nails or screws with them.

The second form of insulation damage is often completely invisible. When a leaking membrane or seam allows water to soak down to the foam layer, the insulation value is lost and the roof can become much heavier than the structure can support. Saturated insulation often shows no symptoms at all until there's a major leak inside the building or a completely collapse of a section of the roof, so it's essential to have the roof scanned with a thermal camera. Thermal imaging shows if the insulation is working properly by maintaining heat loss through the roof, and it's an inexpensive way to make sure your commercial roof is still in good shape.

Causes of Damage

Water damaged insulation is always linked to some kind of leak or other penetration that allows moisture to seep in, but crushing damage can come from a much wider variety of causes. Understanding what crushes foam roofing insulation is essential to prevent damage, especially since you could easily cause a repeat of the same problem by making the same mistakes after getting the foam repaired. Some of the most common causes of crushed or deflected insulation include

  • Foot traffic on the roof, even if it was designed to support the weight of repair technicians or employees
  • The use of equipment like hand trucks and other wheeled devices
  • Hail, falling branches, or any other items that could strike the roof with force
  • Drainage issues that cause large amounts of water to pond on the roof, which can result in hundreds of pounds of pressure on the foam.

Figuring out what caused the initial damage to your foam insulation is the only way to prevent the problem from happening again.

Solutions for Damage

Whether the foam is saturated with water or crushed, it must be replaced by a professional. The membranes over the affected areas are cut away, the foam is replaced, and then a patch is applied over the material to protect it. Finding and sealing the leaks is essential for saturated foam, and this process can take a while if it's hard to pinpoint exactly where the moisture is getting through the membranes.

In most crushing cases, the commercial roof repair team will also add some kind of protective material to prevent the new foam from being damaged. Rigid fiber or wood cover boards are used when falling debris and hail is the primary cause, and supported walkway systems are good to add if you want to prevent foot and equipment traffic from making dents in the foam. Standing water damage is usually prevented simply by fixing the initial cause of the ponding, but adding cover boards is a good idea in case pooling occurs again in the future.

For more information or help with repairs, contact a local roofing company like Upson Company


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