Why You Should Be Inspecting Your Roof in Spring

April 14, 2023 kellymacdonald


Tis the season for spring cleaning. Coming out of the cold, dark winter months many buildings, especially in condominium communities, have a laundry list of projects to complete in preparation for the new season. Here’s why it’s imperative that inspecting the roof be included on your spring checklist.


Winter’s Impact on Roof Systems


The volatility of winter weather can have harsh affects on all roof systems. This past season, winter took its time to arrive, but came knocking forcefully come late February. Over the following weeks, Southern Ontario experienced the dreaded but typical weather events we have come to expect throughout the winter season. From freezing temperatures, snow and ice accumulation, windstorms, and extreme temperature fluctuations, we saw all that winter has to offer.


These conditions can extrapolate existing weaknesses through the roof and create new problems, such as membrane splits and cracks, deteriorated sealants, shingle breakages and more. Extreme weather fluctuations can be especially harmful, as they cause expansion and contraction in membrane systems, which can often negatively impact vulnerable points, like at roof flashing, upturns, and laps.


Buildings and homes that have experienced ice damming during the winter may also be susceptible to shingle and gutter damages from the ice build-up that occurred. Loose, detached gutter sections or breakages and deterioration at the lower shingles are not uncommon following periods of ice damming, and can affect the overall functionality of the roof system if left unattended.


April Showers Bring Leaks



Having a through inspection of the roof completed in Spring is not only ideal for identifying issues created throughout the winter, but also for preventing the presence of leaks. While leaks cannot be predicted and may not always be identifiable before they happen, completing an assessment of the various roof elements presents the best chance at minimizing their presence.


Spring is often associated with rainy, damp weather, and this year is no exception. Following our late, extended winter weather, meteorologists are forecasting above-average precipitation throughout the month of April. Being proactive and ensuring deficiencies throughout the roof system are identified and addressed early will help your building stand up to the inclement weather and help mitigate potentially devastating water infiltration occurrences.


Key Areas to Inspect on the Roof


Drains & Scuppers

Clear drainage is crucial to the functionality of the roof system, especially during seasons where higher volumes of precipitation are common. Blockages at the drains from debris, gravel ballast, and vegetation or foliage limit the free flow of water off the roof system and can lead to flooding in severe cases. Existing damages in the roof membrane or other roof elements may be more susceptible to water infiltration in cases where the drains are blocked, and excess water is present on the roof.



Checking all roof drains to ensure they are clear from obstructions and flowing freely will help eliminate the risk of ponding water and potential flood issues. Having the drains checked by a qualified roofing contractor also helps to identify defects with the drain itself. Many leaks we have investigated over the years have resulted from deteriorated membrane at the drain or corrosion of the drain insert.


Roof Penetrations


Roof penetrations such as vents, plumbing stacks and mechanical units, can be some of the leading sources of water, due to issues at the roof flashing or membrane at the base of the penetration. These critical areas can be particularly vulnerable to harsh winter weather, like severe temperature fluctuations.


Inspecting the flashing at roof penetrations for defects like cracks or perforations can be helpful for early leak detection. Where the roof membrane is visible, checking the condition of the membrane at the base of the penetration is important for ensuring there is no deterioration occurring that could leave the area susceptible to water ingress.


Inspecting the bases of roof penetrations becomes complicated when the roof is comprised of an inverted or green roof system, meaning the membrane is not immediately visible or accessible, and is covered by multiple, protective layers. It is recommended that checking and sealing the bases of roof penetrations be included in routine maintenance plans to deter leaks. Where the roof flashing is damaged to the point of gaps or openings being present, replacement of the flashing should be conducted as soon as possible.


Membrane Damages or Deterioration


Following the winter season, it is common to see defects arise in the membrane. Especially with older tar and gravel or built-up roof systems, large splits and cracks can occur quickly and without warning.


On roof systems where the membrane is visible, identifying areas where damages have occurred allows the building management to complete the necessary repairs promptly.


Shingle Damages or Deterioration


Shingles can withstand a lot of adversity. Still, they do not last forever and can be subject to widespread or localized damage and deterioration, especially if they were not installed to manufacturer guidelines. Following the harshness of winter, shingles can become brittle and may experience damages if ice damming occurred throughout the season.


Having sloped, shingled roof surfaces inspected to determine the state of the shingles and to determine if any localized repairs are required will help maximize the overall service life of the roof and prevent interior leak issues.


When inspecting shingled roof surfaces, other areas should also be inspected, such as the vents, gutters and downspouts, metal flashings, and soffits.


Deteriorated Sealant


Much like membranes that expand and contract during winter months, sealants like caulking can also be subjected to the negative affects of the season. Although there are a variety of types of caulking available, with many made for outdoor, multi-season use, all caulking will eventually break down over time.


When caulking deterioration begins, the sealant will appear dry and brittle. If not replaced, eventually the sealant can split, leaving gaps where water can enter. Caulking is often the important first line of defence for waterproofing in critical areas, like at roof flashing seams and transitions. Once caulking splits open and if there is no additional waterproofing present in the areas below, interior leaks will be imminent.


Completing an inspection of the various sealants throughout the roof surfaces following winter will allow the building to determine the overall state and identify if renewal is required. It is recommended that caulking replacement projects be carried out by professionals, as applying the wrong type of caulking, not adequately cleaning and preparing the application surfaces or applying the caulking improperly can make the sealant defunct and lead to further issues.


Missing or Displaced Roof Elements


Given the whirlwind of weather events and storms experienced through the winter, it is common to find roof elements missing entirely come spring. Vent caps, drain screens and metal flashing are some of the most common items found missing during inspections.


Missing vent caps and missing or damaged metal flashing can both present potential leak issues, especially in cases where there is not a waterproofing underlayment beneath metal flashing. Missing or damaged metal flashing also presents a massive safety hazard and must be identified and corrected as soon as possible.


When drain screens are missing, blockages at the drains become much more feasible. With nothing covering the drain, it is easy for debris, gravel, or foliage to enter the drain and obstruct the free flow of water. As previously mentioned, this can be quite an issue, especially when there are additional defects throughout the roof surface where water can enter.


Contact Us to Book Your Inspection

If you haven’t already booked your spring inspection, now is the time to do so. Click to submit an assessment request or contact us at 905-230-2969 and we will be happy to schedule your inspection. Following the inspection, a detailed photo report is provided outlining all findings with immediate and long-term recommendations.

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