Flat Roof Drainage and Leaks: It May Be Plumbing and NOT the Roof
Below you will find a simple account of a service call inquiry. Oftentimes, there are multiple contracting parties involved in a flat roof repair. This includes plumbers, the roofers themselves, other construction services in the area, and obviously the stakeholders themselves.
In this case, a simple misunderstanding concerning the purpose of water testing culminated in repeated requests for service calls outside of the ongoing work we had been performing for the client. Finally, our client’s property manager provided us with the implements to deal with the problem. As suspected, it was the plumbing – not the roofing system itself – which was causing major leaks.
We have included a comprehensive explanation from our national project manager as well as a follow-up correspondence by a third-party plumbing contractor concerning this matter.
Water Source Needed to Test Drainage System
As you know, for about a year and a half, Toronto Roofer has been requesting a water source at the building to be able to test your drains. On each occasion, we have been told that a water source is being to be made available. As well, our crews have been told that it is likely the water source has been covered up in construction, but that we may be able to use a neighbour’s water source until a proper solution could be found. Up until today, no water source has been offered.
The Reasons Drains Need to be Tested
a. The source of the leaks were previously at the drain system. We requested the drain assembly (the connection to a new drain and U-Flow, and the connection to the drain) be redone with a plumber – we would provide the roofing services and the plumber would provide the connection services. This was not done at that time. My understanding is that the plumber only cleared the drain system. So, we requested a water source so that we could test the drains/plumbing ourselves to eliminate them as the main issue, or conclude that they are the suspected cause of your leaks.
b. The plumbing system and assemblies are old. It is common for drainage during times of heavy rain (which is when your building is having issues) to back up and roof leak at the drain bowl assembly connection to the drain pipes. As the water rises and then meets the bowl assembly, if there is not a U-Flow expander and/or proper drain bowl, the water will then get between the pipe and the connection to the bowl. What occurs is the water that is backing up will then get into the roof assembly and begin to run along various areas and manifest themselves through the ceiling. At the time of your roof replacement, there was no work order for the plumbing and drainage to be modernized, and normally this is not an issue. This this does become one, it is typically solved with a quick water test and simple remediation work (such as bowl replacement, U-Flow backup expander installations, and/or repairs to the drain pipes).
Discussion with the Site Manager
Water testing only works when it is not raining and is intended to isolate the drainage system from the roof membrane that we replaced. This is the reason for the need of an external/outside water source. We test the drainage system with a hose, which allows us to isolate the drainage system on its own. If that test does not show that it is the drainage system, then we go on to retest the membrane. We also test various other penetrations, such as rooftop units and/or vents, pipe boots, etc. Finally, we move onto testing various other components of the building envelope, such as the connection of the roof to the wall and the flashing areas.
Your site manager also asked that an emergency be done (such as pumping water off the roof), to which I replied that we could, if requested, dispatch an emergency crew for that, but we would have to charge extra because we have requested on numerous occasions for the water test to be done to the drainage system, and that has not been done. The site manager did not seem to want the emergency service under those terms.
I should also note that on the other occasions that we did respond in this fashion, that we did not charge for the emergency service. We did this despite finding that it was a drainage problem by the plumbers at that time. Furthermore, I will also note that on each occasion we did recoat the roof and did not charge for that either.
The only reason we are now saying that we have no choice but to charge a service fee is because we have requested number times to have water access. Part of our servicing parameters included that should the water test not to be done, that we would charge a fee for the emergency service.
You also asked us about why water was pooling on the roof. I explained to the site manager that at the time of the roof replacement, an engineered sloped insulation package and rebuild of the building exterior (parapet wall construction, sheet metal, siding, etc.). We were only approved to go ahead with the roof membrane replacement only. He asked why that was so, and I said that it is an option and that not all (in fact, less than 50%) of the buildings we service have a sloped insulation package installed. I directed him to all the neighbouring buildings as examples of those that do not have such sloped systems.
Discussion with the Property Manager
I explained to the general property manager that we needed to test the various components of plumbing, membrane, units, vents, plumbing boots, and possibly the building envelope at the roof to wall connections. Finally, we have been promised an external water source to isolate the issue based on our tests.