No leak, no matter how small, should ever be ignored on a commercial roof. Consequential damage from the small leak can be more devastating than the leak itself.
1. Roof Decking Failure
Most damage on a commercial roof will only affect the membrane initially. Generally, this means that the repair will only require a quick and inexpensive membrane patch, or at worst a new membrane installation. If not addressed quickly, though, the decking below the membrane can suffer irreparable damage. If this occurs, your building may need a time consuming and expensive full roof replacement.
2. Insulation Destruction
Even a small leak can lead to big problems in the attic crawlspace in your building. This space is typically heavily insulated to guard against thermal exchanges with the outside air. Fiberglass batting is the most common type of insulation in older commercial buildings, and it can absorb a lot of moisture. Once wet, the insulation must be removed and replaced. An expensive result from an otherwise small leak.
3. Interior Mold and Mildew
Mold and mildew don't just compromise the integrity of whatever they grow on, they can also pose a health risk. Mold can lead to respiratory distress, even in healthy people. Mold mitigation can also force a temporary shutdown of your business due to cleanup and health concerns. It doesn't take a lot of water or a large roof leak to cause mold growth, so even small leaks should be repaired as soon as they are noticed.
4. Inventory Loss
Roof damage doesn't just affect the roof. Water can make its way into nearly any part of the building via a leak. If not quickly repaired, the leak can worsen over time and quickly lead to a major leak or even a partial roof collapse during a major storm. Damage to not just the building but also your inventory and equipment is a distinct possibility, and one that will cost money in both losses of product and of operation hours.
5. Appliance Damage
Most commercial roofs are also home to many different rooftop appliances, including HVAC units and ventilation systems. When a flat roof develops a leak, the roof begins to weaken in that area. The weight of a rooftop appliance near the leak can cause the roof to give way so it no longer properly supports the appliance. This can lead to broken components on the appliance or even a total roof collapse.
Contact a commercial roof contractor if you suspect a leak on your building's roof.