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Finding Leaks in Block Wall

Although we are a roofing contractor, we often find ourselves helping solve leaks that don’t involve the roof. After all, about 30% of all leaks that come into a building are not the roof. Rather than telling the owner it’s not the roof, and leaving, Weather Shield trains all of its technicians on the assembly of most building components. Here is just one example from last week.

Weather shield was asked to repair a roof leak a commercial building in Grand Rapids. After reviewing the history of the leak, it became immediately apparent that the leak was not coming from the roofing membrane itself. The leak only occurs during long driving rains. It would not leak in a rain without wind, or during a heavy snow-melt. This is typical of a wall leak, as a roof leak in the membrane itself will almost always show up each time one of these weather events occurs.

After reviewing the building plans, we decided to cut into the wall, just above the termination to see if it was installed properly. After taking a few blocks out, we found the problem.


The block wall had almost everything right. The weep holes were designed properly, the insulation backer was in place, and the vapor barrier intact. The only problem was location of the vapor barrier just behind the block. Rather than turning the vapor barrier up, so any moisture that gets behind the block sheds down over the roof, there is a trough. The water from a driving rain soaks through the walls, fills up the trough and runs to the end, where it dumps into the building.

The solution to the problem is straight-forward, but time-consuming. A mason will need to remove the bottom course of block down the entire wall and slope the vapor barrier so the water sheds out onto the roof.

Weather Shield was able to find the problem and create a solution for a roof leak that has plagued the owner since the building was built.

The Surprising Cost of a Roof Leak

Here is a story how saving a $150 cost for a leak repair could cost you your roof

Last summer I was asked to inspect a building that had two reported roof leaks. The building had been vacant for two years and because it was a vacant building, the leaks were not addressed during that time. Apart from some significant ponding because the debris was never cleared from the drains, the 10 year old roof looked pretty good. All the typical problems associated with an EPDM rubber roof (seam failure, penetration flashing issues, and shrinking at the perimeter) were not apparent.

When inspecting the actual leak areas, the only issues we found were three small punctures:

Without further inspection it would appear that the leaks could be repaired, and that the roof would last several more years before requiring replacement. A moisture scan, however, revealed a much more significant yet hidden issue.

Our nuclear moisture scanner revealed that almost 75% of the insulation beneath the roof was completely saturated. If the roof and insulation are not replaced, the roof deck will rot, and there may be issues with mold in the roofing assembly, not to mention that wet insulation significantly reduces the R-Value of the insulation. Had the punctures been repaired when the leaks first started showing up, the roof could have been maintained for another decade! Instead of spending $150 on a service call two years ago, the owner now has to spend tens of thousands of dollars to tear off the existing roofing and insulation and replace it with an entirely new assembly. Roof leaks are not always just a nuisance; they can be symptoms of potentially much larger issues. Addressing leaks as they occur will increase the life of your roof. Better yet, proactively maintaining your roof so the leaks never occur in the first place will dramatically increase the life of your roof and can pay you back many times over. It’s very important to be aware of the state of your roof, because even something that appears to be a small problem can quickly turn into a much larger issue.
Want to know more? Give me a call at WSRS/ 616.243.4040 and ask for Nate. I will be glad to tell you more about how you can increase the life of your old roof.

Using Infrared Thermography to find Roof Leaks

I was asked to find a chronic roof leak at an industrial roof in Holland, MI. Several other contractors had been asked to address the roof leak without success. I decided to use infrared thermography to find the leak source.

infrared Thermal Imaging gives us the ability to see the heat radiating off of objects. On a sunny day, the moisture contained in the wet insulation beneath the top layer of roofing will absorb the heat energy from solar radiation. After the sun sets the areas of the roof containing dry insulation cools with the air temperature, but areas containing wet insulation continue to emit the heat that has been absorbed by the solar load during the day. This wet insulation then shows up as “hot spots” with the Infrared camera.

As I found with this building, although the roof leak was small, the amount of damage done by the leak to the roofing assembly was much greater. The orange area in this photo shows water trapped in the insulation beneath the roofing membrane. With Infrared Thermal Imaging, I was able to pin point the problem areas, replace the wet insulation, and solve the leak issues for the owner. All this was done for significantly less than what was paid for several unsuccessful trips performed by previous contractors.