Commercial Roof Leaking? Here’s What to Do Right Now

By: Diana Rodriguez-Zaba
Updated on: February 20, 2023

Building type doesn’t matter when a commercial roof leaks. Whether it’s a small retail outlet, mid-sized storage facility or expansive warehouse, water damage spreads quickly and impacts your business.

You need commercial roof leak repair as soon as possible, but you have to deal with the water damage right now.

From wet walls and flooring to soaked inventory and operating equipment, where and how do you start?

As Chicago’s leading commercial water damage pros, we can help. For over 14 years, ServiceMaster by Zaba has taken care of business properties damaged by leaking roofs.

Our overview sums up everything you need to know about roof leaks in commercial buildings.

What Causes Commercial Roofs to Leak?


A commercial roof’s flat design gives it maximum square footage to accommodate exterior components of the building’s system equipment. 

That same level surface also makes the roof prone to problems that can cause leaking and extensive water damage to interiors and contents.

These are a few examples.

  • Cracks and splits in the roof’s watertight membrane
  • Loose flashing around membrane edges and roof vents
  • Clogged roof drain pipes, scuppers and gutters
  • Storm damage, including hail and high winds
  • Weight of water ponding on the roof after heavy rains
  • Bad seals around drains, vents and pipes
  • Rooftop plumbing, heating or cooling unit failure
  • Negligent roof inspections and maintenance
  • Roof materials older than 15 or 20 years

7 Signs Your Roof Is Leaking


A leak in your building’s roof may not be obvious right away, but it leaves clues that can’t be ignored. 

If you notice any of these seven signs of a commercial roof leak, investigate the situation immediately.

  1. Rusty metal on rooftop flashing, vents and system equipment
  2. Discolored circular areas on ceilings and water stains streaking walls
  3. Pervasive odors throughout the building, especially upper floors
  4. Mold growing on items stored in dark areas and seldom-used spaces
  5. Interior surface dampness that can’t be traced back to plumbing leaks
  6. Dripping noises behind walls adjacent to the building’s envelope
  7. Higher heating and cooling bills due to water-damaged insulation

What to Do When Your Commercial Roof Is Leaking

1. Alert Everyone in the Building

Commercial roof leaks can result in water damage that creates structural, electrical and slipping hazards. 

Whether your property houses manufacturing crews or a busy healthcare staff, alert everyone to the possible dangers.

2. Note Obvious Leak Locations

Try to estimate the location of the roof leak and the extent of water damage. If the problem is concentrated in one area, consider sealing off the affected rooms.

Keep in mind that there may be multiple leaks, so broaden your inspection to nearby spaces.

Power Tip: As you trace back to the roof leak’s location, take pictures of the water damage so that you can document your losses for your property insurance carrier.

3. Contact Your Property Insurance Carrier

Depending on the cause of the leak in your commercial roof, you may be covered for repairs and damages. Most property insurance policies cover water damages as long as they aren’t the result of a natural storm event.

Explain the situation to your agent, and include details from the roofer’s assessment.

4. Protect Contents and Equipment

Move furniture and contents to dry spaces as far away from the water-damaged areas as possible. 

This minimizes the impact of elevated humidity on paper documents and electronics.

If heavy equipment can’t be moved, protect it with plastic sheeting.

5. Contain the Water Damage

Try to control the spread of a bad roof leak by placing buckets underneath water dripping through the ceiling. 

If you can do so safely, poke holes in ceiling tiles so that the water drains more quickly.

Power Tip: If ceilings show any signs of collapse, immediately evacuate the area.

6. Call Commercial Water Damage Professionals

The aftermath of a commercial property roof leak needs to be taken care of as soon as possible.

Contact a restoration company that provides commercial property water damage remediation. If you’re in the Chicago area, call us here at ServiceMaster by Zaba: (773) 647-1985

Our certified water damage technicians handle everything from mitigation to restoration, and we’re on call 24/7.

How to Prevent Commercial Roof Leaks

  • Make monthly roof inspections a part of your maintenance crew’s routine.
  • Keep the roof clear of debris that can damage the membrane, retain water and breed mold.
  • Regularly clear out roof drains, drain baskets, scuppers and gutter systems.
  • Replace loose seals around rooftop equipment, including vents, flashing and heating and cooling units.
  • Trim tall shrubs and tree limbs away from roof edges, especially on buildings five stories or less.
  • Always check roof equipment, membrane and flashing after severe weather.
  • Have the roof professionally inspected at least twice a year and always after severe weather.

Need Commercial Roof Leak Cleanup in Chicago or Suburbs? We Can Help!

commercial-roof-leak-cleanup- chicago-team

The water damage from a commercial roof leak spreads fast. It ruins interiors, inventory and equipment. We can clean and restore your commercial property to its pre-loss condition, and we salvage business contents too.

ServiceMaster by Zaba stands ready to answer your call with the best commercial water damage services in Chicago and the Suburbs. 

We’re standing by, ready to help you get your business back to normal: 773-647-1985.

How much does commercial roof leak repair cost?

The cost of repairing a leaking commercial roof depends on its size and materials. Repairs can range from $150 to $350 per square foot. The extent of damages also affects the cost.

What are the dangers of a leaking roof?

When a roof on a commercial property leaks, it sends water damage down into the interiors, affecting ceilings, walls and floors. The leak can ruin inventory, equipment, and furnishings, and it can compromise the building’s electrical system.

Does a leaky commercial roof always require restoration?

A leaking commercial roof usually leaves behind damages that can’t be taken care of in-house. Water damage restoration teams greatly reduce downtime with highly effective cleanup for interiors and contents.

Does building insurance cover commercial roof leaks?

Coverage can vary. For example, you should be covered for water damage from roof leaks, but you may not be covered for all natural storm events. Check with your business property insurer for details about your policy.