A commercial building’s ability to fulfill its intended purpose hinges significantly on a roof that effectively keeps the exterior elements out while ensuring the interior remains safe and dry. One of the most effective methods to guarantee a roof performs this crucial function is through regular commercial roof inspections.

Commercial roof inspections are conducted at various stages throughout the life and construction of a roof. These inspections verify that the roof has been installed correctly, aligns with the building plans, and remains free from damage.

In this article, I will delve into the essentials of commercial roof inspections, covering their key focus areas, the common issues they often uncover, and tips on how to maximize their benefits.

Professional inspecting commercial roofThe Importance of Commercial Roof Inspections

Ensuring a commercial building serves its purpose starts with maintaining a robust roof. A well-maintained roof safeguards the building’s structural integrity and protects the occupants and interior assets from weather-related damage. Conducting regular roof inspections is essential for early detection and prevention of potential problems, ultimately extending the roof’s lifespan and ensuring the building operates smoothly.

Key Focus Areas of Commercial Roof Inspections

During a commercial roof inspection, several critical aspects are thoroughly examined:

  • Installation Accuracy: Inspectors check that the roof installation meets the specified standards and follows the building plans precisely. This step ensures that no shortcuts were taken during construction, which could compromise the roof’s effectiveness.

  • Material Integrity: The inspection includes an assessment of the roofing materials to ensure they are intact and have not deteriorated prematurely. This evaluation helps in identifying any potential weak spots that might require attention.

  • Structural Soundness: Inspectors look for signs of structural damage or weaknesses in the roof’s framework. This is crucial for preventing future issues that could arise from compromised structural components.

  • Waterproofing Efficiency: Ensuring the roof is properly sealed and waterproof is vital. Inspectors check for leaks, standing water, and any signs of water infiltration that could lead to serious damage if left unaddressed.

Common Issues Uncovered During Inspections 

Regular inspections often reveal a range of common problems, including:

  • Leaks and Water Damage: Even minor leaks can escalate into significant damage if not detected early. Inspections help identify and address these issues promptly.

  • Material Wear and Tear: Over time, roofing materials can degrade due to exposure to the elements. Inspections reveal areas where materials have worn down and need repair or replacement.

  • Structural Weaknesses: Inspections can uncover weaknesses in the roof’s structure that may not be immediately apparent but could lead to major issues if ignored.

  • Poor Installation Practices: Sometimes, inspections reveal that the roof was not installed according to best practices or building codes, necessitating corrective actions.

Maximizing the Benefits of Commercial Roof Inspections 

To make the most of commercial roof inspections, it’s important to follow these tips:

  • Schedule Regular Inspections: Don’t wait for problems to arise. Regular inspections, ideally bi-annually or after severe weather events, can help catch issues early.

  • Work with Qualified Inspectors: Ensure that inspections are conducted by experienced and certified professionals who understand commercial roofing systems.

  • Document Findings: Keep detailed records of inspection reports and any maintenance or repair work done. This documentation is invaluable for tracking the roof’s condition over time.

  • Act on Recommendations: Address any issues identified during inspections promptly. Proactive maintenance can prevent minor problems from developing into major, costly repairs.

Proactively identifying problems through commercial roof inspections is essential for maintaining the integrity of a building. As one of the most crucial components, a roof can be both complex and costly to repair. By conducting regular commercial roof inspections, we can detect issues before they escalate into major problems, ultimately saving time and money while ensuring the building remains functional.

For contractors and manufacturers, commercial roof inspections are a vital step in evaluating whether they can confidently offer long-lasting warranties. These inspections not only influence their reputation but also affect the likelihood of securing repeat business. A thorough inspection provides the peace of mind that the roof will endure over time, which is a significant selling point for clients.

Often, by the time moisture becomes apparent inside a building, it indicates a more significant underlying issue that can be difficult to diagnose and fix. Regular commercial roof inspections play a critical role in preventing these problems. When issues do arise, these inspections help in identifying cost-effective and durable solutions, thereby protecting the building’s overall health and extending its lifespan.

Roofer professional examining commercial rooftop

Types of Commercial Roof Inspections 

When we talk about “roof inspections,” many people think of examining a finished roof, either right after it’s constructed or as part of routine maintenance over the years. However, roof inspections encompass a variety of types, each designed to ensure that the roof is built correctly and will stand the test of time against the elements. Let me break down the different types of commercial roof inspections for you.

Pre-Roof Inspection

This inspection is not just a cursory glance; it involves a detailed examination to confirm that the substrate is constructed correctly. It’s vital that the base of the roof is sound and capable of supporting the new roof structure. Any issues found during this inspection must be addressed before proceeding with the roofing installation. This could involve repairs or reinforcements to ensure the substrate can securely attach to the new roof.

First In-Place/Mockup Roof Inspection 

The primary goal of this early inspection is to verify that the installation process aligns with the manufacturer’s specifications and guidelines. By doing so, any errors or discrepancies can be identified and corrected at an early stage. This proactive approach prevents these mistakes from being repeated throughout the rest of the roof, which can save time, reduce costs, and enhance the overall quality of the roofing project.

During this inspection, the GC or manufacturer’s rep will meticulously review the installed section, checking for adherence to the recommended techniques and materials specified by the manufacturer. They will look for common issues such as improper alignment, incorrect use of materials, or deviations from the installation plan. Addressing these issues immediately ensures that the rest of the roof is installed correctly, maintaining the integrity and longevity of the roof.


Routine inspections become even more critical after a storm. Storms can reveal weaknesses in the construction, making it easier to detect unsealed areas, leaks, or other warning signs such as pooling water. By identifying these issues during the construction phase, we can address them promptly. This proactive approach is far more effective than dealing with the complexities that arise once the roof is completed.

Post-Construction/Final Roof Inspections 

As a roofing expert, I know how crucial a post-construction roof inspection is after completing any roofing project. This final inspection marks the end of the roofer’s work and ensures everything is in perfect condition. Let me take you through what happens during this critical phase and why it’s so important.

What is a Post-Construction Roof Inspection?

A post-construction roof inspection is a thorough examination that takes place once the roofing work is completed. This process typically involves a General Contractor (GC) and a manufacturer working together to meticulously check every aspect of the roof. The goal is to ensure that the installation meets all required standards and that there are no issues or potential problems that could arise in the future.

Why Post-Construction Inspections Matter for General Contractors 

For general contractors, the post-construction roof inspection is a pivotal step in the building process. It ensures that the roof is properly installed and will protect the building’s systems and materials from the elements. This assurance allows the rest of the construction to proceed smoothly, knowing that the roof will keep everything safe and dry.

The Importance for Roofing Contractors 

For roofing contractors, a post-construction inspection is often the final hurdle before the project is officially completed. Passing this inspection is not only a testament to their craftsmanship but is also usually tied to receiving the final payment for their work. Therefore, it represents both a professional and financial milestone.


In times of crisis, like when moisture infiltrates a building, it’s crucial to act swiftly. Emergency inspections are the go-to solution, triggered by the detection of moisture within a structure. These assessments hone in on identifying the water’s source and the intricate journey it embarked on, from the roof to its final resting place.

Water, as we know, follows the path of least resistance. Yet, it rarely opts for a direct route. This behavior complicates the task of pinpointing its entry point on the roof and tracing its convoluted path indoors. Unraveling this puzzle can be both laborious and intricate, often unveiling additional hidden issues lurking within the structure.


During periodic inspections, it’s essential to clear any debris that may have accumulated on the roof. Debris can cause drainage issues and lead to water damage if left unchecked. Additionally, checking any equipment installed on the roof, such as HVAC units or satellite dishes, ensures they are functioning correctly and aren’t causing damage to the roof itself.

While some building owners opt to conduct informal periodic inspections themselves, hiring a professional inspector is often the preferred choice for commercial properties. Professional inspectors have the expertise to identify potential problems that may go unnoticed by the untrained eye. They know what to look for and how to address any issues that arise effectively.

Ideally, periodic inspections should be conducted a few times a year, with particular attention paid in the spring and fall. In the spring, inspections help assess any damage caused by winter weather, while fall inspections ensure the building is prepared for harsher conditions ahead. Additionally, it’s essential to inspect the roof after severe weather events like hail or high winds to check for any damage or debris that may have occurred.

Roof inspector checking shingles on a residential roof

Who Conducts A Roof Inspection?

During the construction phase, it’s often the contractor or a designated inspector who takes charge of assessing the roof’s condition. They meticulously examine every aspect to ensure compliance with safety standards and specifications.

Once the building is in operation, property owners or facility managers usually take on the responsibility of scheduling routine inspections. These proactive checks help detect potential issues early on, preventing costly damages down the line.

In cases where a problem arises, such as leaks or structural concerns, specialized roofing contractors or consultants might be called in to conduct a thorough assessment. Their expertise enables them to identify the root cause of the issue and recommend appropriate solutions.

General Contractors

In the world of construction, general contractors (GCs) are the frontliners when it comes to inspections. They spearhead a series of inspections, starting from the pre-roof assessment all the way to the final roof inspection. These diligent professionals aim to ensure that the roof meets their standards for warranty provision and that the construction process can smoothly progress.

Manufacturer’s Representatives

Manufacturers often deploy their representatives to oversee inspections during construction. These reps play pivotal roles in the first in-place and post-construction inspections. Additionally, they may conduct periodic checks on behalf of the manufacturer. The best part? These inspections are typically complimentary, bundled with the roof purchase. Manufacturers have a vested interest in ensuring proper installation, making these inspections a win-win. General contractors often welcome the presence of these reps, leveraging their expertise in building materials and knack for troubleshooting common issues.

Third-party Inspectors 

When complexities arise or unfamiliar details puzzle contractors during their own inspections, third-party consultants step in. These impartial experts specialize in commercial roof inspections, offering unbiased assessments. While their services come at a cost, ranging from a few thousand to tens of thousands of dollars depending on the roof’s size and urgency, the investment is worthwhile. Why? Because rectifying issues later can incur significantly higher expenses than the inspection itself.

In essence, while inspections may seem like added expenses, they serve as proactive measures to identify and address potential issues before they escalate into costly problems. So, whether you’re a GC, a manufacturer, or seeking impartial expertise, investing in inspections is a prudent decision that ultimately saves you time, money, and headaches down the road.

Commercial and residential roof inspections side by side

Commercial vs. Residential Roof Inspections 

Distinguishing between commercial and residential roof inspections often boils down to the inherent differences in the roofs themselves. Commercial roofs tend to be larger, predominantly flat, and may accommodate various installations and equipment. Consequently, conducting a comprehensive inspection of a commercial roof may necessitate more time and a meticulous evaluation of additional variables.

One of the key disparities between commercial and residential roof inspections emerges post-construction, particularly during the maintenance phase. Residential roofs typically feature simpler shapes and materials, making it relatively easier for homeowners to undertake periodic inspections independently. In contrast, commercial roof inspections frequently mandate the expertise of a professional inspector, given the expansive nature of commercial spaces and the potential complexity of equipment installations.

Professional inspecting roof writing on the clipboard

Roof Inspection Process 

In the realm of roof inspections, each type bears its unique significance. For instance, a routine construction check by a general contractor might revolve around scrutinizing recently installed fasteners since their previous walkthrough.

However, for the focus of this discourse, let’s delve into the intricacies of post-construction roof inspections. These inspections offer a comprehensive overview, shedding light on all facets to be considered when evaluating a commercial roof’s condition.

Walk the Roof 

Contractors embark on a meticulous journey across the rooftop, often traversing from end to end, sometimes even repeating the process. Their primary objective lies in ensuring that the installation adheres closely to the architectural blueprints and any manufacturer stipulations. This may entail adding extra fasteners at specific points or meticulously sealing edges. This rooftop pilgrimage serves as the opportune moment to scout for red flags signaling potential future issues or identifying any irregularities. We’ll delve into these observations and prevalent issues in the subsequent sections.

Check Penetrations

A roof penetration denotes any spot where an aperture was created to accommodate various installations such as drains, air conditioners, plumbing stack vents, ducts, exhaust fans, skylights, or HVAC curbs. Given their nature involving puncturing the roof’s surface, penetrations stand at a heightened risk of developing leaks, tears, or punctures.

Infrared Imaging 

Many inspections kick off with infrared scans, a technology adept at uncovering moisture invisible to the naked eye. For instance, an infrared camera might unveil moisture seeping through the layers beneath the roof’s surface.

Water, being a swift temperature conductor, alters its temperature quicker than the surrounding materials. Infrared scans detect these temperature differentials, thereby aiding in the detection of water accumulation. Hence, infrared scans prove most effective during temperature fluctuations, such as the warming of the roof in the morning or its cooling in the evening. Conversely, they yield negligible results following a significant downpour or after a cleaning spree inundating the entire roof with moisture.

Core Samples 

Core sampling involves extracting minute portions of the roof to unveil the composition of materials lying beneath the visible surface. These samples serve as valuable tools in deciphering the number of layers, the material composition, and their current conditions. While not always imperative, core samples come in handy when investigating suspected leaks or during routine inspections aiming to assess the roof’s constitution and current state.

Professional inspecting a commercial roof, clipboard in hand

Commercial Roof Inspection Checklist: What You Must Verify

Hey there, fellow roof enthusiasts! When it comes to keeping your commercial roof in tip-top shape, there’s nothing more crucial than a thorough inspection. Whether you’re conducting one during construction or right after, the key is to ensure everything aligns with the manufacturer’s guidelines and the designer’s blueprints. Let’s dive into what you need to scrutinize during your next inspection.

  • Penetrations: These are the openings on your roof, and they need careful attention. Make sure everything from drains to air conditioners, plumbing stack vents to ducts, exhaust fans to skylights, and even HVAC curbs are in place and securely fastened. Keep an eye out for any signs of excess moisture or misalignment.

  • Drainage: A proper drainage system is essential for preventing water buildup and potential damage. Check your gutters, scuppers, drains, downspouts, roof edges, base flashings, and seams. Any blockages or damage could lead to leaks and structural issues down the line.

  • Fasteners: These little guys might seem insignificant, but they play a big role in keeping your roof intact. Inspect screws and rivets to ensure they’re tight and secure. Loose fasteners can compromise the integrity of your roof and lead to leaks.

  • Exterior Walls and Substrate Firmness: Don’t forget to examine the perimeter of your roof and the firmness of the substrate beneath it. Any cracks, gaps, or weaknesses could indicate underlying problems that need immediate attention.

  • Interior: It’s not just the outside that matters; the inside of your building is equally important. Check ceilings and walls for any signs of water damage or leaks. Catching these issues early can save you a lot of headache and money in the long run.

  • Installed Equipment: If your roof is home to HVAC systems, communications equipment, or solar panels, make sure they’re installed correctly and not causing any damage to the roof structure.

Inspectors discussing damaged on a commercial roof

Common Issues Found During a Commercial Roof Inspection

It’s time to shine a spotlight on those pesky issues that could spell trouble down the line. So, buckle up as we unravel the mysteries of potential roof woes!

  • Structural Shifts: Keep an eagle eye out for any cracks, bulges, or valleys. These sneaky signs often hint at underlying structural movements that could pave the way for future headaches.

  • Lurking Ponding Water: Picture stagnant water chilling on your roof – not a pretty sight, right? Well, this could signal a medley of troubles, from blocked drainage to wonky roof pitches or even shrinkage woes.

  • Rust and Corrosion Chronicles: Ah, the telltale signs of excess moisture! Rust and corrosion are like unwelcome guests, indicating weakened roof parts and potential trouble brewing beneath the surface.

  • Breach Points Galore: Punctures, cracks, and tears – oh my! These little buggers serve as prime entry points for water, courtesy of weather tantrums, wear and tear, or even an unfortunate encounter with equipment mishaps.

  • The Menace of Debris: Be on the lookout for anything that wreaks havoc on your rooftop kingdom – debris, dirt, you name it! These nuisances can wreak havoc, blocking drainage systems and causing damage with their pesky presence.

  • Biological Invasion Alert: Brace yourselves for the invasion of plants, algae, moss, fungi, and lichen! These moisture-loving organisms not only hint at potential moisture build-ups but also pose a threat to your roof’s integrity if left unchecked.

  • The Shrinking Dilemma: When the membrane around your roofing material decides to go on a shrinking spree, trouble isn’t far behind. Say hello to cracks, rips, and tears – the unwelcome aftermath of shrinkage shenanigans.

  • Drainage Drama: Last but not least, keep those drainage systems in check! Clogged gutters or downspouts spell trouble, potentially leading to water buildup and a cascade of woes for your commercial rooftop haven.

Remember, folks, proactive roof inspections are the name of the game when it comes to safeguarding your commercial property. So, arm yourself with knowledge, keep those peepers peeled, and tackle those roof issues head-on!

How to Prepare for a Commercial Roof Inspection 

Are you gearing up for a commercial roof inspection? Well, let me guide you through some surefire steps to make that inspection a breeze.

  • Spot Issues in Advance: First things first, it’s crucial to spot any existing leaks or signs of water intrusion inside your building. If you’ve noticed any damp spots or water stains, it’s a red flag. The inspector will dive into tracing the source of these leaks, which can be quite the detective work, let me tell you.

  • Ensure Dry Roof Conditions: For an infrared inspection to work its magic, your roof needs to be bone dry. Yup, that’s right! A dry roof ensures that the infrared camera can spot any irregularities with precision.

  • Declutter Your Rooftop: Picture this: a clutter-free rooftop, devoid of pesky leaves and debris. Sounds like a dream, doesn’t it? Well, it’s not just for aesthetics. A clear roof makes it easier to detect major issues like blocked drains or punctures. So, let’s tidy up that rooftop.

  • Keep Drains Clear: Gutters and roof drains might seem insignificant, but boy, do they play a vital role! Make sure they’re squeaky clean to provide a clear view of their functionality. Those leaves clogging up your gutters? They can create a false alarm about blockages, so let’s nip that misconception in the bud.

Roofing contractor inspects issue on commercial roof

What Happens If An Issue Is Discovered During A Commercial Roof Inspection?

When an issue crops up during a commercial roof inspection, it sets off a series of actions that need to be promptly addressed. Handling roof problems swiftly is crucial to prevent further damage and maintain the integrity of the building. Here’s a breakdown of what happens and how to tackle it:

Identification of the Issue

The first step is to accurately identify the problem. This could range from minor leaks to more significant structural issues. Timely detection is key to preventing escalation.

Responsibility of the Roofing Contractor

If the issue arises during post-construction inspection, the roofing contractor is typically responsible for resolving it. This includes rectifying the problem before the project is considered complete and receiving final payment. Following this, another inspection is usually conducted by a general contractor (GC) and the manufacturer’s representative to ensure that the issue has been effectively addressed.

Warranty Considerations

Issues discovered during periodic inspections after the completion of the building often fall under warranty considerations. Third-party consultants can assist owners in understanding various aspects:

  • The nature of the issue.

  • The validity of warranties.

  • Whether the problem is related to workmanship, possibly covered by contractors’ warranties.

  • Whether it pertains to materials, which should be covered by the manufacturer’s warranty.

Pinpointing the Cause

Resolving the issue starts with identifying its root cause. This involves determining if it’s an isolated incident or indicative of a broader problem. Given the urgency and potential expense of roof repairs, it’s essential to find the least invasive yet effective solution. This could involve repair, restoration, or in severe cases, roof replacement.


Ensuring the longevity and durability of a commercial roof is vital. A comprehensive roof inspection serves as the cornerstone for addressing existing issues and anticipating potential vulnerabilities. Subsequently, it empowers the owner with the knowledge needed to safeguard their investment in the long run.

Implementing a proactive approach is key. Regular, informal roof checks, like having personnel walk the roof, coupled with periodic formal inspections by third-party experts, significantly contribute to prolonging the lifespan of the roof and, consequently, the entire structure. By staying vigilant and proactive, owners can mitigate risks and ensure optimal performance from their commercial roofs.