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May 22, 2018

Infrared Rooftop Leak Detection

Even in the workaday world of commercial roofing, technology is making an impact. For example, although they can’t totally replace a contractor’s on-the-roof assessment, drones can provide a good idea of a roof’s condition using still or video photography. Drones also allow roofers to get a good sense of the proper safety precautions they must take before getting on the roof to do a job. Drones equipped with infrared cameras can help track down leaks.

One of the biggest concerns for a roof is leaks, of course, and making sure a roof system is watertight is important to all building owners. No matter how great a roof performs, weather and age can eventually cause leaks to occur. Leaks can be tricky to locate or get to, because water may enter on one end of the building and trickle to the other end before showing itself inside. To help find the source of these leaks, roofing contractors have started to use infrared technology.


Whether hand-held or drone-mounted, Infrared technology detects differences in temperatures between roof areas. When a roof leaks and moisture is absorbed in the underlayment and insulation beneath the membrane, that moisture retains daytime heat longer than dry areas. Because of this, when the temperature falls in the evening, wet areas will be warmer than the dry, surrounding areas. Using infrared technology, the temperature differences are detected, and this indicates the potential problem area. A commercial roofing contractor should “open up” the roof, replace the wet insulation and repair the leak. In some cases, it may be more cost effective to replace the entire roofing system.

Infrared inspections can be a regular part of a routine maintenance program and can save considerable dollars in the long run. However, while infrared technology can be useful, it is not a perfect science. Cloudy, wet or windy weather and/or complex roofing systems can make it difficult to detect the thermal differences. Finding a leak can often be a process of elimination, and infrared technology can be a tool in aiding it.


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