While EPDM roofing panels are overall very durable, the rubber-like material is still vulnerable to being punctured. When an EPDM roof panel is punctured, water will seep through the hole into the underlayment beneath the roofing panel, and this can result in extensive water damage. After a puncture, your building may have mold growth, damaged insulation, or rot forming in the structural decking.
Because of the water damage risk involved, it's important to make sure that you prevent punctures in your EPDM roofing panels. Below, you'll find four ways to keep them safe and your building free from water intrusion due to punctures in the roofing membrane.
1. Install the Thickest EPDM Membrane Possible
EPDM roofing panels come in varying thickness levels. By installing the thickest panels available, you'll increase the puncture-resistance of your EPDM roofing system. Thicker panels can still be punctured, but it's less likely for the puncture to pierce into the underlayment. Water damage will only result from a puncture if it pierces through the entire membrane.
2. Trim Tree Limbs Near Your Roof
During severe storm events, wind-blown debris (such as pine cones or tree branches) can easily create large gashes in your EPDM roofing panels when they're blown into them at high speeds. Trimming the trees next to your building will decrease the likelihood of this happening. This isn't limited to only trees with limbs overhanging your roof—any tree near your building needs to be trimmed regularly in order to prevent wind-blown debris from damaging your EPDM roofing system.
Trimming the trees on your property also prevents pests from damaging your EPDM roofing system. Birds can scratch EPDM roofing membranes with their talons, so it's important to ensure that no trees are nearby that provide them with a food source on top of your roof. Squirrels can also scratch EPDM membranes with their claws, but trimming your trees will prevent them from being able to climb onto your roof.
3. Add Roofing Walkways to Your EPDM Panels
Roofing walkways are made out of rubber, and they're glued to your EPDM roofing panels. If you keep pests and wind-blown debris away from your roof, then roof punctures will generally only result from maintenance staff walking on your roof. You should add roofing walkways from the edge of the roof to any roofing feature that requires maintenance, such as your skylights or HVAC units. They provide an additional layer of protection, as shoes or dropped tools will only puncture the roofing walkway and not the EPDM membrane underneath.
4. Train Maintenance Personnel on Proper Safety Measures
Finally, make sure that your EPDM maintenance staff knows that punctures are always a risk with EPDM roofing systems. Anyone who works on your roof should avoid wearing cleated shoes, and they need to keep their tools secured to their person in order to avoid accidentally dropping them while they walk around. Even the thickest EPDM roofing panels can be punctured by a dropped hammer or screwdriver, and your maintenance staff needs to be aware of this fact.
Overall, preventing punctures is the best way to keep your EPDM roofing system in good condition. However, it's easy for a commercial roofing contractor to repair a punctured EPDM panel when they occur. The damaged area can simply be cut out and patched with new EPDM. In addition to having a program in place to prevent your roof from being punctured, you also need to regularly inspect your roof. If a puncture does occur, call a commercial roofing company in your area to have the affected area replaced before water damage occurs.