October 24, 2022

When is a leaking roof an emergency situation?

A Metro Contracting branded van sits outside a school building in the sunshine. The school building is clearly in two different distinctive styles, where the original building was extended.

Our experience can help you act faster to protect your property. Find out more about identifying emergency leaks.

When dealing with older buildings such as this historic leasehold property in Woolwich, age and deterioration can lead to ongoing roof leaks as materials degrade. We attended this block – a former hospital designed in collaboration with the famous Florence Nightingale – to address its multiple roof leak issues, stripping and reroofing with new Welsh Penrith Slates in keeping with the building’s heritage status.

Left: Before our reroofing; Right: The roof following completion of our works.

Leaks are one of the most common jobs our team attend. In these situations, it’s often that:

  • The leak has been noticeable for a long time but not fixed; or
  • A cheap labourer was employed to fix the leak, but failed to do so adequately; or
  • The leak wasn’t even discovered before it was too late.

In this case, the age of the building affected the quality of the roof. A leaking roof can quickly turn a comfortable home into a chaotic mess, causing water damage, mould growth, and potential safety hazards.

Not all leaks create emergency situations – so how do you distinguish between an emergency roof leak or a minor issue?

Signs of a Roofing Emergency:

Heavy Rainfall:

If it is raining inside your building, you have a severe roofing issue that needs urgent attention. Heavy waterfall indoors can quickly cause extensive damage to walls, paintwork and flooring – and a flooded home is an uninhabitable one.

Interior and Structural Damage:

It starts with a stained ceiling, turns into a bubbled spot on the ceiling, and ends with pints of water onto your residents. In the worst cases, we’ve seen warped walls and, upon investigation, rotting timber within the roofs.

Staining isn’t always indicative of an urgent situation, but the faster you act against the leak, the less damage will occur on your property.

Raining Light Fittings:

Anyone who’s attended Primary School will likely be aware of the conductive power of water. If water seems trapped in, or falling out of, your light fittings, your building is now a fire risk – it’s definitely time to source the leak, fix the issue, and check your wiring.

Mould Growth:

When moisture gets into a building, mould can grow quickly – particularly in poorly ventilated rooms.

A selection of drains sit flush with the rest of the playground's tarmac

How we source leaks

Over our many years of performing reactive maintenance, we’re experts at identifying the source of leaks. Every visit starts with a visual inspection. Our well-trained eyes and highly tuned intuition can often find the issue, tracing staining and damage back to the source.

In the rare cases where our visual inspection comes up short, we have a number of alternative techniques to employ.

Thermal Imaging: Our infrared cameras detect temperature variations caused by water intrusion. Cold spots or temperature differences indicate areas with moisture. This is particularly useful for finding hidden leaks in roofs and walls.

Pressure Testing: We can use pressure to test the integrity of the building’s plumbing systems, roofs or window frames. This test involves shutting off the water, before pressurising the system. We then monitor the pressure to identify any drops – this indicates a leak. This helps to identify domestic plumbing as well as roof issues.

This method is not very useful for identifying concealed leaks, and can be inconvenient to residents, so we don’t often like to use it.

Dye Testing: We can add ‘tracer dyes’ to water in specific areas. Tracer dyes will turn the water fluorescent colours, which enables us to see where water is infiltrating roofs and balconies. This makes the stain a very faint colour – easily hidden with a coat of paint once the leak is fixed.

Removing building materials: In rare cases, we need to remove parts of a bathroom, such as a bath cover, or even parts of a wall, floor or ceiling, in order to find the leak. This is our ‘last resort’ method – but can usually be the fastest way to find the source of the damage.

A short, orange brick building has two windows. The windows have a thick steel mesh fitted over the top.

What about using a moisture meter?

Whilst this is a popular, affordable and accessible tool for many contractors and amateur leak detectives, moisture meters are susceptible to false positives. They can mistake pipes, electrical wiring, screws or nails as moisture – so whilst this might be a first port of call for identifying leaks for some professionals, we prefer not to rely on it.

The front entrance to the school is a blue door. In this image, the door is open and bordered with white finger guards. Red steps lead up to the blue door.

Fast detection is better for your property

Not all leaks require immediate action, but the faster you find and fix a leak, the better for protecting the property. Enlisting professional contractors to identify your leak will make the process much faster, saving you money in the long run.

Once our team have identified the leak source, we’ll provide an emergency repair to your specifications. This can be patching the issue to protect your building whilst you scope quotes for roofing, or providing a long term fix and leaving your building safe and as water-tight as possible.

The photo collage shows two sets of stainless steel water fountains. All four water fountains are fitted against brick walls, have long taps to allow bottles to access the tap easily, and have round basins so no sharp edges to hurt fingers.
The photo collage shows two pictures side by side. On the left side is a picture of a small room. At the end of this small, narrow room sits a new window. It is single pane to keep in the style of the existing building windows, and features three narrow pains on top of one another. The right side shows a blue internal fire door. Another pane of glass has been fitted within the door. It is a blurred glass with a wooden trim.
This bathroom has white walls and blue cubicle doors. Above the doors, new cieling tiles have been fitted. They are large, white squares.
This photo collage shows the same door. In the left side, the door is open and pictured from the side, showing where the edge of the door has been filed down. The filed part of the door is unpainted. The right side of the collage shows the blue door shut flush with the frame.
This photo collage shows two sets of different sinks. The left side of the collage shows white, round, porcelain bathroom sinks set into a blue counter. Red soap dispensers line the walls above the sinks. On the right side, aa stainless steel, long and rectangular sink
Metro's favicon is the 'M' initial in a soft, rounded sans-serif font

Interested in our services?

If you're looking for local, responsive multi-trades people that you can trust in an emergency or for your maintenance needs, enquire today.