Typical Causes of Roof System Deterioration

Clogged Drainage Paths

Typically engineers have designed the slope of your roof to ensure rain water follows a path of least resistance to the roof drains and scuppers. Leaves, dirt, and vegetation growth are the biggest culprits that block a roof drainage system, with snow and ice adding to the obstructions during spring melts. Water pooling on a roof due to obstructed drainage paths and drain assemblies mean your roof-system will begin a slow but sure decline. Besides the standing water’s adverse effects on the roof system, environmental contaminants like bird droppings and other organic material sit under a hot sun in the pooling water and cause algae blooms, which compound the problem. Simply clearing drains and drainage paths will help avoid standing water and its associated negative effects.


It is surprising how much dirt and debris is carried onto a roof over time by environmental conditions. Seeds also make their way up onto our roofing systems by wildlife and natural airstreams, and plant themselves in the growing medium that is accumulating where the winds dictate. Small vegetation begins to grow – and oftentimes trees and bushes – are found growing on rooftops that have not been cleared of “soil”. Overtime, the root systems may burrow into the roofing layers designed to protect your building from the elements. A simple bi-annual roof-check of vegetation growth and soil removal can prevent vast amounts of damage to your roofing system.

UV Rays & Weather Conditions

Everyone knows the adverse effects of UV rays on the human body (sunburn, skin cancer, etc…) and it can be equally as damaging to your roof system. Most roof systems have a UV barrier such as an aggregate surfacing. Overtime however, the protective surfacing begins to erode from wind, standing water and adverse seasonal effects (ice movement on the membrane surface, etc…). The unprotected membrane can no longer deflect the harmful UV rays and the radiation begins to breakdown the membrane making it brittle and susceptible to splits, cracks, tears and punctures. Additionally; high winds, hailstorms and heavy snow can contribute to early deterioration of your roofing system and their effects should be monitored regularly to avoid costly repairs. Ice buildup causes melt water to pool and cause damage. RMS checks membrane surfaces to help ensure the primary UV barrier is in place and performing as designed. Special sealant coatings can be applied at reasonable costs that act as extra protection for systems not properly protected from UV rays and other damaging weather conditions.

Pitch Pockets

Pipes and other uncommon roof penetrations can compromise the integrity of an entire roofing system and can sometimes be challenging for builders to seal due to their irregular shape. A pitch pocket is a simple solution, where a liquid sealant is poured into a metal sleeve that seals around a penetration in the roofing membrane which prevents water from infiltrating the roofing structure and building. Engineers and builders try to avoid the use of pitch pockets and use them only as a last resort for sealing a difficult roof penetration because it requires annual maintenance to stay sealed. Regardless of the type of sealant used, it breaks down over time and will certainly cause leaks if not maintained. If your roof was designed using pitch pockets, annual maintenance is required to avoid leaks.

Missing Roof Components

A roof is composed of a medley of large and small parts that come together to ensure your roof stays viable and leak-proof. Assuredly, over time, parts of the roof system go missing, whether from environmental conditions (wind), vandalism, or contractor error – drain covers go missing, fasteners back out, clips loosen and fall off, gas line supports are displaced, and HVAC access panels are left off to name a few. Without a technician to seasonally monitor the roofing components and replace or reinstall missing and displaced items a roof may be susceptible to major damage and early replacement.

Learn more about your roofing system and its economic and environmental implications:

Economics of Maintenance
Environmental Impact
What Building Owners Need to Know

Scott NashCauses of Roofing System Deterioration