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Do You Need a Roof Scan?

  • Is your roof leaking?

  • Is your roof more than 5 years old?

  • Should you coat the roof or replace it?

  • Do you know the cost and warranty differences?

  • Are you up to date on supply chain issues?


Let’s start with the last item first, as that may dictate your best course of action.

An associate of mine is a sales representative for a roofing material supply company. Because of the supply chain issues, getting insulation for flat roof repairs along with membrane material can take 8 to 10 months for delivery.

So, getting through this winter with a leaking roof could be a problem.


What tools do you need to make an informed decision?

You need to have an idea where the leaks in the roofing system are. The safest and fastest is a drone-mounted thermal imager. I have watched numerous YouTube videos where roofers unnecessarily cut holes in the membrane looking for leaks. Using a drone-mounted thermal imager, I can produce a non-destructive image of the roof that shows anomalies (which often indicate water in the roof system). Those anomalies are then destructively tested for moisture by a roofer.


What training is necessary to fly a drone and interpret the imagery?


An FAA Part 107 Certification is required to fly a drone for clients. Then, at least a Level I thermographer certification is a starting point. I have had more than 5 years of experience flying drones. I have more than 3 years experience interpreting thermal images. In addition, I have training and experience in building science.


Building science education and training is necessary to understand the complexities of buildings. Imagine a building with 1,800 occupants. Every adult gives off one gallon of water per day.


Assuming these people are in the building 8 hours per day, that is 600 gallons of water added to the building system each and every day. 3,000 gallons per week. 12,000 gallons per month. If there is no dehumidification system in place, the moisture has to go somewhere. Building science will indicate the answer. That’s a discussion for another article.


Why not just walk the roof with an imager?



There are at least 4 reasons to not walk the roof.

  1. First is roof access.

  2. Second is safety.

  3. Third is cost.

  4. Fourth is accuracy.

Reason #1 Not To Walk The Roof: Roof Access

In these days of covid, accessing a building at night is problematic. Since many buildings are closed after dark, this requires a staff person to be available to allow access and exit.

Safety is a huge issue.


Reason #2 Not To Walk The Roof: Safety

The thermographer is walking an unfamiliar roof in the dark. Even with two people, it is easy to fall and injure oneself and/or damage rooftop installations.


Reason #3 Not To Walk The Roof: Cost

Time is money. Imagine a 100,000 square foot roof. If the team is able to walk and scan 20,000 square feet per hour, that is a 5 hour job. Some roofs are more complex and can require twice as long. With my drone-mounted thermal imager, I can fly that same roof in about 30 minutes. I don’t leave the ground so there is neither a building access or safety consideration.

Reason #4 Not To Walk The Roof: Accuracy

Fourth is accuracy. Without a through understanding of thermography, an inexperienced operator can get multiple false readings, both positive and negative. The person walking the roof needs to be on the prior to sunset so they can see when the roof converts and the anomalies become visible to the imager. I will write another article shortly on the theory and practice of thermography as used in roof inspection.


How about the membrane?

Ponding water on the roof, separated flashing at curbing or parapet walls are 2 signs of roof membrane problems. Also, look for loose fasteners that show up as bumps on the membrane. Water spots on the ceiling tiles are an indicator. Rips and cracks in the membrane itself are an obvious indicator of problems.

Seams and curbing flashing can deteriorate. Skylight and other curbing leaks on flat roofs develop because of the degradation of the rubber gasket or the flashing connection to the roof around the curb (the curb is the base or housing used to hold the skylight in place on the roof).


How about the insulation?

Insulation is a fundamental component of your facility’s roof system and energy costs. You may have solid insulation that’s dry, intact, and doing a good job regulating your facility temperature and energy; or you may have saturated insulation that’s collecting water, getting moldy, and hurting your roof’s ability to insulate the facility.


Is there an alternative to replacement?

If your commercial flat roof is in fair working condition, as an option, you could install a silicone restoration membrane to extend the life of your roof. Various spray coatings can be available in 2 to 3 months.


Can you believe what you see with your own eyes?

Infrared surveys give contractors and inspectors the ability to see what is happening under your roof’s membrane without having to damage your roof system.



Thermal imaging has been used since the 1970s to help determine if your facility needs a total roof replacement or if your roof can be repaired or needs replacement.


Our team at Western UAS , performs numerous thermal roof surveys for our customers. Our thermal survey team heads out in the evening on a clear night to get the best reading.


What are the requirements for a thermal roof inspection

There need to be precise conditions for an infrared moisture survey to be successful:

  • Flat or low-sloped roof

  • Clean and dry roof surface (3 days without rain)

  • Mostly sunny and warm during the day

  • Little to no wind

  • Clear night

If you're interested in learning more about how a thermal infrared roof scan can help you protect your investment and save you money, give us a call. We are happy to answer your questions and see if it's a good fit for your roof.