Many flat commercial roofs feature a membrane. This is a thin rubber membrane that makes up the exposed waterproof barrier on the roof. Certain types of damage can lead to leaks, so you should know how to spot them.
Blisters are raised bubbles that form on the roof membrane. This happens when the membrane has properly adhered to the roof substrate. Moisture, air, or both became trapped under the membrane, leading to the formation of blisters. Over time, these blisters will get larger as more of the membrane pulls away. The surface of the blister may also gradually weaken, eventually causing the top to crack and a full leak to form. This leak will in turn lead to the formation of more blisters. Blistering means that you must install a new membrane.
Tears can happen for a variety of reasons, including aging or damage from external trauma such as walking on the roof or blowing debris. Most small tears are easily repairable as long as they are addressed before water leaks in and cause extensive damage under the membrane. Your roofer can re-adhere the edges of the tear to the substrate. They will then apply a durable patch over the tear so that water can't leak in.
Buckling is when it appears that folds are forming in the membrane. Buckling can occur when a membrane is properly stretched over the roof substrate. In this case, the membrane will have to be stretched and reattached. Buckling can also signify that something is wrong with the roof structure under the membrane. Water damage or other structural issues could be causing the roof to settle out of level, with the bulk of the damage only visible via the buckling roof membrane. Buckling should always be inspected by a professional roofer since structural damage can be dangerous to anyone inside your building.
Degradation is when the roof material quite literally begins to crack and fall apart. Roof membranes can degrade due to age, UV exposure, and weathering, or from acid damage from acid rain or bird droppings. Sealing the membrane against UV light helps prevent some degradation, and having the roof cleaned regularly can prevent acid degradation. As for age, you must plan to have the roof membrane replaced before it surpasses its lifespan if you want to avoid the chances of water damage from degradation.
Contact a commercial re-roofing contractor for more help with your business's flat roof membrane issues.