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Electronic Roof Leak Detection - Shortcomings

Updated: Apr 4

Electronic leak detection of waterproofing membranes is a great way of establishing the integrity of a roofs waterproofing or locating breaches in aged systems having been introduced to the UK in the 1980’s by Thornton Consulting.


It is, however, not a catch all test. Electronic leak detection relies on the conductive properties of the substrate and electrical insulating properties of the waterproofing for the test to be affective.

Any breaches will then create an electrical path to earth and can be located.


Where a deck is non-conductive, such as timber, or there is not a direct path to earth, such as in some warm roof build-ups, electronic leak detection can be less affective.


With the continual requirement for integrity testing of newly installed waterproofing systems, there is an ongoing process to ensure testing can be undertaken.


This is known within the industry and there are an increasing number of manufacturers producing products which can overcome this issue and facilitate electronic testing of the waterproofing in these situations.


One solution to enable electronic leak detection (ELD) of waterproofing installed on timber decks is to adhere a conductive layer onto the timber. This can be a conductive primer or underlay which is earthed to the structure or has a terminal above the membrane at regular intervals, exiting from behind a flashing for example. If the membrane is breached a water path to earth is created, thus electronic testing is possible.


Similar systems can also be installed between the insulation and membrane on warm roofs, again creating a direct conductive path to the structure.  Both common types of electronic leak detection, the wet method (low voltage) and pinhole testing (high voltage), would be suitable for testing roofs such as this as both rely on a similar principle for the detection of leaks.


These systems are yet to become fully established in the UK, but would be invaluable to main contractors, roofers and property owners alike as it would allow highly accurate integrity testing of the waterproofing at any stage in the project once the waterproofing has been installed. Typically, integrity testing of the waterproofing happens before handover of a roof to the main contractor to ensure it is watertight and free from breaches but would also be useful towards the end of a project or prior to installation of roof finishes.


If you would like further information on electronic leak detection or any of our other services, please contact our office on 01342 410508 or visit our website


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