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The Assignment: The owners of a property were planning on transforming their flat roof into a green roof. But because some scaffolding had been erected on the roof during the building phase, there was a real possibility that the roof had been damaged while construction work was being carried out. Such damage, which at first glance may only seem to be relatively minor, has to be remedied immediately as it can quickly affect the substance of the roof, the framework of the ceiling below or even the structure of the whole building. In order to determine whether any damage had been done, the technician decided to use the smoke gas method to check the roof for any holes, cracks, fractures or fissures.

The Inspection Method:
Step 1: First a special nozzle was fitted into the roof insulation. This allowed air and then the smoke gas to be conducted into the flat roof construction. The waterproof membrane which covered the entire surface was raised to ensure that the smoke gas was able to escape to all sides and to make certain that nothing could impede the gas from reaching all the nooks and corners.
Step 2: Then the waterproof membrane was checked over the entire surface to see where the smoke gas was escaping. Such escaping gas is visible to the naked eye. And where there’s gas, there’s a leak. In this particular case the technician was not only able to detect a number of such leaks, he also found that some adjoining windows had not been sealed correctly.
Step 3: A roofer was called in to return the waterproof membrane to its initial state and to seal the leaks and repair the damage which had been caused by the scaffolding and laid bare by the smoke gas method. The owners were now able to transform their flat roof into the green roof they had wanted.

Conclusion: The smoke gas method provides an excellent means for locating leaks in sealed off surfaces and for determining whether adjoining windows or other building components are water and leak-proof. The method is especially well suited for inspecting surfaces which are normally very hard to reach or virtually inaccessible. By locating a leak in the early stages, further often extensive and costly damage to the building or even the whole structure itself can be prevented. In this particular case the smoke gas method provided conclusive evidence that the waterproof membrane that normally protected the flat roof against intruding moisture had in all probability been damaged during the building phase. Had the roof been covered with grass or some other form of vegetation without having first been checked for leaks, then this would have seriously compounded the problem and resulted in repairs which could have quite easily cost thousands of pounds.

The smoke gas method can also be used to inspect a variety of other flat roof constructions as well as any loosely laid out waterproof membranes like those used in swimming pools or ponds.

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