Maintaining any part of a structure is a key duty of a facility manager; but roof maintenance is especially pertinent to ensure total integrity of the building. Roof maintenance is clearly important, but knowing exactly how to approach it is not always easy. Simply accessing a roof to perform a basic visual inspection – not to mention placement of equipment and personnel to actually perform the task – is no small matter.
The complexities of roof maintenance require a roofing specialist dedicated to long-term care from the outset. Keep in mind the particulars of roof repair and remodeling when making plans for the next few years.
Roof warning signs
A roof is a relatively simple part of any building, but it plays a vital role in protecting it in more ways than one might assume. Of course, a well-sealed roof will protect the interior from inclement weather. But as noted by the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety, a properly designed roof also provides structural support, fire resistance and more. Even a seemingly minor issue, like a tear in the outer layer or warped asphalt sealant, could pose a major risk.
Experienced maintenance professionals will make a point of inspecting a roof on a regular basis and look for these common warning signs:
- Excess standing water – Also known as “ponding,” the accumulation of standing water on a roof over time can lead to dangerous defects, including leaks that eventually allow hazardous mold to grow. Excess moisture can also weaken support beams below the roof’s surface.
- Bubbles in roof cover – Most materials that cover a roof are designed to be somewhat flexible, but in the presence of too much moisture and heat, they can occasionally grow into bubbles that leave the roof more susceptible to leaks or wind damage.
- Flashing gaps – Spaces between flashing strips may present themselves over time as they expand and contract due to weather factors. This can also lead to roof cover failure during periods of high rain and wind.
Roof maintenance program
The most trusted providers of roofing or re-roofing services often offer a comprehensive plan which includes a regular schedule of inspections and maintenance. According to Buildings.com, a preventive maintenance plan for commercial roofing generally covers a host of important services.
Engineering professionals recommend commercial facility managers or their contractors perform a routine inspection of a roof twice per year, ideally once in the spring and again in the fall. This allows any problems to be spotted before periods of severe weather could exacerbate the issue. In the course of the inspection, workers should check for:
- Any blockage of drains or downspouts, as this will prevent adequate water drainage.
- Gaps or tears in penetrations and flashings.
- Proper seals on all rooftop vents and equipment.
- Other signs of damage.
Other details a commercial roof inspection should cover include:
- Counter flashing: Determine the condition of the metal as noted above. For face-mounted counter flashing, the condition of the caulking and attachment must also be determined.
- Vent stacks: Carefully check metal for any deterioration. Ensure that caulking has not shrunk, is well adhered and remains resilient.
- Drains: Examine all drains and scuppers to ensure they open. Be sure that all drain clamps are tight and in place.
- Pitch pans: Be sure the metal is not cracked and pulled away from the flashing membrane. Determine if the pitch pan holds water. If it does, refill with appropriate active filler.
- Walls: Because walls are a common source of water intrusion into a building, walls and wall copings should be examined to ensure that they remain in a watertight condition.
- Rooftop equipment: Ventilators, air conditioning units, ducts, skylights, etc. should be checked for any signs of deterioration, which could lead to leaks and associated problems.
Some repairs to a roof could be made the same day as the inspection, but often must be scheduled in advance. These repairs are often quick fixes to common problems that, if left untreated, could turn into a serious liability in terms of structural safety.
To cover gaps or cracks that may develop over time, workers may employ various materials like mastic, a flexible, high-grade adhesive often derived from asphalt. Like modified bitumen layers that coat high-performance roofs, mastics may also be modified with a polymer substance to make it more durable under the long-term stresses of heat, cold and rain exposure.
In the case of flashing having come loose at certain points, a thorough inspection and quick fix is all it takes to prevent this from turning into a leak. Over time, addressing these minor problems will lead to a roof that performs well within its expected life span, possibly even longer.
Routine inspection and maintenance of commercial roofing isn’t overly complicated, but finding the right professional for the job could be. Before beginning work on a new building, or even a re-roofing project on an existing one, talk to your roofing contractor about their roof maintenance program. This small step can end up saving an untold amount of money over the life of the building.
Do not install TV antennas, rooftop equipment or make roof penetrations of any kind through a guaranteed roof without first contacting the roofing manufacturer. The manufacturer must approve the method, material and contractor used when any alterations are made to the rooftop. Failure to do so might result in voiding the warranty.