By Chad Brown Roofing Article Use Policy
A commercial building is a large investment for a building owner and to protect that investment and ensure that all of the contents and occupants of the building are safe, the roof needs to be in good condition. For this reason, it is extremely important to have the routine roof inspections as well as regularly scheduled maintenance.
Commercial roofs are constantly under attack by weather, structural movement and stresses. While normal aging will occur on all commercial roofs, small problems stemming from neglect, abuse, contamination, error or accident can result in costly repairs or premature failure of the roofing system. A regular program of both roof inspections and maintenance will help detect minor problems before they become serious, avoiding interruptions of the internal functions within the commercial building, and most importantly, protecting the building owner’s investment by adding years to the life of the roof.
A routine inspection and preventative maintenance program is simply a program of scheduled inspections and subsequent repairs. The purpose of the program is to maximize the life expectancy of the roofing system, thus providing maximum protection of the building and minimizing overall costs.
The basic elements of a roof inspection program are regular visual inspections to determine the current condition of the roof membrane and flashings, immediate repair of any defect before it allows moisture to enter the roof systems or building interior, and non-destructive moisture detection to determine if moisture has infiltrated into the insulation of the commercial roof system.
The reduce the potential for damage, it is generally recommended that commercial roofs be inspected at least twice a year. The suggested times for routine inspections are in the spring after the winter season, and late fall after the summer, but before the winter weather arrives. Roof inspections are also warranted following major weather events and after any construction activity that could affect the commercial roofing system.
An inspection checklist should be used to ensure thoroughness of the inspection. A typical roof plan and an inspection checklist include the items below:
• Before you go to the roof, examine the interior of the building for signs of water damage such as mold, mildew, drips and leaks, water stains, and peeling paint. If you find signs of damage, but especially vigilant when inspecting the roof.
• Once on the roof, inspect for accumulate dirt and debris in the gutters, scuppers and drains. Leaves, dirt and other debris can block positive drainage. If water cannot leave the roof the way it is designed, severe damage can occur due to standing or ponding water. Also, it is important to check all the seals on the drainage features to ensure that all of the water is going through the drain and not around it.
• Make notes of any blistering, cracking, tears or holes, abrasions, or deep scratches in the membrane. Also, check and make note of any fungus or moss growing on the roof. Schedule the removal of the fungus or moss as it can deteriorate the roof surface.
• If the roof has expansion joints, inspect them thoroughly for cuts, gaps and tears.
• If flashing were required on the rooftop, pay close attention to them. Make sure that the flashings are not pulling away from the roof or leaving gaps. This can be an indication that the roof is leaking or there is severe damage to the roof membrane.
• Check exterior structural elements such as vents, pipes and equipment. Inspect the surfaces for cleanliness, and look for signs of aging such as peeling paint, rust, rot and moss or fungus. Also look for structural damage such as bent elements, missing parts and sagging pipes.
• Check pope and equipment supports. Be sure that pipes are not sagging, there are no cracks in the base of the support, deflected hangers, or supports digging into the roof membrane.
• Check stairs, crossovers, platforms and railings for structural soundness, loose parts and surface deterioration.
• Make sure any required safety signage is legible and posted in a prominent place. Without proper signage personnel are at risk of injury when on the roof.
Each roof inspection checklist varies for each unique commercial roof. It’s important to prioritize issues on the roof inspection checklist. One simple and effective system is to use a Good-Fair-Poor rating system. Commercial roof repairs should only be conducted by a qualified roofing contractor. A compromised roof can result in tremendous structural damage to the building resulting in costly repairs. The keys to a competent roof inspection are thoroughness and attention to detail.
A roof maintenance program should be a systematic approach like any other mechanical system requiring maintenance. As with any other maintenance program, management should assign the duty of regular and routine inspections to a competent and trained person.
The maintenance program should include documentation such as inspection forms, photographs, notes and repair invoices to identify and record the issues note during the routine inspections and to provide guidance to the contractors who will complete the repair. The goal of a roof maintenance program is to identify problem areas and complete repairs before they become significant issues.
A properly maintained roof is necessary to protect the building and the business conducted within it. Building owners are responsible for the wellbeing of the buildings occupants and are liable for problems such as injuries that occur on the premises.
A neglected roof can create numerous safety concerns and have a negative impact on occupants. Deferred maintenance and repairs of a commercial roof can lead to leaks and water infiltration. Water damage alone can lead to severe injuries to the building occupants. Leaks can cause falling debris from sagging ceilings and walls, cause slips and falls and even lead to electrical shock. Water infiltration also can damage the insulation causing mold and fungus growth harming occupants health.
There are many reasons not to neglect a commercial roof including financial and business productivity Many building owners put off repairs for the roof and neglect the roofing system because they think they are saving money, time and effort. Although, delaying repairs always translates into increase maintenance expenses. The interesting comparison is that with deferred roof maintenance, building owners will always pay more than they would have if regular scheduled inspections and maintenance were implemented. Addressing minor problems before they escalate maximizes the life of the commercial roof as well as minimizing headaches and expenses.
All roofs have a limited life span and will eventually require replacement, retrofit, repair or restoration, but implementing a roof inspection and maintenance program will further extend the life of the roof. The most important reason for establishing a program of regular roof inspection and maintenance is to protect the building owner’s investment. A properly executed roof inspection and maintenance program will add years to the life of the roof by detecting minor problems before they become major, as well as providing better protection for, and avoiding interruption of, the internal functions of the building.
As a commercial building owner and facility manager, maintaining the roof is essential. Nothing can compromise the integrity of a building faster than the improper maintenance of a roof system. Therefore, the first item on the list for a building owner and facility manager is vetting potential commercial roofing contractors. It is imperative that the commercial roofing contractor follows best business practices including being legally licensed, bonded and insured, and receives positive client testimonials and provides a long business history with a proven track record.
Additionally, the facility manager should hire a commercial roofing contractor that has extensive experience with all types of roof systems from TPO to BUR-modified. If a roof system is installed that the roofing contractor isn’t familiar with they run the risk of improper inspections and improper maintenance knowledge or may subcontract to a third-party roofer that may cost more.
Replacing a roof on a commercial building is a huge investment and rarely in the budget. Therefore, routine roof inspections and maintenance programs are extremely important. A successful roof inspection and maintenance program should consist of periodic inspections and regularly scheduled maintenance. Routine inspections and routine maintenance reduce ownership costs, reduce leak frequency and severity, extend the life of the roof and reduce maintenance inefficiencies.
This was originally published in Building Operating Management magazine.