Overview

The most important reason for establishing a program of regular roof maintenance is to protect the owner’s investment. A properly executed 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.

A roof system is exposed to all manner of chemical and physical stress. The long term effects of these forces are called “Normal Aging”. In reality, small isolated problems caused through abuse, stress concentration, inadequate ventilation, error, or other factors result in a shortened lifespan of the roofing system.

Small problems or defects, if not detected and repaired, inevitably become major problems affecting the performance of the whole roof system.

Roofs represent approximately 5 to 7% of capital building costs – but roofs cover 100% of the building and its contents.

Maintenance Program

A preventive maintenance program is simply a program of scheduled inspections and subsequent corrective action. The purpose is to maximize the life expectancy of the roofing system, thus providing maximum protection to building and contents and minimizing overall costs.

The basic elements of a preventive maintenance program for roofs 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 system or building interior.
  •  Non-destructive moisture detection to determine if moisture has infiltrated into the insulation of the roof system.

A vital part of the condition of the roof system is whether or not the insulation remains dry. A roof may appear to be in excellent condition from the surface, but may have areas of saturated insulation, which severely affect the thermal efficiency of the roof.

Non-destructive moisture detection of roof systems has developed into a sophisticated technique that can provide accurate analysis of roof insulation condition. Two commonly used systems are nuclear meter and infrared thermography. Both systems require trained skilled operators, specific weather conditions, specific roof types, and professional analysis. Visual inspection by a trained person is the key to a successful maintenance program.

Inspection

Roofs should be inspected at least twice a year — Spring and Fall — and also after any significant weather or construction event.

The inspection should be preceded by the preparation of a detailed roof plan on which all defects or notes can be marked. If the inspection indicates that more than minor work is required, an inspection checklist is necessary to ensure thoroughness. Call your professional roofing contractor to perform the required maintenance work.

Begin the inspection by looking at the underside of the deck, if accessible, and also at the outside of the building. Look for cracks, stains, rusting, watermarks, efflorescence, wet spots, spilled mortar etc. or other signs of excessive moisture or deterioration. The observations may give clues to not only roofing problems but also other conditions affecting the performance of the building envelope.

The final and most important part is inspecting the roof itself. The keys to a competent roof inspection are thoroughness and attention to detail — be prepared to get dirty!

DO’s and DON’TS of Roof Maintenance

DO’s:

  • Do be aware that wise maintenance will prolong the life of any roof — even the best of them.
  • Do perform inspections at least twice a year, preferably at the end of winter and right after summer, when roofs have passed through the periods of severest stress.
  • Do conduct additional inspections immediately after unusual occurrences such as extremely heavy rains, high winds, hail, nearby fires, explosions, etc.
  • Do check the building exterior for settlement or movement. Cracks in the wall are a warning of possible cracks in the roofing and flashing. Are overhangs, cornices, fascias and edging in good condition? Are gutters and downspouts satisfactory? Breaks in roof edge elements can cause leaks and also let wind get under the roofing membrane and cause blow-offs. Damaged or clogged gutters, roof drains, and downspouts can cause water back up on the roof.
  • Do be certain that equipment servicemen going on the roof are warned against penetrating or dropping tools on the roof. They should be accompanied by your trained maintenance man to ensure no damage to the roof assembly occurs.
  • Do assure that your roof is kept clean and free from debris.
  • Do recognize that exposure of roof felts (bare spots) on a gravel surfaced roof can lead to quick deterioration. This requires immediate attention by qualified personnel.
  • Do be advised that flashings, gum pans, gravel stops and all other roof penetrations are the source of most leaks. Pay extreme and careful attention to these items.

DON’TS

  • Don’t allow unqualified personnel to maintain your roofs.
  • Don’t allow traffic on your roof unless accompanied by your informed maintenance man.
  • Don’t allow equipment servicemen to penetrate your roof without being certain that qualified personnel flash the penetrations. If your roof is covered by an RGC guarantee, RGC or the membrane manufacturer should be notified prior to cutting the roof or altering it in any manner.
  • Don’t permit products of unproven quality to be used on your roof.
  • Don’t be taken in by “Cure-All” products, which can be applied by anyone.
  • Don’t take bids on projects without adequate, uniform specifications.
  • Don’t reroof over an existing roof unless a careful evaluation is made, and a qualified consultant or standards authority gives prior approval.
  • Don’t expect a guarantee to keep the water out of your buildings. Guarantees do not cover many of the problem areas of your roof.
  • Don’t think that the lowest price is always the best. Be certain you will not be faced with a number of change order requests for extras after a project is awarded.
  • Don’t deal with firms who cannot stand behind their work and will not be available when you need them. Remember that no product is better than the applicator.