An Introduction To Preventative Maintenance
No matter what type of roofing system you choose, a commercial roof is a significant purchase. While many commercial roof systems have a life expectancy of 20-40 years, these numbers are not guaranteed, or even likely, without regular maintenance. In order to get the most out of your roof, it’s important to understand what preventative roof maintenance is, why it’s necessary, and how including maintenance in your overall budget can save you money over the course of your roofs life cycle.
The Benefits of Preventative Roof Maintenance
A commercial roof is designed to protect your building from the elements, but even minor deteriorations in your roofing system can reduce its ability to do so. If your commercial roof develops a leak, the damage to the interior facilities is not only costly to repair, (far outweighing the cost of maintenance), it can result in your building being temporarily closed, halting production while repairs are made. Preventative maintenance programs address the common issues that lead to deterioration and allow you to catch any unexpected issues before they develop into a leak. Even if your roof is not yet leaking, the more you allow deterioration to develop before making repairs, the more expensive those repairs will be. This is why facility executives who react to problems as they occur end up paying more for maintenance than facility executives who employ preventative maintenance.
Typically deterioration occurs in the details of the roof, which are not always easy to spot for the untrained eye. By waiting for issues to become visibly noticeable it is often too late to address them in the most cost-effective way, and the life cycle of your roof can be drastically reduced. Extending the life cycle of your roof through preventative maintenance can return considerable savings when you consider the cost of a roof replacement 10-20 years before it should be necessary. Even if your commercial roof was installed with a guarantee or manufacturer warranty, failure to provide basic maintenance can in some cases void your guarantee. While preventative maintenance programs are an additional recurring cost, it should be considered an integral part of your facilities plan that will lower the overall cost of your roof throughout its life cycle.
How Often Should You Have Commercial Roof Inspected
While there are intermittent occasions you should have your commercial roof inspected for damage, such as after a heavy storm, typical preventative maintenance programs recommend inspections at least twice per year in the fall and spring when weather conditions are most likely to lead to damage.
The winter season introduces a number of factors that can cause your roof to deteriorate. The cold weather, for instance, causes materials used on your roof to contract which can expose the more vulnerable underlayment below the protective surface. Additionally, winter storms, which carry debris and the potential for freezing rain can clog your gutters, and lead to ponding (which is a serious risk for leaks) when the snow and ice accumulation finally melt. Your commercial roof is also designed to carry a specific amount of weight. Snow and sleet can exceed this weight limit putting an undue amount of stress on your roof. Inspecting your commercial roof for signs of damage and correcting them in the spring, will prepare your roof for the summer when storms are most active, and the summer heat causes materials to expand.
Just as a spring inspection prepares your roof for summer, a fall inspection prepares your roof for winter. The toll that harsh summer conditions take on your commercial roof such as cracking, membrane fracture, or failed seams can be further compounded in the winter months with the accumulation of ice and snow. Even if these issues aren’t to the point that they lead directly to a leak, flaws in your membrane and insulation can cause condensation, resulting in mold, mildew, and other safety concerns.
If your commercial building is in a location with more temperate climates, an annual inspection may be sufficient, but it’s always important to keep in mind what time of year brings the most severe weather conditions and schedule your commercial roof inspection prior to its arrival.
What Does Preventative Maintenance Look Like?
Due to the multitude of roofing systems available, as well as the differences in climates and natural conditions, each preventative maintenance program should be custom-tailored to your commercial roof. Whether you are using the company that installed your roof or a 3rd party, preventative maintenance should include photographs and thorough documentation to ensure the necessary precautions are being taken to protect your investment. It’s important to note that preventative maintenance begins with maintaining accurate records from the initial purchase and installation of your commercial roof. This includes documentation such as:
- Original specifications and invoices
- Roofing system product sheets
- Warranty documents
- Inspection reports
- Repairs and maintenance bills
- Daily construction reports
Despite the custom nature of preventative maintenance, there are common tasks found in many preventative maintenance programs that will provide you with a better understanding of what it entails, as well as some potential questions to ask if details of the program are not provided upfront. Common preventative maintenance for commercial roofs include tasks such as:
- Documenting defects and points of deterioration and providing recommended solutions
- Debris removal
- Ensuring proper drainage of gutters, downspouts, drains, and scuppers
- Caulk terminations and pipe seals
- Repairing defects at water-entry points
- Examination and periodic repairs to common weak points such as metal flashings, counter flashings, expansion joints, and pitch pockets, rooftop vents, and equipment
- Staying up to date and ensuring OSHA compliance
If you ever have any questions in regards to what is included in your preventative maintenance program and what repairs could incur additional fees, make sure to ask for documentation and maintain a copy of your contract with your records.
What Maintenance Can You Do On Your Own To Extend The Life Of Your Roof
While bi-annual inspections are recommended, there are further steps you and your facility staff can take to catch and avoid problems before they become a bigger issue. Please be aware that there are inherent safety risks to venturing onto a commercial roof, as well as the potential to cause damage if the proper precautions are not taken. While these are not a replacement for preventative maintenance, here are some basic maintenance tips you can employ in tandem with your staff to protect your commercial roof:
- Interior inspection of the roof, walls, and support beams for signs of water damage such as mold, mildew, water stains, peeling paint, rot, rust, or cracking
- Remove debris that can prevent proper drainage
- Ensure contractors who require roof access are taking proper precautions such as utilizing walkways and maintaining an organized workspace to avoid subsequent damage from tools or leftover materials such as nails.
- Ensure mechanical equipment and doors are secure.
- Ensure condensation lines are flowing and firmly connected.
- Inspect portable hangers
- Inspect flashing for noticeable damage.
- Inspect roof for holes or vegetation growth
- Ensure rules such as no smoking on the roof are being adhered to
Things To Keep in Mind
Preventative maintenance of your commercial roof is a necessary requirement to fulfill the life cycle of your roof and prevent interior damage from leaks, or in severe cases, collapse. Doing so will not only protect your investment, it can save you thousands of dollars in preventable damage.
Maintenance begins with the installation of your roof, so if your commercial building is due for a roof replacement, make sure to leave room in your budget for a maintenance program. If you haven’t been keeping up on preventative maintenance for your commercial roof, you can still extend the life of your roof by following the tips provided and creating a custom plan with a professional team in your area.
When was the last time you had your commercial roof inspected? Protect your investment by scheduling a free inspection or contacting us with questions about your roof.