Why Is Roof Maintenance Necessary?
April 3, 2019
When roof systems are inspected on a regular basis, issues related to roof drains, roof penetrations, flashing and trim can be identified early. Subsequent damage and down-time as a result of leaks can often be avoided. Inspections should be performed quarterly by a properly-licensed, trained and certified roofing contractor. And keep in mind: we advise that any roofing contractor performing regular roof maintenance should also be approved by the manufacturer as an applicator for repairs of the roof system they are inspecting. If the contractor performs a repair and is not an approved applicator for repairs on your warranted roof system, the manufacturer could cancel the warranty on your roof.
Some items regular roof maintenance inspections should include:
- Ensuring roof drain strainers are clean and the drains are functioning properly. If roof drains become clogged, water can back up into the roof system and leak into the building. And failure to have clear, clean roof drain strainers can also prevent water from draining completely, often leading to ponding water. In extreme scenarios, failure of drains to remove water could lead to catastrophic collapse of the roof structure due to the excess weight of ponded water.
- Checking roof penetrations — conduits, vent pipes, ducts, etc. can be sources of leaks and should be inspected to confirm proper function of the flashings at the location of each roof penetration. Many roof penetrations are made watertight by the use of “pitch-pans” or similar metal fabrications filled with flexible sealer, asphalt or plastic cement. As roof systems age, these “fillers” are negatively affected by the ultraviolet rays of the sun, causing fillers to shrink and crack over time. Once identified, such conditions dictate re-filling pitch-pans or repair of the flashing with manufacturer-approved procedures and materials.
- Checking sheet metal — counter-flashing, roof-edge trim and parapet wall metal coping caps should be checked regularly, especially in older roof systems. Many times, counter-flashing is sealed at the top edge with caulking. Over time, this caulking can deteriorate from exposure to the elements causing it separate from the wall and counter-flashing. At roof edges, the metal-edge flashing can deteriorate or begin to separate from the underlying metal, providing a potential source for roof leaks. And due to expansion/contraction and freeze/thaw cycles, roof edge trim joints can break open and become a leak source. Parapet wall coping joints can be another source of leaks. Typically, metal parapet coping will leak at the coping joints and miters (corners). If a parapet wall is topped by concrete coping or stucco, cracks and open joints in the coping or stucco can also eventually lead to leaks.
- Checking roof flashings at mechanical unit curbs and walls — fasteners at the top of the membrane flashings can dislodge and allow the flashing to “slide” and become open to moisture. Also, joints in the flashings will deteriorate over time and become exposed to moisture. The same problems can occur at flashing “corners”.
A consistent roof maintenance program will more often than not prevent leaks by identifying and resolving potential problems before they penetrate the building envelope and disrupt your operations. If you have any questions about setting up a quarterly roof inspection and maintenance program, please reach out to Eric Crawford at firstname.lastname@example.org.