Due to it being more visible, maintenance on the façade of the building along with the appearance of the interior often comes first. This often leaves the roof neglected.
This article was written in response to the on-going inquiries and questions we as building science consultants get asked.
“What can I do to extend the life of my flat roof?”
1. Conduct a Semi-Annual Roof Inspection
Many qualified consultants provide this type of service. Or if you feel comfortable you can do it yourself (to some extent). Doing a walkabout on your flat roof a couple of times a year; preferably after the fall and spring seasons will alert you to issues and hopefully reduce many surprises.
Unlike a sloped shingled roof a flat roof is generally not visible from the ground. A clogged drain can go unnoticed resulting in water backing up the pipes, potentially allowing the water to find its way into the interior of the building resulting in expensive repairs.
Another benefit of a professional consultant doing a semi-annual roof inspection is it will give you good idea of the condition of your roofing membrane. Many times identifying areas of concern and completing minor repairs will extend the life of your flat roof.
2. Act on Maintenance and /or Repair Recommendations
Retaining a consultant to complete a roof inspection is half the battle. Completing the recommended repairs is the other half. The old adage “Without knowledge action is useless and knowledge without action is futile.” Serves as a reminder that you must make the recommended repairs outlined in the roof inspection report for the report to be of any value.
Will it cost money to make the repairs? Yes.
Will it take time to find a reputable contractor? Possibly (consultant can assist)
Will taking all those steps help extend the life of your roof and save you money in the long run? Absolutely.
3. Minimize Rooftop Traffic
You would be amazed at what we have seen people use the rooftop for over the years. Everything from a smoking pit with half of the cigarette butts being put out on the roofing membrane itself, skateboard ice skating rinks, lounge areas for building employees including couches and BBQ’s. We commonly see the rooftop utilized as a storage area for lawn chairs, often sitting directly on the roof, old signs and equipment.
If foot traffic is a must then provide adequate protection by using patio stones complete with insulation and any other methods to protect the roof. Please remember to call a consultant if you are considering any kind of pedestrian traffic on your roof. There are many safety laws and regulations that govern locations and sizes of railings.
4. Eliminate Redundant/Unused Penetrations
I know this is a “top three” list but I will give you this one as a bonus. Many times I will be called into a clients building after they have spent a lot of money trying to stop a leak. I will do my initial walk around the roof and it is not uncommon for me to find unused roof penetrations with upside down buckets placed on the opening or even margarine containers tapped to the aluminum flashings.
Often the cost of a new roof is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. However because it is out of sight repairs such as the ones I have just mentioned go unnoticed. If a roof penetration is no longer in use remove the penetration and properly roof in the hole. This will save you and your clients a lot of time and money later on down the road.
I hope these four short points will at the very least remind you that, like most things small quality repairs will extend the life of your roof. Most roofs in today’s market have a life expectancy of 25 to 35 years with proper maintenance and periodic repairs.
TSS Building Science Inc. would welcome the opportunity in assisting you with any roof or building envelope issues you may have.