RECOGNIZING THE SIGNS OF A ROOF PROBLEM
If it’s been a while since you’ve had your roof inspected, your first priority should be to identify and fix any major problems.
Signs of serious problems may be apparent even from inside the building. Water stains on a ceiling may signal a leak, which can be caused by a crack or hole in the roof. It’s important to understand that even the smallest leak can be a sign of big trouble. Similarly, if the building has unexplained mold or odors inside, this may indicate a roof leak resulting in water penetration. While internal water damage or mold may signal trouble above, it’s also important to visually inspect the roof itself to look for problems that are likely to worsen over time.
Depending on the slope of the roof and the ease of access, inspections sometimes can be done by the building owner, but in many cases, it makes sense to hire a contractor to make sure the job is done safely and correctly. Even if you are hiring a professional, reviewing the problems identified in this article may help you to understand the significance of what he or she has identified and the need for action.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: VISUAL CLUES
Prolonged standing water or ponding on the roof can lead to premature aging and deterioration of the cover, which will lead to leaks. Leaks that go undetected can slowly rust steel roof decks, rot wood decks, and turn light weight insulating concrete and gypsum decks into a thick paste like substance. Additionally, excessive standing water can lead to significant additional weight, which can weaken the roof deck.
Bubbles may indicate trapped moisture within the roof cover, which can lead to leaks, reduce the life span of the cover, speed up premature aging of the deck, and reduce the roof cover system’s effectiveness against uplift forces associated with a windstorm. Another cause of bubbles is the release of gasses from insulation board that gets trapped below the cover. A roof cut or moisture survey of the roof cover can be completed to assist in the diagnosis.
Roof flashing is the strips of metal or other impervious material installed around the perimeter of the roof edge where the roof cover meets the wall. It is also installed around objects (such as rooftop equipment) that protrude from the roof in order to deflect water away from seams and joints. However, a gap in the flashing or roof cover perimeter (see below) greatly increases the potential for roof cover failure during a high wind event and water intrusion or mold. For further information including flashing repairs and replacement guidance.
Tears in the roof cover or worn or cracking seams can allow water to enter below the cover.
ADDITIONAL AREAS FOR INSPECTION
If there is a lightning protection system check to see if it is loose or detached as shown below. This can lead to a tear or puncture in the roof covering, especially during strong winds. A lightning protection system that has disconnected metal cables or aerials is no longer capable of providing the intended protection for the building’s occupants.
If there are skylights, check to be sure they are properly secured. Skylights that are not well sealed and secured around the frame’s edge can leak, which may cause the skylights to become dislodged and allow for wind driven rain and debris to enter the building, especially during a high wind event.
Also, over time the plastic domed panels can become brittle and very susceptible to cracks.
CARE AND MAINTENANCE
The best way to avoid roof-related problems and strengthen weather resistance is through regular care and preventive maintenance. Proper maintenance also prolongs the life of a roof and in many instances will allow for “repair” instead of “replacement” when a problem is identified. The frequency of inspections for routine maintenance depends on several factors, including the age of the roof, recent weather events, rooftop foot traffic, and conditions identified during previous inspections. That said, scheduling inspections every 6 months (fall and spring) is an effective way to make sure they are not sidetracked by the press of other important business.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
• All inspections should look for and develop a repair plan for the items that indicate signs of problems described above.
• After a severe windstorm or hurricane, inspect your roof for damage, as repeated storms can reduce the strength of the roof. Even if the roof survived a storm, it may have been damaged or weakened enough to fail during the next storm, or the one after that.
• Inspections should look for signs of previous leaks or other problems to make sure that repairs have stayed intact.
• Remove any loose objects and accumulated debris. A clean roof eliminates leaves and other materials that have a tendency to hold moisture, which can speed up the deterioration of the roofing materials. In dry areas, keeping the roof clear of debris reduces the risk that embers from a wildfire will ignite the roof.
• Keep trees trimmed. This prevents branches from rubbing against the roof and leaves from accumulating on the roof and clogging drains and gutters.
• Check gutters and downspouts for leaves, twigs and other debris that will inhibit proper drainage.
• Inspect rooftop vents and equipment to make sure they are well sealed. Seal any gaps with flashing cement. Replacement may be necessary if the metal flashing is badly deteriorated, or if vents can wiggle back and forth.
• After a hail event with hail stones larger than ¾ inch, contact your insurer and have the roof inspected even if you are not aware of any damage.
• Consulting a professional roofing contractor may be helpful if concerns exist after a maintenance review of the roof. The contractor can also help to determine the health of the roof, estimate the remaining life of the roof, help you develop a maintenance plan, and identify additional steps to protect the roof.
A properly maintained roof is necessary to protect your building and the business conducted within it. Remember that a little maintenance can result in a lot of savings, especially when compared to the cost of damage from a small, undetected leak or a catastrophic roof failure.