planned roof maintenance instead of wasting money
responding to emergencies.
Design a Real Maintenance Program
Too many FMs rely on a “fix things when they break”
mentality, which isn’t a maintenance program at all.
Preventive maintenance programs are a step up as their
aim is to discover problems before they cause failures and
fix them early. But for the best possible results, institute a
roof asset management (RAM) program, which combines
preventive maintenance and inspections with corrective
action to keep the same problem from recurring.
For example, you might realize your roof has seen quite
a few leaks around your HVAC equipment from foot traffic
and mechanics dropping tools. You would catch the damage during a regular inspection and fix it before it caused
a major failure, but you also might put down some walk
pads in the affected area to prevent future damage.
RAM programs also incorporate planning for future
re-roofing and replacement – you might plan to get 25
years out of your new roof, so you would start budgeting
for a replacement 25 years in the future. If the roof is still
sound after 25 years, you obviously don’t have to replace
it right away, but in the meantime you’ve already started
to develop funding. This is vital – roofs can cost $10 to
$20 per square foot, and when you measure the size of
your roof, the total cost can be shocking. Replacing a
10,000-square-foot roof could run $100,000 or more.
Planning ahead to replace the roof helps spread out the
expenses and ensures that you can afford the replacement
when you need it. Sometimes during snowy seasons, contractors will offer good rates on roofing work just to keep
their crews busy and maintain a cash flow into their business, so if you’re able to plan for this well ahead of time,
you can take advantage of better prices.
To start incorporating a RAM strategy, you first need to
make sure your roof is maintainable – see “ 8 Elements of
a Maintainable Roof” at right to determine whether your
roof fits into this category. Next, make sure your crew
is up to date on training and development. Anyone who
works on the roof needs to have a basic understanding of
roof materials and technologies.
After everyone is up to speed, conduct an initial roof
assessment. This involves a detailed measurement of the
roof – not just the perimeter, but also the locations of all
penetrations, drains, rooftop equipment and anything
else installed on the roof. Take at least two or three people with you – the first assessment takes two to five times
as long as a normal inspection (though some of this time
will be spent in your office putting together a roofing
diagram and organizing the collected information) and
it’s difficult to get accurate measurements with only one
person. The assessment results will be valuable later.
The other advantage of this assessment is that it can
help you flesh out information that might be missing from
your roofing records. Take notes on the types of flashing, membranes and other components you find while
conducting your assessment. Also mark any repairs you
discover – they are potential sources of leaks.
Good drainage. Preventing water from collecting on the
roof is the first step to keeping it out of your building.
Safe but limited roof access. Access is a double-sided
sword. You need good access to the roof so you can
conduct inspections and take care of repairs, but if it’s too easy
to get onto the roof, people who don’t belong there could
cause excess roof strain. You need control over who is able to
get onto the roof. If your roof has interior access, consider
locking the door so that people can’t step out on a whim to
smoke cigarettes. For roofs with exterior access, use a remov-
able ladder or make an installed ladder retractable or lockable.
Also make sure you don’t have fences or other nearby
obstacles that people can use for roof access. I especially see
this happen at schools – kids would rather play on the rooftop
than on the grounds surrounding it.
Proper equipment clearance. NRCA has guidelines on
how high equipment stands should be to provide
enough clearance to let tradespeople get under the equipment
for maintenance and repairs. The larger the equipment, the
higher the stand needs to be.
Space around penetrations. Any penetration through
the roof needs sufficient clearance for repairs. Penetra-
tions should be at least a foot from roof edges, other penetra-
tions and any other items on the rooftop.
Water barriers under expansion joints. This is a simple,
inexpensive fix for which you could use 6-mil polyethylene or scraps of single-ply membrane. The point is to prevent
water that leaks through the joints from getting into the building. Another place to install these is around the coping.
Limited legs at the corners. Too often, people take 8- to
10-foot lengths of metal and create long runs. Because
metal expands and contracts so much, if you limit the legs in
the corners to only a foot or so, you can reduce the stress on
Two-piece counterflashing on parapet walls. If your
roof membrane has a 20- to 25-year life, you’ll have to
tend to the flashings several times. Staying in a building for
50-75 years means you’ll put two to three roofs on and every one
of them will have to be reflashed at some point. A two-piece
counterflashing on the parapet is easy to incorporate during your
next reroofing project and will save you some headaches.
Pipe support systems. A block of wood lying on top of a
membrane is not a proper pipe support. It rubs back and
forth, tears the membrane and causes endless problems. I refer
to well-designed pipe supports as “UFO details” – you hear
about them but never see them.
84ELEMENTS OF A MAINTAINABLE ROOF