Roofs are designed and built to last, but nothing endures forever and nothing is indestructible. Time, weather events, daily exposure to UV rays, and temperature fluctuations negatively impact roof systems. These naturally occurring phenomena result in accelerated aging, lost flexibility, fatigue, splits, cracks and ultimately roof membrane failure.
Along with daily exposure to the elements, any number of human factors can cause additional damage to roofing materials. HVAC, cable, IT and solar installation involve anchoring items to the roof and could leave holes for water to penetrate. Snow removal and window washing activity can involve sharp equipment that can be unkind to roof surfaces. Foot traffic from any of those activities can also be problematic.
Keeping an Eye on Out-of-Sight Asset
In short, how do we keep an eye on the asset that is out of sight? Roof maintenance is no less important than car maintenance, but because the roof is out of sight, it is typically also out of mind. Drains, scuppers and downspouts can become plugged, causing ponding water and in extreme cases, roof collapse. Metal coping and loose counter flashing can become dangerous projectiles during a storm. Fortunately, most roofing problems can be avoided with regular maintenance by licensed professionals. Twice yearly inspections are the industry standard and are the perfect first step in proper roof maintenance.
Consider roof maintenance as a means to help preserve warranties, uncover issues and ultimately protect your building and its contents. First, know your warranty and what type of activity on the roof should be monitored by the roofing contractor and/ or roof membrane manufacturer. Secondly, ensure that actions affecting your roof are in keeping with contractor and/or manufacturer instructions.
Next, keep a log of visitors to the roof so problems can potentially be tracked back to particular instances/actions. Finally, schedule regular roof inspections with photos to uncover and document any issues or potential issues.
The 3 Rs of Roofing
Once the roof inspection is complete, you have three main options for next steps: Repair, Restore or Replace.
• Repair is typically the fastest, easiest and most economical of the three options. Repairs can stop existing leaks, fix loose metal, patch open seams and address damage to membrane and flashing from storm damage or unrelated maintenance operations. A sound roof with minor leaks or issues can be a good candidate for repair. Repairs can also buy a little time until budgets free up for a more comprehensive solution.
• Restoration is a middle ground option that can extend roof life while offering substantial benefits over replacement. To qualify for restoration, a roof deck should be structurally sound with at least 80% dry insulation and a roof membrane that is less than 25 years old. Restoration involves repair of existing leaks and replacement of wet insulation, followed by application of appropriate coatings to protect the existing membrane. Key considerations include confirmation that the coating choice is chemically compatible with your existing roof membrane and complements the roof slope. For example, a flat roof with areas of ponding water will likely need the protection of a silicone coating. Metal roofs typically benefit from acrylic coatings. The advantages of restoration are abundant. Restoration can be completed at less than half the cost of replacement. Besides dollars, restoration can be executed faster, is less disruptive to building occupants and reduces construction waste making for a more environmentally responsible option.
• Replacement is the most dramatic and expensive option. Replacement involves removing the existing membrane and insulation, replacing portions or all of the deck materials, upgrading insulation to current energy code, upgrading roof to meet wind, fire, plumbing, safety and HVAC codes and more. All of this requires extra construction time and effort and more waste to landfills.
The Evolution of Roof Repair and Coatings Products
The chemistry of repair and coating products continues to evolve allowing for better roof protection and environmental benefits too. As reported by the Cool Roof Rating Council (CRRC), black surfaces in the sun can become up to 90° F hotter than the most reflective white surfaces. Heat increases stress to the entire roofing system, shortening system life span. Hotter roofs increase internal building temperatures, require cooling systems to work harder.
Trapped heat also causes a heat island effect in which surrounding temperatures in developed areas rise faster, become hotter and remain hotter even after sundown. The result is increased energy demand, air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, heat related illness and more. Quality cool roof coatings offer solar reflectance and thermal emittance to help mitigate those issues. There are also low VOC options to meet regional air quality standards and provide a safer work environment for contractors. Ultimately, newer cool roof coatings offer a number of major advantages beyond the key responsibility of protecting your roof. Make sure to schedule your roof inspection and talk with your expert about how cool roof coatings can benefit you.
has served as a presenter at a number of national and regional roofing conferences and holds two patents. Prior to joining the roofing industry, White was involved in design-build of “super-insulated” and earth-sheltered buildings. White has served as APOC Technical Product Manager for 11 years.