During your normal roof inspection, look for signs of material degradation caused by chemicals spilled or vented onto the roof, as well as for signs of ponding water and vegetation growth, which are all signs of an unhealthy roof.

Having been involved in the roofing industry for the past 25 years, the last 19 as a roof consultant, I have picked up several file cabinets of roofing information, trivia, and other obscurities. One of my favorites is a quote about roofs I heard at some otherwise long-forgotten roofing seminar. It goes, "There are only two types of roofs, those that leak and those that will leak." A simple and indisputable observation.

So, those who are responsible for their organization's roofing assets (plant engineers, property managers, building owners) should accept that their roofs will all eventually fail. Buying the best new roofs they can afford, and making the most of the roofs they have, should be their goal. Here are the keys to an effective roof management plan.

A Good Start - Roof Design and Selection Good roofs start with a combination of quality of the original product used, appropriateness of design and material selection, and care and quality of installation. Following good roof design and installation practices creates the opportunity for each roof to reach its potential design life.

A common practice we see in the roof-buying public is to choose the same product for all their facility roofs. We feel this approach forces a designer to "make" a material work in situations where other products or materials would work better. While there is certain merit to carefully researching roofing products and the companies that supply/service each product, rarely is there one product that fits every need.

Instead, for each new roof decision, define and understand the site-specific design requirements and select the roofing solution that best suits that set of requirements. Some of the design variables to consider are:

These are certainly not all the roof design criteria that will be encountered, and some may not be appropriate in all cases. Prioritize the design criteria in terms of their relative importance, and use the criteria to sift through the possible roofing options.

Roof design is not complete until the roof details are defined. Where the roof meets vertical transitions (roof edges, parapet walls, penetrations, etc.), there are usually several detail options, some good and some not as good. Preparing detail drawings that show how all the various building components connect and shed water makes the roof design complete and reduces the number of RFOs (Roofer Figure Out).

Making Roofs Last - Roof Inspection and Maintenance

Roofs, like every other building component, eventually wear out and need to be replaced. Given a well-designed and installed roof, the remaining variable in the longevity equation is how well the roof is maintained. Maintaining roofs is simple; it just takes a little know-how and consistent effort.

Roofs are low on most facility engineer's priority list when it comes to investing time, energy and money. But, just as machinery needs to be oiled and filters need to be changed, roofs need to be maintained or breakdowns will result.

The phrase "predictive maintenance" is being used in some circles in place of "preventive maintenance." In some ways, predictive maintenance indicates an even higher level of planning for and maintaining roofs.

Predictive maintenance also indicates that there are specific actions that can be taken to prolong a roof's life or improve its performance. Part of our roof management plan is to identify what opportunities (repairs, coatings, etc.) exist for each roof and anticipate the optimum time to act.

Whether it's preventive or predictive roof maintenance, these benefits accrue to those facility managers who establish an ongoing roof management effort:

Primary Benefits

Establishing a Roof Preventive Maintenance (PM) Program

Jumping right in and filling pitch pans would be a definite improvement over no PM effort at all, however, the best first step is to gather information about each roof. A complete historical file assists in diagnosing conditions observed during roof surveys and facilitates accurate and complete development of repairs.

Most facility engineers who acquire roofing responsibilities as part of their duties start with existing buildings. More often than not, all the roof information usually walks out the door with the guy whose job you now have. Now the job is yours, where will you begin? With existing roofs, the following information on each roof should be gathered:

Surveying Roofs

No roof can be appropriately managed without knowing the roof's history and understanding the current condition of the roof. The current roof condition is obtained by conducting roof inspections or surveys.

The person performing visual roof surveys should be very familiar with the design, installation, repair, and types of failure specific to the roofing system being surveyed. Whether surveys are conducted by in-house staff or contracted to a consultant depends on the technical competence and availability of your resources. In-house personnel who have had training in roof inspection, diagnosis, and repair can adequately conduct these surveys.

The roof survey should include:

Survey documentation should consist of a written report or checklist, photographs, and notes on a roof plan indicating the conditions observed. The roof plan should supply enough data to facilitate performance of the required repairs. Several checklists are available for documenting conditions observed during a survey. However, these checklists sometimes fall short of conveying all conditions assessed over the long term.

Survey Frequency

How often you need to perform the various tasks associated with a roof preventive maintenance program depends on the age and condition of the roof, environmental influences, rooftop traffic, occupancy sensitivity, size and roof accessibility. The following guidelines can help determine the frequency of the tasks:

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