Roofs are often said to be like tires. It is only thought of when a problem arises, and are only replaced when it is an absolute must. But, when we do think of tires and maintain them regularly, we can extend their useful lives. Similarly, we need to ensure that the roof receives the proper maintenance to fully utilize its useful life.
Extending roof life starts with regular inspections. It is recommended that all roofs are inspected twice a year: once after the coldest weather, once after the hottest weather (and it’s always a good idea to inspect the roof following any major weather event.) But why should roofs be inspected, and what do we hope to discover by doing so?
All roofs should be inspected whether they are low slope roofs (<3:12) or steep roofs (>3:12). All low slope roofs should have at least 2 percent slope, which is approximately 1⁄4-inch per foot.
The following are ten pieces of advice — or the ten most common reasons — to inspect roofs at least twice per year. With harsh winters such as Calgary’s, it is imperative to have your roof inspected on a regular basis.
1. Weathering and Aging
The benchmark life for multi-ply bituminous low-slope roofs is 20 to 30 years and approximately 15 to 25 years for most single-ply roofs. All roofs undergo normal weathering and aging, and the effects of those factors are usually visible. As roofs weather and age normally, openings may occur, leading to water infiltration. Regular inspections call attention to weathered areas and enable an owner to schedule maintenance on these deficiencies to prevent further damage.
2. Routine Maintenance Damage
If your roof is not protected properly, damage can occur from tradespeople performing maintenance on air conditioners and other systems. This sometimes occurs because of trades failing to close mechanical access panels on roofs or leaving refrigerant containers. In addition, maintenance trades often fail to clean up their debris. Items left on roofs can become dangerous flying objects in high winds. A regular inspection program incorporates roof cleaning into the ongoing maintenance cycle.
3. Storm Damage
High winds, hail, and other weather events can create damage to roofs that may trigger repairs or insurance claims. Roofs should be inspected immediately following weather events to prevent further damage due to water infiltration. Damage from winds or hail can vary from minor maintenance to replacing the roof entirely. Insurance loss adjusters have reported that a significant amount of storm damage is actually caused by material, components, or debris blown from roofs in high winds. Tree limbs and branches can fall on roofs creating significant damage. Roof blow-offs start at the perimeter, and when roofs are not properly designed or installed to provide proper perimeter securement, severe damage can occur. Storm damage may require emergency repairs costing even more money.
Regular inspections are a great way to keep the roof in tip-top shape. Among other things, an inspection can help find leaks, drainage problems, and damage from vegetation.
4. Leak Assessment
Leaks after heavy rain are the primary trigger for most inspections. But a leak is only symptomatic of a problem that may have been building for some time. In some cases, if you’re looking for a silver lining, a leak is actually good news. That’s because without evidence of a roof leak, a festering problem of undetected moisture infiltration may continue to create unseen deterioration, such as rotting wood, mold, wet insulation, or corrosion.
It takes an experienced professional to conduct a thorough leak investigation and diagnosis, because the entry point for moisture may be far away from the visual evidence or detection point. Leaks can be evidence of serious roof problems or minor local issues. Many roofs in excellent condition occasionally have leaks due to minor flashing problems.
As a general rule, low slope roofs rarely leak in the open field of the roof. Leaks tend to occur around discontinuities, such as changes in elevation, penetrations, expansion joints, and flashings. On the other hand, severely deteriorated roofs may not show visible evidence of leakage, particularly over concrete decks where water may migrate a great distance before reaching an entry point through the concrete. When such a condition occurs, damage due to moisture saturation of the roof insulation may be so significant that the roof must be replaced.
5. Proper Drainage
Few characteristics are as important to roof performance as roof slope and drainage. Water standing on a roof increases the likelihood of leaks and moisture infiltration exponentially. Ensuring good drainage is a very important reason for regular roof inspections. Leaves, trash, debris, and thrown objects often clog or obstruct roof drains, thus creating standing water conditions. Regular cleaning of roofs can help remove such obstructions and permit water to drain efficiently, thereby reducing the likelihood of leaks. Moreover, water is heavy — weighing approximately 5 pounds per square foot per inch deep. Poor drainage also accelerates deterioration of roofing materials, leading to a shorter life of the entire roof assembly. If a leak occurs from standing water, insulation can become saturated over a wide area, requiring complete roof replacement.
For additional information, please read part 2 of this article here.
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