The importance of commercial roofing maintenance can’t be overstated. Making a habit of conducting routine inspections, consulting a commercial roofing contractor, and ensuring the drainage points stay clear are the keys to prolonging your roofing system’s lifespan. Doing so keeps your manufacturer’s warranty in good standing, protects your investment, and, most importantly, ensures your tenants stay dry.
“The time to repair a roof is when the sun is shining.” - John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy understood the importance of commercial roofing maintenance, or so we like to think. Whether he was talking about commercial roofing systems or not, it’s a motto we’ve internalized and encourage all of our clients to keep in mind.
Building engineers understand that the preventative maintenance of a commercial roofing system extends its lifespan and is required by manufacturers in order to preserve their warranties. The unfortunate reality is that routine check-ups are easy to neglect or forget. As practical as regular roof management and maintenance is, roofs are taken for granted until they begin to damage finishes as well as tenant relationships.
You know preventative maintenance is helpful and something you should do, but like a dentist nagging you to floss regularly, should isn’t always enough to keep you honest. It’s all too easy for maintenance to be an afterthought until it’s too late (like a leak after a bad thunderstorm).
Here’s the good news: commercial roofing maintenance is easier and less time consuming than you think. By conducting bi-annual inspections and following the simple steps below, you can ensure you get the most out of your roof, preserve its warranty, and reduce common leaks by over 50%.
- 1) Keep Drainage Points Clean and Free of Debris
Do yourself (and your roof) a favor and schedule a reminder in your calendar every 6 months to conduct basic inspections of every drainage point across your entire building. Roof drains, gutters, and scuppers should all be checked and any blockage removed.
Ponding after a roof drain has become completely clogged by a long-neglected build up of debris.
Allowing debris to build up and block these essential drainage points will inevitably lead to damming water on your roof, the leading cause of major leaks and commercial roof repairs . Damming water is your commercial roofing’s worst enemy, and often leads to building interior leaks, which could slow your productivity and cause a web of other problems. Clearing your roof and building drains twice each year can save you thousands of dollars and a mountain of headaches.
A drainage point is completely clogged, which will inevitably create standing water the next time it rains.
As always, context is key and inspections may need to be more frequent depending on your building’s location. You’ll need to be even warier of debris and diligent about performing routine inspections if your building is in an area surrounded by trees or anywhere more susceptible to build-up.
Don’t let an unseen water issue get the best of you and your building.
- 2) Bi-Annual Commercial Roofing Inspections by a Certified Commercial Roofing Contractor
Routinely clearing your building’s drainage points is an important best practice and first step. But bi-annual inspections by a certified roofing contractor are essential to preserve your manufacturer warranty and ensure no roofing issues go overlooked.
During these extensive inspections, a contractor will conduct a thorough survey of your commercial roofing system. They’ll check for any issues with your roof and investigate potential punctures or sources of future leaks, as well as check and clear drainage points that may not be safe to access on your own inspections.
Certified roof inspectors will be able to spot potential hazards, like this improperly waterproofed penetration made by another contractor.
Certified contractors create a portfolio with photos and detailed reports that create a thorough building history and provide engineers and managers the comprehensive information they need to make decisions about their building’s maintenance and roof management
- 3) Check Your Roof After Every Building Maintenance Activity
Mother nature is the leading cause of roof and building leaks, but that doesn’t stop human nature from causing problems of its own.
A poorly and improperly sealed penetration created by another contractor.
Make sure a commercial roofing professional is present any time work is performed on your roof, even if the work is unrelated to your roof. Take, for example, a satellite dish installation. If the contractor needs to drill a hole for a line, they likely won’t have the expertise, equipment, or material required to make a proper or warrantable repair to your commercial roofing system. That’s both a disruptive leak and a warranty issue waiting to happen. The only way to ensure it doesn’t is to have a certified commercial roofing contractor present for any work done on the roof, regardless of the task.
Having a certified roofing contractor present for this HVAC installation would've prevented the improper waterproofing around the above penetrations.
You should also perform a quick inspection of your roof after any building, maintenance, or service contractor operates on or around your building. You’d be surprised how often trash, tools, equipment, or other job materials with blockage potential are left behind and accumulate on roofs without anyone’s knowledge.
There’s also the off-chance that whoever worked on your building unknowingly created punctures. It’s a what-if with hugely disruptive potential, but avoiding that scenario is as simple as performing a quick inspection after any job. Doing so could save you from costly commercial roof repairs down the line.
- 4) Replace Sealant at Vulnerable Areas Every Few Years
Replacing sealant at your pipe penetrations, pourable sealer pockets, exposed termination bars, and transition details is one of the most imperative actions you can take to protect your commercial roofing system’s health and prolong its lifespan. Sealant should be replaced at any and all vulnerable areas of your roof.
Deteriorated sealant that needs to be replaced using manufacturer certified materials.
Most importantly, you need a guarantee that your sealant is manufacturer compatible to ensure the most protective and long-lasting performance. The most trusted sealants can’t be bought anywhere, so even if you consider yourself an experienced building engineer or manager confident enough to walk to the store yourself, it’s unlikely the store will understand the compatibility matrix. Only a certified commercial roofing contractor can provide the best guidance and materials.
Normally, commercial roofing system warranties last around 20 years, meaning this is a routine service you only need to perform maybe 6-8 times over that period, or every 2 to 3 years. It’s a small expense and one that only requires the time it takes to call a commercial roofing contractor. Do yourself a favor by setting reminders in your calendar now and ensuring you follow through. Only that diligence can provide your roof with the longest possible life.
- 5) Remove Abandoned or Unused Rooftop Equipment & Waterproof
As a wise man once said (probably JFK again), “Use it or lose it.”
In this case, it’s essential to remove or properly cover any unused or abandoned equipment that could cause a potential roof leak, like old HVAC units or satellite dishes. The longer these are neglected and stay on your roof, the greater the possibility these penetrations become vulnerabilities and cause invasive leaks.
An abandoned bag sits on top of a roof waiting to cause a hazard.
Removing any unnecessary equipment, checking for damage they may have caused, and properly waterproofing them is the only way to ensure they don’t become problematic in the future. Because any oversight or equipment carelessness may void your manufacturer warranty, you may have to pay out of pocket for complications those leaks cause in the future.
For any unwieldy or awkward penetrations, commercial roofing contractors are able to install pitch pockets and liquid-applied flashing to solve any waterproofing challenge. Make sure to schedule the removal of any equipment as soon as it loses its utility. And don’t forget -- a commercial roofing system requires a commercial roofing contractor; a residential roofing system requires a residential contractor.
Commercial roof repairs and replacements can be tremendously costly, but regular preventative maintenance and roof management is a relatively minor expense that protects your manufacturer’s warranty and extends the lifespan of your commercial roofing system, sometimes well past its warranty. By conducting bi-annual surveys and performing preventative repairs, over half of leaks can be avoided.
It’s easy to take the roof over your head for granted. Emergency leaks are sometimes unavoidable, but you can greatly reduce their likelihood by conducting each of the routine inspections and on-site commercial roof repairs we’ve outlined. Taking a few walkarounds each year and making a couple of calls to schedule inspections is the difference between a roof lasting 10 years and 25 years.
Listen to JFK, take care of your roof, and don’t forget to floss!