6 Risks (and How to Avoid Them) on Your Commercial Roofing Project

December 12, 2022

Unhappy tenants, product recalls, and property damage are all worst-case scenarios for your roofing project. We’ve got some tips to avoid these and other problems.

1. Offensive Odors

Fumes from roofing work are a common source of tenant/occupant complaints. When roofing crews are working with hot asphalt, the placement of the kettle is important. “If you’re roofing around an air intake or vent that’s open, it may draw fumes into the building,” explains Mike Poorman, Project Manager, D. C. Taylor Co., Cedar Rapids, IA. Roofing adhesives may also emit unpleasant odors.

Professional roofing contractors will give you a heads-up. They’ll also position the kettle so odors are less likely to infiltrate the building. The roofing crew may also cover air intakes, have you turn off HVAC units temporarily, or complete the work at times of the day (or during weekends) when there are fewer building occupants onsite.

2. Dust, Dirt, and Debris

Whether your roofing project starts with a total or partial tear-off or is a re-cover, it’s best to protect the interior. Dust and debris may enter the building where there are penetrations or the roof deck and wall meet—places where gaps are inevitable. Temporary containment systems are a good idea if this is a concern. This interior protection is hung below the ceiling, keeping sensitive facilities like food manufacturing plants, hospitals, and retail stores from suffering contamination and damage from particles and dust generated during demolition. Poorman suggests a second line of defense: “We’ll put a monitor inside under where we are working to keep people out of the way as well.”

If the crew must access the roof through the building, designate a path for them to take and install protection over floor coverings to limit what’s tracked in/out. Crews can also change footwear and apply coveralls over their clothes when they leave the roof. Whenever possible, they will utilize exterior access and portable restrooms outside. Expect to discuss how the contractor will protect the interior during the pre-construction meeting.

3. Leaks

You’re doing the roofing project to prevent (or stop) water infiltration, but whenever the crew removes the existing roof during construction, the chance for leaks increases. The project manager and supervisor will be constantly checking the weather conditions and may not proceed with work if the forecast shows more than a 30-percent chance of rain. Even with clear skies, professional roofing contractors are overly cautious. “We don’t tear off any more than we can handle in a day. Checking and fixing happens constantly—not just at the end of the day. We always make sure details are done at night,” says Poorman.

Even the tiniest chance of storms will change how the work is phased that day. Crews may tear off a smaller section than usual and reroof it before moving on to do the same in an adjacent area. The new roof is tied into the old one each night and if rain is forecasted, Poorman says the crew will have the tie-off material (e.g. kettle, pressure-sensitive tape and primer, or heat weld equipment) ready at all times. No contractor (or customer for that matter) wants a 100-foot-wide leak at the tie-off area. Discuss with your contractor how they’ll make the roof watertight each night.

4. Compromised Security

Hold your roofing contractor to the same high standards that you do for your own workers (e.g. requiring background checks and drug tests). Establish security procedures such as having them sign in and out every day. Issue badges they can wear. View the roofing crew as an extension of your own staff.

Reputable roofing professionals can even provide a heightened sense of security on the jobsite. “We can even keep an eye out and if we see anything that looks suspicious, say something,” adds Poorman. The contractor will do their best not to provide an opportunity for theft while working on the roof. To protect their tools and equipment, they’ll keep them locked, use trailers with hitches that won’t move, and remove personal items that could be visible in trucks. Even when tools and equipment are stored on the roof, they may be locked to discourage stealing.

5. Safety of Customers and Building Occupants

Whenever the project involves work that may be a safety concern, they’ll bring it to your attention so that together you can build a plan to mitigate the risk. An example of this would be when a critical lift is being loaded onto the roof. People working inside the building in the area should be evacuated, people trained in rigging and signaling will provide direction, and the area outside will be restricted. These processes involve careful planning and scheduling; be ready for pre-project communication and daily progress updates.

6. Property Damage

Before the roofing project begins, the contractor will complete a job hazard analysis (JHA) to identify and predict actions that could cause unintended destruction. From this investigation will come a set of prescribed actions the crew takes during the project. “We’ll talk about it,” says Poorman. “Can we move these cars out of the way to avoid overspray damage? Cover landscaping with tarps? Or put a monitor on the ground to be another set of eyes when we’re using the forklift? We look for solutions.” Every roofing job has risks. Your contractor should be studying your facility, its location, and the nature of the project to predict and prevent problems.

Partnering with an experienced professional roofing contractor who conducts thorough pre-job planning and communicates early and often will help ensure a smooth and successful roofing project.

Got a roofing project? Contact D. C. Taylor Co. at 319.731.4118 today!

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