Does Your Low-Slope Roof Suffer from One of These Problems?
Let’s talk about the most likely causes of your roof woes.
No. 1: Clogged Drains
When drains are obstructed, it’s typically either environmental debris or careless workers to blame. Regular dirt, vegetation, and debris can build up on a low-slope roof and obstruct roof drains if not removed and cleaned regularly. And if the HVAC technician leaves rags and soda bottles on the roof after servicing the cooling tower, they can easily find their way to the roof drain.
Clogged drains can cause everything from ponding water to roof collapse. The excess water provides the ideal growing conditions for tree saplings and microbes. Not to mention, clogged drains can be costly. An especially bad clog may require that a plumber be called to snake the drain.
Prevention is possible. Trim nearby trees; this will reduce the amount of leaves and pine needles that find their way into drains and scuppers. At least once a year, schedule general preventive roof maintenance that inspects and cleans drains and waterways. Lastly, if drain baskets are missing, replace them! At a cost of less than $100 each, they’re an inexpensive way to prevent large vegetation and debris from getting into drain pipes.
No. 2: Punctures
Any number of things can lead to a puncture, but contractor damage is one of the most probable. When workers are on the roof servicing equipment and drop tools, catch the corners of equipment panels on the membrane, or walk on screws and nails, damage is inevitable.
Storms can be equally destructive. High winds can send dislodged equipment, tree limbs, and debris tumbling over the roof, leaving a path of punctures, tears, and abrasions. Add hail, and the destruction is even more widespread.
Early detection is key. Caught early enough, repair isn’t intrusive. Typically, the membrane around the puncture is cleaned, primed, and patched. If punctures are left unnoticed, they result in wet roof membrane and insulation, leaks, and over time, the potential for a rusted or rotten structural deck.
No. 3: Lack of Maintenance
Lack of time, not making it a priority, ignorance, an insufficient budget, and unrealistic warranty expectations are the most common reasons maintenance isn’t performed. (Read more here.)
Unfortunately, a roof that doesn’t get the care it needs usually shows it. You can expect leaks and a shorter roof life – reduced by as much as half. The other sure sign is expense. Repairs get costly and without maintenance, the extent and cost escalate quickly and their frequency increases.
The best way to keep your roof performing for as long as possible (i.e. better ROI), is to proactively maintain it with regular roof inspections, repairs, and general preventive maintenance. A roofing contractor can routinely:
- Reseal terminations, including pitch pans.
- Fix small punctures, tears, and cracks.
- Replace missing fasteners with new fasteners, oversized if necessary.
- Replace deteriorated caulking or sealants.
- Install fasteners in like membrane where protruding fasteners were removed.
- Apply caulk to open sheet metal seams.
New roofs aren’t invincible and will suffer damage from subcontractors dropping tools, storm debris, foot traffic, etc. Don’t neglect maintenance on a roof just because it’s new.
No. 4: Improper Installation/Repair
When a person that isn’t a certified applicator performs work, a contractor cuts corners to provide you a low bid, or an urgent situation necessitates a temporary repair, improper repairs can result. Use of incompatible materials is a common mistake.
When a problem is repaired incorrectly, it can lead to rust, ponding water, or leaks. Poor installations and improper repairs are costly too; usually undoing a faulty repair takes longer, increasing labor. The manufacturer of the roof system dictates the proper materials and application methods and if they’re not followed, the manufacturer can even void the warranty.
To prevent improper work, use a licensed contractor that has been approved by the manufacturer of the roof system installed (or being installed) on your facility. Ask a qualified contractor to explain the scope of work, the training he’s had, and the materials he’ll be using. For large reroof projects, the manufacturer and contractor should perform in-progress installation inspections to ensure that compatible materials and correct application methods were used.
No. 5: Old Age
Don’t let time get away from you. Somewhere in the life of your facility’s roof(s), there is an ideal time for replacement. Most roof systems have an average life span of 14 to 16 years.
Advanced age increases the likelihood for catastrophic leaks. An older roof with membrane at the end of (or has exceeded) its intended life cycle, is not nearly as flexible as a newer roof and cannot perform under extreme conditions and drastic temperature changes, causing large splits or tears and damage to flashings, all of which lead to leaks.
Letting your roofing assets deteriorate beyond repairs could result in thousands of dollars difference in the cost of the eventual roofing project. If you time it right, you might be able to recover the existing roof. Let it go too long? A total tear-off is likely. Lack of action can lead to a much larger future capital investment.
Part of a roof asset management program is predicting an expected inventory wear-out date. Roof systems do not last forever. Plan for your roof’s maintenance and replacement.