Q&A: Roof Care After the Big Storm

October 4, 2018

A bad storm blows through. You suspect you’ve got roof damage. Do you know what to do next? We asked James (J. J.) Longerbeam, Vice President and Service Manager, D. C. Taylor Co., Cedar Rapids, IA, to provide some advice.

What characteristics of a storm are most worrisome?
High winds, long periods of rain, or a lot of rain in a short period of time are concerning. Hail storms, while rare, are also bad, especially for older roof systems.

What kind of damage is likely?
A lot of times something has blown across the roof, causing punctures, tears, and abrasions to the membrane. That’s the most common. It can be a tree branch, shingles, a sharp piece of metal, or roof vents and roof hoods that become unsecured. During a bad wind event, gutters or metal and membrane at the roof’s edge can be damaged; that requires a rather involved repair. The extreme is during tropical storms or tornadoes, where the entire roof has blown off, including the roof deck.

Unfortunately, just because the damage isn’t obvious immediately after the storm, doesn’t mean there isn’t any. Have a professional do an inspection to make sure the roof elements are functioning as intended. They can use infrared thermography or core sampling to “see” problems you might not.

What should you do if you suspect you have roof damage?
It never hurts to conduct a visual inspection. If there’s damage at an edge, you can sometimes see it from the ground. Only if you can access the roof safely, should you go up on it. When a customer calls in with storm damage, I like to request photos so we can prepare for the repair and have appropriate materials on hand.

Is there anything you can do to prevent roof damage during storms?
Proactively maintaining your roof with regular inspection and repairs can reduce the likelihood of damage. For example, if your roofing contractor regularly checks and cleans out scuppers, a clog won’t prohibit rainwater from being diverted off the roof. Keeping nearby trees trimmed also helps.

Who should a facilities professional call first (e.g. insurance, roofing contractor, or roof system manufacturer)?
First call your roofing contractor. Have the discussion with them. They know your roof and what’s required by the roof system manufacturer. You’ll likely hear something like, “Your roof is under warranty and within 30 days, you need to notify the manufacturer of a leak.” They’ll provide direction on the next steps to take.

What should you NOT do if you have roof damage?
Don’t try to fix it yourself.  Safety is a real concern. You don’t want someone getting injured, resulting in an OSHA recordable incident. You also don’t want someone who isn’t authorized by the roof system manufacturer to make the repair. Incompatible materials and improper repairs will only exacerbate the roof problem.

What if you don’t already have a roofing contractor?
If your town has experienced widespread damage, there may be a lot of storm chasers soliciting your business.  Do your research if you don’t have a roofing contractor that you partner with. Ask them for references, read reviews, and check out their website.