The work of a facility manager is often exhaustive at times. As one task is completed, another pops up with even greater urgency. One essential part of any building or facility which is often overlooked in light of handling day-to day issues, is the roof.
Roofs are often ignored, yet when left unchecked can cause a variety of problems. This may be due to budget concerns, but the long-term cost of the roof will sweep away trivial budget concerns when it explodes. With preventative maintenance, the long-term cost of the roof giving away can be avoided.
The goal of preventative maintenance is to avoid problems before they arise and is the key to a healthy roof and stable budget. Expensive repairs and replacements can be avoided when the roof is maintained regularly. It has been advised that to maintain a roof’s structural integrity, a walkover assessment is recommended twice a year, specifically during the dry and rainy seasons, to protect it from harsh weather conditions.
In the dry season, it is necessary to examine the roof to see how it fared during the rainy season. Heavy rain could cause an over-stressed roof to leak, creak, or sag. It could also cause corrosion due to acid rain. The dry season is a time to clear the drains of debris to allow water flow, but a repercussion from the blazing heat of the dry season is that heat vents allow water into the structure as they detach from the hinges. So, towards another coming rainy season, the roof must be thoroughly examined to discover all issues that could get worse once the rainy season kicks in.
The common myth that prevails is that a new roof needs no maintenance. The same perspective should be carried over to vehicles, which receive service every few thousand miles to keep them functioning. Maintaining a roof is similar to this, because even though the roof is out of sight, and out of mind, it is being used every single day!
A preventative maintenance plan is the best way to prolong the life of any roof. Roof manufacturers usually provide a warranty of about 10 years which serves as an incentive for proper maintenance. A new roof could be installed, and years would go by without anyone checking it for irregularities, which could cause a problem in buildings with flat roofs. In a flat-roofed building, water must be removed from the surface as soon as possible. This is even more true of commercial roofs as opposed to residential, as the water does not shed off freely in the former, which makes the liquid to pond and leak into the building. A visual of the roof area is also helpful as this will expose any punctures leakages, or water damage.
The two biggest mistakes a facility manager can make are neglect/abandonment and trying to employ general maintenance staff to maintain a roof. A roofing specialist has been trained to spot problems that any general maintenance staff would miss. If there are any holes or punctures, some may be too minute for a non-specialist to notice and will cause water leaks in due course. A few more examples of problems that often go unnoticed are clogged roof drains, deterioration, end laps, caulking details around penetrations, edge metal details and strainers over the top of drains. Therefore, roofing professionals are necessary to give definite diagnostic recommendations which will protect the roof, prolong its lifespan and enhance the integrity of the building as a whole and impact other areas. For example, restaurants that cook with grease should install grease containment units, exhaust fans and special ventilators to prevent this grease from reaching and impacting the roof membrane.
There is also the need to ascertain the absolute maximum number of people who can be on the roof at a particular time. It falls on the facility manager to determine this. Any number of professionals could have various reasons to be on the roof, for air conditioning repairs, heating, satellite installment, gutter, and grease cleaning, etc. such contractors who service commercial buildings may not have the roof’s best interests in mind and cause unintentional damage. It is also recommended to have a path laid out on the roof for such contractors to tread on while they go about their business. It helps to have anyone who steps on the roof have to sign in and out, in order to catch any carelessness and stop any issues before they escalate.
Cost factors are drastically reduced in the long term when problems are caught before irreversible damage sets in. When, as is often the case, a large fix is beyond the manager’s budget, it is crucial to identify any issues as fast as possible. Any existing problem present will be compounded by unaddressed roof issues, weather and climate, roof age and current condition.
Not all roofs are in a good enough state to benefit from preventative maintenance, some are already past it and could be said to be in a ‘triage’ state. In extreme cases such as these, roof replacement is the best option, but if the budget does not make room for this, then a more direct repair work will have to be performed to stabilize the roof and extend its life until a period of time until budgets can allow the inevitable replacement.
In conclusion, regular maintenance by a professional is essential to prolong the lifespan of the roof, and by extension the whole building. This way the investment is protected. To ensure the long-term health of the roof and avoid complications and costs, proactive identification of problems and needed repairs is necessary. Preventative maintenance is the best kind, as the relatively small cost incurred today will save a tremendous amount of time and money in the future. ‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’ has never been truer in the area of roof maintenance.