Monthly Archives: February 2017

Roof Replacement Success Requires Research

Skipping the homework

One of the biggest mistakes managers make when replacing a roof is to automatically specify a replacement that is same type as the existing roof. This strategy assumes that the type of roof originally installed was the best type of roof for that application.

In fact, it is more likely that someone made the choice previously based on installation costs more than suitability. Even if the existing roof was the best choice at the time of installation, subsequent changes in the way occupants and visitors use the building might mean that type of roof no longer is suitable for the application.

Consider the way building applications can evolve over 20 years or so of a roof’s performance life. Telecommunication equipment and HVAC systems that did not exist when the roof was new might have been placed on the roof after its installation and require regular access for maintenance. Changes in operations within the building also might have resulted in the installation of exhaust systems that discharge onto the roof. Not all roofs stand up equally well to foot traffic or exposure to chemicals.

Managers also must consider other factors before deciding. For example, what is the roof’s slope? Some roof materials will not perform well on steep slopes; others perform poorly on flat surfaces.

How well does the existing roof drain? Ideally, no ponded water should not be present on the roof 24 hours after the rain has stopped. If the existing roof has poor drainage, managers have options to increase the slope of the roof to improve drainage.

Different roof types also result in different loads on the roof deck and the building structure. Managers must make certain the facility has the structural strength to support the type of replacement roof selected. The number of roof penetrations also influences the type of replacement roof installed. Each penetration is a potential hole in the roof, and some roof systems handle penetrations better than others.

No single type of roof system is the most appropriate for all applications. Just because a particular roof type has performed well in one application is no guarantee it will perform well in another application. Managers need to do their homework before settling on a particular replacement type.

Avoiding Roof Replacement Problems

One of the most challenging aspects of managing an institutional or commercial facility is addressing roofing issues. For many maintenance and engineering managers, roofs frequently are problems from the day they are installed.

One immense issue is that roofs are not the easiest components to maintain. Correcting a problem in one area seems to generate a new issue in another area. Replacing a roof is a big-ticket investment, not to mention disruptive, and they do not improve with age. In fact, nearly one-half of all roofs require replacement before they reach their rated service lives.

Eventually, all roof systems require replacement. The success of the replacement project depends to a great extent on actions that managers take before and during the replacement process. While many issues can contribute to a less-than-successful replacement project, managers need to be aware of the four of the most common problems.

Waiting until later

The usual approach to roof replacement project is to wait until a major issue arises, such as a membrane failure or a major leak, to start the planning process. The problem with this approach is that roofs rarely fail suddenly. They deteriorate over a long period.

Managers and front-line technicians can take steps to detect problems early and track deterioration. Roofs send signals as they go bad. Membranes move, seams split, surfaces alligator, flashing lifts and water leaks. All of these symptoms are warning signs that something is going wrong with the roofing system, and that something is almost always bad. Most problems are easy to find. All technicians need to do is look closely.

Managers should schedule regular roof inspections to be conducted by a qualified individual. If in-house expertise is not available, the manager should contract with an outside roofing inspector. Ideally, this person will complete two inspections each year — one in the fall after the roof has been exposed to the harsh temperatures of summer and once in the spring to check for damage from snow and ice.

By tracking the inspections over time, managers can develop a feel for the way their roofs are performing and the rate at which they are deteriorating. Accelerating deterioration and growing repair requirements are two signs the roof is nearing the end of its service life. Just because a roof has shown no major problems does not mean managers should put off replacement. If a 20-year roof is only 15 years old, it does not mean managers should wait another five years or more before making plans for replacement. The replacement schedule must reflect the actual condition of the roof.

Choosing to replace the roof before it actually fails might seem like a waste of money. In fact, this option can save money. When roofs fail, the results can be extensive damage to the building interior. Replacing a roof before it actually fails and wreaks havoc inside a facility can enable managers to avoid damage repair costs.

One additional benefit of replacing a roof before it actually fails is that by picking the time for replacement, a manager can schedule the project for a time that best suits the department’s workload and the facility’s activities. Effective scheduling also allows managers to evaluate their roofing options properly, prepare specifications, and select a qualified installer.

Properly Maintaining a Roof After Coating Application

What comes after?

Roof coatings considerations do not end with the application process. Once a coating is applied, managers need to consider several important issues that can prolong the life expectancy of the roof.

Managers who schedule routine maintenance and twice yearly roof inspections can expect to get the most out of their roofs.

“Roof inspections should be conducted twice a year,” McKain says. “Once in the late fall and again in the early spring. Seventy-five percent of roof damage occurs during the winter. If there is damage to the roof, it needs to be repaired with like materials.”

Regular maintenance entails having technicians periodically inspect the roof to ensure that scuppers, drains and other details are not clogged. This ensures that water flows properly and does not deteriorate the coating prematurely. The roofing contractor also should perform an annual maintenance checkup, Carlin says.

In addition to assessing the overall condition of the look, technicians should pay special attention to high-risk areas, including roof hatches and drains and around rooftop equipment. Minimizing foot traffic on the roof also can prolong the lifespan of the roofing system.

“Cleaning the roof also maintains the reflectivity of the coatings, as can regularly removing any debris that can impede drainage can cause ponding water, which can degrade the coating,” Baumann says. “The (National Roofing Contractors Association) recommends you don’t want any ponding water on your roof longer than 48 hours after a rain storm. Providing walkways around and leading to HVAC systems and other areas that require regular inspections and maintenance can also help maximize the performance and lifespan of the coating.”

What Type of Roof Coating is Best

Which one?

Once a manager has decided to specify a roof coating, the next question is, which coating is most appropriate for the application? Several types of roof coatings offer a range of benefits to a facility, and in recent years the formulation of roof coatings has evolved. For these reasons, managers need to consider several issues related to performance and materials before making a final decision.

“There have been a number of changes that are allowing the market to rely and call on these kinds of products much more than we have in the past,” says Keith Borden with Tropical Roofing Products. “I think with newer technologies, easier applications, less labor and being less disruptive on the overall performance of the business, roof coatings are more popular than ever.”

Managers looking to address specific roofing issues can focus on developments in three areas — silicone content, reflectivity and sustainability.

Silicones are the newest options in roof coatings Baumann says.

“Developed earlier this century are the high-solids, 100 percent silicone coating systems,” she says, adding that they “typically contain solids in excess of 95 percent, and they contain no water and no solvents. This means they are a condensation curer.”

As the coating absorbs atmospheric moisture, it begins to transform from the liquid coating into the seamless, monolithic system that protects roofs, she says. Compared to low-solvent silicone coatings, which contain 30-40 percent solvents, the new formulation often is a higher-quality product.

Silicone roof coatings tend to last longer than other coating materials, perform better and extend the life of a roofing system, says Josh McKain with Progressive Roofing.

When specifying roof coatings, manufacturers also need to carefully consider the coating’s reflectivity.

“If you’re in a roofing area where you have more cooling days than heating days, it may be more advantageous to have a highly reflective roof,” Baumann says. “By having a white surface, the sun’s rays hit that surface get reflected off and back up into the environment instead of being absorbed into the roofing system.”

By specifying coatings with higher reflectivity and emissivity ratings, managers can keep buildings cooler and energy costs down because the cooling system is not running as often or as long.

As with most other products going into and onto facilities, roof coatings also have come under greater scrutiny in terms of their sustainability.

“There has been a big push for materials to be environmentally conscious while still maintaining properties that both building owners need or want,” Carlin says. “Building owners want a roof that has solid performance, withstands the effects of weather, assists them in saving money, and in some instances, looks visually appealing.”

Today’s coatings make it easier for managers to find the balance between sustainability and performance. By removing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from new-generation roof coatings, manufacturers have addressed odor concerns of both technicians applying coatings and building occupants.

Solventless coatings offer a safer solution by minimizing the VOCs and, in some cases, eliminating them completely.

Managers “can now have products that are extremely low in VOCs, if not zero, that are very environmentally friendly,” Borden says. “There are no odors associated with the coatings, and that can eliminate hazardous conditions for applications. There are solventless products that perform exceptionally well.”

Applications of roof coatings also address sustainability considerations because they can save managers from having to fully replace a roof.

“They not only save a facility money,” Carlin says. “They can save the environment by not adding more to our landfills.”