In tight economic times, roofing contractors can benefit from a well-organized service department.

In a properly conducted roof maintenance inspection, all roof components should be evaluated.
In tight economic times, roofing contractors can benefit from a well-organized service department. Service departments are typically smaller departments that operate independently from a company’s main roofing operations. The service department handles all of the company’s leak repairs and service-related items, such as completing punch-list items, installing flashing at new curbs, and installation of additional vents and drains. These are primarily items that can be completed by two or three workers and do not require a full crew.

Proper management and innovative marketing can turn the service department into a highly profitable sector of the company that can also generate additional work. This can be accomplished by providing annual maintenance programs. Most building owners are beginning to realize that proper roof maintenance is beneficial in a number of ways. First, by ensuring that small problems are fixed in a timely manner, the owner eliminates the potential for much larger and more costly repairs. Second, regular maintenance will extend the life of the roof system. Finally, all of the manufacturers’ warranties require that the owner perform annual maintenance.

Roofing contractors have an easily accessible market for the maintenance program: past and present clients. Transition to this program can occur in a number of ways. Contractors can notify past clients of the program and explain how these procedures an protect the warranty. Correction of defects during the maintenance inspections will also eliminate callbacks for leaks on completed projects.

The maintenance program also can generate future remedial roofing projects. When contractors enter into a long-term maintenance program with a building owner, it provides the contractor an opportunity to be in good standing when remedial work is required. In addition, the program provides steady multi-year income. Another advantage is that repair work is typically completed at higher profits than remedial or new construction.

It is essential that the service department be isolated from the main roofing operations. The skills required to uncover problems and “chase” leaks are different than production roofing. The roofing mechanics that exhibit aptitude for these skills should remain in the service department. This type of work requires more finesse and precision and is not suited for all personnel.

The two most critical steps in the roof management program are the annual maintenance inspection and verification of the completed repairs. It is important to correctly identify the problems at the initial stages and to make certain that they are properly completed to extend the service life of the roof system. If the defects are not correctly identified or properly repaired (or not repaired at all) the program essentially fails.

The Roof Inspection

In a properly conducted roof maintenance inspection, all roof components should be evaluated. Start by establishing an order of identification. The visible roof components should be viewed in a pattern starting at the perimeter of the roof area. Inspect the entire roof area by circulating in perpendicular rows spaced approximately 4 feet apart. This commonly applied pattern ensures that all of the visible roof components are inspected.

Industry surveys indicate that approximately 80 percent of all roof leaks occur at flashings and roof penetrations. Thus, it is imperative that these areas are carefully inspected for defects. While the majority of maintenance repairs will be completed in these areas, roof membrane defects account for the majority of premature roof system failures. Defects to the roof membrane require immediate attention. Therefore, it is imperative that the inspector pay close attention to this component as well.

The maintenance inspection must be performed in a systematic manner to reduce the frequency and extent of oversights. This can be completed by creating an inspection checklist and inspecting the roofs in the order established. It is advisable that two individuals conduct the maintenance inspections. This rational is for several reasons:

1. It provides added safety.

It provides assistance for measuring and recording information.

It provides an additional set of eyes to find defects.

The maintenance inspectors must be cognizant of safety issues. They must also be alert of where they are on the roof at all times and never walk backwards without looking first. They should be extremely cautious on windy days, rainy days and in the ice and snow. A good criterion would be to err on the side of caution for safety’s sake.

A roof plan should accompany the maintenance inspection checklist. A separate roof plan and checklist should be complete for each roof area on the facility. Separate roof areas can be designated where there are natural breaks, such as adjoining walls, parapet walls, area dividers and expansion joints. Separate roof areas should also be designated at points of different roof constructions or at points where the roof age is not consistent. At these points, record the new area designations on the roof plan and make certain that the roof plan in the historical file is revised.

Recommended Steps in the Roof Inspection Process:

Set up a historical file that contains all pertinent information relating to all roof systems on the facility. The file should include roof plans, as-built drawings and documentation relating to the types of roof systems and materials applied. Warranties and guarantees should also be kept in these files.

The initial step in the maintenance inspection is to verify that the roof plan is properly prepared and that all equipment and penetrations are illustrated. Check that the size and shape of the areas are accurate.

Determine the membrane type of the roof area and make certain that it is accurate with the historical file documentation. Record any changes and revise the historical file.

Verify that the measurements of the base flashing and membrane area are accurate.

Examine the base flashings for problems and defects. Check the roof edge and all penetrations for defects.

Examine the roof membrane thoroughly to look for defects. Use the row-by- row method of inspection.

As defects in the membrane, flashing and metal flashing are discovered, mark the defects with spray paint and indicate the location, type of defects and severity of the defect on the roof plan.

Measure the square feet or lineal feet of the defect and record it on the roof maintenance inspection checklist.

Photograph the defect.

Minor defects, such as flashing or membrane holes/openings can be repaired during the course of the inspection. Record repairs on the maintenance inspection checklist and roof plan. Identify materials used to complete the repairs and method of application. Photograph repairs for owner verification.

Repairs must be completed in accordance with proper roofing procedures using material approved by the roof membrane manufacturer.

Verify that all repairs have been properly completed.

From the initial maintenance inspection, the identified defects can be divided into the three areas:

Maintenance items (including cleaning the roof drains of debris), spot repairs, repair of open seams and other minor openings, etc.

General repairs, including deteriorated membrane, loose and open flashings, removal of wet areas, etc.

Methods to extend the service life, including reflective coating at surface and flashings, reinforcing seams, etc.

The Roof as a System

Regardless of the membrane covering, all roof systems are comprised of similar components. The materials for the components are the only variations. The roof system is made up of: structural deck (substrate), insulation, membrane, surfacing, flashings and metal terminations.

All of these components synchronize into one functional system. Each component has its own failure modes, and although failure of one component may not lead to failure of the entire system, each component must be monitored for maintenance repairs.

Clearly, a roof system has many elements that can break down over time and cause major problems. Developing a maintenance program and completing regular inspections can prove to be profitable for your company. When you look at all the benefits, it is clear that a roof maintenance program can be a vital part of your service department. A properly managed program could place your company in better position with old and new clients, and in the process, add to your bottom line.