Roof maintenance programs have become commonplace in the industry. When I first wrote “The Roof Management Handbook” in 2003, maintenance programs were not common, and only a select group of contractors had service departments dedicated to roof repairs. The book has now been updated, and the second edition will be released within the next few months. As the book identifies, implementation of a proper roof maintenance program starts with an inspection/evaluation of the existing system. Roof maintenance programs also require annual (or preferably semi-annual) inspections. When properly conducted, these inspections will contribute to the overall success of the program.

Prior to conducting a roof inspection, a thorough inspection of the exterior and interior of the facility should be completed. This type of inspection is critical in determining potential facility problems that may affect the roof system. Prior to the physical roof inspection, it is imperative that the following information is obtained from the owner.

Things to know prior to the inspection:

  1. What is the current age of the exterior component?
  2. Are there any leaks present?
  3. Have there been any leaks in the past? If so, where are they located?
  4. What type of roof traffic is present?
  5. Are certain areas of the facility more vital than others in the operation of the facility?

Exterior Building Inspection

Exterior walls should be examined for signs of movement that may relate to roof problems. On masonry exterior walls, signs of movement can be detected at mortar joints that have separated from the masonry units. Movement at poured-in-place concrete, pre-cast concrete panels and some exterior insulation and finish systems (EIFS) can be identified by stress cracks.

Water signs at exterior components could indicate that leaks are occurring at perimeter fascia/gravel stops, flashings or roof copings. However, not all leaks occur at the roof. Therefore, it is important to conduct a weatherproofing inspection of the exterior of the facility. During the course of this inspection, all exterior openings should be analyzed. This includes entry doors, windows and overhead doors. All joints in the building exterior finish should also be examined. These types of joints will be attached with mortar (masonry units) or sealant (concrete, pre-cast panels, EIFS).

Following are items to examine in an exterior inspection:

  1. 1. Inspect the exterior side of the wall. Identify the type of wall system:
    a. Masonry construction
    b. Block construction
    c. Metal panels
    d. EIFS

    Identify leaks and water stains. Identify stress cracks, openings, and delamination of the exterior wall component. At masonry and block construction, analyze mortar joints for tuck-pointing and expansion joints for sealant. If the surface was painted, what is its current condition? On other exterior systems, evaluate sealant joints for proper application.
  2. Inspect the exterior side of windows, doors and other openings. At these points, it is important to determine the condition of the component framing. Is there evidence of rust or severe deterioration of the frame? The most common failure mode is at vertical and horizontal joints. Inspect the existing caulking and sealants for separation, splits, openings and deterioration.
  3. Inspect the fascia, eaves and trim of the structure. If these are constructed of wood, note any rotting, splits or eliminations. Identify any missing components.
ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Inspection Forms

The roof management program manual is made up of inspection checklists, work orders and schedule devises. Many times, this is the area of failure in roof maintenance programs. Too many forms or poorly designed forms can make procedures unnecessarily complex and overwhelming. Forms must be simple and flexible.

A well-designed and illustrated inspection checklist can save valuable time and effort when the semi-annual maintenance inspections are completed. It can also serve as a valuable tool in indicating the components of the roof system that need to be inspected. In this case, it serves as a sort of “cheat sheet” for the inspector.

In addition to the name of the building, the date of the inspection and name of the inspector, the form should be designed to include all individual roof components, as well as the exterior and interior components.

The form should be designed in a column configuration to include checklist areas for each component. The columns should include an area for a component that is in good condition and for problem areas (minor and major). Space should be allotted on the form for room to include narrative observations. The final column should be for the date of completed repair to the component.

A typical maintenance inspection form has seven sections for the following components:

  1. Supporting structure

  2. Roof condition

  3. Flashing condition

  4. Roof perimeter edging/fascia

  5. Roof penetrations

  6. Expansion joint covers

  7. Pitch pockets

The roof maintenance report is prepared to determine the maintenance and/or repair required to update the roof to standards that achieve maximum roof service life.

Another important document in the roof management program is the work order. This form should also be simple and flexible. It should include the work order number, required repairs and maintenance repair costs. It is important to track these repairs through the program and throughout the service life of the roof system. It is also important to verify that the repairs were properly completed.

Interior Building Inspection

The focus of the interior inspection is to identify any signs of previous moisture intrusion and, if possible, examine the condition of the existing roof deck. Ceiling tiles with water stains should be removed to define the cause of the leaks. If leaks occur under HVAC ducts or plumbing pipes, they should be examined as potential leak contributors.

When the roof deck is visible from the underside, the following conditions should be determined:

  • Type of deck
  • Signs of rust or spalling
  • Integrity of the deck
  • Are there signs of detachment?
  • Is the deck buckled, cracked, warped or distorted?
  • Has the deck shrunk?
  • If the deck is made of pre-cast panels, are there any indications of panel cracks at joints or evidence the panels have shifted?

While investigating the interior area, all horizontal runs of water and drain pipes should be inspected for proper insulation and for loose connections that may contribute to leaks. Make certain that the underside deck drain clamps have been installed at all drain sump locations. Not all building leaks are roof leaks.

Check areas where current leaks are occurring, or where they were present in the past. This proves to be important because in most cases these areas have been patched or repaired. These areas need to be analyzed during the roof inspection. At these points, it can be determined why the leak occurred and if the previous repair was properly completed.

This is also the time to look for any physical damage to the interior underside. Note any alterations or installation of new equipment that penetrates the deck or could overload the deck. This should be carefully examined in manufacturing areas, where it is commonplace to support equipment at the underside of the deck or at structural purlins. Overloading of equipment at these points could cause structural damage.

Inspect the interior side of the exterior walls to identify leaks and water stains. If possible, identify stress cracks, openings and delamination of the wall component. Also inspect the interior side of windows, doors, and other building openings for leaks and water stains. Again, identify any stress cracks, openings and delamination of these components. Determine the condition of any caulking or applied sealants. If the sealant separation is at the substrate then the sealant was improperly applied. If the sealant is cracking in the middle of the joint, there may be a building expansion issue. Determine if the proper sealant was applied to the substrate.

Rooftop Inspection

In a properly conducted roof management program, maintenance inspections should be completed at least two times a year. The optimum times for these inspections are in the spring and fall. The spring inspection can focus on any damage that occurred to the roof over the winter, and the fall inspection allows for the correction of any roof deficiencies prior to the winter months and the advent of the impending inclement weather. It is also good practice to conduct maintenance inspections after periods of severe weather. Defects attributed to weather will develop in periods of severe weather, such as hail, heavy storms, pronounced snow, and ice buildup or high winds. Remember, the primary purpose of a roof management program is to identify and correct any minor defects before they materialize into causes of complete system failure.

The semi-annual inspections can be completed with few tools, and once an inspector is proficient in them they can be completed in relatively short time. A key tool that will aid in the inspection will be a properly prepared roof plan. A separate roof plan of all roof areas on the facility is required. In order for the roof plan to be a valuable tool, it should be continually updated and indicate all roof penetrations, HVAC units, roof drains and accessories. The roof plan should be to scale so that all inspected defects can be clearly marked. It will be with this tool that all maintenance items and service-life extenders will be completed from.

 Other necessary tools include a tape measure, a camera, a can of spray paint (for marking identified defects), a clipboard and a roof inspection checklist form.