By Ed Williams, RRC / Published May 2023
Summer is here, and many of our snowbird friends are headed north to escape the heat. Guess what is staying around to keep your building safe? The roof is there twenty-four seven, keeping the building protected and dry. It is exposed to summer heat, hurricane-force winds, flying debris, and just plain hot weather in Florida.
The roof is often out of sight and out of mind and does not get the attention it needs to perform for its designated life span. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the phrase “I have a 20-year warranty, so I don’t need to do anything to the roof.” Everything we have needs maintenance at some point, including our cars and even our bodies. Roof warranties don’t cover damage by air conditioning mechanics, flying debris from storms, or deteriorated membrane around roof drains because the drains were never cleaned. Those of you who have read my articles over the years know that I talked about annual inspections a lot. That’s because they are critical to prolonging the life of the roof. A small puncture in your roof is like a cancer. Untreated, water can spread in the system and cause even more damage to the roof.
Let’s single out a few things that are common in causing roof failures and see what we can do about them.
A lot of damage comes from heavy objects being dropped on the roof membrane. The roof may have extra protection around the units, but there is a lot of room between there and the roof hatch or the edge of the building that can be damaged, however unintentionally. The roof access point should be locked, and vendors should be required to sign in prior to going on to the roof. Any visit should be followed by a maintenance personnel inspection so that any damage can be discovered, and the responsible party can be identified so that the repair process can be started.
Obviously, we can’t do anything about the high winds except to be sure that the roof is ready for hurricanes. This is where an annual inspection comes in. A trained observer can identify any problems with the membrane that would cause it to come loose during high winds and get these issues repaired. If you’ve been good about your maintenance, insurers in Florida have now determined that even if your roof is in good condition at 20 years old, it must be replaced. But please don’t let that deter you from maintaining the roof leading up to the 20 years.
We are the “Sunshine State,” so what does this mean? All roofs degrade over time in sunlight and the resulting UV rays. Some roofs are more protected from this sunshine damage by the use of gravel, and other roofs are protected by granules or by their chemical composition. On gravel roofs, there are some instances where the gravel does not adhere well or has come loose and leaves a bare spot over the membrane. This will cause the membrane in that area to degrade faster than the part of the membrane that remains covered. These areas need to be addressed by a roofing contractor as soon as possible.
The same is true for granular-surfaced roofs. Granules come loose over time, especially in areas where water ponds. These areas also need to be addressed as soon as possible.
Many roofing contractors offer maintenance contracts. Usually these are contracts that require you to pay them on a time and materials basis for any repairs that they do in addition to their fee for the contract. Many of us think of this as the fox watching the hen house. We believe that you are better served by hiring an independent professional who can identify the problems and prepare a scope of work for the contractor. That way you don’t pay for unneeded repairs.
You may also have competent people on your maintenance staff who can perform these inspections and go with the contractors to ensure that the needed repairs (and only those) are done. However it gets done, just be sure that it does get done on an annual basis at a minimum.
Owner, Ed Williams Registered Roof Consultant
Ed Williams Registered Roof Consultant is based in Florida and specializes in commercial and multi-unit structures—new or existing construction. Services include roof design, roof surveys, and reroofing supervision as well as roof asset management. Ed Williams is a registered roof consultant with more than 40 years in the industry. For more information, call 772-335-5832, email Ed@EdWilliamsRegisteredRoofConsultant.com, or visit www.edwilliamsroofconsultants.com.