Preventive maintenance can help extend roof life
It is common for city and county engineers and maintenance personnel to provide regular maintenance on their facilities’ HVAC units or elevators. However, many forget about the necessity for regular maintenance of their roof systems. But neglecting a roof until it leaks leads to increased costs for either repairs or even replacement.
Many cities and counties outsource their roof maintenance because of a lack of in-house expertise. “We outsource roof maintenance because we are not roofing experts, and that’s the bottom line,” says Vern Stiner, parks program analyst with the Department of Parks/Environmental Services for Ontario, Calif.
Mike Glasson, fleet and facilities manager for Fontania, Calif., agrees. “The reason the city chose to outsource some of its preventive maintenance is based on two elements,” he says. “One is staffing concerns – we only have four people to serve 19 facilities – and, secondly, our in-house personnel are not experts in proper roof maintenance and may use incompatible methods and materials resulting in ineffective repairs and high long-term costs.”
Contractors offer roof maintenance services on either a time and material basis or a standard per-square-foot fee per year. With the former, costs can vary greatly each year, whereas maintenance costs on a square-footage-fee basis can be consistent and manageable.
Tremco, a Beachwood, Ohio-based manufacturer of commercial roofing products and provider of roofing services, suggests that facilities managers budget 1 percent of the total roof replacement cost per year to maintain a properly designed and installed roof. For example, if the average roof costs between $4 and $8 per square foot, the annual budget for a 20,000-square-foot roof’s maintenance should be $800-$1,600. At that rate, a roof can be maintained for 100 years before it needs replacement.
According to the company, maintenance programs vary greatly, but, at the very minimum, the following should be considered. * Abnormalities in the roof surface should be investigated promptly. Blisters and ridges of the roof membrane can be an indication of moisture in the roof system. * Debris such as leaves, small branches and dirt should be removed. * The roof should be examined for damage from vandalism, severe environmental exposure and interior catastrophes such as fire or burst pipes. * Gutters, down spouts, drains and surrounding areas should be cleaned, and positive drainage should be assured. * All metal flashings and gutters should be examined for rust damage, and they should be well-attached and sealed. * Areas that abut the roof should be checked, and items such as damaged masonry, poorly mounted counterflashings, loose caulking and bad mortar joints should be repaired. * The edges of the roof should be examined for wind damage. Materials that have been lifted or displaced by the wind should be corrected. * Roof-top equipment such as air conditioners, evaporative coolers and antennas should be checked to ensure that the supporting members do not move excessively, causing wear. Equipment should not leak materials onto the roof. * The building exterior should be checked for settlement and movement since structural movement can cause cracks. * Protective coatings and surfaces should be examined for thinning, cracking, flaking or blistering. * Plumbing components should be investigated, cracked fittings re-sealed and loose components replaced or tightened. * Adjacent landscaping should not allow build-up of debris or damage from movement of branches overhanging the roof. * Ice damage and hidden damage from excessive snow drifting or snow loading should be monitored and repaired.
A poorly maintained roof can be costly. Simple, consistent inspection of a facility’s roof can help save money over the long term, and a preventive maintenance program can be a critical factor in extending roof life.