The Hole Story

Why do roofs fail early?

By Richard L. Fricklas

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    A good rule of thumb for inspecting your roofing portfolio is to conduct a thorough visual inspection twice yearly – when the ducks fly north and again when they fly south.

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    This comprehensive manual is an important resource for your roofing team. It covers reliable repair procedures for all types of roof systems and is a joint effort of the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA), the Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association (ARMA), and the Single Ply Sheet Membrane and Component Suppliers (SPRI).

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    This drain is clogged with vegetation and requires cleaning.

How to Build an In-House Roof Maintenance Program

Richard (Dick) L. Fricklas

Richard (Dick) L. Fricklas was technical director emeritus of the Roofing Industry Educational Institute prior to his retirement. He is co-author of The Manual of Low Slope Roofing Systems, and continues to participate in seminars for the University of Wisconsin and RCI Inc., the Institute of Roofing, Waterproofing, and Building Envelope Professionals. His honors include the Outstanding Educator Award from RCI, William C. Cullen Award and Walter C. Voss Award from ASTM, the J. A. Piper Award from NRCA, and the James Q. McCawley Award from the MRCA. Dick holds honorary memberships in both ASTM and RCI Inc.

The first step is to have an up-to-date roofing file on every section of every roof that you are responsible for. That file should represent the actual as-built systems, plus documentation of previous repairs, copies of roof warranties, and a current address or phone number for the supplier of each membrane roof in case a problem arises.

Designate someone on your staff as the official point person for all roofing issues. If no such skilled person is currently available, at least one person should accept such responsibilities, with a commitment from corporate to get this person trained in every type of roof system under your control. That could include attending roofing seminars and conventions and even hands-on seminars now offered by most manufacturers.

When that inevitable leak occurs, objectives shift to having adequate tools and materials to at least make temporary repairs. An emergency repair, such as one located directly over a critical process, could be almost anything. Duct tape has worked on small punctures, at least for 24 hours. Torched-on modified bitumen patches work well if the substrate is reasonably clean and dry. (The torch will evaporate surface water and help bituminous surfaces bleed to engulf dirt and debris.) Bottles of propane must be properly stored, and fire extinguishers need to be on the roof if torching is being done.

Many of the single ply systems have a limited shelf life, especially the sealants and mastics. While fibrated asphalt mastic can be obtained at most any big box building supply house, date codes need to be checked for more sophisticated elastomerics.

While our point person may be managing the roofing plan, trained laborers will do the actual hands-on repairs. A roof in trouble is no place for an unescorted worker. If there is ice or water on the roof following severe weather, safety is paramount.

Many material manufacturers will come to your facility and demonstrate various repairs to train your workers. An important resource for them is the Repair Manual for Low-slope Membrane Roof Systems, a joint publication of the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA), Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association (ARMA), and Single Ply Sheet Membrane and Component Suppliers (SPRI).

Another helpful resource is GAF’s recommended schedule of inspections and repairs.

In a future column, we will look at alternatives to in-house programs, including using roofing consultants and establishing service contracts with responsible local contractors.

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