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Proactive Maintenance Measures

September 19, 2010
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A building''s roof is one of its most important assets and, to protect it, preventative maintenance is critical.

To get the most time out of your building''s top asset, consider these five maintenance tips for commercial low-slope roofs.

If your roof shows any signs of weakness, it may be time to consult with an expert.

  1. Proper drainage: Debris from wind and storms can clog drains and gutters. All drains should be checked and cleaned at least annually to ensure the proper flow of water. During cleaning, check both the drain strainer and the clamping ring; they should be intact and properly fastened. If not, simply use a Phillips-head screwdriver to tighten any loose points — this quick fix will help alleviate future water intrusion through the roof assembly.

  2. Ponding water: Older roof systems, and sometimes systems where insulation was not installed correctly, have the propensity to pond water. According to most roofing manufacturers, this is an acceptable anomaly — as long as it evaporates in less than 48 hours. Whenever possible, ponding water should be eliminated. Ponding can occur anywhere on the roof deck. Generally, it causes discoloration and algae growth, neither of which will cause a system to fail, but they are still maintenance items that should be treated annually. If pooling is prolonged — or exists for the majority of the roof''s lifetime — the stress can cause premature failure of most membranes.

  3. Flashings: Identify roof membrane problems at vertical surfaces, including walls and curbs, and look for holes in the membrane, open laps, hail damage or membrane slippage. Because of the nature of vertical installation, there''s a probability that something will go wrong in these areas first. Flashings are not limited to vertical applications and can be found at all mechanical, electrical or plumbing penetrations. All of these should be checked regularly for punctures, thermal movement and even cigarette burns from repair contractors. Flashings must be checked regularly to ensure that they maintain watertight integrity and, from time to time, be topped off or re-sealed, depending upon the initial installation process.

  4. Inspection: Check the condition of the roof at locations where vent pipes, soil pipes, heater flues, electric conduits or gas lines pass through. These penetrations and pitch pans are often the first areas to fail, but their lifespan can be extended through proper maintenance.

  5. Walk pads: Building owners should request that any individuals accessing the roof utilize these pads while performing maintenance or repair services to roof equipment. The walk pads create a buffer between the tools and equipment that contractors use, preventing membranes from puncturing. At a minimum, walk pads should be installed at all roof access points and on the service side of any rooftop mechanical units.

In our experience, we''ve found that anywhere from 30 to 35 percent of roof leaks in single-ply membranes are caused by cigarette burns — something that can be costly, but is also avoidable.

Advise contractors that they will be liable for any damage created during their repairs.

Most tradesmen are much more conscientious when their employer may have to foot the bill for their mistakes.

There will come a time for all roofs when replacement is the only option.

However, if you adhere to the suggestions in this article, you can help extend a roof''s lifespan and reduce wear and tear.

Remember, all roofing systems will have different maintenance concerns.

If you''re not sure about your building''s roof, contact a reputable contractor to assess the system.

Acting now can save headaches — and money — later on.

Jay Rintelmann is the president of Hartford South LLC, a family-owned commercial roofing company. Since 1986, he has grown Hartford South to become one of the largest roofing contractors in Central Florida, installing more than 60 million square feet of product and completing numerous high-profile jobs. Rintelmann is a member of numerous trade associations and has held his roofing contractor''s license since 1984. For more information, visit

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