Commercial Roof Maintenance

Topics: Loss Control

Summary: Keeping the roof of a commercial building in good shape is essential in avoiding severe damage, expensive repairs and an interruption to your business processes. We take a closer look at some of the main risks to commercial roofs, and what type of damage to look for during routine roof inspections.

A roof offers protection to a building and all the contents within it. However, roofs are exposed to the elements all day, and severe storms, winds, animals and time itself can lead to a variety of issues. Left unchecked, these issues can damage the roof and result in expensive and extensive repairs. Additionally, a damaged roof can potentially disrupt your business. Business owners must have the roof of their commercial building regularly inspected, maintained and repaired as needed to keep operations running smoothly.

Roof Maintenance Tips – The Risks Facing Your Roof

As mentioned above, the risks surrounding roofs can come in various forms, all of which can lead to damage. Precipitation like rain, snow and hail landing on the roof can cause problems like clogged gutters, ice dams or dented roofing material. Animals may nest on the roof or within vents, or even chew through wiring. As the roof ages, it becomes more susceptible to wear and tear from issues such as shingles in need of replacement, or leaks from other damage.

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Strong winds can also cause significant damage to roofs. Hurricanes, tornados, derechos and heavy thunderstorms can develop high winds that can tear the roof apart – or even off the building entirely.

The Risk of Wind Damage to a Roof

Damaging winds can occur throughout the entire country, so it's important to take steps to protect the roof no matter where the building is located. Some types of roofs are more resistant to high wind speeds; the shape of the roof can impact its ability to resist high winds. Likewise, some materials can help to make a difference when it comes to wind damage. Roofing materials should be chosen based on the area's typical weather patterns and climate.

Regardless, the roof will deteriorate over time if it is not properly installed, maintained and repaired should any damage occur. Before the storm season hits, the roof should be inspected to ensure it's in good shape. After a storm with heavy winds, immediately check to see if any repairs are needed. While some damage, like fallen trees or missing shingles, may be noted right away, also look for signs of water damage, like stains on the ceilings, as well as gaps or loose metal flashing.

Commercial Roof Maintenance: How Do You Properly Maintain a Roof?

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Building owners shouldn't wait for a severe storm alert to inspect and perform maintenance on a roof. Regular inspections can help catch issues before they occur and allow for repair work before the building's interior is affected.

How to Perform a Roof Inspection

Experts recommend having a commercial roof inspected at least twice a year. Catching problems early ensures you can get them repaired before causing major damage to the building and its contents. Also, perform inspections after storm season and after any repair or maintenance work has been completed.

Give attention to the following areas during a roof inspection:
  • Rooftop equipment: Check equipment mounted on the rooftop, such as the HVAC system, exhaust fans, solar panels, antennas and satellite dishes. This equipment is expensive and can be costly to repair or replace, and when damaged, it will not perform correctly. Plus, if not appropriately secured, rooftop equipment could cause further damage to the roof.
  • Flashing: Metal flashing can prevent water from leaking into a building, and it also protects the roof and building from wind damage. Ensure the flashing does not pull more than an inch and a half away from the walls, and check for cracked caulking, peeling or rust.
  • Drainage: Watch for water pooled on the roof, as standing water is a sign of problems with the drains. Check for debris or clogs in the gutters and downspouts to ensure there are no blockages that could cause potential moisture issues on the building's exterior and interior.
  • Interior features: Inside the building, look for water stains on the ceilings, cracks in the walls, and doors and windows that are warped and don't close or open properly. These could all be signs of roof damage.
  • Other features: Additional items to inspect on the roof include looking for loose or missing shingles and fasteners, damaged soffits and fascia, vents, chimneys, skylights and dormers. Look for any debris on the roof that could need removing, and also remove any noticeable moss or lichen.

Pay Extra Attention to Roof-Mounted Equipment

Rooftop equipment can take flight during a windstorm and damage nearby buildings, vehicles or neighboring properties. Business owners should pay proper attention to equipment mounted on the roof during inspections, as it can mean the difference between minimal damage and catastrophic failure during high winds. Proper maintenance can also result to greater long-term savings and prolong the life of the equipment, lower utility bills and keeps the equipment - and the roof - better protected in subsequent storms.

Some of the things to consider when inspecting roof-mounted equipment include:

  • Ventilation and energy efficiency: Ensuring roof-mounted air conditioners and other units are properly ventilated leads to benefits like better energy efficiency and a smaller carbon footprint. Replace the air filters per the manufacturer's specifications, as a clogged filter can reduce airflow and affect the unit's heating and cooling abilities, as well as cause unnecessary wear and tear on the motors.
  • Maintain motors, bearings and other parts: Help prolong the life of the unit and prevent future breakdowns by keeping parts in good working order. Motors and fans should be well-lubricated, rubber belts should have the proper tension, and watch for signs that belts may have become brittle and cracked. 
  • Keep fans balanced: If fan blades become unbalanced, the unit could vibrate and cause other parts to loosen. Balanced blades increase efficiency and keep the unit secure.
  • Check the exterior and secure attachments: Rooftop equipment is constantly exposed to all weather elements, and corrosion and deterioration are common problems. Commercial roofs also have one or more roof curbs, elevated platforms that support rooftop equipment and roof penetration points such as HVAC ducts, exhaust fans, etc., and must maintain the weather-proof envelope of the building and keep water out.  

Hiring a Roofing Contractor

While business owners should do their part to keep the roof of their commercial buildings in good shape, it's important to note that a licensed roofing contractor should be hired to carry out official inspections and make any necessary repairs.

Before hiring a roofing contractor, make sure the contractor is fully licensed and insured. Check reviews or ask for recommendations from other business owners. Have a backup list ready, too, as after a major storm, it may be challenging to get an appointment promptly. Get the contract in writing and keep records of all inspections and repair work completed.

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Loss Control Services from AmTrust Financial

AmTrust's Loss Control Department provides a variety of safety resources and risk management solutions designed to keep your business and your employees safe. We have the expertise and the tools to identify the common hazards facing your operation and can help you decrease risk. For more information about our loss control services, please contact us today.

This material is for informational purposes only and is not legal or business advice. Neither AmTrust Financial Services, Inc. nor any of its subsidiaries or affiliates represents or warrants that the information contained herein is appropriate or suitable for any specific business or legal purpose. Readers seeking resolution of specific questions should consult their business and/or legal advisors. Coverages may vary by location. Contact your local RSM for more information.

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