When it comes to roof maintenance, the old adage "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," could not be more true...
particularly during the fall and winter months when sleet, snow and freezing temperatures make their comeback.
When colder temperatures arrive, membrane roof systems become harder and less flexible, and as a result, are more susceptible to damage by puncture and sharp objects.
Because roofing technicians and specialists are trained in proper roof maintenance and repair, many building/facility managers turn to experienced commercial roofing contractors, to inspect, service and prepare their roofs for the approaching severe weather.
There are some simple tasks building/facility managers can perform in the fall to prepare their roofs for the winter:
When your rooftop is covered with snow and ice, finding annoying roof leaks is close to impossible. That’s why it’s a good idea to take the time to check ceilings and interior walls for signs of leaks, such as stains, and seal all roof leaks possible before the weather gets bad. Late summer and early fall is the ideal time to check exterior walls for leaks, stains, cracks in bricks and any missing mortar. Sealing these will keep the cold air out and your valuable heat in.
Cold weather has a tremendous effect on loose mortar and composite building materials. Cold temperatures can cause already loose materials to contract, leaving gaps for damaging water and winds to enter your building. This is why checking any roof deck and fascia/coping for signs of deterioration before the first snow or ice storm hits is crucial. Look for any deteriorated caulking around loose metal work, thin sections of membrane, signs of excessive movement and splits at expansion joints. You will also want to check all penetrations on your roof such as pipe boots, pitch pockets and vent pipes, in addition to regrets areas for flashings, deteriorated caulking and voids in the caulking, chimney flashings and brick and mortar joints. To prevent contamination, any point of air or water infiltration should be checked and immediately restored to a properly sealed condition.
Another cause of roof failure during winter months is drainage problems. This is why checking and clearing all gutters, downspouts and scuppers is imperative. All drains should be cleaned out of leaves and debris so drainage water can move freely. Strainers and clamping rings should also be checked. Water weight in a dysfunctional gutter system can loosen the attachment of the guttering to the structure, causing further damage to your building.
A roof can leak if snow accumulates on the roof and over flashings. This is why you’ll want to check all attachments of base flashing and counter flashing. An experienced roofing contractor should be called in to survey the field of the roof membrane and redistribute all ballast across any bare spots. If there are any tears or holes in the membrane, these should be repaired immediately.
Every winter is different with more snowfall some years than others. This is why it’s a good idea to have several thick brush brooms ready in the event you need to remove ice or snow from around roof top units. Wind-driven snow can pile up against curbs and walls and if the snow is higher than the flashing it can create a real problem when it starts to melt. If there is a major snow event, then it is best to contact a roofing professional to remove snow and ice in these critical areas.
Diligent maintenance of a green roof is recommended to prevent long-term damage to the underlying roofing materials. Be sure to remove any tree seedlings that may have started to sprout this fall as these can create strong roots that can damage the roof's drainage system. Also be sure to remove as many leaves and debris around the drains and in corners to maintain adequate drainage and sunlight around vegetation. Remove any dead plants and prune overgrown bushes and flowerbeds to allow for maximum sunlight and water to reach the vegetation and prevent ponding water.
Finally, before the snow and ice hits make sure you inform all personnel that walking on a membrane roof or modified roof is dangerous during the winter because of fall hazards. Let personnel know that no one should walk on the rooftop after dark or before 10 a.m. as this is when icy conditions are more likely to occur.
By taking these simple preventative steps, you’ll keep personnel and occupants safer and warmer and your building's roof will be better prepared to take on whatever the winter has in store.