Roofing Problem Areas

Flat roofs are prone to ponding water.

Flat roofs are prone to ponding water.

Facilities maintenance issues can have a major impact on productivity in industrial and commercial environments with something as small as a leaking roof causing significant disruption and downtime. Years of experience suggest that 90 percent of the problems we are presented with today will arise from a mere 10 percent of the roof’s total area. But are some roof types and roof areas more susceptible to damage than others? Moreover, how do these roofing problems arise and how can they be categorized?

Flat Roofs

Flat roofs are commonly chosen for industrial and commercial buildings, covering the vast majority of offices, factories and warehouses around the globe. However, despite their popularity, my firm’s experience indicates that the bulk of roofing applications owe to the failings of flat roofs. This begs the question; do the benefits of flat roofs outweigh the disadvantages?

Currently, the flat roofing market is in a particularly healthy state. It is easy to see why because flat roofs do in fact offer a great deal of advantages. Notably, they are a low-cost option for many projects, being easier and more economical to install, inspect and maintain. Therefore, they prove highly popular with many commercial facilities and industrial buildings.

However, flat roofs are historically problematic, suffering from an array of issues commonly arising from standing water and traditional roofing materials. Pooling of water on roofs can be attributed to inadequate roofing materials or, strangely, a roof being “too flat”. Flat roofs should actually feature a small gradient to allow sufficient rainwater run-off; otherwise, the weight of water pooling can lead to deflection and numerous subsequent issues.

Roof flashings can prove problematic due to dissimilar materials.

Roof flashings can prove problematic due to dissimilar materials.

Of course, other roof variations, such as pitched or slanted roofs, will offer their own range of complications; however, complications with pooling water are not among these. This distinct disadvantage is one of several that can lead to serious problems within that troublesome 10 percent. The most common problems can be split into three separate categories.

Dissimilar Materials
Most roofs form a veritable patchwork of materials, including anything from glass and plastics to masonry and metals. Industrial roofs can be particularly troublesome as they boast a multitude of pipes, heating units and other protrusions that make the roof geometry complex to cover effectively. Whatever the combination of roofing materials is, ensuring long-term adhesion and sealing between all these dissimilar materials is crucial—and can prove problematic.

Flashings fall into this category and are a common fixture of flat and pitched roofs, where metal, brick and felt or bitumen can often all meet. Exposed to varying temperatures and weather conditions, these materials can act differently, altering shape and size dependent upon that material’s characteristics. This can result in roofing weakness due to different expansion and contraction rates of the materials, allowing for water ingress through developing gaps. Moreover, this category includes areas where two metals may meet. Dissimilar metals exposed to continuous weathering can potentially lead to galvanic corrosion, which deteriorates the roof’s protection, loosening the materials and once again leading to issues like leaking.

Joints and Seams
Joints and seams spell considerable trouble for many roofs, predominantly due to the effects of movement. All buildings will feature a degree of movement as a result of thermal expansion, contraction and wind, making joints and seams one of the most vulnerable areas. Resulting gaps or lips can be created, increased further by wind uplift, which may allow water ingress or exposure of unprotected materials to corrosion and weathering.

Seams around skylights and roof protrusions can cause roof vulnerabilities.

Seams around skylights and roof protrusions can cause roof vulnerabilities.

Found whenever two materials meet, joints and seams are a common sight on industrial roofs and one that occurs frequently on roofs covered using traditional materials. For instance, felt or bitumen surfaces are layered in strips and require heat to fuse them together and create one barrier of protection. However, continuous exposure to the elements can lead to delamination of the roofing material, creating areas of vulnerability, such as lips.

Similarly, parapet walls can also become vulnerable at the joints, normally caused by movement between the brickwork. This can develop through movement in the building or perhaps vegetation forcing through the joint, widening any gaps further and causing moisture ingress. Furthermore, this problem is shared by the seams around skylights and glazing bars, which degrade over time due to the dissimilar materials present and associated movement.

Unlike other problem areas in this category, cut-edge corrosion does not stem from two materials meeting. In fact, it falls into this category as it is an uncoated seam of metal that, left exposed, will corrode and result in the damage spreading as the metal is slowly eaten away. Corrugated metal roofs are susceptible as they are cut and the edges never receive protection, meaning when cut-edge corrosion begins, it is important to treat it as soon as possible. In certain instances, roof sheets need to be removed and replaced, which is extremely expensive.

Metals seams are often neglected and can develop cut-edge corrosion

Metals seams are often neglected and can develop cut-edge corrosion.

Other Forms of Damage
Lastly, roofs are susceptible to various forms of damage in the immediate and long term. Long-term damage will generally arise if roofing is left unmaintained, to suffer from aging and neglect. A key example of this type of damage involves single-ply roof coverings. Over time, rubber roofing materials are subjected to the environment and constant UV exposure. Once again, over this period the material expands and contracts, becoming brittle and losing its former flexibility, making it prone to cracking.

In addition to weathering, wildlife can have a detrimental effect on roofing materials, as bird litter can chemically attack the plastic coating on some roofing systems. High levels can cause damage and subsequent deterioration of the lining, which can potentially lead to leaks or exposure of metal to corrosion.

With regard to immediate damage, working on roofs is also a common way in which damage can occur. As highlighted before, one of the key selling points of flat roofs is the ability to carry out maintenance and inspection easily. Whether it derives from maintenance or rooftop developments, such as HVAC installation, extensions or rooftop fire escapes, the foot traffic over flat roofs can lead to immediate damage of the roofing substrate, through piercing and general wear.

Over time, rubber roofing materials can become brittle and crack

Over time, rubber roofing materials can become brittle and crack.

Eliminating the Troublesome 10 Percent

For the majority of these problems, it is possible to find a repair solution. However, when left without treatment, the roof can become too damaged to refurbish, leaving costly replacement as the only option. Repair methods have evolved significantly over the years and eliminating the troublesome 10 percent is becoming far easier to do since the advent of liquid and cold-applied technologies. Not only does this signify a breaking of tradition, but crucially highlights the evolution of roofing maintenance materials.

PHOTOS: Belzona

NRCA Roofing Contractor Members Receive Free Consulting Services

The National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) announces it is now providing consulting services at no charge to its roofing contractor members.

NRCA’s Consulting Services is a benefit of membership that enables contractors to get tips and advice on current business issues, discuss business strategies or issues with consultants in the following areas.

•Legal— Roofing contractor members can obtain information about general legal issues encountered in daily business.

•Marketing— Assistance with current marketing plans is provided, as well as strategies for increasing homeowner and business owner sales and profitability.

•Information Technology— IT strategies for improving and streamlining operations for maximum business performance.

•Human Resources— Solutions to human resources related issues including federal or state employment law, employee relations and human resource management.

•Enterprise Risk Management— Advice about health, safety, insurance, legislative and regulatory issues, or learn more about loss control and regulatory compliance responsibilities.

•Technical— Solutions to technical questions including proper installation, maintenance or repair of various roof systems, or advice on a specific project.

Share This List with Customers to Help Them Prepare Their Roofs for Winter

We at Greenawalt Roofing Co. understand how busy the winter months can be. We also know that with a backload of work from the fall combined with cold or extreme weather conditions and shorter days, even the simplest jobs can take twice as long. Unfortunately, customers do not always know this and expect their issue to be fixed as soon as possible.

Greenawalt Roofing Co., Landisville, Pa., recommends installing Air Vent Inc.’s ShingleVent II, which, when combined with intake vents, provides an efficient and effective ventilation system to avoid ice dams.

Greenawalt Roofing Co., recommends installing Air Vent Inc.’s ShingleVent II, which, when combined with intake vents, provides an efficient and effective ventilation system to avoid ice dams. PHOTO: AIR VENT INC.

Help your customers by educating them about how to prevent and recognize potential problems before cold weather arrives. You can communicate with them directly, mail them a flyer or make a personal connection by email. Let them know how they can do a simple and safe roof inspection, or schedule an appointment for your team to do a professional and more thorough one. Finding trouble areas before they turn into full-fledged problems will not only save your customers money in the long run, which they will appreciate, but it can also help them avoid an emergency during the winter months.

Here are a few things you can tell your customers to do to be proactive for the upcoming winter months:

1. Do a quick inspection of the overall roof condition. Depending on the pitch of your roof, you may be able to see these things from the ground or by using binoculars. If you find some issues or cannot safely view the majority of your roof, we recommend you call us or a licensed roofing company for a thorough inspection to see what can be done before the harsh winter arrives.

Look for any damage that may have been done since the last time you took a look, and keep an eye out for some of the following warning signs:

  • Damaged shingles
  • Missing shingles
  • Loss of granulation
  • Decayed shingles
  • Wind damage
  • Broken or cracked shingles

2. Check wall or step flashing. Flashing are the metal coverings over the joints or seams where your roof intersects with other exterior home systems. Flashing prevents water from reaching the underlayment and from penetrating the exterior envelope and affecting your home’s ceilings and walls. If your flashing is unsealed, degraded, missing or damaged, then water will find a way underneath the metal strips. Although generally not a catastrophic system failure, it often shows up only after it is too late to prevent, so it is important to make sure these are intact for the winter.

3. Take a look at your skylights. This is another place where you should make sure the flashing is intact. Piled up snow and icy rains can put a lot of pressure on skylights and the flashing around their seals.

4. Review your chimney and other vent-pipe flashing. These can also become quick channels for water to enter the home. Accumulated snow slows water drainage off the roof, providing extra time for water to enter the home through even the smallest hole or crack, so it is important that these flashing are intact prior to the start of winter.

5. Inspect your attic. Your attic is a safe way to look for roofing issues, assuming there is a safe and easily accessible entrance into your attic space. Be sure to look for any water damage, dark spots, sagging wood and even daylight coming through the roof decking.

6. Clean your gutters! Gutters clear of debris do a great job of diverting water away from your house and protecting your home and foundation from the effects of water pooling. Although it is important year round to keep your gutters cleaned, it is especially important during the winter months. Because autumn has just ended, you probably have more leaves in the gutters than any other time of the year.

Try to keep your gutters clean throughout the winter, as well. They can easily become clogged. If your gutters are clogged, water (melted snow) begins to freeze and expand, which can cause severe damage to the fascia, causing the entire system to fail. The water also could start to freeze underneath the shingles, creating an ice dam.

7. Watch for ice dams. Winter’s most common roofing issues are ice dams. Ice dams form when snow sits on the roof and goes through a melt and freeze sequence. As the snow melts and flows down the roof and reaches the freezing surface below, it refreezes, causing the ice dam to form, which can damage shingles and underlayment. Seeking a release, the water backed up behind the ice dam seeps into cracks in the home’s exterior, leading to structural damage and mold growth.

Unfortunately, ice dams are a result of several factors and often require a licensed professional to remedy the problem. Inadequate insulation, poor ventilation and a combination of cold temperatures and sunny days lead to ice dams. You can prevent ice dams by ensuring your roof is adequately ventilated.

Helping your regular customers understand the steps they can take to avoid winter emergencies will give them peace of mind going into the colder months and, hopefully, allow you to focus on cold-weather emergencies. Plus, you may find them even more willing to send work your way when things calm down because of the trust you have built with them.

Scissor Lift Skid Steer Attachment Allows Workers to Reach Heights up to 27 Feet

Skid-Lift announced the production of its scissor lift skid steer attachment for construction, maintenance and agricultural industries.

Skid-Lift announced the production of its scissor lift skid steer attachment for construction, maintenance and agricultural industries.

Skid-Lift announced the production of its scissor lift skid steer attachment for construction, maintenance and agricultural industries. The Skid-Lift is a powerful but easy-to-operate attachment that allows work crews to reach up to 27 feet in the air, with 4-degree tilt and a stable working platform in the air. The company has teamed up with Norwood Sales of Horace, N.D. to handle distribution of its product which is available for sale now.

Skid-Lift works as an attachment for skid steers as well as tractors. The base legs of the Skid-Lift attachment are adjustable and allow professionals to work on all surfaces, including rough or uneven terrain.

Skid-Lift attachment features:

  • Two models: Tilting and non-tilting
  • Hydraulic controls at the base and basket
  • Manual extension platform on tilting model
  • Overriding ground controls
  • Hydraulic safety bypass at the base and basket
  • Standard fork lift pockets
  • Tilt deck ± 4 degrees on tilting model
  • Weight: 1700 to 2100 pounds
  • Works on any of type of surface
  • Optional side quick attach
  • Works with all skid steers with auxiliary hydraulics

Built-in Gutters Should Be Carefully Inspected, Restored and Maintained

Sheet-metal gutter linings, whether made of copper, lead or both, are relatively involved and require the services of a highly skilled artisan craftsman.

Sheet-metal gutter linings, whether made of copper, lead or both, are relatively involved and require the services of a highly skilled artisan craftsman.

Built-in gutters may be the most complicated system in the building envelope, yet they are also the most elusive when you start searching for information about them. Sometimes called Yankee gutters, box gutters or even Philadelphia gutters, it’s no wonder they remain a mystery to many. Built-in gutter systems are actually built into the cornice structure and drain through internal or external leaders. They are not readily visible from the ground, further lending to the mystery of their design and function. Because they are integrated into the structure, built-in gutter linings that fail will cause extensive damage to the cornice and sometimes also the interior of the structure.

In “Traditional Rainwater Conductor Systems of the 18th and 19th Centuries,” Karen Dodge of the U.S. National Park Service, Washington, D.C., states built-in gutters were first adopted in North America during the 18th century in high-style Georgian and Federal-style buildings, usually institutional or commercial, where refined architectural qualities were desired. Although built-in gutters are highly functional, they also serve an aesthetic purpose. As structures were erected in the classical order with elaborate cornices and entablature, it became necessary to collect and channel rainwater without detracting from the architectural character of the building. Built-in gutters served this function well, hidden from sight and shedding water to the exterior.

Built-in gutters, today, are typically constructed in the same manner as they have been since the 18th century. They are wooden boxes with bottoms sloped toward the outlets where water is drained to leaders, or conductor pipes, that channel the water away from the building. The first gutters in this style were actually troughs or box gutters, carved out of wood and rubbed with linseed oil or painted to protect the wood. Corners and seams were bonded with lead wedges. Needless to say, maintenance was critical to their success or failure. Later, the advent of sheet lead allowed for broader gutters, as linings covered the wooden troughs. By the end of the century, copper became available in the U.S. and a popular choice for gutter linings because of its durability and the functional nature of the material in a sheet-metal application.

INSPECTION AND MAINTENANCE

The most common sign of water penetration is peeling paint and decay in the wood soffit under the gutter. Other signs are dark stains and mildew or deterioration of masonry. Water infiltration may be visible in attic spaces or areas beneath the gutters where plaster and other interior finishes evidence water damage. The sooner a leak or area vulnerable to failure is addressed, the smaller the scope and cost of repairs. Cleaning out leaves and debris from gutters as often as necessary is essential for durability and proper performance.

Careful inspection by a competent roofer is critical to the longevity and success of the system. He or she will look for defects, such as localized damage caused by fallen limbs or other debris, cracks from expansion and contraction at joints or folds, or pinholes from corrosion. Roofing tar and other bituminous compounds should never be used to patch, repair or coat gutter linings. It makes the condition of the gutter indeterminable, corrodes metal linings, will crack and fail quickly, and cannot be removed without destroying the lining. Ice damming is not uncommon in the winter but should not be removed with sharp tools for obvious reasons.

When tin or terne-coated steel gutter linings fail, water intrusion will occur and cause wood rot. Eventually, architectural details will be lost and replacement will be necessary.

When tin or terne-coated steel gutter linings fail, water intrusion will occur and cause wood rot. Eventually, architectural details will be lost and replacement will be necessary.

RESTORATION

Restoration of long-neglected built-in gutter systems that leak and have caused decay in the cornice and roof structure is often complicated and can be costly. But once the work is completed, a regularly maintained, well-detailed system can last 60 to 100 years or more, depending on the life of the metal lining. A preservation architect or consultant should inspect the building, propose treatment options, develop working drawings and specifications, and supervise bidding and construction. Temporary protection and permanent repairs should be performed by a roofer experienced in this specialty on historic buildings.

“We encourage restoration of historic built-in gutter systems,” says Michael Devonshire, a building conservator and principal at Jan Hird Pokorny Associates, New York. “The use of modern building materials as an adjunct to traditional materials boosts longevity.” Devonshire states the typical steps involved with a built-in gutter restoration involve:

  • Removing the gutter lining and 2 feet of the roof covering above the curbing of the gutter.
  • Repairs to rotted or otherwise deteriorated frame work. Where rafter ends or lookouts are rotted, install sisters (new rafter ends adjacent to old ones) or scarf in new wood and sisters.
  • Replacing the old wooden gutter bottom with a sustainable wood material, such as cedar or kilndried- after-treatment (KDAT) plywood. KDAT is treated for resistance to decay, minimal expansion and contraction, and increased longevity.
  • Installing the gutter lining: an elastomeric ice-and-water shield on the bottom (not always required); building felt; a slip-sheet of rosin paper; and copper on top (16 or 20 ounce, depending on the dimensions of the gutter).
  • Installing the roof covering on the roof deck above the gutter. This includes 2 feet of elastomeric ice-and-water shield (or copper flashing) beneath.
  • Repairing or replacing cornice mouldings, brackets and other architectural woodwork.

PHOTOS: WARD HAMILTON

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Brochure Offers Advice about Caring for Metal Roofs’ Factory Finish

Drexel Metals has published the “Care and Maintenance Guidelines” brochure to offer advice about maintaining the long-term aesthetic and protecting properties of a metal roof’s factory finish. Although metal roof systems are manufactured to be practically maintenance-free, some endusers will feel the need to clean their metal roofing panels. “Care and Maintenance Guidelines” covers recommended products and step-by-step instructions for best cleaning practices, including the care for Galvalume roofing in salt environments, as well as how to handle scratches to the finish. The brochure can be obtained from a Drexel Metals representative or by visiting the company’s website.

Protect Roofs with an Easy-to-install Pathway

FlashCo’s Tuff Trac Walkway

FlashCo’s Tuff Trac Walkway

Building owners face the problem of expensive single-ply roofing membrane being prematurely damaged from dropped tools and heavy foot traffic around rooftop equipment. FlashCo’s Tuff Trac Walkway adds an extra layer of protection against foot traffic while increasing slip resistance for workers. The Tuff Trac Walkway is available in TPO and PVC in white, gray and tan with multiple traction designs, and with or without yellow borders. Installed in three simple steps, standard roll sizes are 0.156 inch by 30 inches by 50 feet.

The Great Melt of 2014 Means Buildings Are in Need of Repairs

Thank goodness it’s spring! The entire country battled a tough winter, so I’m sure you’re all breathing the same sigh of relief I am. Although the end of winter was a great thing, here in Chicago it caused what I like to call the “Great Melt of 2014”. For me, the snow, ice and extreme cold were bad; the resulting Great Melt of 2014 was much worse.

A little background: In 2007, I bought a second-floor two-bedroom condo on Chicago’s northwest side. The three-floor, 15-unit building had recently been gut rehabbed and I was among the first owners. For seven years, my neighbors and I have dealt with numerous construction defects; the board even passed a special assessment soon after we all moved in to deal with masonry issues. I still believe the developer is laughing on a beach somewhere with my money and I’d love to sue my inspector, but those are stories for another day.

When the Great Melt of 2014 began, as you can imagine, new problem areas arose. I couldn’t catch all the water pouring into my unit—through the back door’s frame, around a ceiling HVAC vent, through the HVAC ductwork in the utility closet and even through the microwave. Yes, you read that right. Through the microwave. The management company brought a contractor out who claimed water pouring through a duct is just condensation. Really? Even if it was condensation—which I vehemently disagreed with—who considers it OK for water to pour into their home?

After some aggressive emails and phone calls from yours truly, the management company sent another contractor to the building who diagnosed problems with the masonry (again), inappropriate mortar used on the steps leading out of our back doors onto the typical Chicago-style wraparound porch, poor incorporation of our outside-facing doors with the masonry, bad caulking around my exhaust vent (the kitchen exhaust fan is integrated with my microwave above the stove), gutter and downspout problems, and ice dams.

The point of writing about my experience—other than the therapeutic process of writing about nerve-racking problems—is condo boards and management companies could use construction partners who provide regular maintenance, make them aware of issues spotted during maintenance visits and ultimately minimize unit owners’ stress. In “Business Sense”, page 23, Scott Otey, vice president and managing partner of West Coast Florida Enterprises Inc., Naples and Fort Myers, writes about how his business has partnered with condo associations and management companies and has even joined the Falls Church, Va.-based Community Associations Institute.

The partnership not only helps the condo residents, but also keeps Otey’s team busy. I’m sure you’ll glean some ideas from him about how to network with these groups and make yourself invaluable to them.

Despite the ongoing issues with my building, I have many friends who live in multifamily buildings in Chicago that also experienced leaks during the Great Melt of 2014. Feel free to use our experiences to prove how indispensable partnerships between contractors and condo associations/management companies can be.

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