Weather-Related Low-Slope Roof Damage: Prevention, Maintenance and Repair

Posted by Heather Johnson in Common Roof Problems,Winter Roofing Tips

18 January, 2012

Hailstorms top the list of potentially destructive weather events that can result in low-slope roof damage. Once compromised, heavy snow loads, rain and freezing temperatures can further impair the roof’s surface. Professional assessment and prompt attention is the key to protecting the roof. In the event of irreparable damage, it’s imperative to replace the roof before the underlying structure suffers.

Assessing Hail Damage

Powerful hailstorms can compromise the integrity of the roof without leaving visible punctures in the surface of the roofing. Hairline cracks and fractures may go unnoticed by the untrained eye of an insurance adjuster, but they will substantially shorten the life of the roof. Impact damage from hail that results in membrane depressions also increases the likelihood of future cracks. This type of damage is unlikely to result in a settlement from the insurance company that may view the damage as “cosmetic.”
Only a trained roofing inspector can reliably assess the level of damage to the roof and determine what type of maintenance or repairs are in order. The sooner a qualified inspector examines the roof, the sooner you can take the necessary steps to ensure roof soundness.

Destructive Freeze and Thaw Cycles

A high quality roof in good condition withstands normal temperature fluctuations, but extreme heat and cold, especially in combination with moisture, can wreak havoc on a roof that’s been previously compromised by hail damage. During periods of freezing rain or snow, moisture can seep into minuscule surface cracks and when the moisture freezes, it expands, enlarging the crack. Subsequent thawing and freezing cycles will continue the destructive process unless repairs are made to the roof’s surface to seal the cracks.

Ongoing Roof Observation

Periodic roof inspections are important for monitoring the condition of the roof; even if there have been no recent storms. The identification of potential issues before they can develop into serious problems saves money and prolongs roof life.

Repair or Replace?

Addressing storm damage immediately will save money over the long haul. The extent of the damage will determine the whether the roof is repairable or whether a new roof is necessary. The application of quality roof coatings can extend the life of the roof by sealing cracks and reflecting heat away from the surface. Coating solutions provide a tough but flexible seal that protects against weathering and moisture, until you’re ready to replace the roof.
For greater protection, the installation of single-ply, thermoplastic roof membranes, such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC), thermoplastic polyolefin (TPO) or Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer (EPDM) offer a durable, puncture-resistant and long-lasting solution that can often be retrofitted over existing roof structures, including metal roofs.

The best practice is to install the highest quality roof you can afford and to protect it judiciously through regularly scheduled inspections and repairs.

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