When it comes to low-slope roof systems, the old adage that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” truly applies. Some of the most common low-slope roof problems relate to improper installation or lack of maintenance. An older roof will naturally experience more problems than a new roof, but with regular inspections and ongoing repairs, you can greatly extend the life and service of your roof.
Inadequate flashing, open seams and adhesion failure all increase the risk of roof damage from high winds. When a forceful wind catches an open seam or loose flashing, it can cause billowing, tenting or even roof blow-off. The force of the wind can be so great that it can damage single-ply systems, even when the seams are fully intact. Once the membrane loosens from the substrate, it’s more likely to tear or puncture. While this is might be the result of an installation or maintenance issue, it can also result from the use of cold adhesives that don’t cure adequately before they are exposed to rain or high winds. Damage isn’t limited to single-ply systems; high winds can wreak havoc on other roof systems, including built-up roofs (BUR), modified bitumen (MB). An experienced contractor will engineer a system specific to the wind uplift in your area to minimize any issues in performance; a preventative maintenance program will ensure any damage is caught early enough as well.
Of all roof problems, leaks are among the most insidious and the least welcome. Once water enters the building, it can damage inventory and contents, resulting in a major expense to the owner. Roof leaks can result from installing laps against the natural flow of water, incorrect flashing and adhesion failure at the seams. If it’s a built-up roof, the leak may occur along the flashing details. The risk of leaks increases when the roof suffers physical damage or thermal shock. With single-ply roofs, correct lapping and good seam adhesion are essential for leak prevention. Regular inspections and maintenance are essential to reduce the risk of leaks. Many contractors band-aid leaks using mostly a caulking solution. It is critical to have an experienced contractor responding to any leak concerns and managing your preventative maintenance program to get to the root of any leaking issues and address them for the long-term.
For a quality roof, hire a knowledgeable installer. Because many common roof problems can be traced back to shoddy workmanship, you can minimize the risk of future roof problems by using an experienced roofing company. Before hiring a roofing contractor, ask for a list of recent clients and find out how long the contractor’s been in business. The best roofing companies train their workers in professional installation techniques that ensure a high quality roof. The NRCA is the industry leading association and resource you can use. Google the contractor online to see what positive and negative news may appear. Go to the top manufacturers’ websites and choose a contractor with the highest manufacturer quality status. Most important factors to consider are years in business, manufacturer quality status, safety rating and financial stability. If you take the time upfront to choose carefully, you will minimize the risks for leaks and other issues post-installation.
Regular inspections and roof maintenance are important steps in protecting the life and integrity of the roof system. A qualified roofing professional should inspect the roof at least twice a year and provide you with photo documented reporting of all roof areas. Specific levels of documented maintenance are required to prevent voiding a roofing warranty. Check your warranty to understand what those are and make sure to use an approved contractor to maintain your warranty. Choose a preventative maintenance program with a qualified contractor whose program includes a specific checklist of items performed every time, photo documentation, comprehensive conditions report and recommendations as needed.
Most punctures occur in high traffic areas, but you can reduce the risk by installing sacrificial membrane layers along specified paths and walkways. Once a new roof is in place, limit foot traffic to avoid unintentional punctures, and inspect the roof carefully after all major storms to identify problem areas and repair damage to the roof system. It is most beneficial to require all contractors who enter your roof area to log in so that you maintain a record of such activity in case of damage. With a quality preventative maintenance program, your contractor will help manage this for you and address any punctures immediately.
You’ve invested a lot in your roof; don’t settle for improper repairs that can make the problem worse. The use of the wrong products to seal or patch the roof can often do more harm than good. Construction adhesives, which are incompatible with specific types of roofs, can damage membranes and reduce the life of the roof system. Many contractors will use whatever products are available to them to make repairs as cheap as possible. Choose a contractor with experience and manufacturer approval so that they will always use like-membrane materials to make repairs. Only the highest quality contractors with the highest quality status with manufacturers work in this way.
Blisters and Ridges
Built-up roofs (BURs), due to their nature, have a greater tendency to develop blisters and ridges, especially when installed by inexperienced contractors. Small blisters might not require immediate attention, but larger blisters or ridges beneath lap areas require attention. Blistering can result if the substrate was wet during installation, or it could be due to improper membrane torching or the application of a cold-applied bitumen system. Unless the blisters break, they will not leak, but a roofing professional should inspect the roof and recommend a preventative course of action.
Infrequently, ballasted or mechanically attached single-ply systems are subject to normalization, or contraction. Tightening or induced loads can increase the risk of normalization, making it essential for building owners to have their roofs inspected regularly. Signs of normalization may first appear at the flashings. Failure to address the problem could result in deterioration or delamination along the membrane’s perimeter.
Contact North American Roofing for a reroofing, repair or preventative maintenance program today. As the third largest contractor in the country, we install and service all size roofs in every state and have local crews in all major markets.