Maintenance and your Flat Roof
Flat roofs are a big deal for commercial and industrial buildings in Northern Illinois, as they offer the biggest bang-for-the-buck in terms of area coverage and cost. They can be tailored to each individual roof and can even have regular foot traffic on them. It is precisely these qualities that can make it easy to forget that they need maintenance on a regular basis. The good news is that maintenance for these roofs is relatively easy and if done on a routine basis can extend the life of your Fox Valley area roof.
What to look for…
If you want to give your Batavia flat roof a once over, here are some things to look for.
Loss of granules: Granular loss is common for torch-on roofs (i.e FireStone APP 180), and will happen no matter what over time due to weather and age. The signs to be concerned about are extreme granular loss – such as bare spots and cracks – that can cause the underlying structure to be exposed to the elements. The granules provide an UltraViolet barrier for the membrane underneath, so once they start to go, it can lead to accelerated damage material deterioration in that area.
Cracks and Tears: Many flat roof membranes are meant to stretch and contract with the weather, but can only do so for so long before they start to develop cracks on their surface. Once a crack is formed, water can sit there and when freezing comes with the change in the seasons the resulting expansion can break, rip, or tear deeper into the membrane leaving the roof vulnerable to leaks and membrane failure.
Skylight Condition: Many flat roofs have skylights installed to allow for additional lighting, and to cut down on energy costs. Skylights themselves are durable but not impervious. When checking skylights look at the actual cover, and near the corners where cracks can form due to stress vibrations. The flashing and caulking seal around the glass/plastic cover can deteriorate with time and can show cracks and breaks in the material. This weakens and can break the seal completely allowing water to trickle in and around the skylight.
Drains: Flat roofs have little to no pitch meaning water has to drain off the roof another way. Drains installed thru-out the surface allow the water to be channeled off the roof allowing for proper drainage. The issue that comes from having a flat roof drain is that there is no way to prevent clogs. As debris naturally builds up over time the water has a harder and harder time funneling in and escaping. If left neglected the drains will lead to standing water, which can lead to a multitude of problems to include granular loss, seam deterioration, accelerated aging of roof membrane, and more… all of which can ultimately lead to leaks in your building.
HVAC Units: These units are staples in commercial and industrial buildings in the Aurora area, providing appropriate temperatures on demand. The foundations of these units are usually set on the roof and are tied in with the surrounding membrane. The vibrations that come from this machine can be continuous to sporadic, and it’s these vibrations that can make the membrane around the unit break. It’s always a good idea to have the corners checked, and coated/patched if needed to maintain the integrity of the roof. Also make sure that proper maintenance is done on the units themselves including completely replacing access panels after a service visit.
Maintenance in general is often seen as an expensive, unnecessary budget item, but it is far from it. Whether it is general cleaning of the roof by your own staff, or actual touch up of the roof details by a professional, a small investment every year is much less costly than replacing the entire roof. You’re trying to prolong the life of your roof and keep it from failing prematurely.
Word of Warning
Flat roofs are seen as safe to the naked eye, but if you are going to check it yourself we advise you keep an eye out. Some roofs (such as EPDM) can have breaks caused by underlying material poking through, others can have “soft spots” or areas of excessive damage that should only be walked on by a professional. Also keep in mind that it’s still a roof and be conscious of your location on it, we always recommend allowing a professional roofer or handy-man on the roof when looking for trouble spots or attempting to service an area. If you do decide to get on your roof, please do so with caution.