By Tom Hanzely and Robert Anderson
The lifespan of commercial roofing systems varies depending on geography, climate, roof type, and other factors, but at some point, every roofing system needs to be reevaluated. Renovations not only ensure safety for building occupants, but also verify the system will keep energy costs to a minimum and prevent problems from occurring later on. Facility managers can work with their roofing contractors to determine the best course of action for a roofing system, but it’s important the facility professional be as informed as possible when making decisions about his or her building.
Here are some do’s and don’ts to keep in mind before undergoing your next roofing renovation:
DO determine the current state of your roof. It’s important to figure out whether your roof needs an overlay or a complete tear-off and roof replacement. During a roof recover, a new membrane or roofing system is installed over the current roof, while a tear-off completely removes the roof down to an exposed deck. Part of making this decision means inspecting the roof for damage. What you’re looking for will depend on the type of roof. For instance, sloped roofs should be examined for any warping or bending, as this is a sign the roof may be nearing the end of its lifecycle.
If conducting a roof recover, the existing roof needs to be able to support the weight of the new roof being placed over top of it. With minimal damage from elements like moisture, placing an overlayment on top of the old roof can help keep costs down and is a quick, effective way to re-roof.
DON’T forget to inspect materials. What type of existing surfaces are on the roof? Are they in good condition? Conduct a visual inspection of the roof to determine the state of materials. For example, is the roof coating cracked? Is the rubber membrane torn? Are there visible leaks? Drainage systems should also be inspected in order to prevent any future water damage from occurring. If the current roof is equipped with polyiso insulation, it may be able to be reused and recycled. However, this will depend on whether you’re doing a complete roof replacement or simply re-covering. A tear-off will typically require more inches of insulation than a roof overlay.
DO think long term. What is this roof being used for over the next 10 to 20 years? Will it endure heavy foot traffic? Will it face strong UV rays and high temperatures? Determining how the roof will be used will help you figure out what materials to use during the renovation to ensure an extended roof life. For instance, in some climate zones, white, reflective membranes can help ward off UV rays and keep the roof cool, helping to reduce cooling costs over time, while a vegetated roof can provide ample green space for building occupants. Vegetated roofs also offer benefits spanning from stormwater management to energy savings. However, you want the underlying roof system to be repaired, if needed, before a vegetated roof is installed over top.
DON’T overlook alternative materials. While a roof recover can be a good substitute to a replacement, there are other options to consider as well. For instance, talk with your roofing contractor about liquid-applied roof coatings to see if that may be a viable choice for your commercial building. Liquid-applied coatings are installed over your commercial roof, and in some cases, can extend an existing roof’s service life, provide energy savings, and even deliver cost savings over the long term. Keep in mind, however, the existing roof has to be in somewhat good condition before a coating is applied. Roof coatings should be used as a preventive measure to protect the roof rather than repair damage that has already been done.
DO stay up to date on building codes and standards. As a facility manager, you’re well aware of the importance of adhering to building codes and standards. Roofing codes and standards are always evolving, which means it’s critical to be in the know about when things change, and how those adjustments will impact your roofing system. Familiarize yourself with the building codes in your area, and make an effort to stay in touch with trade associations so you’re aware of any changes that will impact your building. It’s also a good idea to study basic code requirements that may apply to any commercial building.
DON’T wait for a problem to occur before renovating. Rather than waiting for a problem to arise, schedule regular roof inspections at least twice a year. This way, you’ll be able to start renovations on the roof before major problems, like roof leaks, start to occur. Even if there aren’t any visible problems with your commercial roof, it doesn’t mean a renovation or complete replacement should be put off.
While roofing renovations will vary greatly depending on the type of roofing system in place and other external factors like climate and geography, renovations are crucial for maintaining roof life, ensuring high performance and promoting a safe environment for building occupants. Establish a good working relationship with your roofing contractor to determine which approach is the best option for your building.
Hanzely is a national sales manager for Firestone Building Products SkyScape™ Vegetative Roof System. He has 17 years of experience designing and installing vegetative roof systems throughout North America and is an accredited Green Roof Professional and a LEED professional. Hanzely holds a bachelor’s degree from Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, and a master’s degree from Lake Forest Graduate School of Management, Schaumburg, IL.
Anderson is building envelope solutions manager for the North Central Region at Firestone Building Products. He previously held the position of regional business manager for the specialty products division at Firestone, responsible for geomembrane and water management products. Before that, when Firestone entered the architectural metal market in 2005, Anderson became the company’s first metal product manager in April 2006. He is a member of the Construction Specifications Institute and the Building Enclosure Council.