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Roof Maintenance FAQ and Inspection Checklist

Roof Maintenance FAQ

Bernie Roma, EMC Senior Loss Control Representative, answers the questions he most frequently hears about roof maintenance. If you have a program, you may have already completed some of these tasks he suggests. If not, now is the time to spring into action on roof repair and maintenance.

Q: What are the major dangers commercial roofs face?

A: While most of us picture severe weather as the biggest risk to roofs—and it certainly is a danger—age is most often the biggest predictor of roof failure. While good maintenance can extend the life of your roof, you can’t avoid the inevitable aging process. Additionally, leaving problems like tears and holes unaddressed, allowing debris to build up and ignoring standing water can subtract life from your roof.

Q: How long should a roof typically last?

A: Life expectancy depends on several factors, including roof material, climate and weather, building type, and of course, your maintenance program. For specific details, consult your warranty, but outlined below are common roof types and their typical lifespans.

  • Metal roofs—

     these roofs have a 40-60-year lifespan
  • Built-up roofing membranes—

     these alternating layers of tar and gravel roofs last 20 years or more with proper maintenance
  • Green roofs—

     characterized by a tough waterproof membrane covered with green plants, these roofs can last 30-50 years
  • Spray-on roofing (SPF)—

     created with a liquid spray that expands into a foam and hardens into a solid layer, these roofs can last up to 50 years
  • Thermoset EPDM membrane—

     made of synthetic rubber, these roofs can last up to 40 years
  • Thermoplastic Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) roof membranes—

     these roofs can last more than 25 years
  • Thermoplastic Polyolefin (TPO) roof membranes—

     this relatively new roofing method is estimated to last 10-20 years

Q: How often should I inspect my roof and make repairs?

A: Inspections should occur at least twice a year. If you experience bad weather or have an older roof that needs more TLC, you may want to consider a more frequent inspection schedule. Keep in mind that some repairs require a minimum or maximum temperature for proper adherence of patching materials. In some cases, it is possible to perform cold-weather repairs but those are generally more costly.

Therefore, spring and fall are the best times to schedule routine inspections. Spring offers a sweet spot between the extremes of winter weather and the summer sun and heat degrading roof materials. Plus, the mild weather is a bonus to those conducting maintenance. On the other hand, fall allows you to catch and repair problems before heading into harsh winter weather.

Q: Should I repair or replace my roof?

A: Before determining if you need a new roof, you must take several factors into consideration, such as:

  • Warranty—

     if your warranty is still valid, the manufacturer will offer guidance
  • Age and condition of roof vs. life expectancy of materials—

     for example, if the life expectancy is 20-30 years and you’ve only had your roof for 10 years, it may be worth repairing while a 30-year-old roof may not be.
  • Extent of damage—

     if the membrane is in good shape, it may be worth repairing your roof, but if more than a quarter of the roof has damage or the insulation is wet and/or falling apart, it may be time to replace it
  • Frequency of repairs—

     a roof that has been repaired several times in the past few years may be better off being replaced rather than repaired again
  • Cost of repairs—

     think about the costs and whether there will be a warranty on the repairs; while a new roof with a warranty may be more expensive, repairs with no guarantee could end up costing you more in the long-run
  • Recovering or recoating—

     these options can extend the life of your roof material, but keep in mind that some roof membranes can only be recovered once

When in doubt, consult with reputable commercial roofing companies for advice.

Q: Who should provide inspection and maintenance services to my building’s roof?

A: It’s crucial that inspections and repairs are done correctly. Therefore, employees of your company should not be tasked with the inspection or maintenance of your roof, unless they are trained properly and qualified in all aspects of roof maintenance. Having the wrong people inspecting your roof could lead to injuries, and even death, as a result of a fall or other accident. OSHA provides extensive guidance on protecting workers on roofs, including guidelines on fall protection and debris removal, as well as ladder, scaffolding, electrical and tool safety.

Your best and safest option is to contract with a roof maintenance company to perform inspections and carry out maintenance as needed. This allows you to receive expert advice and professional repairs and installation. If you are not inspecting your roof regularly—and keeping records to prove inspections were completed and needed work was carried out—you could potentially be voiding your warranty.

Roof Inspection Checklist

To make sure all your bases are covered, you may want to create a roof inspection checklist. Items included in your checklist will depend on your roof’s features, but below is a sample checklist to help get you started.

Names of Inspectors __________

Date __________

Reason: Fall routine inspection, Spring routine inspection, Inspection after a storm, Other (list):

Item to CheckCondition (Good, Fair or Poor)Recommended RepairsDate of Repair
Interior Walls, Ceilings, Openings
Overall Condition
Leaks on walls/ceilings/around windows
Cracks on walls/ceilings
Peeling Paint
Door/window alignment
Exterior Walls
Discolored surface
Overall condition
Roof access
Amount of debris on roof
Overhanging branches, other nearby obstructions
Readily visible damage
Structural deformities (sagging, soft areas, etc.)
Flat/Membrane Roof
Overall condition
Granular loss
Sloped Roof
Overall condition
Shingles (buckling, curling, missing tabs, etc.)
Roof Features
Fascia and eaves
Flashing (damaged, loose, allowing water under, etc.)
Gutters, drains, downspouts
Skylights (leaking, damaged, etc.)
Vents (rusted, corroded or damaged, etc.)