Students have returned to classrooms, summer is winding down, and soon the leaves will begin to fall. It’s time for school maintenance workers to begin their semi-annual inspection of roofs to check for wear and tear.
Some district personnel might say, “Semi-annual? We’re lucky if we get up there once a year.” But inspecting roofs twice a year—in the fall and in the spring, ideally—is considered a best practice for education institutions that want to prolong the life of their roofs and cut down on emergency repairs that unexpectedly drain tight maintenance budgets.
In Arizona, legislation signed into law in 2010 requires that school districts establish a roof inspection protocol to be used “prior to any repair or replacement of roof elements or roof-mounted equipment.” The law states that the inspections must be conducted by a registered structural engineer “or other professional with appropriate skills, training and certification.”
In addition, districts’ preventive maintenance guidelines should include provisions for visual inspections of roofing systems by district staff for signs of structural stress and weakness.
What to look for on a roof inspection? The Arizona School Facilities Board provides some guidance:
•Note areas where granules or gravel no longer cover the membrane, and make the needed repairs.
•Inspect for non-typical conditions of the roof membrane—cracks, splits, tears, large wrinkles, blisters or delamination.
•Inspect wind locks, shingles and tiles for watertight conditions. Repair or replace when required.
•Inspect for conditions that might inhibit drainage flow from the roof such as gutter, downspout, strainer or drain clogs. Make sure that splash blocks are placed in their intended location.
•Remove dirt buildup, leaves, debris and obstructions that may inhibit drainage.
•Verify that there is no continuous equipment discharge of any kind onto the roof membrane surface, such as from evaporative coolers.
•Inspect skylights for cracks, fractures or other leak-inducing conditions.
•Inspect parapet walls to verify that caulk joints are intact, that expansion joints are fully adhered to curbs and that there are no fractures where expansion joint materials intersect or overlap. Verify that a watertight bond is maintained at all caulked components.
•Inspect counterflashing and coping materials at parapets for secure attachment and watertight conditions.
•Inspect decks for heaving or insulation that is lifting from attachment.
•In snow load regions, check that shifting ice or snow loads have not damaged gutters or broken snow guards loose. Repair as necessary.
•Examine protective roof coatings to make sure they seal the product to which they were applied. Any corrosion of roof-related metals and oxidation of exposed asphalt should be corrected.
•Inspect seals around roof-mounted units to see if vibration has broken any watertight seals.
School maintenance staff should keep accurate records of inspections and roof conditions and be aware of what is covered by roof warranties.
Kennedy is staff writer for AS&U.