Most school districts and universities agree that the health of a roof is an essential factor in maintaining the health of the entire facility. Keeping the roof in a good condition will prevent costly repairs not only to the roof, but also to the entire building.
Often when leaks are discovered, the building already has been significantly damaged. To prevent damage to the building envelope it is important to be aware of the warning signs and perform necessary roofing inspections.
Check it twice
Leaks typically are caused when water gets under or through two particular areas: the roofing material or the flashing and gaskets that protect valleys, edges and penetrations such as chimneys, vent pipes and skylights.
Experts recommend inspecting a facility's roofing at least twice a year — more frequently in problematic areas. Competition often is fierce for maintenance workers' time and funds. Depending upon the size of an institution and its staff, the frequency of inspections sometimes can fall short of meeting the recommended semiannual once-over. However, most try to maintain their roofs with available resources.
Birmingham (Ala.) City Schools, with about 100 buildings, has about 4 million square feet of roofs. Since 1981, Terry Hallmark, project manager of roofing, has been solely responsible for the care of all the district's roofs.
In 1982, Birmingham began replacing the building's roofs — typically one to eight per year. This year the 20-year warranties on many of the roofs will expire, but the district does not plan to replace these roofs immediately.
“Just because a roof is no longer under warranty, it doesn't mean it has to be replaced — it just means the manufacturers won't be covering the repair costs,” says Hallmark. According to some experts, a roof that is approaching 15 years of age is a candidate for re-roofing.
“In roofing, you do what you can to patch the roofs until you either have no other choice but to fix it or the money is there to just go ahead and replace it,” says Hallmark. “It is kind of like a home budget. You would like to buy that new car, but if you can't afford it, you keep repairing the one you have.”
To keep facilities up to par Hallmark inspects the district's roofs at least twice a year, more often on older roofs, and after storms. He knows which roofs are more troublesome than others and pays extra attention to those roofs in order to prevent damage to the building envelope.
Weather or not
Extreme weather can damage even roofs that have shown no signs of previous problems.
In March 2001, wind speeds during a storm reached as much as 100 miles an hour in Birmingham, causing three school roofs to blow off. The interiors were exposed to the rain and other elements. The roofs were on average about 14 years old, and Hallmark believes the damage would have occurred even if the roofs had been newer.
“Sometimes wind gusts can hit a roof just the right way and blow it off, no matter how good of shape it is in,” says Hallmark.
This spring, Westminster College, Fulton, Mo., also was hit by a storm that caused considerable damage. In Westminster's case it was not wind that was the culprit, but a hailstorm.
As a private liberal-arts college with a student population of about 700, the campus consists of about 30 buildings that are overseen by the plant operations department. Dan Haslag is director of the department and performs annual inspections of the campus' roofing systems.
“Coulter's [Coulter Science Center] roof was older and had to be replaced because of hail damage,” says Haslag. “HAC [Hunter Activity Center] was also hit and will be replaced in February; it is a newer building built in 1986.”
According to Haslag, Westminster has a deferred-maintenance allotment that covers large maintenance issues such as roofing. Following an annual inspection schedule, or a condition assessment, aids in determining what will need to be done.
“A condition assessment consists of absolute top-to-bottom inspection of the needs of the buildings,” says Haslag. “A lot of what needs to be done is deferred maintenance and will have to be built into the budget.”
Is it time yet?
Haslag says that if his workers notice a roof is leaking, and the leak appears to be isolated, they repair the area. However, if the problems appear to be widespread and significant, then the college will replace the roof.
“If we realize one of the building's roofs needs to be replaced, we go ahead and replace it,” says Haslag. “Once you have a leak, there is most likely significant damage to the insulation, and it has probably already begun to destroy important aspects of the building's interior.”
The Fayetteville (Ark.) Public School District shares the view of other institutions on roofing replacements. It has 1.3 million square feet of roofing covering 10 elementary schools, two middle schools, two junior high schools and two high schools.
According to Fred Turrentine, Fayetteville's director of physical plant services, each year the district replaces roofing in order to soften the blow of deferred-maintenance costs.
“Even though we are in a tight economy, we know that it is important to replace roofing when it needs to be done,” says Turrentine. “It will save the taxpayers and the district on energy costs if we prevent insulation, sheet metal rusting and other deterioration from occurring.”
As the only person responsible for roofing concerns in Fayetteville, Turrentine works on the premise that if there is an area of the roof that needs to be replaced, it is better to take action and replace that area before it becomes a serious issue.
Inspecting the 16 campus roofs twice a year, he checks for the warning signs the building envelope's health could be at risk.
“If we see a bubble or something else of concern, we contact a roofing firm to come in and provide a second opinion on the situation, and then determine how to repair it,” says Turrentine.
Hale, assistant editor, can be reached at [email protected]. Architect for George F. Johnson Elementary School is Bearsch Compeau Knudson Architects & Engineers PC. Architect for Louisburg Elementary School is Dove, Knight & Whitehurst, PA, Architects.
Project Manager of Roofing, Birmingham City Schools, Ala.
“Just because a roof is no longer under warranty, it doesn't mean it has to be replaced — it just means the manufacturers won't be covering the repair costs.”
Director of Physical Plant Services, Fayetteville, Ark., Public Schools
“Even though we are in a tight economy, we know that it is important to replace roofing when it needs to be done.”
Director, Plant Operations Department, Westminster College, Fulton, Mo.
“A condition assessment consists of absolute top-to-bottom inspection of the needs of the buildings. A lot of what needs to be done is deferred maintenance and will have to be built into the budget.”
Establishing a preventive-maintenance program
You can tell a lot about a roof's condition by just looking at it. Experts suggest developing a preventive maintenance program for your facility's roofs to keep your buildings safe and sound. Here are a few tips to help you prolong the life of your roof:
Record all conditions in writing and photograph the roof for future inspections as a basis of comparison with changing conditions.
Remove any debris or other materials that do not specifically belong on the roof.
Inspect adjacent walls and mechanical equipment that can affect the roof system's waterproof effectiveness.
Is water coming through the roof? Look for possible damage in the flashing. If you find tiny holes in the flashing, this could be a sign of trouble. Larger gaps require more work and need to be properly patched.
Examine roofs for growth of mold and mildew since this could lead to indoor air quality problems within the building.
As winter dumps more snow onto the roof, check to see if there are areas that seem to have bigger snow buildups than others and note the location on a diagram. When warmer weather arrives, check trouble spots for shingle damage and replace, if needed. Long-term solutions include fixing the ventilation in those spots as well, because it is probably bad airflow underneath the roof that has triggered these “ice dams.”
Source: Professional Roofing online and True Value Hardware.