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What does proper preventive maintenance on a roofing system entail?
There are several things that an owner can do to extend the service life of the roof. First, there is the education and enforcement of the rules with all the people accessing the roof, including HVAC repairmen, plumbing repairmen, and so forth. Everybody who goes up on the roof should know what cautions are required. For example, smoking and dropping cigarettes on a PVC roof will quickly melt a hole in it. In the next rain, you have a leak. One thing I've seen many times, particularly on something like a ballasted EPDM rubber roof, is around an HVAC unit a repairman will drop a panel screw. The screw goes down into the rock and is hidden, so they don't look for it. Invariably, it will end up point down into the roof and create a leak. That's one reason to have walk pads around a roof, and specifically around the units. When things are dropped, it will prevent immediate damage and will encourage people to see what they've dropped and pick it up, instead of just leaving it and stepping on it.
Planning. Have personnel and materials ready for emergency repairs. I know a lot of companies that have a bucket of roof cement ready to go in case they have a leak, but they have an EPDM rubber membrane roof. That roof cement will dissolve the rubber membrane. I've seen large sections of roof ruined that had to be later replaced because they used that as a temporary repair. You have to have the right materials and the right personnel available for emergencies, and that takes planning.
Having an eyes open approach. Every time somebody accesses the roof, they should be looking for debris around the drains. They should be looking for minor roofing problems that should be taken care of now rather than later when they will be more extensive. Employees need to be treated so they will take ownership when they go up on the roof, so they know there's going to be some kind of reward or pat on the back when they go up and they see that a drain needed cleaning out. They can come down having cleaned it and they need to be appreciated and encouraged to do it.
Have a relationship of trust with a knowledgeable and ethical roofing contractor. Once you have that relationship in place, you want consistent roofing laborers on the roof. Every time you have a leak you get the same guy back to fix it, as long as he's doing a good job. That way, you'll have somebody that knows the roof and also the professional training and knowledge to know what to do.
Answers provided by Ric Vitiello, President, Benchmark Services, Inc., a forensic roofing consulting firm
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