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Because the life of a roof is intrinsically connected to its design, gaining a greater understanding about good roofing system design and materials selection is an important precursor toward achieving a long service life. Features that are among the most important design attributes include having good water management details, drainage slope, and optimal resistance to weathering characteristics like wind uplift, ultraviolet light (UV), and heat aging. Depending on building location and climate zone, other climatic considerations include resistance to freeze-thaw conditions and hail impact.
An equal attribute to having good roof system design is proper installation. Installing functional and durable flashing details for the perimeter edge conditions and equipment penetrations is critical to successful performance. The type of roofing material and system selected and installed will influence the type of repair and maintenance activities that need to be performed. There are time tested and proven materials available for consideration, and new roofing materials and products that are constantly marketed as being the best option or choice, but these new materials may not have been tested or proven to perform over the long term. Professional guidance can help you navigate these considerations and choices.
But also, maintenance and management
Making informed decisions about maintenance can be difficult and time consuming. Educating oneself about roofing system fundamentals and products, and placing the roofing system high on the building operations priority list, are keys to achieving the objective of a long service life. Likewise, building owners should recognize that hiring a professional to assist with roofing system condition assessment and helping them to make technical selections will be beneficial, saving a great deal of time and effort in evaluating the issues and making well-informed maintenance decisions.
A good roof management plan aimed at achieving a long service life requires attention and a commitment to long-term continuity year after year. Building owners and facility managers should not be operating a “hit or miss” program that addresses roofs only when they leak. A well-run roof management program can increase the life not only to the warranted or benchmark life of 15 to 20 years, but often significantly longer.
Rich Koziol (email@example.com) is a principal-level architect who joined Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates in 1983 and has completed numerous investigations involving evaluation of water infiltration problems in new and existing building envelopes. Edis Oliver (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a principal-level engineer who joined the firm in 2006 and has more than 40 years of experience in the construction and engineering field.
Design, Installation, Maintenance, Management: Keys To Long Roof Life