Building Operating Management

Evaluating Roof Damage After a Storm

OTHER PARTS OF THIS ARTICLEPt. 1: Roofing Maintenance and Inspection in Severe WeatherPt. 2: This Page

Of course, you can't do much to repair or maintain a roof while the storm is underway; a roof isn't a safe place to be, especially if you're not familiar with it, Hawn says. So, if you sense problems during a storm like ceiling tiles falling or sprinklers popping, indications that the roof may be caving in, you'll want to evacuate the building.

What about shoveling during a snow storm? Here, caution is in order, particularly once the snow has started to accumulate. In the process of moving it from one place to another, you'll be placing even more stress on certain areas of the roof, Hawn notes.

Once you've taken all the steps you can to ensure the roof will weather the storm, what happens when it's over? Of course, if there's been some damage to the structure, you first need to secure the area to limit the risk of injury to people who might otherwise enter the building, Hawn says.

Evaluate the Damage

As soon as it's safe to examine the roof, you'll want to do so, says Chip Ward, president of AP Ward Consulting. This should help you get to a local contractor first, if one is needed, before other facility managers do. "You have a better shot of being at the front of the line."

As you review any damage, establish priorities, Ward adds. Anything that's causing leaks is top priority and needs attention as soon as possible. On the other hand, small scrapes to the membrane that aren't causing leaks or other non-moisture problems typically can wait. You'll also want to check the roof drains and gutters to see if they became clogged.

Similarly, you'll need to see whether any metal flashings have come loose, creating a risk of water getting into the building, Purvis says. If the roof has multiple levels, pay particular attention to the intersections of the walls and roof levels to make sure nothing has been dislodged, he adds.

Also on the checklist: listening for a crunching sound as you walk the roof. That may indicate that the roof actually was lifted by the storm and is settling back into place as you walk over it, Purvis says. If that happens, check it further. Or you may see that the fasteners have backed up and penetrated the roof membrane, so that they may cause leaks when the next storm hits.

For instance, Ward says he recalls one client who was finding leaks after a tornado came through, but couldn't find the source. While walking across the roof, Ward says he noticed piles of gravel; typically, it would be evenly distributed. That was an indication that the fasteners had become loose and the tornado had lifted up the membrane, causing leaks in some spots.

Several areas warrant checking that might not be apparent at first glance, Hawn says. For instance, confirm that all penetrations and penetration flashings remain firmly attached to the roof. The same goes for any equipment screens, which should be "storm-worthy for the next event," he adds.

If the storm was severe and you want to determine whether the roof failed, allowing water into the substrate, you can complete a "non-destructive moisture survey," says Hawn. Water in the substrate can lead to mold and other problems. If that occurs, fix the leak and replace the damaged insulation as well.

Hail also can damage roofs in ways that aren't apparent, Ward says. For instance, it can weaken the felt so that it no longer resists water, even as it remains intact.

Two options for checking for the presence of moisture within the roof, where it can't be easily seen, are a nuclear moisture scan or an infrared examination, Hankins says.

Often, it makes sense to bring in a roofing consultant. He or she can properly assess the damage, and offer independent recommendations for repairing it. "If you notice anything suspicious, get an expert involved," says John Wells, registered roof observer (RRO) and president of Wells Klein Consulting Group. The consultant will be able to tell when forensic testing is in order to rule out any damage that isn't visible.

Finally, if the damage is extensive, you'll want to talk with your insurer to determine if it makes sense to replace the roof, Gernetzke says. This may be a reasonable course of action if you need to repair more than 25 or 30 percent of the roof area, or when the roof is older.

While roof maintenance often takes a back seat to other priorities on a facility manager's To-Do list, it is an important part of managing and looking after the asset, says Wells. An ongoing maintenance program can prevent more serious and costly problems down the road.

About RCI, Inc.

RCI, Inc. is an international association of more than 2,500 professionals who specialize in roofing, waterproofing and exterior wall specification. Its members reside primarily in the United States and Canada.

Formerly Roof Consultants Institute, the name was changed to more accurately reflect the breadth of expertise within RCI, and to recognize the interconnectedness of different building systems. RCI members can provide information on the design, repair, planning, and quality of the roofing, waterproofing and exterior wall systems. They also can prepare building documentation, conduct forensic inspections, monitor construction progress and serve as expert witnesses.

Because RCI members are not affiliated with any manufacturer or product, and because they pledge to adhere to a code of ethics, their recommendations are independent and unbiased.

Among other services, RCI presents educational programs, a monthly journal and an online newsletter focused on roofing and waterproofing. The organization offers several professional designations, including RRC (Registered Roof Consultant), RRO (Registered Roof Observer) and RWC (Registered Waterproofing Consultant). These designations distinguish professionals who meet or exceed the organization's proven standards of education, experience and ethics.

For more information, visit www.rci-online.org.

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  posted on 8/31/2010   Article Use Policy

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