How to Develop a Maintenance Program for Your Commercial Asphalt Roof

Maintenance and repair are important functions for many things in our daily lives. Anyone who drives a car understands the importance of changing the oil, refilling your wiper fluid and checking the tire pressure to assure a safe, reliable means of transportation. Your roof is much like your car; it needs regular maintenance to perform as specified and maximize useful life.  Multi-ply modified bitumen and built-up roof (BUR) systems provide superior protection, yet like all roof systems, they require preventative maintenance to achieve the best possible performance for your investment.  

Savvy commercial property owners realize that while the roof that protects building occupants and operations may be out of sight, it can never be out of mind. The proper inspection and maintenance of a commercial roofing system can mean the difference between years of trouble-free operation and a problematic and potentially damaging situation. Deferring proper maintenance and repair can result in disruptions in business, and roof repairs that go undone may risk employee safety.

A roof is expected to retain its water-resistant qualities under significant challenges. All the seasonal changes we enjoy can wreak havoc on an improperly maintained roofing system. This includes everything from wind-driven rain; to winter snow and the freeze-thaw cycles that accompany it; to months of searing heat. There is also the physical abuse common when servicing mechanical equipment that resides on the roof. The Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association (ARMA) recommends, as do most other professional roofing organizations, that roofs be inspected at least twice a year, once in the fall before winter hits and again in the spring. When coupled with a regular review of rooftop conditions, a typical maintenance program can identify damage before it becomes a leak and can save property owners time, hassle and money.

Typical Maintenance Programs

While maintenance programs can differ widely by geographic location and type of roofing system, the following common criteria can help you develop an effective maintenance plan and assure that your low-slope roofing system will provide years of reliable, lasting service:

·         Maintain records to be sure coverage is clearly defined. Make sure contact numbers are readily available to inform the contractor of record and, where required, the manufacturers. Keeping records of all personnel who have worked on the roof and rooftop equipment will make it easier to determine a responsible party should a problem arise.

·         Understand compatibility of repair materials.  Not all materials are suitable for use on all roofing types. Engaging professional roofing contractors to conduct inspections and perform regular maintenance can limit the risk of using improper materials. If the need for a repair is identified, consult your records and confirm that the repair materials to be used are compatible by calling the manufacturer and contractor.

·         Conduct routine roof inspections. In the Spring and Fall, check for leak sources such as:

o   Open seams at base flashings

o   Deteriorated sealant or mastics

o   Damaged pitch pans

o   Loose or missing fasteners

·         Remove debris that can cause latent damage, especially around drains and scuppers. Branches, stones, fasteners, bottles and other debris can lead to punctures in a roofing membrane and can block water from draining at roof drains.

·         Examine masonry and metal work for signs of deterioration and potential water infiltration.

·         Make sure rooftop equipment is maintained in proper working condition and, where necessary, ensure discharge is piped into roof drains or scuppers to help avoid premature deterioration of roofing membranes.

·         Maintain roof coatings where appropriate to help protect the roof against UV damage and to retain cool roof qualities.

·         Minimize rooftop traffic and install walk pads to minimize direct foot traffic on the roof surface, thereby helping to avoid potential damage.

Whether you choose the durable, proven performance of modified bitumen or BUR, following a routine maintenance program can add years of lasting, reliable service to your roof system. Many product manufacturers publish roof maintenance guidelines, as do some trade associations.

Superior Weather Protection Through Asphalt Roofing

One objective of developing a roof maintenance plan is to ensure your roofing system continues to provide protection against weather and moisture infiltration. By conducting semi-annual inspections,   reviewing rooftop conditions and identifying and remedying potential sources of leaks, you can help prevent unnecessary damage and help avert subsequent repair costs down the line.

In addition to these important maintenance techniques, you can add additional moisture protection to your system by choosing the right roofing products. Asphaltic products play a large role in helping property owners weatherproof their building against the elements. While asphalt roofing products are the preferred choice for roofing systems, they are also used in a variety of other building applications to make a structure more water-resistant. 

Because asphalt is highly resistant to moisture, it is commonly used to make a building water-resistant from the ground up. Applied as a either a hot or cold liquid, asphaltic or bitumen-based products are used on concrete and other surfaces in basements and around foundations to form a monolithic membrane to prevent water from seeping in. These products may be used in the form of emulsions, solvent-based, or heated to provide the desired liquid application. What’s more, asphaltic products are easy to use, as they can be applied by mop, trowel, roller, squeegee, or sprayed onto the surface.

Modified bitumen and BUR systems provide toughness and stability by using the redundancy of multiple layers to provide long-term durability, making these roof membranes wind- and water-resistant. Their heavy mass enhances the ability of modified bitumen and BUR to stand up to the forces of man and nature.

A roof consultant or qualified building professional can help identify areas of a property that may require attention to help ensure it remains leak-free as the weather changes. Proper weatherization can help avoid leaks and the expense and disruption that can occur when an owner is forced to make untimely repairs. In addition to roofs, foundations and walls can benefit from the water-resistant properties of asphalt products.

For further information on maintaining your roofing system, please visit asphaltroofing.org.