When it comes to running a business, one of the most important things to have is a roof over your head. A commercial roof provides shelter to your employees and customers and ensures that your building remains in usable condition. If there’s a problem with your roof, you might have to close down for a few days until it is corrected. You also run the risk of losing customers if your commercial roof fails.
Understanding how to extend the life of your commercial roof means understanding the issues that affect your roof’s lifespan, as well as what you can do to protect your roof from those issues. It also means understanding what’s involved in commercial roof maintenance.
What Causes Your Commercial Roof to Deteriorate?
Problems can develop in a commercial roof due to a few factors. Some of the factors might be beyond your control, such as weather-related issues, while others are things you have some sway over, such as maintaining the roof. Take a closer look at a few factors that can cause your roof to deteriorate or fail before its time.
The Effects of Weather on Your Commercial Roof
The roof on your building has a big job to do. It keeps rain and snow from getting inside. It also helps to keep the interior of your business comfortable by blocking out the wind and providing shelter from intense sunlight. While your roof is protecting you, your building and your business from those elements, those elements might be wreaking havoc on the roof.
Throughout the year, weather-related events that happen in Pennsylvania, from winter snowstorms to the occasional tornado and from the heat of summer to rain showers in the spring, can cause significant damage to your roof.
1. Spring Showers
April showers might bring May flowers, but they can also bring damage to your commercial roof. Some areas of Pennsylvania, such as Lancaster, have a higher-than-average amount of rain each year, so concern about rain damage should be at the front of your mind.
Commercial roofs are often flat roofs, which means they don’t slope as much as the roofs you’re likely to find a residential building and can’t shed water as quickly. If a flat roof isn’t installed and maintained correctly, rainwater can collect, or pond, on the roof.
Over time, the water can seep into the roofing materials, causing cracks and other damage. The water can also drain into the elements below the roof, leading to the growth of mold or leaks on the interior of a building. Ponding water also puts extra weight and pressure on a commercial roof, which can lead to sagging.
2. Summer Heat
After a rainy spring, you might welcome the warmth of the summer sun. But the heat of the sun and the ultraviolet rays produced by sunlight can spell trouble for your commercial roof. If the roof absorbs the sun’s rays, the UV in those rays can cause it to break down over time, leading to damage to the roof and the area beneath the roof. Excessively hot temperatures can cause roofing materials to swell or expand. When temperatures fall, the roofing materials might shrink down again. Repeated expansion and contraction of the materials on your roof can accelerate its deterioration.
3. Fall Temperature Fluctuations and Storms
Fall’s often a time of transition, and in the case of weather, it can be a rough one. One fall day, the temperature in Central Pennsylvania might be in the mid-70s. The next, the mercury might have dropped to the 40s or even colder. As in the summer, fluctuations in outside temperatures in the fall can shrink your commercial roof’s lifespan.
Storms in the fall can also impact the lifespan of your roof. In 2018, an unusual number of tornadoes hit across the state in October, causing significant damage. The storms also brought hail, which can damage a roof. How much damage hail causes to commercial roofs depends in large part on the size of the hail and the direction and speed of the wind during the storm. The bigger the hail, the more significant the potential damage to a roof.
Along with causing structural damage to your roof, tornadoes, thunderstorms and other instances of extreme wind can also put your roof at risk of damage from outside forces. For example, a branch from a neighboring tree can fall on the roof during a wind storm.
4. Winter Snow and Ice Storms
The average amount of annual snowfall across the U.S. is 26 inches. In Lancaster, Pa., the average snowfall is a little lower at 18 inches. Snowstorms throughout the winter can lead to something known as “excessive snow load” on your commercial roof.
As many commercial roofs are flat, snow can linger on the surface of the roof for longer than it would stay on a sloped roof. The snow can melt when the temperatures climb above freezing, then turn to ice when temperatures dip down again. Additional snowfalls add to the weight on the roof. If the snow and ice remain on the roof throughout the winter, damage can occur, including a possible collapse of the roof.
Poor Maintenance and Improper Installation Can Damage Commercial Roofs
Compared to other styles of roofing, flat commercial roofing is “non-forgiving.” That means that there is little room for error when the roof is installed. Incorrect installation of a flat roof or a roof with a low slope can be problematic. Proper installation of a commercial roof reduces the likelihood of there being poorly sealed seams or punctures in the material of the roof.
In some cases, how the roof is treated after installation can determine how long it lasts or how quickly it breaks down. If people, such as workers or contractors, are up on the roof regularly, they can inadvertently cause damage to it or speed up its deterioration. For example, a person might drop a tool on the roof, creating a puncture or cracking the seal of the seam, while working on a separate project.
Looking after your commercial roof and inspecting it regularly is another way to extend the life of the roof and prevent deterioration and damage. If there is a problem on the roof, finding it sooner rather than later can keep your roof in peak shape and condition for years to come.
How to Keep Your Roof in Peak Condition
Although you can’t keep it from snowing, raining or even hailing from time to time, you can take steps to protect your commercial roof and keep it in the best possible condition. Here’s what you can do to extend the life of your commercial roof.
1. Keep the Roof Clean
Depending on the height of your building, debris such as gravel and leaves can fall onto the roof. Without regular cleaning, the debris can build up, adding weight to the roof. If you also have ponding or standing water on your roof, piles of leaves and other debris can create a welcoming environment for vegetative growth, mold and mildew to grow.
Cleaning your commercial roof regularly means removing any collected debris from the surface. If there are gutters around the roof, it’s also important to keep them clear of any leaves and buildup, so water can drain away from the roof and building properly.
There’s another benefit to keeping your commercial roof clean, especially if you have a reflective coating on the roof. Reflective coatings are either white or silver and are designed to reflect, not absorb, the sun’s rays. The cleaner the roof is, the more effectively it can reflect sunlight.
2. Keep Trees Pruned
Trees near your commercial property can offer many benefits. They can help you save on cooling costs by providing shade in the heat of summer. They can also make your business seem more inviting and welcoming.
When trees hang over the roof of your building, however, they do increase the risk of damage. If you have trees nearby or trees that are within striking distance of your roof, it’s important to keep them trimmed and pruned to minimize the risk of damage to the roof. It’s a good idea to hire a professional tree service to manage and maintain any trees on your property.
If you’re considering planting new trees near your commercial building, it can be worth considering how tall the trees will get and whether or not there’s the chance that they will overhang your roof when they are mature. A tree service can help you determine the best location for planting trees to protect your commercial roof.
3. Fix Damage as Soon as Possible
The sooner you treat and correct a problem, the less chance there is that the issue will spread or develop into something more complex. After a thunderstorm, snowstorm or unusually heavy rain, it’s a good idea to have someone go up and check out your roof. If any part of the roof has been damaged, call us quickly to repair it. The faster you act, the less likely it is that a leak will cause significant water damage or that your roof will need extensive repairs or even replacement.
4. Perform Consistent Roof Maintenance
Regular maintenance on your commercial roof will keep small issues from developing into big problems and help you be proactive in keeping your roof in the best shape possible. The following should be included in your maintenance plan to help extend the life of your roof:
- Inspect the flashing and perimeter of the roof to make sure there are no cracks, punctures or other signs of a leak.
- Clean the roof and removing debris.
- Canvass the surface of the roof for signs of damage.
- Hire a roofing contractor to fix any small issues as they’re detected.
- Clear the roof after snowstorms.
- Check the roof after thunderstorms, hail storms or after very windy days.
Roof Inspections Can Help Extend the Life of a Commercial Roof
By the time problems on a commercial roof are significant enough to be detected without going up on the roof, it’s often too late to fix them with a simple repair.
Scheduling regular roof inspections allows you to keep tabs on the state of your commercial roof. If an inspector detects any issues with the roof, they can recommend the best course of corrective action.
How Often Should I Get a Roof Inspection?
Usually, it’s recommended that you have a commercial roof inspected at least twice a year by a licensed roofing company. It’s a good idea to schedule an inspection in the early spring, to assess the roof for any signs of damage from snow and other winter weather conditions. You can schedule the second inspection in the autumn, to make sure that there aren’t lots of leaves on the roof and to assess any damage caused by summer sun and heat or by spring’s rains.
During an inspection, your roofing professional should perform the following:
- Visual inspection of the roof membrane, roof penetration flashings, wall flashings roof surface conditions and search for any abnormal deterioration;
- Inspect all roof drains, gutters and overflows and remove any debris that could cause clogging of the same. Identify any unusual roof traffic patterns or any new roof penetrations since the last inspection;
- Sealants – Inspect all pitch pan fillers, caulking and other sealants for cracking, pulling away from the wall or other surfaces and splitting;
- Parapet walls – Inspect all parapet wall copings and metal edging for proper securement and condition of any exposed sealants;
- Building Structure – Inspect any walls that are adjacent to the roof for cracking or settling that could allow moisture into the system.
- Air Conditioning Units – Examine around air conditioning units for any access panels that may not have been reinstalled during maintenance or any new or used parts that may have been left on the roof. Check for any screws or bolts that could have been left on roof during HVAC maintenance. Verify condensation traps are in place.
Why Do I Need a Commercial Roof Inspection?
A few of the benefits of commercial roof inspections include:
- Prevents major issues. When you inspect your roof twice a year, you can detect problems before they develop into major concerns.
- Confirms that previous problems remain corrected. If you have had problems with your commercial roof in the past, regular inspections allow you to make sure that those problems haven’t returned.
- Maintains roof warranty. In many cases, the warranty on your roof requires an annual or semi-annual inspection. Not having a yearly inspection can void your warranty.
- Fixes issues caused by people working on the roof. In some cases, people working on the roof, such as HVAC contractors or electricians, can accidentally cause damage to it. An inspection helps you detect issues caused by workers on the roof and allows you to put in place measures to prevent future problems from occurring.
- Saves your business money and extends the life of your roof. Regular roof inspections help you save money by giving you the chance to correct issues on the roof when they are still small and typically only need a minor fix, compared to waiting until the entire roof needs replacement to take action.
Checklist to Help You Protect Your Commercial Roof Investment
If you want to extend the life of your commercial roof, remember to do the following:
- Clean and maintain the roof.
- Schedule biannual inspections.
- Be proactive about repairing damaged areas of the roof.
- Keep an eye on the weather and inspect your roof after any major storms.
- Create rules regarding who can go on the roof.
- Sign up for a commercial roof maintenance plan.
Remember, you don’t have to maintain your commercial roof on your own. Kautz Roofing has 45 years of experience and regularly installs, inspects, repairs, and replaces commercial roofs. Whether you’re interested in having your current roof inspected, want to set up a maintenance plan or are considering replacing your existing commercial roof, contact us today to learn more about how we can help you.