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Minor Repairs Stretch Roof Life and Save Reserve Funds
Simple Upkeep Items that Prevent Surprises and Early Roof Replacements
By Michelle Wallace-Carswell | Other articles by Michelle Wallace-Carswell
Finding ways to keep an adequate reserve fund is critical. Regular maintenance prevents major repairs and surprises down the road. We know this, right? With owners' eyes on hallways, elevators, landscaping, and plumbing, it is easy to forget about the roof, that common area that covers the whole building.
Maybe a roof replacement seems far off in the future, or maybe you're trying to buy a few more years with band-aid repairs. Or maybe there is a problem that just hasn't been detected yet. The one thing that is for certain: everyone wants to protect their investment.
The roof makes up a relatively small percentage of the physical material, but it protects 100% of the building. Most repairs are done because of water damage, whether it's a sudden flood, or a slow leak that no one notices for years. When water hits the roof, it needs to be repelled away from the building or it will find its way to the roof deck, the ceiling, walls, carpets, even the basement. It can destroy the building structure right down to the foundation. Water attracts vegetation which pierces through layers of the roof system with their roots; it attracts mould growth as soon as it hits any carbon-containing material. Pest infestations, electrical damage, hazardous conditions, the list goes on. Usually you can trace the problem back to one critical ingredient: water.
Regular Roof Inspections
All this can be avoided, or at least minimized, by getting the roof inspected at least once per year. Routine repairs protect everyone's investment by preventing materials from breaking down and failing, and damage spreading and becoming more and more serious. A roof maintenance plan adds years to the life of a roof.
Always get a professional roofing contractor to inspect the roof. They are safety trained for working at heights. They know better than anyone, what to look for because they have seen it many times.
Here are the main areas that require regular minor repairs to keep your roof in top shape and maximize its life.
1. Remove Debris from Roof Surface and Eavestroughs
Debris throughout the roof surface prevents the free flow of water to the drains. It also absorbs moisture and weighs heavy on the roof over time. Typical debris found on roofs consists of leaves, tree branches, any object that can be picked up by the wind like plastic bags and packaging, things that are growing like weeds or moss, and anything from the roof itself, like lint from vents, piece of broken shingle or shards from an HVAC unit and such.
Eavestroughs are hugely important. When blocked by excess debris, they provide an excellent breeding ground for weeds and a perfect home for wasp nests and other small creatures. Water also erodes building material and the ground around it.
2. Ensure Proper Drainage
Drains should be properly checked and cleaned. An ill-fitted drain or eavestrough guard can do more harm than good. An experienced roofing technician can easily decipher the right protection from wrong. They will know exactly which cover should be used in each situation.
Some people underestimate the importance of eavestroughs. They need to be attended to regularly because they protect people outside the building by funneling water away.
3. Repair or Replace Damaged Flashing
Flashing is used to protect areas of the roof where major parts join, like the roof edge, large vents, chimneys, HVAC units, etc. It diverts water away from the areas where water is most likely to get in.
Over time, even galvanized steel roof flashing corrodes and needs to be repaired or replaced. Other common ways flashing gets damaged is by hail, hot temperatures, woodpeckers, and very high winds. Flashing could have small holes that are impossible to detect from the ground. They could even come loose and actually detach if neglected.
4. Examine Roof Surface
Any surface, from shingles to granules to stones, needs to be looked at carefully because that top layer is protecting the roof membrane. Hot summer sun dries that outer layer and it expands in the heat. If it cracks, the layers below are exposed.
An inverted, sometimes called upside down roof system is popular in the GTA. In this type of roof, the membrane layer is covered by roofing insulation and filter cloth and then either gravel ballast or paving stones. Often the membrane itself is not UV resistant and having these layers above helps to protect it. If the roof membrane is damaged, those layers must be moved or swept back. There could be broken down or damaged insulation, sometimes filter cloth is missing. This all requires a repair and the layers properly arranged. Without this simple repair, the building would lose heat and the membrane would be vulnerable to damage.
5. Reinforce Caulking and Sealant
Sealant and caulking must be monitored on a regular basis to ensure that it's not deteriorated to the point where you have splits and cracks. That's how water gets in.
Deterioration can be found at any roof penetration like skylights, vents, pipes and chimneys. It's necessary that each penetration is properly sealed to prevent moisture and water ingress. Some vents don't even have any caulking and need to be sealed. Deteriorated sealant can be disposed before applying new caulking.
Rust is common on roof systems and is often found at the HVAC unit vents and gas lines. As part of a maintenance program, a roofing contractor would apply a protective coating to help inhibit any further rusting, or a yellow rust inhibiting safety paint if it's a gas line. If neglected, this rusting leads to corrosion. Once corroded, a roofing contractor cannot repair it and the associated technician has to attend. This is a simple example of how a minor repair now saves time and money later.
Safety comes first: If workers aren't properly trained in ladder safety and hazard identification, the condo corporation is at risk. Anyone working on a roof must have proper fall gear and personal protective equipment. This protects the owners if something does go wrong.
Inspecting the roof from the ground can be helpful for checking downspouts and soffit, but even with a ladder, there is no way you can inspect all the crucial spots. Getting on the roof and looking closely is the only way to actually inspect it. There could be a rusted nail in a shingle or a drain clog you can't see unless you're above it. Drone inspections are very helpful, but you can't feel with your hands or pressure test.
Weather and Your Roof
The whole point of a roof is to protect you from the weather: That is the roof 's job. But weather is harsh and it does cause wear and tear, even damage. Weather events are becoming more common.
The most damaging weather for roofs:
- Hot blistering sun
- Super strong wind
- Temperatures fluctuate above & below freezing, repeatedly, within 4-6 weeks
Sound familiar? This cycle of weather creates the "perfect storm" for roof membrane issues. The sun dries and expands the membrane, then wind blown debris and hail hit causing damage, the melting and re-freezing of ice in those damaged little nooks and crannies, all lead to the items listed above that need to be checked and refreshed each year so they can take on another round.
Preventing Roof Leaks
Preventative roof maintenance involves a meticulous assessment of the roof, checking for any kind of deterioration in the roof membrane. Small rips, tears and splits are easy to miss so it is important to have a professionally trained roofing contractor do the inspection.
A knowledgeable roofing contractor will look for nearby hazards that will surely threaten the roof when the wind rolls in. Nearby electric lines and low-hanging tree branches that have stood the test of time will eventually weaken.
The Roof Protects So Much
This handy list of reasons to take care of your roof:
Roof Maintenance is Key
Structural Consequences and Disruptions
- Accelerated deterioration of the roof
- Frequent leaks and need for repairs
- Structural damage due to leaks and rotting
- Framing underneath the roof membrane
- Building structure
- Balcony membrane weakness
Collateral damage due to leaks
- Interior finishings, floors, walls and furniture
- Light fixtures and fire alarms
- Mold growth in carpets and other affected areas
- Structural repairs
- Emergency repairs
- Replacement of damaged interior items
- Inability to occupy
- Increased insurance deductibles
- Lower resale value
Risks and Liabilities
- Potential slip and fall conditions due to leaks
- Failure to comply with Condo bylaws
- Damage to tenants' property
- Roof membrane manufacturer warranty after a new installation
A roof will not exist to its expected life without upkeep because weather affects it. Roof maintenance identifies small issues before they become much larger problems. What would you prefer: regular minor repairs or an expensive surprise and early roof replacement?