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The Importance of Preventive Maintenance for Commercial Roofs

PHOTO CREDIT: The Garland Company, Inc.

Regardless of the type, every building owner wants to get the most out of their commercial roof system. The most cost-effective way to maximize roof performance and increase its life cycle is a proactive approach to preventive maintenance. The key word here is preventive. If an owner has tarps covering their computers, then at that point they have waited too long.

Building owners should consider that spending a little bit today can save a tremendous amount of time and money tomorrow. A preventive maintenance plan is an investment for the future. After all, you wouldn’t go years without changing your car’s oil or rotating its tires and not expect your vehicle’s performance to suffer, so why would your roof be any different?  

Preventive maintenance includes regularly scheduled inspections, periodic repairs of common roofing components (flashings, drains, curbs, etc.) and the addition of reflective coatings.

Inspections: It is recommended to have your roof inspected at least twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall. Your local roofing professional should:

1) Inspect drains and downspouts to make sure they are clear of blockage that will inhibit proper drainage.
2)  Check penetrations and flashings for any gaps or tears.
3) Inspect rooftop vents and equipment to make sure they are well sealed.
4) Look for any signs of damage to the roof and recommend solutions.

Basic Repairs: In order to make repairs, start with the necessary tools and supplies. It is certainly money well spent to keep a bucket or two of high-quality mastics handy, preferably polymer-modified mastics to mend small blisters and splits that are inevitable to any roof. The specially engineered polymers in these mastics allow them to be more flexible and more UV resistant than coal tar or asphalt non-polymer-modified mastics, making these products more UV light stable and weather resistant. Polymer-modified mastics also have great low-temperature flexibility that prevents cracking and leaks when the weather gets cold. These high-quality mastics may cost a few more dollars up front, but their unparalleled performance over time makes the true cost of ownership a greater value than lower-priced options. 

Reflective Coatings: In conjunction with basic repairs, reflective coatings can help combat the elements. High-quality reflective coatings are UV-resistant and can withstand harsh environmental conditions. Look for a reflective coating that contains a substantial amount of aluminum paste, giving the coating a silver finish and maximizing its reflective properties. The sun’s UV rays are particularly damaging because of their ability to dry roofs out, which leads to cracking and splitting. Once cracking has occurred, it’s only a matter of time before moisture penetrates those cracks and leaks appear. Enough of those leaks can cause structural failure and collapse of the roofing system. Reflective coatings not only act as a protective barrier, but can also help save money on energy costs as they have been proven to increase the R-value of the entire building. There are a multitude of reflective coating options, so consult your local roofing professional to determine which would be the best value and fit for your specific roof.

Proper preventive maintenance is one the most effective tools for maximizing the service life of a commercial roofing system and allows for an organized approach to successful roof asset management. Keep in mind that the initial cost of your roof is only a portion of its total cost of ownership over the roof’s lifespan. The key to increasing performance, while simultaneously decreasing cost, is a proactive method of properly identifying and repairing minor problems today in order to avoid major complications tomorrow. Chances are you spent a considerable amount of money for your new roof, so it is in your best interest to protect it by implementing a habit of regular preventive maintenance.

Stephen Wolf is a product manager for The Garland Company, Inc.
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