The Hole Story

08/05/2013 | By Richard L. Fricklas

Why do roofs fail early?

Lifecycle claims and sustainability issues continue to hit the front pages of roofing journals. You may have noticed that EPDM rubber roofs, for example, have been around for more than 50 years and bituminous built-up roofing has lasted more than a century. Roof warranties are getting longer and longer, implying that roof systems are better than ever.

Many of you are not getting 50 trouble-free years – in fact, you may not even achieve the 20-year gold standard. The intent of this column is to assure you that you are not the only reader with that queasy feeling.

The Root of Failure
It is not that our roofs are not as durable as claimed. Many of those 20-year warranties had all sorts of exclusions, with the major ones being abuse and neglect as well as limited bond sums. That will only get worse, as we are now seeing solar panels being installed directly over existing low slope membranes and more equipment being placed on rooftops, for example.

Traffic on our membrane systems is an ongoing problem, whether from our in-house personnel or outside contractors. Neglect, such as not keeping debris out of the drains, is also a continuous issue.

The literature encourages us to make at least two visual inspections of our roof systems: “when the ducks fly north and when they fly south.” It is also recommended whenever there has been construction traffic on the roof or immediately after experiencing severe weather.

To achieve the stated longevity, we need to make two important decisions: between an in-house or outside roof expert and a contractor vs. a consultant. This month, let’s examine what a successful in-house program looks like.

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