When to Hire a Roof Observer

March 31, 2014
Your project could benefit from an extra pair of eyes.

A successful roofing project depends upon fully tested roofing materials, clear drawings and specifications, and skilled workers. Many building managers have found that since this process includes accepting the lowest bids, it is important to use qualified independent observers to make sure they got what was specified. Having such qualified observation often adds on a few percent to the cost of the project, but can save many times more than that cost by avoiding the need to remove and replace incorrectly installed materials.

Back in 2005, a first edition of ASTM Specification D7186 appeared. This specification, Standard Practice for Quality Assurance Observation of Roof Construction and Repair, establishes minimum qualifications for roofing application observers. After all, we are counting on them to verify that the roof is installed as intended.

It also gives comfort to the roofing contractor that standard, industry-supported standards will be used to observe and comment on their work.

However, keep in mind that quality assurance is provided by a person under contract to the building owner. That does not mean that the observer directs the roofing work in any sense of the word. Quality control, on the other hand, is the purview and necessary requirement performed by the contractor.

The Role of the Roof Observer
Multiple organizations dedicated to the built environment have recognized the importance of defining the roof observer’s role.

For example, the American Institute of Architects and the Engineers Joint Contract Documents Committee’s standard agreements require the A/E to periodically visit the construction site to observe work and inspect. This observation determines the dates of substantial completion and final completion. Other organizations, such as the Roof Consultants Institute, Construction Specification Institute, and ASTM, define the observer’s roles as determining whether activities follow the scope and intent of the contract documents and verifying that the installation is executed according to accepted roofing practices.

The involvement of an experienced roof observer is welcomed by ethical roofing contractors. They know that installation of a quality roof is a team effort, and that the observer is an essential part of that team.

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