Commercial Roofing Inspection & Maintenance Guidelines

The proper maintenance of a roof system may extend the life of the roof as well as reduce the potential of water damage to the interior of the building. Roof surfaces do not wear evenly due to weathering and other environmental exposures. This may also be true for different sections of the same roof surface.

To reduce the potential for damage, it is generally recommended that commercial roofing structures be inspected at least twice a year. The suggested times for routine inspections are in the spring after the winter season, and late fall after the hot summer but before the winter weather arrives. Other roof inspections are warranted following a major weather event such as wind and/or hail storm.

Why do roofing systems fail?

  • Poor workmanship during installation
  • Poor design of the roof system
  • Faulty materials
  • Weathering
  • Trapped moisture or mechanical damage
  • Neglect and lack of maintenance
  • Foot traffic on the roof surface

Roof Maintenance Program

A roof maintenance program should be a systematic approach similar to any other mechanical system requiring maintenance. Automobiles for example, require regular inspections and routine maintenance to keep them in operational condition. As with any other maintenance program, management should assign this duty to a competent and trained person.

The maintenance program should include documentation (inspection forms, photographs, notes, repair invoices, etc.) to identify and record the issues noted during the routine inspections and to provide guidance to the contractors who will complete the repair. The goal of a roof maintenance program is to identify problem areas and complete repairs before they become major issues.

Commercial roofing systems include:

  • The roof membrane
  • Flashings
  • Roof decking
  • Roof insulation – installed below and/or on top of the roof deck
  • Masonry parapets and copings
  • Penetrations to the roof surface (vent pipes, HVAC systems, antennas, etc.)
  • Traffic walkways

Establishing a roof maintenance program:

During the initial phase of establishing the roof maintenance program, the responsible individual should document some basics:

  1. Establishing a "file" for each building roof.
  2. When was the roof installed?
  3. When was the last time roof repair or updates were completed?
  4. Is there any current roof leakage?
  5. Are there any regular roof inspection maintenance procedures in place?
    1. Do the procedures include documentation (inspection reports, photos, etc)?
  6. Who administers the roof maintenance program: maintenance staff or contractor?
  7. How often are the inspection/maintenance procedures completed?

Roof Observation – Interior

When completing the initial observation as well as routine inspections, note any evidence of roof problems such as:

  1. Water stained ceiling tiles.
  2. Discoloration of interior walls surfaces.
  3. Deformations in the wall surface (raised or deteriorated areas).
  4. Evidence of leakage around window frames (deterioration of the frame and/or discoloration of finishes).
  5. Rust or other deterioration of roof structural components such as roof decking and or joists.
  6. Mold on building surfaces (interior and exterior).

Roof Observation – Exterior

Items to look for include:

  1. Water standing on the roof surface
    1. There should not be standing water on the roof surface 48 hours after the most recent weather event.
  2. Discoloration of the roof surface.
  3. Storage of material on the roof surface
    1. If present, they should be removed.
  4. Flashing – loose, buckled, or damaged.
  5. Vegetation on or in contact with the roof surface.
  6. Rusting metal pipe venting or other metal roof penetrations.
  7. Gaps and or cracks in the caulking around roof penetrations, vents, HVAC units, antennas, skylights, etc.
  8. Roof surface, drains, and gutter systems free of debris
    1. Debris holds water/moisture leading to roof surface deterioration.
    2. Any debris present should be removed.
  9. Missing domes on roof drains.
  10. Shingle or low-slope with granulated surfaces
    1. Excessive amounts of loose granules on roof surface.
    2. Granules in drain or gutter systems.
  11. Roof surface – cracks, blisters, punctures, and "alligatoring."
  12. Cracks in masonry parapets or caps.
  13. Damaged, defective, or missing joints in masonry along roof edges.

When any of these conditions are noted, the inspector/maintenance person should include this information in their report to management. If possible, also include photographs in the report. Management should then address the issues found during the roof inspection.

Note: Skylights should be protected per OSHA guidelines when personnel are on the roof.