Roof Evaluations – The Need To Ask “Why”

August 2011 Volume 3 Number 8

As the storm subsides, the operations manager of a large facility picks up the phone to place an all too familiar call. Roof leaks have developed again over water sensitive areas of the facility.

The company servicing the roof has a reputation for quality. They have thoroughly examined the roof each time leaks have occurred. Each time they have been successful in identifying the source of the leaks, and have repaired the roof to the satisfaction of both the roofing manufacturer and the facility manager. And yet, after each apparently successful effort, months of leak free roof performance comes to an end with the reappearance of roofing problems.

Often, while focused on determining what the source of problems might be, no one thinks to question why the source developed in the first place. Satisfied that the source of the problem has been taken care of, “why” may never be asked. As a result, roof management eventually becomes leak management.

To be effective, an evaluation of roof conditions must go beyond what to why, and consider the cause of the conditions found. For instance, infrathermography may have been used in the above situation to identify what damage had occurred to the roof system. Focusing on areas of trapped moisture, the service company would be able to locate open field laps as the source of water entry. With this information, repairs could be implemented and the roof put “back in the dry”.

Typically, the effort would be considered a success and the matter closed with the assumption the roof is now in satisfactory condition.

However, simply asking why at this point could lead to a search for answers that would enable proactive measures to be taken. Recurrence of problems and perhaps a premature failure of the roof system could be avoided.

Some common questions to ask when searching for the answers to “why” follow: Is the condition due to physical damage, poor workmanship, a manufacturing flaw or simply aging of the roof? Is the condition isolated or system-wide? What is the likelihood that the problem will occur elsewhere? Where is it most likely to occur? Are there signs to look for that signal the development of the problem? Most importantly, with this information, is there anything that can be done to prevent the condition from developing? If not, what measures should be taken in preparation for problem development that could help limit damage? Is the likelihood of recurrence so great and the consequences serious enough that reroofing should be considered rather than continuing to attempt repairs?

In our example, if the open field laps are the result of damage from roof traffic during equipment installation, chances of reoccurrence are slim and the cause can be controlled, thus simple patching may be sufficient.

On the other hand, if open laps are the result of a combination of poor installation workmanship and stress related to shrinkage of the roof membrane, then the problem has system-wide implications. The long-term approach to dealing with the cause of the problem will be altogether different, even though the source of the leaks is the same.

Knowing the difference is critical if roof management is to improve from reactive to proactive. Obtaining the information needed to reach the proper conclusions and define the most cost effective solution comes from a thorough evaluation of roof conditions…and it comes from asking why?

459 Allied Dr. • Conway, S.C. 29526 • 843-347-2220 • Fax: 843-347-9719 www.spannroofing.com

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