Roof maintenance is frequently neglected when managing commercial property, generally due to a lack of prioritisation and know how. “Through correct understanding and a maintenance system in place, you can extend the life of your commercial property’s roof by years,” says Leon Breytenbach, National Manager of the Rawson Property Group’s commercial division. It is wise to keep your investment in good condition by maintaining the roof with a proactive maintenance system.
Prevention is always better and cheaper than cure. Sadly the reality is that buildings do not improve with age, but rather deteriorate progressively. This is why it’s so important that owners of commercial properties make it a regular task to refurbish or maintain all aspects of their buildings. Regular roof maintenance will cause less disruption to your tenants than any major works required due to neglect. This maintenance keeps the investment looking good while giving tenants peace of mind that their workspace will remain in tact. “As is the case with all assets such as houses, cars, lawnmowers etc., regular maintenance prolongs the life of the asset and prevents unpleasant surprises at inconvenient moments,” explains Breytenbach.
Short term versus long term
In order to reduce short term expenditure commercial property owners may be tempted to defer preventative roof maintenance to a later date. This may seem the best choice at that moment, but it is often followed by an increase in unplanned repairs, and a greater capital outlay if major roof failures occur due to neglect. “Damage to your tenant’s property through a compromised roof could result in legal exposure for your company,” says Breytenbach. This may cost more than just mere restoration of the roof if it includes downtime of production areas, loss of revenue, lost use of space, dissatisfied tenants and clean-up operations. Even if you are not faced with a major failure you may still have to cope with issues which will cost unnecessary money for cleaning up or emergency repairs.
What to look out for
Following up on tenants’ complaints is a good starting point to keep on top of potential issues, enabling you to call in a reputable roof specialist to assess and address the concern. “Any previous installations on the roof should be checked to ensure that the installation and waterproofing is still up to scratch,” says Breytenbach. Trade damage, such as punctures, holes, and so on, which are caused by trades other than a roofing contractor are another factor to look out for. Extreme weather, lightning, high winds, hail, drenching rains that overflow the flashing heights, are all potential hazards to your roof.
It is wise to have the roofing of your commercial property checked bi-annually, just prior to the most severe weather cycles, namely winter and summer. “Before embarking on the inspection,” suggests Breytenbach, “create a file which includes a checklist covering all aspects relating to the roof. Creating a maintenance file will help you to methodically inspect every part of the structure.” Specifics about the particular type of roof: built up, single ply, shingles, modified bitumen etc. should be included. Any problem areas should be noted for immediate attention, if acute, or to be regularly checked in future, in case of excessive deterioration.
Scheduling the maintenance is the next step. This may occur after a particularly severe storm where damage has occurred, or annually for purposes of re-caulking. More in-depth maintenance such as base flashing repairs, coatings or restorations should be scheduled on a regular multi-year basis.
Hints and tips
Keep tree branches trimmed if they overhang the roof as branches falling during a high wind may cause damage. Rooftop equipment needs to be kept in good order and roof traffic should be kept to a minimum. “Insist that workmen needing to work on the roof remove all debris such as nails, fasteners, bottles, etc.,” advises Breytenbach, “and arrange regular cleaning of debris from gutters, for blockages are not covered by warranty.”
Plan a moisture survey every five years to detect wet insulation or leaks, as trapped moisture in your roofing system could lead to mould growth which may result in health issues for the occupants.
By establishing a system for regular inspection of your commercial roof, you will have created a thorough process for carrying out preventative maintenance, thereby avoiding unnecessary costs in the future.