Rob_Paddock Generally, people don’t think about roof maintenance until a massive leak appears while they are away on holiday in Barbados escaping the rainy season back home.  While the unit owner is sipping pina coladas on the beach, water is pouring onto their recently cleaned carpets. This permanently infuses their carpets with a lingering musky smell that helps remind the unit owners that they should be taking roof maintenance more seriously.  

Like other parts of your scheme, the roof requires ongoing maintenance to prevent leaks, to identify minor problems before they become major costly problems and to maximize the amount of time before you need to replace your roof. In my next two articles for Paddocks Press, I will be providing you with practical information on how roofs function and how they should be maintained.

Types of roofs
Together with walls and windows, roofs are a primary component of a building that keeps out the rain and protects the inside of the building and its contents. There are two main types of roof systems: low-slope and steep-slope roofs.

Many sectional title blocks have some form of low-slope roofing, while townhouse developments and semi-detached houses generally use steep-slope roofing. Both roof types are used in some buildings. Low-slope roofs have a waterproof membrane and a series of drains throughout the roof area to remove water from the roof surface. Since they are low-slope, these roofs must be water-tight in order to function properly. The roofing membrane is either applied as a liquid that cures to form a waterproof surface, or fabricated from pre-manufactured sheets joined together to create a surface that is impermeable to water. These membranes all work the same way in that they seal all openings and penetrations through the roof to prevent water leaks from occurring.

Steep-slope roofs have overlapping roofing materials to create a surface that, together with gravity, sheds water effectively into a drainage system such as gutters. Steep-slope roofing materials include slate tiles, thatch, concrete or clay tiles, or sheet metal panels.

Why must the roof be maintained?
Regular inspection and maintenance of your roof is needed to reduce the likelihood of premature leaks and aging. On a daily basis, roofs are exposed to sunlight, rain, hail, wind and temperature changes that gradually break down the roofing materials. Eventually, the replacement of the roof will be necessary. However, with proper maintenance and care, the service life of the roof can be maximized.

Given proper maintenance, roofing systems generally have what is referred to as an anticipated “leak-free life”. Provided that the roof has been properly designed, constructed and maintained, the roof should not leak over this time span. After this time, the roof system may continue to provide many years of service, but leaks should be expected, increasing in frequency and severity, until such time as the roof requires replacement.

Unscheduled maintenance and repairs may be needed to fix damage to a roof that may have occurred during a severe encounter with the South-Easter down in the Cape of Storms, or other extreme weather event.

Carrying out proper maintenance and identifying potential problems prior to experiencing an actual roof failure will reduce the likelihood of costly premature damage. If a leak occurs through a portion of the roof and goes undetected for a period of time, you may experience damage to the building structure and interior finishes.

How often do roofs need to be inspected and maintained?
Roofs should be inspected once a year at the end of the dry season to address any damage that may have occurred and prepare for the upcoming wet season.

Your roof should also be inspected after any storm with high winds (checking for loose, broken or missing tiles, for example), extreme rain or hail, or if construction has taken place on the roof area. The inspection should also include the underside of roof structure or decks, and the outside of the building as these areas may indicate potential problems with your roof.

Skylights and other roof penetrations may require specialised attention and specific knowledge of how these fixtures interact with the roof assembly. Roofing contractors are generally equipped with the tools and skills to perform the required maintenance to the roof. The contractor will be able to replace damaged materials, perform the cleaning and upkeep of drains and gutters, and can re-secure metal flashings and re-apply any sealant that has failed.

What maintenance must be performed?
All roofs require regular inspection and maintenance. This should be done by a professional roofing contractor as it involves specialised knowledge, equipment, training and safety requirements. This work would typically be coordinated by your managing agent.

Residents may visually identify some maintenance concerns such as a possible roof problems causing damage to the ceilings or walls inside their homes. Owners should notify their managing agent if they believe there is a problem with the roof. However, all inspections and maintenance should be performed by a qualified professional who:

  • is familiar with the roofing system used on the building
  • knows how to identify potential problems, and
  • knows how to take the necessary safety precautions while carrying out an inspection or maintenance.

Specific items for inspection and maintenance will depend on the type of roof(s) on your building. In my next article I will provide a checklist of common roof maintenance items.

Article reference: Volume 4, Issue 09, Page 4.

This article is published under the Creative Commons Attribution license