Commercial Building Roof Maintenance: Steps to Take Before and After Wind Events

Commercial building roof damage after hurricane winds

When high winds have been forecasted, building owners should be ready to take steps before the event to protect the roofing system and afterward to minimize the effects of any damage.

Before the Storm:

1) Secure rooftop materials and equipment – Walk the roof to remove any loose roofing materials that can be turned into projectiles by high winds, including any broken flashing, nails and screws. Check the areas where air conditioners, heating systems, and satellite dishes are attached to the roof to ensure that they are secure. In high wind events, it is often loose materials and heavy equipment that get blown across the roof that cause the most damage to roofing systems.

2) Clear drains, gutters and downspouts – If the event is going to include rain, make sure that it can be channeled off of the roof quickly by clearing all aspects of the drainage system. Sweep off any leaves and debris that have collected on the roof to prevent potential blockages that could occur during the storm. This can prevent another common form of damage that results from extreme weather; increased weight bearing from pooled water. At 6 inches deep, water weighs about 30 pounds per square foot, which can add significant stress to the structure of the building, especially on large areas with minimal support.

3) Trim back tree branches that may be blown on to the roof – Tree branches that either fall or are blown back and forth across the roof can cause significant damage. This damage can be mitigated by assessing the surrounding foliage and cutting back areas that can threaten the structure. Pay attention to trees and foliage that are upwind from the structure as they are the most likely to be blown on to the roof.

After the Storm:

1) Inspect the interior for signs of leaks – Look for water stains on the ceiling as well as the walls. If the ceiling has acoustic tiles, lift a few very slowly to determine whether leaking water has pooled on top of the tiles.

2) Inspect the roof – Even if the interior of the structure is dry, the roof may still have been damaged during the storm. Water may still be pooled on the roof despite your best efforts. If you can get to the drains, see if removing the collected debris gets the water flowing again. If not, there may be a clog in one of the downspouts. Pay close attention to flashing to see if it has been damaged or pulled away from each structure.

3) Check the membrane for blisters – Blisters may be an indication that water has seeped in and is trapped between the deck and the membrane. Take note of the location of the blisters so that an assessment can be made on where the trapped water came from.

Acting quickly prior to the arrival of a high wind event can help to protect the roof, while taking action immediately after the storm passes can minimize the effects of any damage that may have occurred. If you have concerns about the structure, schedule an inspection with a roofing company before the storm hits to ensure that you’re at the front of the line for repairs after the storm passes.