Storm Readiness for Commercial Roofs: Five Things to Know

During the stormy season, CRE owners and facility managers may be very aware of the condition of their roofs. Hopefully you have a comprehensive roof management plan in place to protect the most expensive system in your commercial building and reduce the chance of leaks. Even so, a little understanding and preparation can go a long way in minimizing and managing the effects of heavy rainfall on your property.

  1. Proper drainage has priority 1. Thousands of gallons of water run over your roofs during a rain. Since your roofs have a “low pitch” it is very important that the water reaches the sewer system and is evacuated as quickly as possible. If you observe water leaking from the roof via overflows and running down the walls on the outside of your building, it could mean that the primary drain in that area is inoperative or that a downspout is blocked. This condition has top priority and should be reported to your roofer immediately.
  2. Wind + rain = water ingress. Storms can have winds of up to 15 to 35 miles per hour, and while the roofing membranes on your buildings are waterproof, every HVAC unit, vent, stack, louvre skylight and penetration is not. These roof penetrations are designed so that the rain falls straight down or slightly. Strong winds blow the rain sideways, much like taking a fire hose to every opening on your roof. If you observe water seeping in through these openings during a storm, the most likely result is a one-time leak that cannot be serviced. Water entering through the fresh air inlet of an HVAC unit is also possible, especially when the unit is off and there is no pressure in the unit.
  3. Take measures to reduce internal damage. Find your HVAC registers in each building and / or office. If there are computers or valuables under these tabs, move them. If you have a product in storage that is under a vent, register, or louvred skylight and the product cannot be moved, look for a way to cover it.
  4. Know where the leak is coming from. It may sound obvious, but roofers are often called upon for leaks in windows, doors, walls, or under the foundation. Pay attention to where water is entering the building so you can use the appropriate contractor to repair the leak. Contractors are in great demand after a severe storm. So calling the right professional for the first time can speed up the remediation process.
  5. Be ready to wait out the storm. If you have a roof membrane leak, keep in mind that there is very little a roofer can do when it is raining heavily or the roof is very wet. The materials available are very limited and it is almost impossible to glue anything through water. This is why proactive roof management is so important to reduce property damage. Once the rain has subsided, a proper repair can be done. Above all, please remember that it is not safe for anyone to be on a roof during a storm, especially in strong winds. Never send employees or contractors up to a rooftop to inspect in bad weather.

Routine inspections and roof maintenance are of course the most critical aspect of storm readiness. Investing in a roof management plan pays off in reduced repair costs and damage, and can significantly extend the life of your roof systems. To learn more about roof management plans, register for a free webinar here.

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