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Winter is coming! Protect your roof with regular inspections

You’ve invested in a significant asset, your building and roof, yet it can easily start to become a costly liability if you don’t give it the care and maintenance it needs. The best way of identifying and resolving any issues? Regular roof inspections.

Winter brings with it more rain and wind, and snow and ice, that can cause havoc with your commercial or industrial roof over time. It’s much more cost-effective to plan ahead and be proactive to prevent potentially expensive damage later. This means that the most important time of the year to carry out your annual, or bi-annual, roof inspection is early autumn, before winter sets in. The second most important time is at the end of winter to check for and repair any remaining winter damage and ensure your roof is ready for the summer heat.

So, what damage does winter weather cause?

Rain causes water build-up, particularly on flat roofs where gutters and siphonic drainage systems have become blocked by leaves, branches and debris, which can in turn cause water ingress and leaks. Snow and ice build up behind blockages, in joints and poor flow areas, becoming very heavy and causing further damage. But then, of course, snow and ice melt, so problems can become serious very fast.

Moisture build up and leaks can cause condensation and internal damage to buildings, so the costs mount up. In addition, external and internal roof and building damage can easily start to affect employee and customer safety and your duty of care. Moreover, if you are a tenant and are subject to dilapidation clauses in your contract, a lack of regular checking could prove to be especially costly.

Why is a regular inspection before winter a must?

What starts as a small issue, like a small pool of water, can quickly become a leak and worse, eventually causing widespread, severe damage, which would not only disturb the smooth running of your business, but could also be catastrophic to your equipment or stock and your workers. The longer issues are left, the more costly the repair is likely to be and, if left too long, a whole roof replacement may be required. That’s why carrying out regular maintenance and annual inspections, particularly before the worst weather of the year begins, is essential. Insurance companies do not want to cover roofs where there has been a lack of maintenance or neglect and may refuse policies and claims. Neglect may also affect the terms of manufacturer warranties and, in some cases, may even nullify them – an expensive issue which would only manifest itself in the event of an attempted claim.

Commercial roof inspections should always be carried out by a specialist roofing contractor or roofing surveyor as some problems can be easily overlooked by the untrained eye. There are a wide range of issues that should be checked for, as well as the more obvious bad weather issues we’ve mentioned so far.

What inspectors should look for

It starts with the state of your roof materials. If your roof has uneven surfaces, sagging, softening, disintegrating materials, or other issues such as oxidation, it needs attention. It’s important to check the current condition and effectiveness of your roof materials and coverings, single ply membranes, joints, gutters, laps, fixings, fascias and skylights etc.

Wildlife can become ensconced in roofs, most commonly birds’ nests. Birds sometimes get into the horizontal and vertical pipes of siphonic drainage systems and may nest or get stuck. Wildlife must be handled correctly as it’s subject to UK legislation, as to when and how certain birds and animals can be removed. Endangered or threatened species, such as bats, need to be carefully approached by experts and shouldn’t be disturbed from their roosts. Breaching this could result in prosecution and costly fines.

In manufacture, the galvanised steel sheets of metal roofs are coated on both sides by protective systems, but when cut to fit your roof, cut edges can be left with no waterproof cover, leaving them unprotected from the elements. These edges can be affected by water over time and become severely weakened by corrosion. Edges can be protected in situ, in advance of corrosion damage, by a range of protective coating treatments. These areas should be first cleaned and prepared for specialist coatings to be applied. For example, raised standing seams use concealed fasteners. Treatments prevent further deterioration and prolong the roof life, but if left untreated a regular inspection allows for cut edge corrosion to be identified before it escalates into a very costly and disruptive issue.

With felt roofing systems, it’s important to check the roof outlets, the state of waterproofing around the roof perimeter and details, such as flashings and sealants. By the nature of the material, built up felt roofs are prone to less visible damage, for example, cracking or splitting. Close, professional inspection can pick this up before it worsens, potentially allowing a patch repair.

If your roof has a mansafe safety system, it’s critical that it is regularly inspected to ensure safety and continued compliance with health and safety legislation. Harcon Services, the height safety and fall arrest specialist, says:

“Fall arrest/restraint systems typically consist of an anchor point, a lanyard and a fully body harness. It’s not uncommon for fall protection systems such as these to be removed, damaged or tampered with, or in some cases for the system to be deployed. As a result, they must be inspected regularly and recertified to ensure that they are safe to use.

“The frequency of inspections and recertification will depend upon the system, frequency of use and environment, but as a rule we recommend that visual inspections are carried out before each use and that recertification is carried out at least every twelve months.

“Inspection and recertification of equipment must only be carried out by a competent person and should include a full inspection of the system and associated PPE.”

How to ensure you fully protect your roof and your business

This range of potential issues shows how much there is to think about and observe on your commercial roof. While you can carry out regular, informal, ground level checks to spot obvious problems, a professional annual inspection each autumn is essential for thoroughly covering all detail and spotting any damage or issues at a very early stage. It pays to be proactive in this, to ensure cost-effectiveness and business continuity, to prevent severe issues and safety breaches and to prolong the lifespan of your roof and building.

Using a specialist roofing contractor ensures the inspections are carried out thoroughly and competently, with the added benefit of having a professional on hand to advise of the most suitable solution if a problem is identified. Preventing roof deterioration, unnecessary damage and ageing, with all the associated risks, makes a professional annual inspection the most cost-effective way to manage and protect your asset.

At CRS, we’re always available to provide an expert advice service and high quality, complete  roof inspections, covering all commercial, industrial and public sector roof types. We can provide retained services for inspections annually or to other schedules in consultation with you for your ease and can conduct a gutter clean at the same time, thereby reducing costs.

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