The designer and architect are in love with the look of the building, and the city manager is happy with how it blends into the community and addresses the needs of their constituents. The head of the company can’t wait to move into a new, shiny office in their brand new shining building. The local energy commission is pleased that the new place is a beacon of energy efficiency and is bringing sustainability to the area.

The building manager and maintenance team is feeling a little different. They’re wondering how they are going to maintain the building for the next few decades, and keep it up to the expectations of everyone else.

Tip #1: Input from the Start

Designing your roof from the get-go with maintenance in mind can save a ton of headaches along the line. Your building manager and maintenance team can provide input into what works for them, and what will make life easier as time passes.

By including the maintenance squad in the design process, you can evaluate:

  • Maintenance intent
  • Roof life expectation
  • Potential damage in the case of roof leakage
  • Potential maintenance cost requirements

These can help to evaluate exactly how far you can go in the design phase, and can help to avoid errors that may make maintenance difficult or even impossible later in the roof’s life. It can also help avoid costly change orders during the construction process.

Tip #2: Designing a Maintenance Program

Part of designing your roof is designing a real maintenance program from the start. Don’t go with ideals or what you hope for – work with the maintenance team to figure out what they will be able to do, and what schedule they can keep. Designing a roof for “ideal” maintenance often leads to preventative maintenance being skipped because of time shortage, or repairs being skipped because of a lack of training or equipment. Design the maintenance program in conjunction with roof design, and if there are areas where the two separate, work to solve that separation now, not later.

Tip #3: Drainage and Water Removal

The quickest way to a problem roof is allowing water to build up. There’s more water sitting there to get into the system if it does leak, puddling can accelerate deterioration of the rooftop membrane, and water can increase the dead load on a building. To be exact, a gallon of water weighs in at roughly 8.34 pounds. Even 100 gallons puts almost an extra half-ton of strain on the roof, as well as the supporting structure.

Designing your roof with plenty of drainage is the best start towards designing it with maintenance in mind. Check your local code for roof slope requirements, but it never hurts to exceed the code standard. Similarly, having a drain location at a low point every 75 feet is the bare minimum – exceeding that by having one every 50 or 60 feet will only improve drainage.

Tip #4: Rooftop Access

You can’t maintain your roof if you can’t get on it.

Ensuring there is adequate access to the rooftop is necessary, or else your team won’t get up there. Consider how your team is going to get to each section while toting along a tool chest, a full tool belt, ladders, or other necessary equipment for maintain the roof as well as the HVAC or other mechanical units that are up there. It’s not enough to make it accessible just for people, you also need to account for everything else that will be needed.

  • Rooftop hatches with permanent ladders that can be accessed from inside the building are generally the favored way to go. They require no protrusion onto the roof, and can be used without leaving the building. They can be placed strategically, requiring no support or extra building up of anything inside the building.
  • Stairs and a door are the easiest, but also the most expensive and the most likely to take away from the roof from a design standpoint. You’ll need to have stairs run all the way to the top, plus the additional building on top of the roof.
  • Ladder access is the cheapest, but also the most inconvenient. You want your rooftop access to be convenient enough to be used regularly. However, it’s better than nothing.

While maintenance is up on the rooftop, they’ll need to get around and move their equipment. Walking directly on the rooftop can cause damage, as can dropped tools or toolboxes. Providing walkway boards to high-maintenance areas from the roof access points to limit the potential for damage to be done. Placing walk pads around units and at access points will avoid damage at these spots that have high traffic or will have workers standing on them for a long period of time.

Tip #5: The Right Type of Roof

In all likelihood, a rooftop that is hard to maintain won’t be maintained. There will always be a reason to push it off until the next day. Using the right type of roof for your situation is important. There are three distinct types of roofing to choose from, in terms of material, each with their own benefits:

  • Single Ply – Robust and stable, both PVC and TPO single ply have proven themselves over the years. They are resistant to tearing, impact punctures, and chemicals, making them an all-around winner when it comes to minimizing potential roof issues. They are particularly useful in areas where inclement weather happens often, or where there is above-average chemical exposure.
  • SPF Foam – Seamless application means less points of potential failure. More often than not, major issues on roofs happen along seams. Eliminate the seams, eliminate the failures.
  • RainShield – Thanks to a smooth roof surface new roof top equipment or penetrations will be easy to incorporate into the roofing. Like the SPF Foam, it is also seamless, so you don’t have to worry about those seam failures.

Our team at Highland Commercial Roofing knows how to put together a roof that won’t just look good, but that will be easy to maintain well into the future. After all, what good is putting our name on something that is anything less than the best?