5 Things that Shorten the Life of Your Roof

September 16, 2020 | By: Molly Looman
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A roof can sometimes fall into the category of “out of sight, out of mind.” While interior systems and curb appeal projects are easy to spot and feel more pressing for the day-to-day life of a tenant, problems on the roof can cut deep into a budget, especially when roofs need parts replaced. There are few common missteps that can shorten the life of your roof and lower the value of that investment.

1. DIY Repairs

Identifying the repairs a roof needs quickly is a great first step in making sure a roof goes the distance. However, performing an improper or incompatible repair can be more damaging to the structure itself. Vice President and Partner with Zurix Roofing Systems John Harcourt said it’s important to have the right person doing the right repairs.

“Making sure your roofing vendor or consultant is accessing your building a few times per year will go a long way to making sure that your roof will reach its maximum useful life,” Harcourt said.

Improper repairs can cause more damage to the roof, lead to additional repairs and generally shorten the life of your roof.

2. Neglect

A problem will never get fixed if it is never seen. Even worse, if a problem is seen and never dealt with, it can create even bigger challenges down the road. Portfolio Chief Engineer with Lincoln Property Company David Vences, SMA, SMT, LEED GA said the biggest mistake he sees engineers make is a lack of preparation.

“If I were to ask a building engineer or a facility manager, ‘Show me your roof program,’ and your response is, ‘Well, any time we have a leak, we notify our roofer and they fix it,’” Vences said, “This would be a good start.”

Building engineers and property managers are responsible for developing in-depth roof programs that mark when repairs are done, who did the repairs, where the leaks are and what the inspection schedule is. Not giving a roof the same inspection attention as other systems in a property means that more can go wrong without anyone noticing, thus making the roof more susceptible to further issues.

3. Foot Traffic

A roof receives a lot of attacks from weather, falling debris, harsh sunlight, and wildlife. Adding to it by increasing foot traffic is the one factor a team can control. While regular inspections and repairs are necessary, try to keep the foot traffic limited to those trips. High foot traffic can wear down the materials on the roof and create more wear and tear on the roof system on the whole.

Roofs are just like any other system in a building. They need regular care, regular inspections, and regular attention. Roof repairs can break a budget and the longer a roof can last, the better.

4. Weather Conditions

Debris and a roof program are within a building engineer’s control. The weather, unfortunately, is not. Rain and drastic changes in temperature can shorten the life of a roof and cause damage in different seasons.

“Some roof systems will perform better in different climates or different situations than others,” Harcourt  said. “The continuous transition between cold-hot and sun-rain breaks down a roof’s components.”

While weather is out of the management team’s control, understanding the effects the weather in the area can have on a roof is important for preventative maintenance. Being unprepared may lead to more roof repairs and replacements.

5. Debris

Debris can be the ultimate enemy of a roof. Loose nails can tear holes, leaves can clog drains and, in general, debris makes repairs harder to perform. If debris is left to collect or is not properly removed in a timely manner, a roof may deteriorate faster, thus shortening its lifespan.

“One of the simplest ways to extend the life of a roof is clean and clear any obstruction from roof drains,” Vences said.

Letting a few leaves gather may seem like a small inconvenience, but if left to accumulate, debris can cause major destruction. Debris can also include tools and screws left behind from repairs. Make sure that the roof is kept clear during and after any projects.