Getting a Commercial Roof Inspected
Roof inspections and roof surveys differ significantly. Oftentimes when customers call asking for a roof inspection, what they’re really looking for or needing is a roof survey.
A commercial roof inspection is kind of general in nature. It might be for a real estate purchase agreement where they just need to note the existing conditions for bank information, might be for an insurance audit. Before that insurance company will provide a policy they want to know the existing condition, so it’s general data gathered on the roof conditions.
What You Need to Know About Your Flat Roof
so now we're down here on the flat roofing I mean this is just freakin ridiculous look at people just just throwing their trash everywhere before fixing this thing like nails or like the worst thing to leave laying around your roof idiot step on on poke holes in your roof and then your roof leaks I mean come on who can't get that everywhere I have to try to avoid these things it's incredible so here he is a giant patch it looks like somebody actually used looks like it's hot tar be honest it could be torched down, I think this is hot tar by the way it's alligatoring that's what they call skin you can see that it's just coming up yeah this is crap you can't have that like that is gonna have to be removed 3-course granulated they did they throw some granules on top instead of putting the granules over here they just threw one of the things that always leaks on these flowers these joints right here this is Paulie see how it's popped out you're supposed to crimp it inward and then put one nail right here and then this doesn't happen leaks all over the roof watch a bitch it leaks right there every one of these leak is the amateur mistake look at that gravel are joint finger right underneath there water dry rot most likely it's exactly why they had to fix that area right there grab a card joint these people Wow so you want to hire somebody it's halfway competent and it's incredible it's crazy because they'll tell you that they are they're not so what's this gravel garden toast somebody actually spread tons didn't bother to split the roof they just put some tar on it they attempted to fix it it's all crispy just coming straight off you know what is this Oh No let's see what they did up here by this little window I'm almost afraid to look he's got their panda right there oh holy smokes they just roof right up to the window seal don't ever do that you gotta be kidding me I mean this is krimpets a roofing although look if it's mud table over here that's funny they leak straight inside the window that's a mess that's just a mess you know everything about that I've no idea what so anyways don't be powerless company
Now, a roof survey or a roof assessment performed by a roofing professional typically is performed by the contractor, the contractor sales technicians. Some will employ consultants. Generally with a quality contractor you don’t need to bring a consultant in, the contractor can handle that.
Now that survey is going to provide a much more in-depth analysis of the existing roof condition, it’s going to look at the age of the membrane, look closer at the flashings, the perimeter edges, the coping systems, provide all those data points into a formal professional package to be forwarded to the owner.
Checking everything from the roof flashing to roof mounted equipment
During the inspection the roof matrix as a whole is being inspected, so it’s not just the condition of the membrane that you need to be concerned with, it’s everything else that affects the waterproofing characteristics of the facility. So that might entail rooftop equipment, condensing units, perimeter edge, metal flashings, coping conditions, brick wall conditions, satellites might be up on that roof. There are such a large number of rooftop installation variables on these structures these days, there’s terraces and patios that are put up there, so you have to encompass all of that into the survey.
Additionally you need to determine what the existing roof assembly or the matrix of the roof core sample is, so you have to take a core sample and look at that.
The first data point gathered from a core was how many roofs are installed. Building codes allow for two roof systems to be installed on commercial low-slope buildings. Beyond that you have to begin the tear off process.
The second thing that core will tell you is if there’s any moisture present in the assembly. Now, it is a very small point within the roof assembly so multiple cores should be taken to determine if it’s dry. It would also give you a visual inspection of what type of roof deck there is and whether it is sustaining any water damage.
Oftentimes you can see if there’s any deterioration of that deck through that core assembly, and again, they’re small, additional analysis needs to be performed especially on a roof deck inspection from underneath to make sure that there’s no structural deterioration.
The two primary ways, cores will determine on a spot analysis, but the more thorough way is, and more popular way is with an infrared camera. So at dusk or into the evening hours the roof cools off, the moisture laden areas retain heat and the infrared camera picks up those anomalies.
So a couple of roof technicians will be on the roof utilizing the infrared camera, we’ll use marker paint to mark the anomalies or saturated areas, and then as long as that area doesn’t grow too much beyond 20% to maybe 30% of the roof we can do spot tear off and save the owner money. There’s no point in throwing away the existing insulation if it’s performing fine and if it’s not saturated.
Determining if a full roof replacement is needed
From a price perspective, it's always preferable to do repairs as opposed to replacing the entire roof because repairs will always be less expensive. However, if it is in excess of say 25 or 30%, at that point the cost savings of doing spot tear off versus complete removal and replacement, it is lost and it’s better to just go ahead and remove the whole thing.
Capacitance Moisture Meter
The other method is a capacitance moisture meter. This is a device, kind of looks like a lawn mower, that you actually walk across the roof assembly in a grid pattern and it is emitting electronic frequencies into the roof assemblies, and it reads at a different level when moisture’s present so that that electronic frequency actually travels through the moisture-laden material, it reads it on a meter.
It doesn’t lay it out in a pretty picture like an infrared camera will, but you can use it to determine, and especially if, in situations where there might be multiple layers of insulation and a infrared camera can’t read through all those installation layers you can tear a couple layers off and then deploy the capacitance meter once you get into the lower levels to see if there’s any hidden moisture in there as well.
Both are functional, infrared’s gaining more and more popularity. And the cost of the equipment has been coming down over the years, therefore so has the service.
Quality contractors these days, most of them will have that infrared capabilities and be able to provide that data in either video or photographic evidence and then obviously will verify the results of the infrared with rooftop core samples to identify that the moisture readings are correct.
The reports themselves should be very professional, well-documented, and well-prepared.
It should be something the professional contractor out there makes obvious through a well prepared document they spent a significant amount of time preparing ir for presentation. They should include photographs; photograph says a thousand words.
They also can put some descriptions underneath the proposal, most building owners don’t want to be on their roofs, that’s why they’re calling the subject matter experts to get up there and do this survey. It’s generally better to just let the roofing contractor do their job, especially from a safety standpoint.
So you’ve got photographs with an explanation of what they’re seeing in that photograph, maybe some roof drawings, roof diagrams, and those should be either done through some sort of CAD technology or some other software that gives you the ability to legibly draw the locations of the rooftop equipment. That should include the sizes of everything, locations of skylights, drains, gutter locations, down spouts, roof edges, coping conditions, different penetrations, satellite dishes, and then have a legend that describes all that because at some point these roofs can get pretty busy and it needs to be legible from the lay person standpoint exactly what they’re looking at in that diagram.
In addition to that there’s significant narrative needs to be included that describes if there are any ponding conditions.
The age of the roof system, oftentimes the owner is unaware, whether they bought the building or the building’s been around for years and a couple of the maintenance department guys have changed hands, nobody knows when the last time it was installed or even maintained. So the roofing professional should be able to identify the age of that roof system within a couple of years one way or another, so it gives you an approximate date of the original installation.
So again, you need to analyze in a narrative form all of the other ancillary products, if there are walkways up there, are they effective, have they been abandoned over time? So you’re really trying to get the story of what’s on that roof in a clear and concise manner so that the owner understands what and why they need to do what they need to do on that roof.
Once you receive the roof inspection, you really want to start looking at the proposals that typically are forwarded with that. Now after that inspection you might glean from two out of the three contractors that simple maintenance is only required. There might be a recommendation for a spot repair, there’s no reason to have to replace the entire roof system if it’s only one area that was deteriorated.
Or it’s possible the proposal will be for complete removal and or overlay situation, so, now you want to look at two to three professional roofing contractors and get proposals that have detailed scopes of work.
You have to be able to compare apples to apples on this, so oftentimes you’ll get contractors that have different solutions, and it can be very difficult to identify apples to apples. You may start trying to look at R-value and insulation thicknesses and membrane thicknesses and warranty terms, and each one has something a little bit different and can justify the difference in cost in their proposal through those differences. So oftentimes it’s good for the building owner to prepare a scope of work of what you want and ask those contractors to fall within a very small margin of error on that scope of work so that you can truly get an apples to apples comparison and make the best decision moving forward.
Roof Inspections with Drones
Drones are helping everyone from roofing inspectors to your local handyman improve safety, collect better data, and boost efforts to rebuild storm damaged buildings littered with debris with much greater safety and efficiency.
Drone-based roof inspections can easily be carried out by users who are not highly tech-savvy, flying them from their cell phone. And with price points coming down in recent years, it alows even budget conscious project management to get the job done without requiring an excessive fee to the end clients. Removing the hazards of falls alone should be one of the main advantages of making full use of drone technology for the roof or home inspector.
Some of the more popular drones used are made by DJI. The specific models that are used most often include the DJI Mavic, DJI Phantom and DJI Inspire, sometimes combined with the popular GoPro action camera. The key thing that you want from drone for your commercial roof inspection is the ability to use thermographic imaging. Thermal images using infrared thermography allow you to see areas of trouble that the naked eye would not see. Wind or hail damaged shingles or gutters are easy to spot the traditional way, but seeing beneath the surface where there has been water damage and corrosion brings it to a whole new level.
Given the variety of different types of drone technology available on the market today and the wide range of applications, roof inspection is probably one of the most common professional uses of arial infra red photography.
When it comes to commercial roof inspection, the money you pay compared to the work and money you'll save on needing significant roof repairs or even a completely new roof for your property makes for an easy choice.
Whether you decide to schedule a maintenance plan where a company will provide regular, complete service inspections to your roof is up to you. But it's a major point to understand that having professionals in the commercial roof inspections industry inspect your roof today to find any issues, rather than waiting for some major weather to arrive only then to find the problems and call your insurance company to learn what kind of estimate they'll offer you can take a lot of future stress out of your business life.
Don't wait to find a roof leak by getting the news that you have water on the floor - request that a professional roof inspector, who knows commercial roofs backward and forward, access your roof and help prevent future damage before it's too late. Call around and you may even be able to get a free quote to check the health of your roof. Once things are in order, it's a good idea to regularly have your site checked for potential issues and have a team go up top and fix them before they turn into a major roof construction project.
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