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Nail Your Next Roof Inspection

March 03, 2020 David Wylie

If you are reading this blog post in your office, the library, or another campus facility, take a quick look around. The floors, walls, windows, and doors cost money. Same goes for the desks, chairs, computers, and lights. But if you want to know where the lion’s share of budget dollars went, look up.

Roofs are among your organization’s most expensive and important assets. Even seemingly minor leaks can cause major disruptions. It is critical that your organization purchases roofs designed to stand up to your region’s climate. From there, you can protect your investments by regularly inspecting roofs.

What’s in it for you?

We know you’re busy, so we won’t dig into how climate change and rising sea levels impact the state of the property market. For now, just know that extreme weather such as thunderstorms, hurricanes, and hail are increasingly common across the globe, including right here in Texas. A roof preventative maintenance plan that includes regularly scheduled inspections can help your organization:

  • Extend the life of facility roofs
  • Identify roof damage early, before it results in costly repairs or replacements
  • Comply with roof warranties
  • Fulfill an important duty of Fund Property program membership

Build on a foundation of safety

Large districts might have facilities or maintenance personnel who make good roof inspection candidates. In smaller districts, the superintendent might be the only candidate. Whomever your organization assigns to inspect roofs, make sure they know how to protect themselves from the hazards.

Falls, slips, trips, electrical shocks, chemical exposure, and extreme temperatures are common causes of serious accidents on roofs. Each roof’s materials and design present additional, unique hazards. Your roof preventative maintenance plan should assign responsibility for documenting hazards, explaining control measures, and training staff to do the job safely. If nobody on your team is qualified to safely inspect roofs, consider hiring a manufacturer-approved contractor.

Follow these inspection guidelines

Your preventive maintenance program should require at least two annual inspections on each roof. Spring and fall are good times to inspect roofs because changing temperatures can uncover seasonal damage. You should also inspect roofs after facility construction and severe weather. The Fund recommends members follow a documented inspection process that includes, at minimum, these five steps.

Step 1. Get an inspection checklist

Checklists promote thorough, consistent roof inspections. In a coverage or warranty dispute, checklists also prove that you fulfilled your maintenance requirements. Consult your product manuals for roof-specific inspection checklists. If you cannot locate a roof-specific checklist, contact the manufacturer. As a last resort, tailor this checklist for each roof type.

Step 2. Start inside the facility

With your checklist in hand, you’re ready to start the inspection. It might seem strange to kick the process off inside the facility, but you’d be surprised what you might find. Sheet rock damage could indicate a leak caused by a crack or hole in the roof. So can water stains and unexplained mold or odors. Even the smallest leak can cause big trouble if you don’t address it promptly.

Step 3. Walk the perimeter

Next, walk the facility’s perimeter, looking for red flags. Mildew-stained walls could mean gutters are damaged or clogged. One of the best ways to keep gutters working properly is to secure them, especially if you serve a region that is prone to heavy winds. Other signs of roof damage you might find on the perimeter include foundation cracks, warped window frames, and protective gravel that blew off the roof.

Step 4. Get on the roof

When you’re finished inspecting inside and outside the facility, it’s time to get on the roof. To reduce your risk of missing spots, walk the same path every time. Begin at the perimeter and walk the length, turning back and forth in narrow aisles. As you walk the roof, your primary objectives are to conduct routine maintenance and look for damage. Make sure you document your findings and all actions you take:

  • Conduct routine maintenance.  Common maintenance tasks include cleaning the roof, distributing gravel equally, trimming tree branches that hang over the roof, and clearing debris such as leaves, soda bottles, and soccer balls. It is especially important to clear debris from gutters and drains because they shuttle water off the roof. Consult your roof specification manuals to ensure you complete necessary routine maintenance, without damaging roofs in the process.
  • Look for damage. As you conduct routine maintenance, use your inspection checklist to spot potential damage. Pooling water could signal a drainage problem. Dents, chips, crow’s feet, or missing asphalt are common signs that a roof was battered by hail. You should also check roof penetrations such as HVAC units, utility pipes, and chimneys for cracked sealant, leaks, and other red flags noted on the inspection checklist. 

Step 5. Make a follow-up plan

Fund Property program members who uncover roof damage that falls outside the confines of routine maintenance should report a claim as soon as possible. Claims filed more than 365 days after the incident might not be covered. To help members proactively address roof damage, the Fund subscribes to HailFlashTM reports that pinpoint when and where hail falls. If we receive a report for your area, we will reach out and explain what to do next.

Take advantage of the value of membership

Fund Property program members have exclusive access to our online roof inspection training program. The program leverages interactive content and realistic scenarios to engage learners in the principals of safe roof inspections. Members also benefit from supporting resources such as safety training material. Employees can wrap up by taking a short quiz and testing their knowledge. Email risk solutions at fund.training@tasb.org for the course enrollment key code.

Tagged: Safety, "school safety"