Wise Words on Roofs
Chris Matthews, vice president and senior consultant for GCI Consultants, stepped into the role of host for a recent episode of the “Everything Building Envelope” podcast, to engage in a timely discussion with roof expert and new GCI team member, Derek Segal.
Derek comes to GCI from a successful career as roofing consultant and president of a prominent roofing company in Fort Lauderdale. In recent years, Derek has focused on educating clients about the care and management of roofing systems, and in helping them through insurance claims and other aspects of recovery.
Getting a Head Start
Preparing for a storm should start well before the storm warning by establishing a relationship with an independent roofing expert. Derek compares this relationship to finding a doctor you can trust before you need one. Such a connection can help smooth out the chaos that follows a storm, as clients set about the work of recovery.
A roofing expert will become familiar with the fundamentals of the roofing system, including the warranty terms, manufacturer and historical information of the roof. Inspections will establish a baseline condition for the record; documentation should also include photographs of the roof before any storm activity.
On the Scene
Roofs may sustain direct or indirect damage from high winds — an impact to the roof itself is direct damage, while flying debris causes indirect damage.
Signs of direct damage may be evident on flat roofs at the corners and edges, where loss of attachment can occur. On tile roofs, the method of fastening has a significant effect on how the tiles withstand high winds. Tiles that are mechanically nailed may lift up and then crash down, breaking at the corners when they come into contact with each other.
Damage might also be invisible. Wind uplift may unsettle the edges of a roof, while the center may not move or may settle back down, so only a special device can detect any loss of attachment. Another insidious source of moisture infiltration occurs when wind disturbs tiles and then retreats, causing tiles to settle down. The nails holding the tiles, concealed under overlapping ones, are no longer seated. This creates little holes that are pathways for moisture, even though they are hidden from sight.
Certain building types are considered especially vulnerable to damage from hurricane-force winds. Derek pointed to roofs on tall buildings — since wind speed and uplift pressure increase at higher levels — and older buildings constructed before stringent building codes were put in place. But new buildings aren’t immune to damage, either, as both Derek and Chris have noted.
Buildings in the High-Velocity Hurricane Zone, usually near the coast, are also susceptible to damage.
What You Don’t See
Some types of roof decks can hide or delay leaks into the building, but the moisture can cause more damage and expense in the long term. Unchecked moisture infiltration can lead to the kind of biological growth, such as mold, that poses a threat to human health. Continuous exposure to moisture also undermines structural components as they rot out of sight.
Often the damage to the roof occurs as a result of a storm or hurricane, but it isn’t detected during post-event inspections. It’s important to be proactive both in monitoring the roof regularly and carrying out thorough inspections after an event, even if the roof seems to have emerged unscathed. If a problem arises much later, insurance companies could determine that negligence contributed to the damage, resulting in serious setbacks in the recovery process.
Visit the “Everything Building Envelope” podcast to hear the complete discussion between Chris and Derek, and take a moment to subscribe while you’re there. You won’t want to miss any of these informative discussions about the building envelope.