Four Tips to Prevent Leaks, Prolong Building Life
Preventive maintenance is a thankless task. Occurring behind the scenes, preventive maintenance usually doesn’t get noticed unless something disastrous happens. Owners and managers often give landscaping and cleaning services priority because the benefits associated with those activities are readily visible. Roof care and building exterior maintenance, on the other hand, because of their relative high costs and low visibility, are often postponed or simply neglected. But owners and managers ignore preventive maintenance at their own peril.
“Drainage failure and building envelope failure are the main reasons for leaks,” says Charles Antis, president of Antis Roofing & Waterproofing in Irvine, Calif. Because of mold, the liabilities for leaks and moisture intrusion are costlier than ever for owners. “Interior repairs that used to cost less than a $1,000 now cost more than $10,000 because they have to comply with air-quality standards for mold remediation,” says Antis.
This reason alone makes preventive maintenance and vigilance for potential leaks a vital concern. Antis notes that legitimate and fear-based litigation have affected his industry. In particular, this is because litigation and the threat of lawsuits have driven up insurance costs, providing an incentive for site owners to keep up with building exterior preventive maintenance.
Winter and harsh weather can erode your site’s buildings. It’s wise to review your site’s preventive maintenance priorities and to make sure your roof and building exterior will last for many more seasons. Here are some maintenance tips that Antis gives to owners and managers in his preventive maintenance class.
Tip #1: Remove All Debris from Drainage Points
Ensuring proper drainage is important for both flat and sloping roofs. Proper drainage requires that excess water be correctly carried away or diverted from sensitive areas. For sloped roofs, sensitive areas requiring attention are at the valleys where one sloped roof meets another, and other areas where water is channeled during rains.
“Debris caught in the valleys essentially creates a dam, which can direct the moisture sideways and under roof shingles. Also, sitting water on flat roofs can cause the roofing felt to break down,” explains Antis. Roofing felt is the rolled paper-like material used for waterproofing. Antis recommends having a qualified service provider or maintenance worker remove all leaves and debris from rooftops at least twice a year. The inspections required will depend on the site’s region or particular building setting. “A building might have a lot of greenery above the roofline requiring attention more often than twice a year,” Antis cautions.
Tip #2: Perform Water Testing
Use a simple hose and nozzle to make sure flat rooftop drains, roof gutters, and downspouts aren’t clogged. Antis advises against using strong water pressure, because the downspouts and gutters aren’t designed to comply with plumbing pipe standards. If a hose and nozzle don’t clear the clog, sometimes sections of downspouts must be removed to access blockages.
Tip #3: Visually Inspect Transition Penetration Points
Another major source of leaks is in what Antis refers to as flashing-transition areas. Flashing is the weatherproofing shielding placed around objects that protrude from the roof or walls of a building, such as pipes and chimneys.
When inspecting the building exterior, Antis advises managers or their staff members to pay close attention to areas where walls meet windows, roofs, hose bibs, and other walls. “Generally, leaks do not occur in the field area. Ninety percent of leaks occur in less than 10 percent of a building’s surface area,” says Antis.
If a leak occurs at these transition points because the flashing elements don’t properly overlap with the building materials below them, call a professional waterproofer immediately. A professional is recommended because maintenance workers sometimes seal the wrong flashing elements. For example, with stucco walls, moisture trapped behind the stucco coat and the wall is released via the flashing elements at the bottom of the wall. Sealing these elements traps the moisture, promoting structural rot and exacerbating leaks. It’s important to know how to properly seal or fix flashing elements and which flashing elements to seal.
Tip #4: Advise Residents to Remove Window and Deck Debris
Sometimes the simplest advice can prevent catastrophes and stave off resident complaints. Antis recommends that residents periodically vacuum their window tracks. Windows, like rooftops, have their own drainage systems. In sliding windows, drain holes are located at the bottom corner joints. Debris can obstruct these exits, causing leaks into residents’ units. Sometimes residents or managers assume that leaks from windows indicate a much bigger leak problem, when simply clearing out the bottom window tracks will do.
If your site has units with patios or decks, advise residents to keep them clear of debris. Patio and deck drains are small. A deck with misplaced plants or stray leaves can obstruct the drains, resulting in leaks into their own or neighboring units.
Charles Antis: President, Antis Roofing & Waterproofing, 48 Waterworks Way, Irvine, CA 92618; www.antisroofing.com.