Use Inspection Checklist to Prepare Your Roof for Winter
One of the most important things you can do before winter settles in at your site is to inspect your roof. That’s because most roof damage occurs during winter. Harsh weather conditions—such as heavy rain or snow, strong winds, and extreme temperatures—can cause substantial damage to a building’s roof, says Kent Mattison, president of a roofing consultant company. But many sites worry about their roofs only after these conditions cause damage, such as leaks. This reactive approach can lead to premature roof failure and costly interior damage.
You can prevent these problems by having your roof inspected by a qualified inspector before harsh weather hits, says Mattison. We’ll tell you why a fall roof inspection is so important. And we’ll give you a checklist of items your inspector should examine and things he should look for during such an inspection.
Why Inspect Your Roof Before Winter?
Regular roof inspections are always important and should be part of your site’s roof maintenance program, says Mattison. He explains that having a roof inspection before the harsh winter weather hits is particularly important because an inspection will:
- Help you identify potential problems before winter weather conditions make them actual problems;
- Allow you to address existing problems before conditions such as snow and ice make them worse and more difficult to repair;
- Save you money in the short term because it’s always cheaper to repair and maintain your roof than to rebuild or replace it—and it’s even more expensive to have roof work done during winter; and
- Save you money in the long term by extending the life of your roof.
FALL ROOF INSPECTION CHECKLIST
Have your roof inspected as early as possible in the fall so you have enough time to make any necessary repairs before winter, suggests Mattison. And use someone who’s familiar with the problems unique to your roof system, he advises. If no one on your staff is qualified to inspect your roof, consider hiring a roofing contractor or consultant, he says.
Here’s a checklist of items your inspector should examine and things he should look for during a roof inspection:
 Active Leaks
Your inspector should look for any leaks in your roof, as well as the sources of these leaks. Locating the sources may be difficult, but it’s necessary and often the most complex part of the inspection. A leak’s location inside the building may not correlate with the location of the source of the leak on the roof, he explains, and if you repair the leak but not the source, new leaks will develop.
 Field Membrane
The field membrane is the surface or covering of your roof, explains Mattison. When inspecting the field membrane, your inspector should look for splits, ridges, eroded areas, punctures, blisters, or separating seams. Although these conditions may not be a problem now, they could quickly become one during winter.
 Perimeter Flashings
Flashings, which are usually made of sheet metal, are designed to waterproof the roof. Perimeter flashings, which tie in the roof system to the building, are particularly vulnerable to damage from material shrinkage and movement of building components, Mattison says. If not properly attached, they can be dislodged by strong winds. Your inspector should check to make sure the perimeter flashings are sealed and properly secured, he says.
 Penetration Flashings
Penetration flashings are used in areas where the roof is penetrated by things such as skylights, ducts, and HVAC equipment, explains Mattison. As with perimeter flashings, your inspector should check to make sure these are sealed and properly secured.
 Roof-Related Sheet Metal
Your inspector should check other pieces of roof-related sheet metal, such as metal coping caps, counter-flashing, expansion joint covers, perimeter fascia metal, and termination bars, advises Mattison. The inspector should check to see whether the sheet metal has loose fasteners, an inadequate number of fasteners, or poorly maintained caulking at its edges, he says. Sheet metal that has such conditions may develop leaks or get damaged by the wind, he notes. Also, the inspector should make sure the sheet metal joints are properly sealed and that the sheet metal is secured to the roof so that strong winds can’t damage it.
Poor drainage is a common problem on low-sloped roofs, says Mattison. If roof drainage devices—including drains, scuppers, gutters, and downspouts—are clogged, water can accumulate on the roof and create “ponding,” Mattison explains. This can lead to leaks and deterioration of the roof system. And if the ponding is severe, in extreme cases your roof can collapse, he warns.
It’s important that drainage devices are free of debris and other obstructions, he says. So when checking your roof’s drains, your inspector should make sure that all drains are open and allow water to exit, and that all gutters and downspouts are secure and free of debris. And if you’re in a region that gets a lot of snow, consider putting a red pole near each drain so that your staff members can easily locate them to clear them after a snowfall, suggests Mattison.
 Adjacent Conditions
Your inspector should check things such as ductwork, skylights, wall penetrations, seals to doors on the roof, and HVAC equipment, says Mattison. Leaks attributed to the roof are often actually due to defects in these items, he explains.
Kent Mattison: President, Benchmark, Inc., 6065 Huntington Ct. NE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52402; (319) 393-9100.