Commercial and Industrial Roofing: Proper Maintenance and Care

Written by: Commercial Real Estate Inspectors, LLC

In our experience, the roof is one thing buyers have the most attention on and rightfully so. Proper maintenance and routine inspections are the best way to prolong the life of the roof.

"Flat Roof"

The typical commercial and industrial roof is a “flat” roof. This means that it has less than 2” of slope or fall for every level foot. Modern standards require all roofing to have a minimum of ¼” of slope for every level foot. This was rarely the case in roofing before the 70’s. Almost all roofs built in the 70’s and earlier are usually very flat and do not shed water well. This leaves areas of standing water. Standing water is a potential problem for two reasons; #1 is when standing water has a way of finding a weak spot and leaking. #2 is standing water collects dirt and debris that will cause the roofing material to deteriorate faster and therefore create leaks. (Standing water is any water that is either ½” deep or more and not flowing or has not evaporated in 48 hours or more after the rain has stopped.)

Lifespan & Maintenance 

The usual expected useful life of a flat roof is approximately 13 – 17 years with many roofing materials, if properly maintained, last 20 years.

Proper maintenance of the roof is the cheapest insurance there is. Once a roof has passed the 5-year mark, if every owner had a roofer go over the roof every 2-3 years and make any repairs as well as do all the normal preventative maintenance, a roof can last well past its expected useful life.

Title 24 Energy Roofing Requirements 

The state of California has energy requirements that are listed in what is called Title 24. These are mandated energy requirements for every building in the state. Although enforcement of these mandates is not always consistent, Title 24 covers many areas. Specifically, regarding roofing, it requires any roof over a “conditioned space” (namely office space) to have a reflective coating over it to help reflect the heat and save on energy. This material can come in many forms from white vinyl plastic to spray on coatings and others.

Where this becomes important is if a building needs a new roof. You may be required to install this type of roof. The good news is that can cost far less to install than a standard roof. If the roof is older but still has some life left in it, it may be possible to make the necessary repairs and then have an applied coating installed over the existing roof.

There are two distinct advantages of installing this coating over an existing roof. One is that it will prolong the life of the roof and if the coating is re-applied approximately every 5 – 7 years while doing routine maintenance, the roof can last almost indefinitely. The second, and this may be greater than the first, is that the most efficient of these materials can reflect up to 80% of the sun’s rays which can be a substantial savings in energy costs not to mention saving wear and tear of the AC units because they don’t have to run full time during hot weather.

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