Properly installed and maintained rooftop equipment can be a great way to optimize otherwise unusable space – but the “properly installed and maintained” part is critical. Every component – the equipment, the roof supports, and the bases – has to work together the way it’s supposed to. Here’s what you need to know to make your roof supports an asset rather than a liability.
1. Don’t Use Makeshift Supports
Effective, safe roof supports take just as much engineering as any other part of your building. It’s essential that each support be optimized for things like the type of rooftop surface, the weight the support will bear, predictable contraction and expansion, wind, and other conditions, both foreseeable and unplanned. While budget constraints are a very real part of the job, makeshift supports – like an overturned bucket or a stack of bricks – will inevitably fail, and the costs will be much greater than if you had done the job right to start with.
2. Do Properly Prepare the Surface of The Roof
When you’re talking about equipment that weighs hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds, a few pebbles might not seem like a big deal. But when you put a rooftop support on top of gravel, leaves, or other debris, that support is inherently unstable. A few unswept pieces of gravel means that your expensive equipment is ultimately resting on that gravel, not on the roof supports or its base. Just go ahead and take a few minutes to clean the roof surface.
3. Do Proper Level Bases
A base that is unleveled is a base that is unstable. It doesn’t get much simpler than that. If the base isn’t level, the support and the equipment on it will sway and rock in the wind. That creates a couple of problems. First, it can puncture the surface of your roof. Second, it can dump all of that expensive equipment right onto your rooftop, damaging both the roof and the equipment.
4. Do Know When You Need Extra Support
Even the best rooftop supports can’t make up for an inadequate roof. If you want to install extremely heavy equipment on your roof, you might need to place the bases on top of joists for added support. It’s far better to err on the side of caution, so consult with a building engineer if you’re not sure whether the roof can support the equipment you’re planning to install.
5. Do Attach the Base to The Roof
Some pieces of equipment – like equipment that vibrates a lot or that is top-heavy (and, therefore, vulnerable to the wind and seismic activity) – need to be secured to the rooftop according to engineered designed code requirements for the local area. That requires some advance planning. If you’re going to secure the support with bolts, you’ll have to know whether there’s enough clear space to insert a bolt, and you’ll also need to make sure you can access the roof from the inside. You’ll also need to consider whether you can drill holes without causing leaks. And, if you’re going to use an adhesive, you have to make sure the adhesive is right for the rooftop surface.
6. Don’t Install Roof Supports Without Considering Maintenance
Some roof supports and equipment require more maintenance than others. If you’re securing a support with bolts, for example, you’ll have to do regular inspections to look for things like the degradation of bases and loosening bolts. If it’s going to require a lot of maintenance, consider installing rooftop walkways – and safety rails if the equipment will be near an edge.
Successfully using your rooftop space for important equipment isn’t hard. In fact, it comes down to some pretty simple truths of physics. That’s the neat thing about science – it is what it is. If you pay attention to the science behind rooftop supports and equipment, both your roof and the equipment on it should have a long and healthy life.