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Ensuring Your Commercial Roof Can Combat Extreme Weather

Posted by Art Valentz on May 5, 2021

No matter where you’re located, your commercial rooftop will generally be subjected to some form of extreme weather, whether this means storms, heavy winds, snow, tornadoes, and even earthquakes or hurricanes. Buildings that are constructed in areas known to experience extreme weather or seismic events need more than traditional roof support equipment. Here’s what you should be aware of based on the dangers you’re going to face.

Rain, Wind, and Hurricanes Ensure a Need for Additional Roofing Protection

With hurricane names extending into the Greek letters in 2020, it’s time to think about adding roofing protection against extreme rain and wind. These forces essentially represent a stress-test against your roof. If you were good about maintenance and reinforcement, you should be able to get through hurricane season with only minor issues. If you weren’t as good, preexisting minor issues may turn into major setbacks.

To prepare for a hurricane you should:

  •   Trim the trees around your building. Prevent windborne debris for damaging your roof surface by making sure that any loose limbs are taken care of before a storm arrives.
  •   Inspect problem areas. These include corners, seams, and flashings where the roof membrane is already under a bit of stress. Existing damage at these points can turn into a leak or a blow-off.
  •   Clean your drainage systems. Blocked or damaged drain pipes will promote water pooling on your roof. After a storm drops several feet of water, you could see leaks, rotting materials, or even a roof collapse.
  •   Secure your roof equipment. Ensure that your pipes, cable trays, HVAC ducts, solar panels, and other equipment are secured or weighted down to the extent that they can’t blow off your roof. Cap your skylights with plywood to prevent broken glass.

Taking these steps will protect your commercial roof from most physical damage due to hurricanes—but there are always exceptions. You should document all these steps as you take them. If the worst happens, you can prove to your insurance company that you undertook all due diligence, allowing reconstruction to take place according to your policy.

Roofing Protection in Earthquake Country

When it comes to installing roofing protection in places like California, building owners need to adopt different tactics. Earthquakes, of course, can strike year-round. This means there’s no off-season when you can reinforce and repair your roof. Instead, you need to be prepared at any time, and preparation starts at the design phase.

To minimize damage during an earthquake, opt for lightweight, flexible materials. For example, a single-ply TPO roof membrane will be better-adapted to the uneven movement of an earthquake than more rigid materials. This material won’t tear, split, or separate unless subjected to the most extreme conditions. Under the worst-case scenario, a lightweight TPO roof membrane is much easier to deal with during a potential roof collapse.

In addition to selecting the right roofing material, you should also maintain your roof throughout the year. Always inspect your roof after every seismic event—you never know what might get shaken loose.

Building up Roofing Protection Before Fire Season

Pictures from California, Oregon, and Washington State in the summer of 2020 showed a grim reality of red skies and entire landscapes ablaze. In addition to hurricanes and earthquakes, wildfires represent an extreme event that must be taken seriously by the owners of commercial roofs.

Right now, the biggest threat to a commercial roof isn’t being directly engulfed by a rapidly spreading fire. Rather, windblown embers are the thing to watch out for the most. These tend to be burning pieces of leaves, pinecones, or even wooden shingles from other buildings. When embers are carried by the wind, they can lodge in commercial roofs.

Because commercial roofs have such a large surface area, they can catch a lot of embers during a forest fire. Clearing debris is one of the most important roofing protections you can perform during fire season, because if an ember lands in a pile of flammable debris on your commercial roof, the whole structure may catch alight.

Ironically, a heavy fire season can yield water problems on your commercial roof. Embers can still melt holes in your roof membrane, leading to leaks during the rainy season. Additionally, windblown ash and other debris from wildfires can still accumulate on your roof, blocking drains and encouraging water accumulation. You’re encouraged to inspect and protect your roof any time you find yourself within six miles of a fire zone.

Make Roofing Protection Easy with PHP Systems/Design

PHP offers zero penetration rooftop equipment support systems made of hot-dipped galvanized steel and supported by high-density polypropylene bases. This equipment is designed to resist high temperatures, high winds, and seismic forces caused by earthquakes, making them an excellent addition to your commercial roof. At PHP Systems/Design, we’re here to discuss any weather-related concerns you may have.

Topics: Roofing Management

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