When improper rooftop support systems are designed, engineered, or installed incorrectly, they can have a significant impact on the structural integrity and performance of a building’s entire roof area. In fact, the use of improper or inadequate roof equipment supports is one of the most common causes of roof failure – and don’t think that roofing membrane manufacturers and installers don’t know it too!
Unfortunately for owners, when roof damage does occur and it becomes time to make a claim, it often does not go as well as they had planned…even when the details of warranty agreement were spelled out in black and white.
Understanding Warranty Language
Building owners, as well as other principles involved in the construction and ongoing maintenance of a building, should look very closely at the warranty information regarding the performance of the roof. Be warned. This is not light reading material. It can be very challenging to decipher the legalese contained in the warranty document. If that’s the case, don’t simply ignore it and hope for the best. Find a legal resource to help you understand what it says and what will be covered.
Remember, manufacturer warranties on roofing materials are made by the lawyers working for the issuer and are often designed to protect the
manufacturer from liability – just as much, if not more than the building owner. As always, it comes down to the fine print details of the agreement.
Pay Attention to the Details
Most building owners and facility managers focus on the amount of time a warranty will be valid and ignore other, more important elements of the agreement. These include paying attention to details such as:
- Who is issuing the warranty – Is it the contractor or roofing material manufacturer?
- What exactly is covered by the warranty? — Materials and labor? Just materials? Roof replacement or repair?
- When does the warranty period begin? — Does it start on Day 1 or not until the project is “Paid in Full”?
- Will the value of the warranty depreciate over time?
- How much maintenance is the building owner required to perform? — How does that maintenance need to be documented?
Every company you buy from will be different, as will their warranty policies. Finding the answers to these questions before you purchase your roof equipment supports will minimize issues later on when you might need to file a claim.
Some Exclusions May (and Probably Will) Apply
We’ve all heard these words after every television or radio ad. And while many warranty “exclusions” are in place to protect the issuer from fraudulent claims, it is important to understand what building owners and facility managers can and can’t do in order to maintain the warranty.
Common exclusions may include things such as making any alterations or additions to the building design without notifying the manufacturer in advance and getting written approval for the changes. Building owners should also be aware that any roof damage that is caused by equipment installed on the roof – including damage caused by the foot traffic of the equipment installer or service technician – is generally not covered by the manufacturer’s warranty either.
Use PEs to Help Select Compatible Equipment
One important step that building owners can take when it comes time to either install or replace rooftop equipment is to call on a certified design consultant such as a Professional Engineer (PE). A certified rooftop design professional has the knowledge and experience to advise building owners about the compatibility of items such as rooftop supports, sealants, roofing membranes and other equipment.
Another benefit of working with a PE is that they are often very familiar with any recent changes in the local or regional building codes as well as any other regional, weather related nuances, such as extreme heat, extreme cold, moisture and wind. As a result, PE's will be able to guide building owners and designers towards the products and materials that will perform well together and hold up to the elements over time.
Additionally, owners can be confident that each PE approved roofing material, piece of equipment and support system has been carefully scrutinized based on the specific requirements of that particular project. This amount of review time and due diligence would be impractical for an owner to attempt on their own. Lastly, materials and roofing components that do hold up to a PE review are going to be designed to be more durable, require less maintenance and in general, perform better over time. (An added bonus: installing roof equipment supports that lasts longer and will require less maintenance means less overall foot traffic on your roof too.)
An Ounce of Prevention
Some property owners may consider investing a little more time and money into the selection of every single roofing component to be unnecessary. However, owners should also keep in mind that installing something as small and seemingly harmless as "general purpose" piping or roof equipment supports can cause big problems over time if it proves to be incompatible with the other roofing materials and installed components.
When it comes to making the right connection between component and roof, it really is about paying attention to the little things and choosing compatible equipment. If you do, it can help insure that your entire roof system will perform as it should, for as long as it should.