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How to Mitigate the Effects of Foot Traffic On Your Roof

Posted by Art Valentz on June 24, 2020

Most of the time, we recommend that you keep foot traffic on your roof to a minimum. Unfortunately, those in certain commercial and industrial verticals may have to accommodate foot traffic that goes beyond the ordinary cycle of maintenance. When this happens, investing in a form of roof protection can go a long way. Consider these possible scenarios:

  •       Your building has a rooftop patio or restaurant
  •       Your rooftop doubles as a fire escape path and regular drills are needed
  •       Your rooftop has solar panels that require cleaning
  •       Your building is part of a refinery or chemical plant with a lot of rooftop equipment that needs regular maintenance and operation

In short, there are a number of reasons why people might need to access your roof more often than is usually necessary. Unfortunately, if a roof isn’t built to withstand foot traffic, you’re going to have to deal with hazards such as crushed insulation or torn membranes – plus the risk of someone falling off (or even through!) your roof. What can you do about this?

Building Your Roof with Foot Traffic in Mind

One relatively inexpensive option is to add walk pads or walkways to your roof. These additions take the form of heavy-duty EPDM rubber mats with a peel-and-stick adhesive backing that essentially glues itself to the roof surface. The theory is that the thick rubber pads will absorb the force of people walking on the rooftop surface, rather than the rooftop itself, providing a quick-fix for roof protection. In addition, the pads and walkways can be printed with safety colors and include textured surfaces that make them easier to walk on.

The disadvantage of this solution is that it’s relatively temporary. Under constant days of exposure to heat, cold, rain, and UV, your walk pads will break down – and they’ll break down faster because people keep walking on them. In addition, these pads will only protect the roof for as long as people are walking on them – if people choose to stray off the path, then the protection doesn’t exist. Use walk pads on job sites and in industrial areas where workers know the dangers of working on a roof.

Another solution is simply to reinforce your roof as it’s being built. Built-up roofing is one of the oldest roofing systems in use, and it offers excellent resistance to both weather and heavy foot traffic because it’s created from several layers of material. Metal roofs look great and offer the most durability of any kind of roofing material. PVC roofs also have desirable properties. Since the material is made from two layers of PVC plastic reinforced with polyester, it can repel sunlight, dust, dirt, and heavy foot traffic as well.

Of course, using stronger materials can also be a problem. For one thing, stronger materials are more expensive – PVC is more expensive than either TPO or EPDM roofing, for example. Secondly, as strong as these materials are, extensive foot traffic will still weaken them. Walking on these roofs is guaranteed to damage them over time – which means you’ll be paying to replace a more expensive roof more often.

Upgrade Your Roof to Accommodate Increased Foot Traffic

Ultimately, the problem with building a roof to accommodate increased foot traffic is that not every roof starts out as a high-traffic roof. Sometimes, an ordinary non-reinforced roof simply becomes highly trafficked over time. In these circumstances, it’s best to upgrade your roof with roof walkway systems that can support increased foot traffic without requiring major modifications to the structure of your roof.

A good roof access walkway does several things:

  •  Prevents foot traffic from damaging membranes by putting a physical barrier over the roof surface
  •  Spreads out the weight of people walking on the roof over a large surface area, preventing them from crushing insulation
  • Attaches to the roof without penetrations that can promote leaks
  • Adds staircases and railings to areas near roof edges, preventing slips and falls

These additions help roofs endure heavy foot traffic while greatly improving the safety of those walking on the roof. In addition, these help facility owners comply with new OSHA regulations that strictly enforce worker safety while working near roof edges.

Create Safer and More Durable Roofs with PHP Systems/Design

At PHP Systems/Design, we specialize in creating custom roof walkways that can help facility managers mitigate the effects of increased foot traffic on their roofs and provide sound roof protection. In cases when it’s not practical to simply restrict personnel from walking on the rooftop, we can make sure that your roof lasts longer and remains as safe as possible.

Topics: Roofing Management

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