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Summer Commercial Roof Issues: Four Things to Watch Out For

Posted by Art Valentz on July 7, 2021

Even if you live in a relatively dry climate, the summer might be one of the worst seasons for your commercial roof. The sun can damage nearly any exposed roofing material, and strong summer storms can take advantage of this damage if it’s left unmitigated. Now that spring is upon us, it’s the perfect time to begin inspecting your commercial roof and hardening it against the following four factors over the months ahead.

Sun Damage: Fading or Deterioration of Materials

When a material spends a long time under the sunlight, it tends to bleach. This is a phenomenon known as photodegradation, and it occurs because the heat and energy of sunlight can cause chemical reactions in the material it encounters. Without going into a lot of detail and explanation, it’s enough to say that this chemical reaction causes the material to change so that it reflects sunlight rather than absorbing it.

Photodegradation in roofing materials isn’t necessarily an urgent warning sign, but it can be unsightly, which is a consideration if your building is retail, residential, or full of office workers. What’s more, it’s often a sign of deterioration. Material that’s undergone a photodegradation process can be more brittle, which means that it won’t resist the other mechanical forces that could subject it to damage.

Thermal Shock: Expansion and Shrinking of Roofing Material

One thing about summer is it’s not hot all the time, especially in arid or desert environments. Rather, it’s hot during the day (and much hotter on the roof) and the temperature can swing dramatically downwards during the night.

These rapid swings in temperature cause roofing materials to expand and contract – expanding as they heat up during the day, and then contracting during the night. This isn’t good for roofing materials, especially if they’ve already been made brittle due to photodegradation. Thermal shock can cause brittle roofing materials to crack along seams or pull away from roof edges and penetrations.

Humidity: Increased Absorption of Moisture

In wetter climates, summer causes humidity. Humidity doesn’t just contribute to bad hair days—it can have dramatic negative effects on your commercial roof.

Here’s what happens: because it’s hot outside, your building tenants will be running your HVAC systems higher than normal. There will be a lot of cool air inside your building, and a lot of hotter, moisture-laden air outside of it. This temperature differential will cause moisture to condense on the roof.

Once moisture condenses, you may start to have problems. Most likely, water will run into cracks caused by thermal shock. This can cause leaks and mold—which will make your tenants unhappy—and it will also degrade and gradually weaken the steel or wooden components beneath the roof.

Storms: Exploit Existing Structural Damage

Lastly, summer storms have the greatest potential to damage commercial roofs. These storms offer a trifecta of damage—the physical impact of hail and debris, moisture damage due to heavy rain, and wind uplift that can literally tear the roof off an unprepared structure.

One of the things that can make summer storms more problematic is that their effects capitalize on existing damage. If the roof membrane is brittle or cracked due to thermal shock, then summer storms will have a much easier time causing major damage.

Prevent the Damaging Effects of Summer with Inspection and Maintenance

The time to start preparing for summer is usually around March. This means that you can fix all the depredations of winter without exposing rooftop workers to potentially dangerous temperatures. Spring is the time to repair or replace damaged sections of membrane before they can crack open due to thermal shock.

In addition, you may want to focus on two major upgrades that might help improve your roof’s survivability during the summer months:

  •   Improved insulation can lower your energy costs, making it easier to cool down your building. This improvement can also lower the temperature differential between your internal and external roof, making condensation due to humidity less likely.
  •   Reflective roof coatings can dramatically lower the temperature of your roof. These coatings reflect heat away into space instead of absorbing it, which means your roof gets cooler. In addition to lowering energy costs, reflective roof membranes can also mitigate thermal shock and photodegradation.

Remember, the best way to inspect and maintain your roof is to create an inspection plan that involves elevated rooftop walkways from PHP Systems/Design. Our walkways are durable, rustproof, and designed to resist the worst weather from all four seasons. For more information, request a price quote today!

Topics: Roofing Maintenance

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