Investing in a rooftop support system can greatly improve the functionality and accessibility of your commercial rooftop. However, not all rooftop support systems are created equal. The ideal system will be able to support a resilient roof system, one that is built to be wind- and impact-resistant and protect against extreme weather events, environmental contamination, and man-made wear and tear. To ensure long-term success, all components of a rooftop must be built to endure, including rooftop support systems.
What Events Put Stress on Commercial Roofs?
Right now, we find ourselves in the middle of a generally warming climate which has brought about more extreme weather events—more powerful rainstorms and wetter winters with fewer but more powerful snowstorms. This may require more maintenance on your roof—maintenance which can actually cause endemic damage to the roof if not performed properly. Let’s break down how these factors put stress on commercial roofs.
Warmer Summers Put Thermal and UV Stress on Rooftops
Think of a perfect hot summer day without a cloud in the sky. A great beach day for you isn’t necessarily a great day for your roof. Standard roofs built with black asphalt absorb a fantastic amount of heat, absorbing 96% of sunlight. As a result, temperatures on the roof surface can reach up to 180° Fahrenheit.
These high temperatures cause rooftop materials to expand immensely, causing them to buckle along their seams. Meanwhile, UV exposure damages these materials in other ways, causing them to lose elasticity. When expansion combines with a loss of elasticity, the roof membrane can buckle, crack, tear, and separate from flashings.
Resilient roofs have a few ways to deal with heat and sun. A high-tech approach means investing in materials such as TPO or EPDM, materials which have a much greater inherent UV resistance than bitumen. Specifying these materials in white increases their reflectivity, lowering the rooftop temperatures and reducing thermal damage. If you’re a few years shy of a full roof replacement, however, you can easily accrue a few benefits by painting an existing asphalt roof white.
Stronger Weather Events Jeopardize Roofing Integrity
Extreme weather events have become quantifiably more frequent over the past 38 years. Intense rainstorms that were previously seen once every ten years now come every five years. Blizzards produce wetter, heavier snow. Windstorms produce stronger gusts. All of this puts traditional roofs in jeopardy.
Intensification of weather events means that wear and tear on traditional roofs is happening faster and faster. Membranes that were already damaged by hot summers give way under intense windstorms. Water finds its way into cracks, producing leaks and rot. Heavy snowstorms compromise the areas affected by leaks and can even cause rooftop collapse.
Resilient roofs tackle these challenges in several ways:
- Adding thicker roofing decks with added reinforcement to prevent blow-offs
- Attaching the roof to the frame and walls with nails instead of construction adhesive
- Adding water-tight membranes over existing roof materials
- Reinforcing flashing and coping, especially against parapets
- Adding insulation to protect against ice dam formation
- Weatherproofing all roof access doors and wall penetrations
These actions strengthen the rooftop in order to protect against blow-offs and heavy snow loads while adding reinforcement to areas that are most likely to leak. Many resilient roofing strategies take federal guidelines—such as the FEMA Snow Load Safety Guide—mostly as a starting point. These roofs may be overbuilt compared to building regulations, but this allows them to bear the force of many weather events that are more extreme than originally predicted.
Increased Maintenance Takes its Toll (and Can Endanger Workers)
Rather than building a resilient roof, you might ask yourself about increasing your maintenance schedule instead. This isn’t necessarily wise, however.
First, you need to consider that every time you send a worker onto your roof, there’s a potential for them to damage it by crushing insulation panels or tearing the roof membrane. Even if they end up fixing a specific piece of damage, they might end up creating the nucleus of your next leak.
Second, there’s a potential risk to your workers every time they go on the roof. Slips and falls pose a hazard, and there’s also the danger of broken machinery, weakened roof decks, and more.
Adding walkways, pipe supports, and crossovers is an excellent way to make sure that your workers remain safe, but resilient roofs don’t include just any rooftop supports. At PHP Systems/Design, we construct our supports out of hot-dip galvanized steel, which is durable, rust-resistant, and specified to last for over 70 maintenance-free years even in the roughest environment. In short, our rooftop supports and walkway system form an integral part of any resilient roof system—helping your commercial rooftop endure.