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Severe Weather and Your Roof: What to Do When Damage Happens

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Your roof goes through a lot: wind, rain, ice, sun. Year after year, it keeps your building and its occupants safe. And while you hope it will last a long time, severe weather like hail and hurricanes can cut your roof’s lifespan short.

Repairing commercial roof weather damage quickly is critical to protecting your investment and preventing further structural damage to the inside of your building. If you ignore the results of a hail storm or are too slow to fix it, you risk water intrusion, mold growth and premature failure of the building’s interior.

The Effects of Severe Weather on Commercial Roofs

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Severe weather events are occurring more frequently every year, and areas of the country that were previously safe from particular kinds of extreme weather are facing new threats. As we write this, there’s a hurricane headed toward Louisiana, while snow is predicted in the Texas panhandle on the same day. 

More than ever, building owners and operators need to know what kind of potential damage they can be facing after a storm, especially ones they’ve never seen before.

Hail is often one of the first things that comes to mind when it comes to extreme weather. Large hailstones can break a car’s windshield, so it’s probably not surprising that hail damage to a commercial roof can create cracks and perforations that penetrate through several layers of the roofing system.

Another severe weather concern that is facing more parts of the southern and eastern coasts are hurricanes. With hurricane season starting earlier and going longer every year, building owners and operators need to be prepared to identify and quickly repair any hurricane damage to their commercial roof. 

The extreme winds of a hurricane, paired with huge volumes of precipitation mean that roofs are particularly susceptible to damage. The power of the wind can pull open any weakened areas of the roof, like where flashings may already be failing, and force water deep inside the building, often for extended periods of time.

In addition to hail and hurricanes, roofs face premature aging by extreme heat and sun in the summer, while freeze-thaw cycles in the winter can force open any existing cracks, causing water from melting snow to seep beneath the roofing system, potentially damaging insulation and structural components.

What to Do After Your Roof Is Damaged

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If your area has experienced severe weather, it’s important to address any damage to your commercial roof as quickly as it’s safe to do so. You should already have a proactive roof inspection program, and you’ll want to follow the same protocols following extreme weather so you can document any damage and make sure it’s repaired properly as soon as possible.

When you’re conducting your roof assessment, pay special attention to the weakest points like seams and joints or where one material meets another. If water has ponded after rain, investigate what is causing the water to not drain properly. If there has been hail, look for cracks and penetrations in the surface of the roof.

When you undertake repairs, make sure to choose a new roofing material that will protect your roof in the future. These severe weather events are happening more and more frequently, so you want to do what you can now to prevent future damage. 

Certain roofing products are rated to withstand hail impact, while others stand up better to ponding water, both of which will help better protect your roof over the long term.

If your roof has been damaged, you’ll most likely need to hire a contractor to complete the repairs. Of course, one of the most difficult times to find a roofing contractor is after extreme weather. If your roof has been damaged from a hurricane or a hail storm, odds are pretty good your building isn’t the only one.

Having good relationships with contractors means you’re less likely to struggle to get repairs done in a timely manner. If however, you need to find a new contractor, see if you can get referrals from colleagues or other building managers, and be sure to ask about their licensing and insurance coverage before they start the work.

How to Prevent Damage From Severe Weather

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Of course, the easiest and most cost-effective way to deal with severe weather damage is to prevent it from happening in the first place, or at least from happening again. While even the most durable materials may not stand up to an extreme hurricane, you want to give your roof the best shot at withstanding storm forces you can.

As a short-term solution, make sure your contractor is using high-quality and flexible elastic cement products, like Western Colloid’s 8000 All-Weather Elastic Cement for repairs. Durable products with some flexibility will better stand up to impacts than more rigid ones.

In the longer term, do your research into roof coatings and systems that will protect your building from future weather damage. A Fluid Applied Reinforced Roofing, or FARR, system includes layers of roof coating applied between reinforced polyester fabric.

An elastomeric FARR coating provides flexibility, while the polyester offers strength. Multiple layers give your roof redundancy in the face of damage so that you have time to complete repairs and avoid water inside your building.

If you’re finding that your area is dealing with an increasing frequency of severe weather, proactive repairs and a new roof coating can extend the life of your roof system and protect your investment. For more information, contact us for a complimentary consultation