Evaluating Roof Damage
by Richard K. Olson, president & technical director, Tile Roofing Industry Alliance
(Editor’s Note: Richard K. Olson is president and technical director for the Tile Roofing Industry Alliance. The association represents industry professionals involved in the manufacturing and installation of concrete and clay tile roofs in the United States and Canada, and works with national, state, and local building officials to develop installation techniques, codes, and standards for better roofing systems. Olson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Proper evaluation of a roof cladding after a wind or snow event can be challenging for the roofing professional. There are several factors that come into play when trying to make field evaluations for repair or replacement of steep-slope applications. Roof damage can involve the roof cladding, flashings, underlayment, and even the roof sheathing. It is important to look at the whole roofing assembly, and not just one component when evaluating storm damage. Often, the repair of the cladding in a damaged area can lead to the discovery of other components that may have issues for potential leaks, maintenance items, or loss of future service life.
The installation date of the roof will help identify several key points that can determine the correct repair requirements. When the roof was installed will identify the code that the original roof was installed to. This will help in the insurance evaluation to know if the roof was code compliant when originally installed. In many cases the roof may only be required to meet the original code. By checking with the local building official one can determine the current code and when a roof will require an upgrade.
If the building owner is able to help identify the original roof cladding manufacturer, it will assist in the procurement of the replacement materials that can be of equal quality. Over the years there have been significant consolidation and product changes in the market, leading to issues for proper installations of some products. Most roof cladding materials will have some form of identification on the back side of the product to help identify the original manufacturer. Roofing professionals should always contact the manufacturer when selecting replacement materials for availability and compatibility. There are roofing distributors and salvage companies that have stored or harvested specialty claddings, such as tile, from previous jobs. Often times when looking for a small number of tiles, this will be a good option.
The most challenging aspect of roof repairs is determining the damage to the future life of the roof system. While cladding can be easy to identify, the condition of the underlayment or sheathing will require more destructive forensics that may not always be available. Roofing professionals should work with the homeowner to determine if removal of a small area adjacent to the roof damage might be allowed. This will allow further identification of the existing condition of the roof.
Roofing contractors will need to identify the current underlayment to select a code-approved compatible replacement. Over the years some of these products have obtained code-issued product approvals to known standards, but there are many that have indicated compliance to only certain specifications, or none at all. Check with the local building official or the current underlayment manufacturer for compatibility and performance questions. The Western States Roofing Contractors Association has been testing some of these products and might have additional information or recommendations for the roofing contractor to consider.
Where high-wind or snow performance is a requirement, the condition of the fastener systems needs to be evaluated. Industry associations can assist in this process, as most will have formal installation recommendations for proper fastening in these conditions. Evaluate the current condition of the fasteners to know if they have been compromised from the storm event. This will be critical in higher wind areas, as the uplift wind designs can only be met with the proper fastener size and locations. The Tile Roofing Industry Alliance has wind requirements located on our website for reference.
In snow areas, where snow retention accessories have been installed, they will need to be checked for proper attachment and alignment. When damage occurs upslope, there can be additional damage downslope in snow areas as snow shifts from the damage. Snow retention manufacturers can provide additional information.
Repair vs. Replacement
Roofing contractors are often asked about the ability to get a new roof by the building owner. This requires a proper analysis of the above items to determine if the service life of the roof in the damaged areas will warrant replacement of the entire roof. We are seeing an increase in the litigation of roof claims with the insurance industry. There is a lack of consistency of these determinations and roofing professionals should work with the claims adjusters when insurance claims are in play.
When evaluating storm damage, it will be a good opportunity to provide an inspection of other maintenance needs such as valleys, ventilation, and roof penetrations. The building owners can then properly evaluate expanding the scope of your work to include these items of concern.