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Ensure your commercial facility is ready for storm season

Ensure your commercial facility is ready for storm season

Ensure your commercial facility is ready for storm season

What you can do to prepare your building and avoid damage

Storm season in Queensland brings an annual onslaught of rain, hail, lightning and roof damage to facilities across the state. It is one of the busiest periods in the R&BS calendar – even though it actually reduces our physical workload due to access safety issues.

That presents a problem for you as a commercial facility owner or manager: storm season may bring out your leaks, but it also prevents contractors from carrying out repairs.

In this news post, we look at the reasons why carrying out necessary roof repairs may not be possible during storm season – and what you can do ahead of time to be prepared.

Should you risk commencing roof repairs during storm season?

Whether or not to risk starting repairs will generally depend upon the nature of the work and the time required to do it well. Yet of course, the reality is that storm season is fluid and wet weather conditions may continue for several months, making it unrealistic to delay repairs until fairer weather arrives.

Small works are often achievable during storm season with the help of transparent communication between commercial facility owners and managers and their contractor’s Operations team. Works requiring one to two days labour can usually be scheduled around weather forecasts and wrapped up quickly to avoid rain-outs. It is important to remember, however, that your contractor cannot be held accountable for delays caused by unexpected wet weather.

Larger works are a different story, and may need to be postponed during storm season. Extensive roof repairs are best left until dry weather to reduce the chance of water becoming trapped within the roof. Waterproofing jobs will certainly need to be postponed until dry weather, because waterproof membranes require time to cure under direct sunlight.

Regardless of the type of work under consideration, note that it’s likely that large-scale jobs carried out during storm season will come at an unnecessarily high cost to you as a facility owner or manager.

What are your legislative obligations as a facility owner or manager?

As you’re probably aware, facility owners and managers have obligations under current Work, Health & Safety legislation. You are required to ensure that all workers in (or on) your facility operate safely – and that includes contractors and subcontractors.

Allowing contractors and their staff to access roof facilities during wet weather (such as in storm season) may constitute a breach of your obligations to ensure staff safety. That’s why it’s a good idea to inspect your roof and carry out preventive maintenance before storm season.

A note on legislation surrounding height access to commercial facilities

Before you arrange an inspection of your commercial facility’s roof, it’s important to note that current Occupational Health and Safety legislation requires employers to eliminate, so far as is practicable, fall hazards for employees conducting work at heights. This is particularly pertinent to employees and contractors working at heights of more than 2 metres (which applies to most commercial facilities).

Water is considered a significant hazard due to its potential to affect the traversable surface of a roof and create a risk of slippage. This carries implications for the safety of your staff, contractors and your facility’s integrity, including:

  • Injury to staff members and contractors should they fall and come into contact with the roof surface, or even slip over the roof edge.
  • Potential exposure to lightning strikes and hailstorms.
  • Damage to the roof or roof components should staff fall upon them.

Often, the only way to effectively eliminate a fall hazard is to halt work until the weather improves – which can prevent external inspections and repairs from happening throughout storm season.

The potential issues caused by storm season – and their solutions

Because weather is inherently unpredictable, the damage caused during storm season will vary greatly depending on your building’s location and of course the severity of the storms.

Storm damage can range from just a few scratches and dents to the loss of your entire roof; but typically it means damaged gutters and downpipes, damaged waterproof membranes, and shattered tiles on commercial facilities.

Here are five of the most common causes of damage to facilities during storm season, along with some practical steps you can take to avoid them.

1) Damaged, leaking or overflowing gutters

Whether your facility features eaves gutters or box gutters, they’re likely to take a beating when storm season arrives. The huge volume of water your gutters will need to redirect, in addition to the potential for large hail storms, will put added strain on both your gutters and their associated downpipes. And gutters that have eroded or become blocked can easily cause damage to your facility.

While they’re not perfect, eaves gutters are at least able to overflow away from your property if they are blocked or damaged. Box gutters on the other hand, since they’re confined to the roof surface, have no alternative but to overflow onto the roof. And when box gutters leak, there’s a real possibility that water will be forced into roof cavities and penetrations, leading to water ingress or ponding and corrosion.

The solution

To prevent damage to your gutters, ensure you pre-emptively clean all guttering and conduct a water test to ensure downpipes are clear of blockages and debris. Inspect all eaves gutters to ensure they are securely attached to your facility; and check that box gutters do not show signs of corrosion.

You can also arrange for a professional inspection of your box gutters before storm season. Your contractor will check for any signs of corrosion, ponding or blockage, including in any internal downpipes connected to the gutters. In a pinch, a quick patch to damaged sections may suffice until clear weather permits more extensive repairs. Ideally, you should have any damaged sections replaced and blockages removed prior to the onset of wet weather.

It’s also worth inspecting the base of your facility by circling the building and noting any areas which may be vulnerable to flooding. Small guttering may not be able to cope with a significant amount of rainfall, causing overflow which may lead to rising damp, flooding or structural damage.

Ensure that all gutters, including box gutters, are free from debris and draining into open downpipes. This will prevent them from retaining water and beginning to sag. You should also check and repair all anchor points as an important step to preventing gutters from detaching.

If it’s too late and you are already experiencing leaks, contact a professional roofer and request an on-site assessment. It may be possible to replace the gutters in small stages during storm season.

2) Water pooling and corrosion

Water which is allowed to pool and sit on your roof’s surface (a common occurrence during storm season) will eventually interact with the roof material, leading to corrosion and water ingress.  

Many facility owners and managers rely upon the quality and integrity of their metal roof to prevent deterioration – yet it’s always best not to assume that your roof will be completely impervious to corrosion simply due to the material used.

Only copper roofs are entirely impervious to water-related corrosion. All other roofing materials (including aluminium and zinc) presenting a small risk of corrosion, which increases through long-term exposure to water.

The solution

To avoid the risk of pooling and corrosion, inspect your roof during dry periods and channel pooling water towards box gutters or eaves gutters.

3) Sealant deterioration

Unfortunately, many roofing sealants used today are of poor quality which means they can deteriorate quickly, particularly during severe weather events. Sealants are also the number one cause of nuisance water ingress issues, allowing leaks around skylights, internal downpipes, windows, vents and other roof plant and equipment. If you have a minor leak, roof sealant is the first element you should examine.

Fortunately, this is an issue which can be corrected quickly, at minimal cost, and during storm season. Unfortunately, you’re likely to find out about it the hard way.

The solution

Contact a roofing specialist as soon as you start to notice roof leaks to give them time to visit your site, properly inspect the issues, and apply new sealant to problem points.

It’s important to understand that contemporary commercial roofs can incorporate large amounts of equipment, which requires significant roof penetrations. It’s unlikely that all deteriorated sealant will be found on the first inspection, which means you may need to contact your roofing provider several times before all issues are resolved. Ensure you discuss this with the contractor at the outset, establishing what costs, if any, you will be liable for if they need to return.

4) Damage from unsecured equipment on the roof surfacee

One issue that’s easy to overlook is the risk posed by unsecured equipment on the surface of your building’s roof. And because plant equipment and recreational facilities are increasingly found on commercial roofs, there’s also far greater scope for damage caused by flying debris.

During severe cyclones winds can reach sustained speeds of up to 198km/h, with gusts of up to 280km/h. At these speeds unsecured tools, furniture and equipment will become projectiles capable of shattering skylights and windows, penetrating metal sheeting and ripping gutters from their fixtures.

The solution

When you receive a severe weather warning, remove all furniture from the roof, and ensure that plant equipment is covered and tied down where possible. This may prevent it from becoming a dangerous projectile if it is ripped from its fixings.

5) Leaks appearing during heavy rain

We often find that many clients ‘find their leaks’ during storm season – an inconvenient time to say the least! The intense, driving rain from storms will generally cause leaks and may even cause flooding through vulnerable points on the roof. Typical problem areas include roof spaces with numerous penetrations (such as plant rooms), skylight installations, and box gutters.

The solution

Unfortunately, there’s usually little you can do to address leaks that appear during severe weather events. The best way to address these issues is to break out the good old bucket, with additional help from plenty of absorbent materials.

If the leak point is not publicly visible it may be possible to temporarily prevent further water ingress by applying a wooden patch coated with bitumen paint; but of course, this solution is likely to be messy.

Before next storm season, get professional roof maintenance from R&BS

The issues we’ve talked about are just some of the common problems encountered during storm season. There are a myriad of other problems which may arise and impact the integrity of your roof.

High winds and torrential rain have the capacity to destroy roofs entirely. That’s why it’s so important to ensure that adequate maintenance has been conducted prior to storm season – it’s your “insurance” against avoidable damage.

Quite aside from the practical maintenance aspects, the risk to employees’ health and safety means it simply makes sense to get your roof in top shape well before the wet weather sets in. Having a professional assessment performed will allow you to breathe easy and enjoy storm season from a clean, dry facility.

For a complimentary, no-obligation 30 minute consultation with an experienced roof maintenance project manager, call R&BS now on 1800 550 037 or fill out the contact form below for a fast response.

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