The Institute for Timber Construction South Africa (ITC-SA) says, although certain roof systems require less intense maintenance than others, all roofing systems should be checked periodically and maintained accordingly.
“The best preventive measure one can implement in the care of a roof structure is to conduct regular inspections to help identify and remedy problems as and when they occur,” the ITC-SA notes.
The importance of a roof structure as a component of a building and its functioning cannot be overstated, though the ITC-SA maintains that it is one of the most neglected parts of a building.
According to the ITC-SA, a roof withstands more from the weathering elements than any other component of a building.
“The frequency of roof inspections and maintenance is dependent on the geographical location of the building; if the structure is close to the sea or in similarly harsh conditions, it will need greater care than a structure inland, for example.”
The ITC-SA adds that preventive maintenance is pivotal to saving money on a roof and providing a longer service life. It is important to look out for cracked roof tiles, loose sheeting and loose roof screws on the exterior of a roof as these can cause leaks that will damage the interior timber of the roof structure and prompt or accelerate wood rot.
The company warns that building owners must look for open areas around newly installed antenna shafts and chimneys, and install waterproofing to prevent leakages.
“The condition of the waterproofing membranes should be inspected regularly. Crumbling chimney mortar can signal moisture penetration and will need to be reapplied,” adds the ITC-SA.
Timber roof overhangs are most susceptible to the elements and should be maintained regularly to prevent fungal attack or rot from moisture.
Loose fascia boards and leaking gutters are the most common cause of leaks onto roofing timber.
The ITC-SA says one should be alert to creeper plants growing onto the overhanging roof timbers.
“Keep all gutters free from debris and make sure the downpipes are draining properly by water-testing them,” the company states.
The ITC-SA says, if a roof exterior is beginning to collect moss or algae, building owners should consider installing zinc or lead control strips to help control the problem.
“These strips form harmless zinc oxide when rainwater runs over them, in so doing, carrying with it a coating preventing further moss or algae growth from occurring,” the company adds.
Further, ITC-SA says all flashings must be checked to ensure they are not deteriorating.
“Be sure to secure or replace any loose shingles. Trim back any overhanging tree branches and check any metal on the roof for signs of rust. Pay attention to all caulking and sealants, and scrape and remove any caulking that is weathered, cracked or damaged, and reapply. If the roof has gravel surfacing, be alert to any bare spots – otherwise, check for blisters in the roofing material.”
The company further points out that salt or dirt build-up can encourage rust on steel roofs, and moss and lichen growth on tiled roofs.
The ITC-SA says certain manufacturers’ warranties advise regular washing, particularly in areas that do not receive frequent rain. Frequent washing and inspection are recommended to prevent salt and dirt build-up.
In addition, exposed timber trusses must be treated for exposure to the elements.
According to the ITC-SA, cracked timber components are the first warning signs that something within the roof structure is deteriorating.
“Inspect all the components of the roof structure after new services, like plumbing, electrical and/or a fireplace, are installed. Check the interior of the roof for any leaks; these may be indicative of a leaking roof membrane,” the institute advises.
Painting over timber that has started showing signs of rot worsens the situation. In this instance, the ITC-SA advises replacement of the affected timber.
“Painting and repainting should only be done on healthy timber surfaces. Be sure to adhere to the paint or treatment specifications concerning the application,” it says.
Moreover, ITC-SA notes that cooking canopies used to extract smoke or steam in a kitchen are usually suspended from roof trusses. This is an example of additional loading which should be spread across more than one truss.
“The load of the item should be established before installation and the truss design should be checked for any added loads. Be sure to use a professional to install new items in roofs, such as additional ceilings, bulkheads and chimneys,” the ITC-SA explains.
Meanwhile, ITC-SA advises against storing items in roofs, unless the roof design makes provision for this.