Category Archives: Roofing

Don't Neglect Roof Maintenance

Don’t Tug on Superman’s Cape, Don’t Spit Into the Wind, and Don’t Neglect Roof Maintenance

Remember that old song by Jim Croche? (Boy was he a great storyteller!)  In “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim,” he tells this story full of caution about a neighborhood bully.

Cautionary tales are great. They help reinforce good behavior and ideals.  One of those is roof maintenance.

Before I came to Riggins Construction and Management, Inc. in 2006, I spent six years in the roofing industry.  Since 2000, I’ve seen my share of horror stories.

The roof is often a neglected part of any building. Why? It’s simple: out of sight means out of mind.  The average office manager isn’t going to peek her head up through the roof hatch and give it a good look-see.

Here are four reasons to implement a regular preventive roof maintenance program:

1. Warranty:

Roof maintenance is most often required to maintain the validity of your roof membrane’s warranty. Always check with your manufacturer and installer for their recommendations and procedures.

2.  Debris:

Trees and winds can bring leaves and debris on the roof that can clog drains. They should be swept up on a semi-annual basis, especially before the rainy season.

3.  Mastic:

Mastic is an asphalt-based product. These products dry out and/or shrink in the sun and should be reapplied to roof penetrations on a regular basis to maintain a water-tight roof.

4. Pipe Theft:

Copper pipe theft is a sad part of today’s reality. Just this past weekend, the restaurant across the street and the office complex next to us were hit. How much productivity was lost because they had to close? Quarterly or semi-annual roof maintenance would bring this to your attention, if not already noticed.

Cautionary Tale by The Numbers:


So perhaps now you’re convinced that roof maintenance is important (right?). The photos to the side and their numbered captions describe some of the issues that can be made known, brought to your attention, and repaired, hopefully, before they become major problems.

1-roof1. Loose parapet cornice cap and failed joint caulking is an invitation both to water and insects. Generally, we like to keep our buildings free of pests like termites (that can cause a lot of damage) and cockroaches.

2. Here is an example of ripped roofing and a crack at the joint on parapet wall. The cause is unknown but the result isn’t good.

3. Hold back the shock, but some people  think you can just put a hole in the roof and that penetration is okay if there’s a bit of metal around it. Here’s an example of an improperly roofed-in penetration. The good news is that can be repaired.

4. The loose joint in the mineral capsheet over the parapet wall is like a sign in Las Vegas welcoming wind-driven rain with all-you-can-eat shrimp and steak for $4.99.

5. I’ve thought of a lot of funny captions for this like, “you know you’re a redneck if…” but I didn’t want to offend anyone.

It goes without saying that this is probably not the best way to keep water from coming in through a skylight with a missing lens. If you have an emergency, while you’re waiting for the roofing contractor to arrive, your go-to MacGyver tool should be plastic sheeting, not plywood.

2-roofAlthough repairing broken skylights is not part of the scope of work in roof maintenance, during the regular visits, you would, most probably, be alerted to any waterproofing issue before it came to this point.

6. This panel joint is missing caulking. Although panel joint caulking not part of the scope of work in roof maintenance, regular visits should bring this to your attention for repair.

Water intrusion inside a concrete panel can cause the rebar inside to rust and corrode, spalling the concrete panels.  Rebar’s purpose is structural. Read about epoxy injection as a structural repair here.

7. Ah, palm trees waving in the wind is an iconic scene in Southern California. What you don’t want is palm fonds and other foliage touching your roof. Wind + tree branches = broken roof tiles. They can even damage the roof membrane on a flat roof if the branches are close enough to the building. Trees drop debris. Debris on a roof can easily clog drains as seen with the pine needles in Photo #9.

8. Broken and loose clay tiles on a Mansard roof can not only fall and hit a passer-by opening you up to liability, but are possible sources of water intrusion. Remember, water inside your building is bad.

3-roof9. The roof drain is clogged with debris and plant life. Standing water is never good. Think about it. The roof’s slope intentionally directed the water to this point. Where is the water going to go if the drain is the low point?

10. Wildlife is very adaptable and the water foul version of craigslist just listed this pond as a rental for a new duck family. But seriously, ponding can be caused by low spots, clogged drains, or, in this case, a through-wall scupper that’s too high.

Water is a roof’s enemy.

There’s nothing good about water intrusion. Water intrusion may present itself as a stained or damaged ceiling tile. More obscurely hidden problems include mold growth, vegetation growing on your roof (not the green roof you want), and corrosion of steel rebar inside concrete panels. These issues worsen with neglect.

And mold is no laughing matter. I always say it’s the “new asbestos.”  It is a serious environmental problem that requires abatement.

According to the EPA:

Molds reproduce by means of tiny spores; the spores are invisible to the naked eye and float through outdoor and indoor air. Mold may begin growing indoors when mold spores land on surfaces that are wet. There are many types of mold, and none of them will grow without water or moisture.

It can be dangerous to ignore possible sources of water intrusion.

If a gallon of water weighs 8.25 lbs it is exerting pressure on the roof. When standing water has nowhere to go because the drains are clogged, you are at risk for a major disaster.

I’ll never forget hearing about the roof that collapsed in Irvine because of a heavy rain cycle (El Niño, if memory serves) and roof maintenance neglect.

LATimes (1/12/2001) “Downpour Takes Its Wet Toll”

The roof of Sares-Regis Group, an Irvine real estate firm at 18802 Bardeen Ave., collapsed under the weight of water, probably because drains were clogged, said Dennis Shell, spokesman for the Orange County Fire Department. No injuries were reported. Rescue workers responded to the collapse, which left a 20-foot hole in the ceiling, because the incident set off the fire alarm, Shell said. Officials estimated damage to the structure and to computers and other equipment inside to be $100,000.

Roof maintenance is just plain smart.

Many of our customers have us remind them of their quarterly, semi-annual, and annual roof maintenance plans.  It’s part of what we do to serve you.

And, by the way, summer is the perfect time in Southern California to consider a roof replacement. Our rainy season, according to, is from November to April. Check out our project profile on one such reroof and HVAC replacement.

Guest Post: Giving the patient what he wants?

This is a guest blog post by Tony Baratto, President at Evans Roofing Company, Inc.

Tony Baratto

The Conrad Murray trial is a metaphor for the contracting industry. As a roofing contractor, I have heard every excuse in the book for “getting one more year” out of a failing roof membrane. I do know that when I work under those conditions, I am guilty of practicing bad medicine.

But, like Conrad Murray, some of my patients are just too big to argue with. So, I sometimes find myself in the position of accepting responsibility for a decision I KNOW is the wrong decision.

Of course, my decisions are not usually in the life and death category but, they could be. Lots of time I see structural conditions that are deteriorated because of water damage. A large seismic event could expose those damages in a very life threatening way. I have seen roof deck conditions so bad in some retail locations that I have implored family and friends to never shop at those locations because I fear that even a modest earthquake could lead to collapse.

Of course, I inform the client of my fear and nearly beg for those conditions to be remedied at once. However, most often the answer is something like ”we may be tearing this building down next year” or “we are planning a complete renovation soon.” All they want is my best effort to keep the place watertight through the winter.

Just like Conrad Murray, I hook the patient up with my strongest medicine and squeeze the syringe. Someday I may find myself in court defending those actions. I see now, there is no defense. All of us really need to learn where the line is between being a good contractor and being a good person.

It will not be cheap. If we refuse, someone else will get the job. (Not that I would ever hope for this.) Worse yet, there probably will not be an earthquake, no devastation or “aha moment” that will make our decision look wise. We’ll just lose the job and maybe even lose the client.

Like Mother always said “Being good isn’t always the easiest choice.”