Roof Repairs in Less Than Ideal
RAIN, SNOW AND EXTREME TEMPERATURES CHANGE YOUR APPROACH
Sometimes the weather is less than ideal, but you need to stop a leak or patch a hole on your roof immedi-
ately. Luckily, there are steps you can take
and tips to consider to fix it now.
Depending on your location, there are
times when it’s likely you’ll need to make
a roof repair in the rain, snow, low temperatures (less than 25 degrees F.) or high
temperatures (more than 105 degrees).
(For safety, hurricanes, tornadoes and
thunderstorms with lightning are conditions in which you shouldn’t do repairs.)
“Always keep in mind that you’re up
on the roof in a less than safe environment because of the weather,” says
Ted Michelsen, president of Michelsen
Technologies LLC, a full-service roof consulting firm that specializes in low-slope
commercial roof systems.
Be sure you are taking such general
precautions as using fall protection, which
is required by the Occupational Safety and
Health Administration on roofs more than
6 feet tall (and most roofs are). And be
aware that roofs are slippery when wet or
covered with frost.
To ensure you’re performing the best
repair possible in less than ideal conditions,
consider these questions beforehand.
Who will do the repair? If you decide to
use in-house staff, make sure that person
has roofing experience or a background in
roofing. If you contract out to profession-
als, consider how long it will be before they
can get to your facility and what you can
do in the meantime.
How bad is the problem? “If you have a
quart of water coming in, you have some
issues you need to deal with,” Michelsen
says. “Certainly if it falls in an area where
people walk, slip and fall is a problem.
But it’s not as big a problem as if you've
got gallons and gallons of water coming
in.” Also consider whether the problem is
affecting critical equipment or processes.
Can you find the leak? “Leaks under
even the best of weather conditions can be
challenging to find,” Michelsen says. The
leak location on the roof is often not where
the leak is in the building. Coverings – both
natural, such as snow, and unnatural, such
as a ballast – can hide the problem. Thus,
large areas of the roof membrane may
need to be exposed.
Once those questions are answered,
Snow and Rain
keep the following tips in mind, depending
on the kind of less-than-ideal conditions
you’re working in.
When snow piles on your roof, that layer
acts as an insulator, which means that the
membrane is stuck between two layers
of insulation. As a result, as the heat from
inside the building goes through, it will be
warmer than both the exterior air and the
melting point of ice or snow. So along with
the layer of snow on the membrane, there
will also be a layer of water or slush underneath from the melted snow.
Michelsen notes that this can create a
reservoir of constantly melting snow. “Your
leaks are going to be more problematic
and longer-lasting,” he adds.
Use a broom or shovel to remove the
snow – the former if the snow is less than
an inch thick. Use shovels without metal
wear edges to prevent roof damage. Snow
blowers aren’t recommended, as they can
cause damage to cables and other items
running across the roof.
Repair options in the snow or rain are
the same, Michelsen says. Any repair material that requires a dry roof will need a
means to keep the water away from the
area until the repair is made. This can be
done by creating a dam around the repair
area using bentonite or kitty litter, then
mopping up the remaining water. Repair
options include using high-swelling sodium
bentonite, torch modified bitumen repairs
and compatible repair tapes (which require
a dry surface).
In extreme cold, keep in mind that personnel might have heavy clothing or gloves
on, which could limit their abilities. Repair
options are similar to those used in snow
and rain, but consider these tips when
working in very low temperatures:
n Solvent-based repair systems are pre-
ferred over water-based because of pos-
n Repair materials need to be warmed
n Solvent will take longer to evaporate.
n Hot bitumen repairs are impractical.
n Some membranes get “brittle” when
very cold and damaged by traffic.
Typically, Michelsen says, high temperatures don’t cause roof leaks. In any case,
though, keep in mind that darker surfaces
will be considerably hotter than the air
temperature. Make sure crews are well
hydrated while working. Other things to
consider when making roof repairs in high
n Adhesives may set too quickly to get a
n Bitumen roofs will be soft and easily
n Work at night when it’s cooler (but
make sure you’re working under lights).
Sarah Kloepple (sarah.kloepple@buildings.
com) is a staff writer for BUILDINGS.
To learn more about making roof repairs in less
than ideal conditions, watch the BUILDINGS
Education webinar “Emergency Repairs for All
Seasons” ( bit.ly/2F9aFX6).