Certified Expertise and The Need for Skilled Workers

Reprinted from Professional Roofing, July 2018

Certified Expertise and The Need for Skilled Workers

The roofing industry—similar to other trades—is desperately in need of skilled workers. To address this issue, NRCA is launching a national worker certification initiative, the ProCertification program, later this year.
Trainers and assessors are crucial to developing skilled workers and accurately and fairly assessing workers’ skills to certify their performances in specific roof, waterproofing and rooftop solar system disciplines. Training, assessing and professional certifications reinforce an organization’s role as a leader in promoting competence, and NRCA is developing these to elevate the roofing industry’s workforce.
One factor contributing to the skilled workforce shortage is high schools are required to focus on theory rather than applied skills to maintain their funding and accreditation. One fallout from this has been the elimination of shop classes. According to Tara Tiger Brown, a program development educator, in a Forbes May 30, 2012, article, “The death of shop class and America’s skilled workforce”: “… [T]he skilled trades are undervalued in … the American educational system. But, the funny thing is that there is one place where they are actually not undervalued at all, and that is in the marketplace, which has seen a greater and greater demand for the skilled craftsman … the skilled tradesman has a choice of jobs, needs answer to no one, and earns a living wage, perks that are not to be scoffed at in this economic environment.”
Businesses depend on a diversity of talents to fill jobs communities need. Communities require arborists, bookkeepers, carpenters, chefs, electricians, engineers, firefighters, mechanics, paramedics, plumbers, police officers, roofing contractors and professionals in many other occupations. However, according to author Ken Robinson in a May 8, 2015, Time magazine article, “Why schools need to bring back shop class,” schools have been focused on testing a narrow set of academic standards, not building skills.
“There’s a widening skills gap between what schools are teaching and what kinds of jobs are available and needed,” he says. “There’s plenty of work to be done, but too many people lack the skills to do it.”
Although the public education system in the U.S. does not currently prioritize teaching work skills, other organizations, including NRCA, are filling the gap by preparing people for work in the current marketplace. Many offer opportunities for individuals to earn credentials such as certificates and certifications intended to differentiate them in the marketplace.
According to Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., industry-based certifications are the second most common postsecondary award in the U.S. More than one million certifications are awarded each year. Certifications are a viable way to build expertise, and they can give people and the firms that hire them a competitive edge.
Certifications are the new currency for career advancement. When Steven G. Hale worked as a multi-location facilities manager for Boeing Co., a large manufacturer of aerospace equipment and technology, he purchased more than $30 million worth of materials and services annually. When hiring and contracting workers, he looked for the word “certified.”
“If a third party says you know your stuff, it increases the odds that you do know your stuff,” he says. “When people in any industry make the effort to become certified, that says a lot to me about their commitment to their field.”
Roofing industry credentials
There are two groups offering certifications in the roofing industry. The first group consists of companies such as distributors and manufacturers of roofing and waterproofing materials that are certifying their employees, customers, suppliers and after-market partners. The motive for companies is to protect their brand images, reduce the costs of sales and service, and mitigate the risk of misuse or damage. As people want to distinguish themselves in the marketplace, be more competitive, and have their expertise validated and recognized, companies certify their workforce and partners to build customer confidence and reduce costs associated with errors.
The second group consists of trade associations that want to help their members strengthen their workforces and work safely and to standard. It’s no secret the roofing industry faces difficulty recruiting and retaining new workers. In response, NRCA is developing its ProCertification program—a series of standardized training programs and professional certifications—initially for roof, waterproofing and rooftop PV system installers and then for other personnel, such as foremen and service technicians.
The goals of NRCA’s ProCertification program are three-fold: to address the workforce shortage by making the roofing industry more appealing through a standardized industry curriculum; create a career path for roofing industry field workers; and elevate the roofing industry to be on par with other trade professions with existing national standards.
The long-term vision of NRCA’s ProCertification program is to develop a competent, sustainable and high-performing roofing and waterproofing industry workforce by providing individuals with a clear career trajectory that is based on a series of industry-specific educational and training courses and earned credentials. All educational and training opportunities are grounded in specific consensus-based learning objectives based on the knowledge and skills needed to complete roofing, waterproofing and rooftop solar installation projects safely and correctly.
Various standardized assessment tools are used throughout the program to confirm whether candidates have succeeded with achieving the required knowledge, skills and abilities for each credential. Assessments are designed to measure a candidate’s foundational knowledge and his or her ability to perform each skill.
Training programs will be delivered online and benefit workers who are new to the industry or relatively inexperienced. Trainees can earn achievement awards by passing an online test about what they learned from the training and completing hands-on performance assignments. Certifications will be designed for experienced roofing workers and are earned by meeting specified experience and eligibility requirements, passing an online assessment and passing a hands-on, performance-based assessment. All training and certification components are being developed in English and Spanish. The opportunity for experienced installers to begin earning certifications is scheduled for fall 2018.
Certificates vs. certifications
Many organizations give a training certificate to anyone who completes an educational or training course, and numerous training companies, educational institutions and other types of companies offer “certifications.” This has led to confusion about the different types of certificates and certifications.
An authentic professional certification is formal recognition by an established industry-specific organization that an individual has demonstrated a proficiency within a noncommercial standardized body of knowledge. The primary focus of a professional/personnel certification program is to provide an independent assessment of the knowledge, skills, and/or competencies required for competent performance of an occupational or professional role or specific work-related tasks and responsibilities, according to the Institute for Credentialing Excellence, a leading organization in setting quality standards for credentialing organizations.
The certification awarded designates participants have demonstrated the requisite work-related knowledge, skills and competencies and met other requirements established by the certification program provider. An authentic certification program does not require attending a particular educational institution or program. It is a mark of competence or readiness given by an independent third party to people who can demonstrate they can do the work to standard. Developing a certification is a complicated and time-consuming process requiring significant input from a diverse group of industry stakeholders and a strong organization that can support and sustain the resources needed.
Qualified trainers and assessors
Providing opportunities for people to demonstrate they have roof system installation and/or other skills to earn achievement awards and certifications is a critical aspect of NRCA’s ProCertification program that will depend on developing a nationwide network of trainers and assessors for its success. It starts by educating experienced roofing industry professionals in best practices regarding planning and preparing for learning activities; facilitating learning in classrooms; demonstrating installation skills; coaching others who are practicing installation skills; and ensuring trainees’ conformance with safety standards and accepted industry best practices to develop NRCA ProCertification Qualified Trainers.

NRCA ProCertification Qualified Assessors are developed by learning to plan and prepare assessment activities; conducting accurate, fair and unbiased assessments of candidates’ performances in specific roof system disciplines through observations; and ensuring candidates’ conformance with safety standards and accepted industry best installation practices.
NRCA began the task of creating ProCertification Qualified Trainer and ProCertification Qualified Assessor educational programs by conducting a job task analysis (JTA) with a diverse group of experienced roofing industry trainers, including contractor-employed trainers, trainers from manufacturers of low- and steep-slope roofing products, and other technical and safety trainers. This formal study identified and verified what trainers do to help others gain skills when installing roof and waterproofing systems and what trainers must know about those systems to be effective when teaching adults.

The study also identified methods for conducting an assessment (evaluation) of an installation assignment by ensuring the testing environment is appropriate and providing clear instructions to those being tested. The results of the JTA study then were converted into standards, training materials and assessments. Figure 1 lists NRCA’s most highly rated behaviors required of an effective trainer.
Next, NRCA compared the results of its JTA with two international studies—one conducted by the Association of International Educators and another by the International Board of Standards for Training, Performance and Instruction. Collectively, the three studies identified the most important skills and behaviors unique to effective trainers and assessors in the roofing industry.

Content smarts
Effective trainers know their content. Charisma is not a substitute for knowledge and experience, and charm will not make up for ignorance or inexperience. The studies found being grounded in the subject being taught is essential because when trainers know the content, they can personalize it to provide real-life examples of why a job is done a certain way and what happens when it isn’t.
Knowing the content is so important, NRCA’s framework requires its trainers and assessors to be credentialed for the specific roof, waterproofing and rooftop solar systems they will train and evaluate others.
Presentation and demonstration
Presenting and demonstrating skills involve explaining, describing and giving details about why, what and how a task is done. Effective trainers can explain the what, why and how in words learners understand. Demonstrating is more than using words—it is showing the “how” while explaining the “why” behind each step. Presentation and demonstration can prepare the way for engagement.
Being a good explainer is not enough. Effective trainers also engage their students. This means they ask questions that get learners to think and encourage them to participate in sharing tips about how to do a task right, faster and safer. They let students participate in the demonstrations and share what they have learned. They make time for participants to practice. They facilitate discussions about the what, why and how.
Organization and preparation
Organization and preparation are about being intentional about not wasting students’ time. Effective trainers set up the training room and materials in advance. They decide what they want to talk about first, second and last. They check to be sure they have enough of the right materials, and they make sure equipment works before a session begins. They use their learners’ time wisely.
Communicates assessment criteria
Assessors let candidates know in advance what behavior or work will be judged and how it will be judged. The assessor explains the rules in words understood by those being tested. They let them know when accuracy, time, safety, completion and so forth count and only judge based on the criteria communicated.
For NRCA programs, NRCA sets the criteria and determines the assessment rules such as how much time is allowed, what information and materials the candidates have access to when being assessed, and so forth. The assessor is expected to follow NRCA rules for conducting skills assessments.
Provides fair opportunity
Assessors give everyone an equitable opportunity to show what they know by providing the same testing conditions for everyone. For example, every individual being tested should have the same amount of time to demonstrate what he or she knows. The setups for each assessment session should be the same. NRCA provides assessors with details about how to conduct an assessment.
Preparing trainers and assesors
NRCA ProCertification Qualified Trainers will have participated in a multiday course during which they learn training best practices, focusing particularly on conducting hands-on demonstrations effectively and coaching inexperienced workers. The ProCertification Qualified Trainer course provides a supportive environment to learn from veteran roofing industry trainers, practice teaching others and to receive feedback.
This training expertise can be used to help others gain valuable skills that will lead to enhanced job satisfaction and pride in their work. It also can support the ProCertification workforce development program by helping students earn ProCertification achievement awards. ProCertification students who are newer to the roofing industry are required to complete roof system installation assignments to earn an achievement award. If a student does not have the chance to practice that skill on the job or at their workplace, a ProCertification Qualified Trainer can provide that opportunity.
ProCertification Qualified Assessors will play a different role in supporting NRCA ProCertification credentials. The ProCertification Qualified Assessor assessment-based certificate program teaches observation skills, and the policies and procedures required to evaluate the performance of roof system installers seeking NRCA ProCertification. Experienced roofing professionals learn these skills by completing online training and taking a proctored online exam that requires them to identify whether installation tasks have been done correctly.
Committed to excellence
Recognizing trainers is a major step in highlighting their importance for developing the next generation of roofing workers and elevating the current workforce. Individuals who can conduct accurate and fair assessments are important for performance-based certifications to be effective while reinforcing NRCA’s role as a leader in promoting competence in roofing.
The process for developing NRCA’s ProCertification Qualified Trainer and ProCertification Qualified Assessor programs not only follows best practices for creating credentials, but it also honors and builds on the work of other established organizations committed to promoting competence in training, education and workforce development.
The first NRCA ProCertification Qualified Trainer classes will take place the weeks of April 23 in Joliet, Ill., and May 14 in Orlando, Fla. Online ProCertification Qualified Assessor training will be offered beginning in the summer of 2018.
To learn more or to obtain copies of the standards, contact John Schehl, NRCA’s vice president of certification and international engagement, at jschehl@nrca.net, or Brad Martz, manager of certification programs, at bmartz@nrca.net.
Judith Hale, Ph.D., is owner of Hale Associates, a performance improvement consulting firm located in Downers Grove, Ill.; Brad Martz is NRCA’s manager of certification programs; and Jeanne Schehl, Ed.D., is an independent consultant located in Barrington, Ill.


I recently attended a terrific trade show hosted by our good friends Exterior Building Solutions LLC . The trade show highlighted a lot of quality roofing products by some the best manufacturers in the field.

Below are some the companies that attended.

Roof coatings for every type of roof system

Armour Proof Coatings who will be bringing a NEW product to market soon. Be sure to check back as we will be highlighting it here when they do. This new product will be compatible with virtually every type of roof system.

Metal-Era provides top quality metal edgings

Metal_era who provides all of the metal edgings for our project whether its copings, gravel stops, fascias, etc.


Commercial grade skylights for your commercial building

Wasco skylights – a great addition to any large commercial building to provide natural lighting and cut energy costs.

Another live demonstration by Versico

Versico – makers of flat roof systems such as EPDM rubber membrane and TPO membranes – provided live demonstrations of their products.

live demonstration of TPO roofing membrane by Versico


TPO membrane with easy peel protective sheeting

Here you can see their latest innovation – a easy peel protective sheeting over their white TPO membrane so that the new flat roof system stays clean while removing the old roof.

A local company providing the best modified bitumen products on the market

CertainTeed was there showing off their modified bitumen membrane roof systems.

Cost effective metal roofing

And Everlast Metals with a large variety of metal roof systems.



The Ridge Roofing Difference

Here are some pictures showing the Ridge Roofing Difference – a new TPO roof by us right after a rain

And here are some pictures of a different roof are ON THE SAME BUILDING done by one of our competitors.

Apprenticeship Programs


“To deliver apprenticeship training that incorporates craftsmanship, responsibility, safety and stewardship into developing the future leaders of America’s construction workforce.”

The ABC Eastern Pennsylvania Chapter’s Apprenticeship and Craft Training programs combine on-the-job training with classroom instruction. Students attend school on a flexible schedule and many ABC member employers pay students while they train.

ABC Eastern Pennsylvania Chapter’s Apprenticeship Trust is a state and federally approved apprenticeship program and offers the nationally recognized “Journeyworker” credential in Electrical, Plumbing/Pipefitting, Carpentry, Sheet Metal, and Sprinkler fitting. It is a National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) sponsor.

Students receive on-the-job training while attending classes to learn the latest techniques and practical applications of their craft. The semesters run September to December (first semester) and January to April (second semester). After completing this program, students enter the job market as journey-level workers.

Read what one ABC member had to say –

“The ABC Apprenticeship program has played a critical role in developing our apprentices into Journeyworkers. They’ve gained the knowledge and hands on skills needed to be successful in the field and have played an integral part in growing our organization and allowing us the opportunity to expand into different locations and markets.

Additionally, the day training allows our apprentices to further their education and commitment to the trade while not interrupting their time with their family. This is critical since it supports our organization’s culture and family philosophy. Our company has been able to successfully retain graduates as a result of the commitment we show towards their education and career path, and we are looking forward to the continued success of our future apprentices.”

Government Help

Executive order expands apprenticeship programs

President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order June 15 giving businesses expanded authority to design their own apprenticeship programs. The Executive Order came three days after the Trump administration asked federal agencies and departments to eliminate regulations that could impede apprenticeship programs.

Under the Department of Labor’s (DOL’s) current system, apprenticeships receive funding after they meet quality standards. For more than 75 years, DOL has worked with state agency affiliates to register programs that meet quality training standards and lead to certificates of completion. Apprenticeships generally combine technical instruction with on-the-job learning for four years.

President Trump’s Executive Order is intended to improve industry flexibility and expand the earn-as-you-learn job-training program by allowing companies to tailor the guidelines to meet their own workforce needs.

The Executive Order directs the secretary of labor to propose a new regulation that promotes the ability of third parties such as trade associations, companies and unions to develop their own apprenticeship guidelines. DOL still would give final approval to apprenticeships, but the department would be required to expedite the process to approve or disapprove the proposals. The Executive Order also retains the existing mechanism for DOL registration.

Former President Obama supported the cause during his tenure, announcing $175 million in apprenticeship grants to benefit 34,000 Americans in summer 2016. But deciding how to further elevate employer participation levels remains subject to debate.

President Trump’s Executive Order received support from business groups hoping to advance job applicants’ skills without needing to overcome the bureaucratic challenges of meeting federal and state-administered registration standards. The Executive Order faced criticism from some Democrats and Obama administration DOL officials who argue the order cedes too much control to companies without the traditional degree of government oversight.

In addition to the Executive Order, the Trump administration has dedicated $100 million in new funding to increase the number of apprenticeships. The White House also called upon Congress to look for additional financing options.

Congress Tries to Help

Bipartisan bill would grant apprenticeship program tax breaks

A recently introduced Senate bill aims to use tax breaks to kickstart apprenticeship programs. On June 14, Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) introduced the Apprenticeship and Jobs Training Act (S. 1352). The bill would create a $5,000 tax credit based on wages paid by companies that hire individuals enrolled in a federal or state-registered apprentice program.

Cantwell told Bloomberg BNA the bill is intended to kick “American apprenticeship into high gear” by establishing “the first ever national incentive for apprentice programs.”

“It will help close our skills gap, get more Americans back to work, raise wages and allow our companies to continue to make the best products in the world,” Cantwell continued.

The bill would provide a tax credit rate of $3 per hour per individual for employers participating in a multiemployer apprenticeship program. Senior employees near retirement would be given the ability to draw from their pensions earlier if they choose to mentor new employees, according to the legislation.

The Senate bill was introduced during the White House’s “workforce development week.” The focus of the week was to spur job growth in part through efforts to expand apprenticeship programs. On June 15, President Trump issued an Executive Order giving businesses expanded authority to design their own apprenticeship programs.

UNDERSTANDING FLAT ROOF WARRANTIES – Understanding the Protection You’re Getting

For a commercial building owner having a new flat roof installed the warranty often plays an important role in evaluating the bids. Whether it is an EPDM roof, modified bitumen, TPO roof, or a PVC roof all warranties share the same basic terms. Owners should be aware of what they are getting. Please note – NONE of these warranties will typically cover what is known as “consequential damages”. That is damages resulting from a failure of the roof system. That is covered by the owners property insurance.

Material Only Warranties –

This type of warranty only covers the cost of materials that suffer from a manufacturing defect. These warranties are often pro-rated, meaning the value decreases every year. The manufacturer will cover the cost of, or a portion of the cost, of replacement materials, typically with a credit at a roofing supply house. The older the flat roof gets, the less you get and the cost of the labor to install the new materials is not covered. Very often the contractor does not even need to be an “approved installer” certified by the manufacturer to install their roof systems. They only need to show proof of purchase for the materials. If a contractor is not an “approved installer” you should consider this a red flag!

Labor And Material Warranties –

These get more complicated and require a little more due diligence on the part of the commercial building owner. Some of the basics that an owner should be aware of are;

– The contractor must be approved by the flat roof system manufacturer

– There are several different lengths of warranties – 10 year, 15 year, 20 year, 25 year, and even 30 year warranties are available

– The manufacturers charge for these warranties and the contractor builds the cost of the warranty into the bid

– The longer the warranty the higher the charge! Not just the charge for the warranty but for the system itself as the manufacturer will require additional work on the system to qualify for the longer warranty. This can include stronger or duplicitous flashings, additional plies of membrane, greater minimal insulation requirements, better and/or wider seam technology, and heavier roof membranes.

– Some of these longer warranties are what is known as a “Total System Warranty”, these require that all of the materials for the flat roof system be from the manufacturer. This will include the insulation, insulation fasteners, and even the roof edgings such as copings, edge metal, or gravel stops

This type of warranty involves a contractual agreement between the contractor and the manufacturer. The contractor must have specialized training from the manufacturer and the agreement stipulates that the contractor is fully responsible for any leaks or failures during the first two years of the warranty period. The reason for this is that if there any problems due to workmanship (poor installation not related to material quality) they will most likely show during this period.

After the initial two years the manufacturer becomes financially responsible for any failures. This means that if there is a problem, the manufacturer will actually pay the contractor to fix it. Even if the original contractor is no longer around, they will hire another contractor to take care of your problem.

Contractor Warranties –

A contractor warranty is quite simply a promise from the contractor that they will fix a problem should one occur. The length, type of coverage, and amount of coverage will vary from one contractor to another depending on what they are comfortable with. OWNERS BEWARE! Unless you are very familiar with the contractor or have known them for a long time this is at best risky. Some contractors will come back once or twice if there is a problem and then simply stop taking your calls. Other contractors have been known for low-balling the cost of the contract to get the job, performing shoddy or sub-par work and then just disappearing only to start up again using a different name.

Over the years I am sad to say that this is not an uncommon occurrence.

In the end it is up to the building owner to perform their due diligence when getting a new flat roof system be that an EPDM roof, a TPO roof, or even a modified bitumen roof system. Always request a sample of the actual warranty and read it thoroughly.

Always remember “CAVEAT EMPTOR” (buyer beware)

Views From an EPDM Single Ply Roof

Next month we will be starting a new EPDM single ply roof and here are some of the views we will have during the project.

The project is the Hampton Inn in Hazelton. We will be replacing the old ballasted EPDM roof system.

We will be installing a tapered insulation system and new fully adhered Versico rubber roof.

This commercial single ply roof system will have a twenty year warranty and is expected to last much longer than that.

The crews will have a spectacular view for the entire project.



A Review of Rubber Roof FAQ’s

1. How often should I coat my rubber roof?
Many building owners are under the impression that they have a rubber roof that needs to be coated periodically. There are some roofing contractors that sell Modified Bitumen membranes as rubber, THEY ARE NOT. True rubber membranes (ie: EPDM, TPO, PVC) do not need to be coated. Sometimes a building has a Modified Bitumen membrane which a) is not rubber and b) may need periodic coating. A Modified Bitumen membrane is an asphalt based membrane which can be applied by heating the underside of the roll with a torch, set in hot asphalt, or applied with a cold mastic. These membranes may be either smooth surfaced or have a granular surface. The ones with a smooth surface are the type that need periodic coating.

2. What is the difference between a Guarantee and a Warranty?
A guarantee is given by the contractor who installs the roof. This guarantee can be limited and is only as valid as the contractors word and is good for as long as the contractor remains in business. A warranty is issued by the manufacturer of the roof system. Warranties come in many forms – material only, limited material warranty (which is usually a pro-rated warranty), labor and material, and NDL (no dollar limit) are some of the types. The most common, a labor and material warranty, covers the costs to repair the roof from any leaks caused by a failure of workmanship AND/OR materials for the stated period and is backed by the Manufacturer. This means that even if the contractor goes out of business the manufacturer will pay another contractor to make the repairs.

3. Should I get a white roof?
Not necessarily. This area of the country is in a gray zone when it comes to deciding on a white vs black roof. While a white roof will reduce your cooling costs most building owners in this part of the country pay more per year for heat than they do for cooling. Studies have shown that regardless of which color you get the most effective way to increase your savings is with thicker insulation. Ridge Roofing can provide you with aTrue Roof Cost Life Cycle Savings Report which will show your energy savings and carbon reduction based on increased insulation values.

4. Can you install my new roof over top of my old roof?
Once it is determined a roof system has no remaining service life, the decision to re-cover or replace it must be made. There are a number of factors or conditions, called replacement triggers, that preclude the use of a re-cover roof system and dictate the tear-off and replacement of an existing roof system such as – Building Code Requirements, Roof Surface Condition,  Wet Insulation, Perimeter Conditions, and  Roof Deck Condition.

There are two types of replacement triggers, those that are absolute and those that are subjective.
The absolute replacement trigger topics are:
• building code requirements
• phenolic insulation over steel deck
• composite roof decks
• direct-to-deck polystyrene

The replacement trigger topics that are subjective are:
• roof surface condition (does it hold water)
• existing perimeter conditions
• wet insulation
• roof deck deterioration
• the necessity to install a vapor retarder
• non-reinforced PVC membranes

5. How do I know if my membrane roof was properly installed.
Visual examination at the time of application is the most effective means of evaluating the installation of single ply membrane roof.  Visual examination may include routine measurements where applicable. Common sense must be used in the evaluation of the application, and reasonable variances from specified amounts are to be expected. Significant deviations from any particular criterion should be corrected as soon as possible.

A few items to note are:
– The minimum number of fasteners is applied and spaced as specified; reasonable variances from
spacing distances are to be expected.
– Fasteners are properly driven.
– End laps and side laps meet minimum required dimensions.
– Where possible, all sheets are installed so side laps and end laps are not bucking water.
– When roofing over existing roof systems, the surface should be dry and free of ponded water, ice
or snow prior to, during,  and after the roofing installation.
– Perimeter wall flashing and flashing around vents, roof drains, skylights, and miscellaneous roof
projections are properly sealed as per construction documents and specifications.

Protection from the Top: The Importance of Commercial Roof Cover Maintenance and Repair

Reprinted from 2016 Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety

The roof is a commercial building’s first line of defense from natural hazards such as wind, rain, fire, hail, ice, snow, and extreme heat. It is also the most vulnerable part of your building. Every day, your roof is exposed to weather and other elements that may contribute to decay and deterioration, increasing the risk of damage to the roof itself and the contents below it.

modified bitumen

modified bitumen

The International Building Code (IBC), which sets safety standards for commercial building, requires that roofs “serve to protect the building.” Having a roof that “protects the building” starts with design, materials selection, and installation at the time a facility is built or remodeled—events that occur infrequently and may be outside the scope of most businesses’ ongoing activity. But it also includes a regular program of inspection, maintenance, and repair—activities that should be part of your operational planning in order to prolong the useful life of your roof and make sure it does its job in protecting your business from weather damage.

This article focuses on how to identify and address common trouble spots in order to stop problems before they start and fix them before it’s too late.


If it’s been a while since you’ve had your roof inspected, your first priority should be to identify and fix any major problems.


Signs of serious problems may be apparent even from inside the building. Water stains on a ceiling may signal a leak, which can be caused by a crack or hole in the roof. It’s important to understand that even the smallest leak can be a sign of big trouble. Similarly, if the building has unexplained mold or odors inside, this may indicate a roof leak resulting in water penetration. While internal water damage or mold may signal trouble above, it’s also important to visually inspect the roof itself to look for problems that are likely to worsen over time.

Depending on the slope of the roof and the ease of access, inspections sometimes can be done by the building owner, but in many cases, it makes sense to hire a contractor to make sure the job is done safely and correctly. Even if you are hiring a professional, reviewing the problems identified in this article may help you to understand the significance of what he or she has identified and the need for action.


Prolonged standing water (see below) or ponding on the roof can lead to premature aging and deterioration of the cover, which will lead to leaks. Leaks that go undetected can slowly rust steel roof decks, rot wood decks, and turn light weight insulating concrete and gypsum decks into a thick paste like substance. Additionally, excessive standing water can lead to significant additional weight, which can weaken the roof deck.


Bubbles (see below) may indicate trapped moisture within the roof cover, which can lead to leaks, reduce the life span of the cover, speed up premature aging of the deck, and reduce the roof cover system’s effectiveness against uplift forces associated with a windstorm. Another cause of bubbles is the release of gasses from insulation board that gets trapped below the cover. A roof cut or moisture survey of the roof cover (See IBHS’ “Repair, Recover, or Replace the Roof”) can be completed to assist in the diagnosis.

Roof flashing is the strips of metal or other impervious material installed around the perimeter of the roof edge where the roof cover meets the wall. It is also installed around objects (such as rooftop equipment) that protrude from the roof in order to deflect water away from seams and joints. However, a gap in the flashing or roof cover perimeter (see below) greatly increases the potential for roof cover failure during a high wind event and water intrusion or mold. For further information including flashing repairs and replacement guidance, please see IBHS’ resources for “Evaluating Coping and Flashing.”

Tears in the roof cover (see below), or worn or cracking seams, can allow water to enter below the cover.


If there is a lightning protection system (see below), check to see if it is loose or detached as shown below. This can lead to a tear or puncture in the roof covering, especially during strong winds. A lightning protection system that has disconnected metal cables or aerials is no longer capable of providing the intended protection for the building’s occupants.

If there are skylights (see below), they should be checked for securement. Skylights that are not well sealed and secured around the frame’s edge can leak, which may cause the skylights to become dislodged and allow for wind driven rain and debris to enter the building, especially during a high wind event.

Also, over time the plastic domed panels can become brittle and very susceptible to cracks.


The best way to avoid roof-related problems and strengthen weather resistance is through regular care and preventive maintenance. Proper maintenance also prolongs the life of a roof and in many instances will allow for “repair” instead of “replacement” when a problem is identified. The frequency of inspections for routine maintenance depends on several factors, including the age of the roof, recent weather events, rooftop foot traffic, and conditions identified during previous inspections. That said, scheduling inspections every 6 months (fall and spring) is an effective way to make sure they are not sidetracked by the press of other important business.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

All inspections should look for and develop a repair plan for the items that indicate signs of problems described above.

After a severe windstorm or hurricane, inspect your roof for damage, as repeated storms can reduce the strength of the roof. Even if the roof survived a storm, it may have been damaged or weakened enough to fail during the next storm, or the one after that.

Inspections should look for signs of previous leaks or other problems to make sure that repairs have stayed intact.

Remove any loose objects and accumulated debris. A clean roof eliminates leaves and other materials that have a tendency to hold moisture, which can speed up the deterioration of the roofing materials. In dry areas, keeping the roof clear of debris reduces the risk that embers from a wildfire will ignite the roof.

Keep trees trimmed. This prevents branches from rubbing against the roof and leaves from accumulating on the roof and clogging drains and gutters.

Check gutters and downspouts for leaves, twigs and other debris that will inhibit proper drainage.

If located in a hurricane prone area, check if the gutters include gutter straps designed to resist uplift.

Inspect rooftop vents and equipment to make sure they are well sealed. Seal any gaps with flashing cement. Replacement may be necessary if the metal flashing is badly deteriorated, or if vents can wiggle back and forth.

After a hail event with hail stones larger than ¾ inch, contact your insurer and have the roof inspected even if you are not aware of any damage.

Consulting a professional roofing contractor may be helpful if concerns exist after a maintenance review of the roof. The contractor can also help to determine the health of the roof, estimate the remaining life of the roof, help you develop a maintenance plan, and identify additional steps to protect the roof.

The following are some things to consider when hiring a roofing contractor:

Look for established, licensed or bonded professionals.

Obtain several bids for services.

Ask for and check references that specifically include other commercial buildings in your area.

Ask to see certificates of insurance. Make sure that coverage for liability and workers’ compensation insurance is current.

Contact your local Better Business Bureau to check for complaints filed against the inspector.

Make sure the bid clearly defines the work that will be done, including hauling away of debris and grounds cleanup.

If your new roof is being installed on an existing building, make sure that the deck is checked out for water soaked or deteriorated material; have damaged material replaced as part of the contract.

Discuss, verify, and receive in writing the warranty information. Confirm what is and what is not covered. Keep copies of all warranties and a record of work performed to assist in future inspections, maintenance, and repairs.

A properly maintained roof is necessary to protect your building and the business conducted within it. Remember that a little maintenance can result in a lot of savings, especially when compared to the cost of damage from a small, undetected leak or a catastrophic roof failure.