A four-step plan in roof maintenance for educational facilities

Tom Kerr, Sales Director at ASCL Preferred Supplier Langley Waterproofing Systems Ltd explains how school stakeholders can ensure the longevity of one of the most expensive building assets – the roof. 

A failing roof has the potential to cause major disruption to a school’s day to day operations. Worst-case scenario, it can cause damage to the fabric of the building itself and the roof may require a complete replacement – this could cause high and unexpected costs and classroom closures.

However, roofs do not suddenly fail, but rather degrade over a period of time and this “unexpected” damage can occur when a roof has not been properly maintained. 

By following four steps, you can extend the longevity of your roof and avoid unexpected costs, as well as reduce whole life costs, should a replacement be needed.

Recognise the risk factors
  • Age
The age of the roof will provide insight. For example, a roof failing within the first five years will likely be a result of poor workmanship rather than a material defect. For older roofs of 20+ years, the majority of failures will be a consequence of product life expectancy. 
  • Other trades
If anyone has been walking on the roof (such as window or plant maintenance tradespersons) then there is a risk of inadvertent damage.  
  • Time of year
Weather can present stresses on a roof, such as heavy rainfall or freezing temperatures. Dependent on age, the likeliness of an issue caused by the weather can be increased for some roof types. 
  • Type of covering
Different types of roofing systems will suffer from different problems. For example, a ‘felt’ roof can suffer from mineral migration, leading to blocked outlets; or ‘liquid’ roofs can experience algae build up, which can cause slip hazards for maintenance workers that then could damage the waterproofing.

Commission a detailed roof condition survey
As part of your Estate Management Plan and as issued in the GEMS guidance by the DfE, one of the critical factors is data, which a full technical roof condition survey can provide. 

This should be carried out by a technical roofing specialist, who will assess each roof area using core samples. Other evidential support can include moisture readings and thermographic surveys to reveal any cold spots on the roof, which may be useful to assess potential water ingress. 

Whilst the roof may look functional, issues could be lying dormant and over time will cause irreversible damage to the build-up of the roof. 

Many flat roofs, for example, include insulation. If the top layer of waterproofing has failed, water will saturate the insulation. The building’s waterproofing can mask this problem leaving schools unaware that there is potentially, several hundred litres of water within the roof.

A roof condition survey will highlight issues early to avoid expensive and unexpected works and predict lifespans for which budget can be planned. This provides schools with cost certainty when managing and maintaining the roof.

Prioritise compliance and health and safety
As part of the survey and during subsequent inspections, the roof areas should be checked to ensure full compliance with Health and Safety. 

Flat roof areas may need to be accessed by different trades to carry out maintenance on rooftop equipment, such as air conditioning units or ventilation systems. The roof condition survey will be able to identify any potential hazards such as whether the roof or/and rooflights are fragile, as well as the presence and condition of guard rails and fall arrest systems in line with Approved Document K: Protection from falling, collision and impact

As with any workplace, building owners have a duty of care to ensure walkways and access systems are correctly maintained, to provide safe access for people working on the roof. Correct materials and systems should be specified to meet these requirements, therefore it is essential that a roof system supplier is aware of required access paths at survey stage. This will be incorporated into the report, and thus into the future refurbishment specifications, to ensure the roofing system can withstand foot traffic and include a slip-inhibiting finish. 

Following the recommendations of the Hackitt Review, the construction industry has a renewed attention to ensuring building regulation compliance. A roof condition survey should be able to advise you on whether your roof is compliant with current Building Regulations and whether there are potential issues that may require immediate action.

Establish a long-term maintenance plan 
A maintenance plan incorporating regular inspections will help reduce the risk of issues developing and help make sure any minor issues are caught early. These inspections can be managed through a supplier maintenance package, giving peace of mind that the estate is being maintained by industry experts. 

Though a roof is ‘out-of-sight’ it should never be out of mind. A long-term and comprehensive maintenance plan based on data retrieved from the full roof condition survey, will assist in protecting the roof for many years to come and help extend its lifespan. 

Langley Waterproofing Systems Ltd  is an ASCL Preferred Supplier
For more information on Langley Waterproofing Systems Ltd’s Pro-Active Flat Roof Asset Management Services for Schools, download their guide here.

For a Langley roof condition survey, call Cassey Smith, Business Development Co-Ordinator on 01327 704778 or email

Posted: 02/03/2020 14:32:42