Monitor & Maintain

by Katie Lee

5 roof maintenance tips for retail and restaurant facility managers.

By Bill Lomel

The roof can be one of the largest financial investments in a commercial property; however, it can also become one of the most neglected parts of any building. A well-maintained roof is the first line of defense against extreme weather or structural damage. Regular monitoring and maintenance by facility managers and owners is essential to ensure lasting performance and an extended life.

Roofing problems, if not addressed early, will cause major headaches for managers and owners who oversee the day-to-day operations of retail and restaurant facilities. Ignoring the warning signs of roof wear and tear can also lead to the need for a full roof replacement — a costly and stressful undertaking.

As managers and owners, it is your responsibility to maintain and secure a property, creating the best possible experience for retail and restaurant tenants. Roof upkeep is an important, but often neglected, part of building maintenance. These five tips can help you detect roof problems before damage becomes serious or, better yet, prevent damage from occurring in the first place.

  1. Make sure your roof is draining properly.

Many properties are surrounded by trees or other greenery. Debris can easily build up and block the roof’s drainage system, causing strain on the structure of the roof. While roofs are designed as a protective shield against water and other elements, a blockage met with heavy rain or snow can transform your roof into an ad hoc swimming pool — and, that’s not the type of ‘rooftop amenity’ tenants will enjoy. Regularly clean gutters and drains, in addition to valleys, pipes and skylights, to prevent damage.

  1. Be aware of who’s on your roof at all times and inspect it after mechanical repairs.

The roof is usually home to a lot of mechanical equipment, including HVAC technology, that often needs repairs or service. At the time of service, the roof is typically treated with the same harshness as a concrete floor. Dropped tools or the sheer weight of repair equipment can cause roof damage, and this damage can lead to immediate leaks or punctures. In fact, 40% of all roof problems occur because of human error. Detect these problems immediately, and avoid more serious issues later.

  1. Protect your roof from grease contamination.

Over 80% of food industry facilities experience roof deterioration due to exhaust fan discharge, requiring expensive repairs. The grease and oil released from rooftop kitchen exhaust fans is detrimental to roof membranes and opens you up to liabilities, safety hazards and code violations. This includes fall risks, animal and insect infestation, fire hazards and possible EPA and code violations. Grease contamination can also void your roof’s manufacturer warranty.

If grease contamination occurs, you should act immediately by removing heavy deposits. The area should be cleaned or removed and replaced with a new membrane. However, the best way to protect your roof is to prevent grease or oil from ever reaching it in the first place. There are several methods for preventing damage, including collection buckets, built-in catch containers and filtered grease containment units. Each of these methods still requires regular maintenance. Grease traps and pans need to be emptied regularly and grease filters should be replaced at least twice a year.

  1. Understand how tenant turnover can affect your roof.

Particularly in retail and restaurant spaces, facility managers and owners deal with some degree of turnover in tenants and use of space. Many times, tenants make additions or upgrades to building equipment, adding different levels of penetration to the roof in the process. Make sure all seams and joints are secure and that sealants and flashings are intact. Encourage tenants to bring damage or leaks to your attention immediately, no matter where or why these problems occur. If a property is not controlled and finished work is not adequately sealed, this can cause severe structural damage. It’s better to know now than later.

  1. Finally, consider your location and climate.

Wear and tear concerns vary according to climate, and property managers should revise their maintenance plans accordingly. For example, in the South, thunderstorms can roll in and create temperature drops of 30 degrees in a matter of minutes. Heavy rain and humidity create a breeding ground for mold. Sun damage can shorten the life of sealants and other roof products. Wind, rain and snow can cause leaks or other structural damage. Finally, local wildlife from squirrels and raccoons to termites and birds can use entry holes and take up residence in your building. Every new season brings unique challenges, so make sure you have a specialized maintenance plan in place every day of the year.

In general, knowing the age and condition of a roof can help you measure the urgency of roof maintenance and gauge imminent problems. But, arming yourself with these five roof upkeep tips can help you extend the life of a commercial roof and prevent minor problems from becoming major headaches for both you and your tenants.


— Bill Lomel is president of Norcross, Georgia-based Sentry Roof Services, LLC, a full-service commercial and industrial roofing company. For over 35 years, Sentry Roof has been a recognized leader in the roofing industry in the Southeast, working on a variety of projects including roof installation, roof construction and roof repairs. For more information, visit or email [email protected].

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