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How to Winterize your Flat Roof

Winters are hard on roofs, especially because they come with the fall and spring freeze-thaw which is especially detrimental. Once the cold weather hits however, there are fewer options if your roof runs into problems.

The Problem with Winter Roofing

It is often assumed that the reason roofers don’t work much during the winter is undesirable working conditions, however that is not the case!

Roofing materials are made to be used and installed under certain conditions. Even pitched roofs rely on a certain amount of solar heat to melt the tar on the back of the shingles and seal them together. Flat roofing materials are much more temperature specific.

Flat roofing sealants and membranes come with specifications for application. If the weather isn’t warm enough, the membrane may not lay properly resulting in kinks and waves in the final product.

Sealants require a minimum temperature to cure and will simply not work if not given the proper conditions during install. Because of this it is important to prepare for the winter season, because most of the work that can be done during that time will only be emergency temporary measures.

Fall Inspection

One of the best things that you can do to protect your roof is to make sure to have a roof inspection done in the fall, leaving enough time for repairs before snow and ice set in and make repairs difficult.

The fall can be a busy time for flat roofers. People tend to fall into two categories; those who get things done in the spring and those who put things off to the fall. At times we get so busy later in the season, especially as weather becomes harder to work around, that we are unable to get to all the last minute jobs before winter weather sets in.

Despite the insistence of weather forecasters, no one can predict the weather. As the season advances make sure to call and schedule a fall inspection early to be sure that you have the time to get any required work done.

The inspection itself will do a lot of things to prepare your roof for winter weather. Here at Northern Seal you can expect a thorough and complete inspection consisting of the following. If you are having your roof inspected by another company it is best to check beforehand to make sure that all of these things will be covered in your inspection.

Checking Seals, Drainage and Edging

All roofs rely on the seals, drainage and edging. If any of these fail you will have leaks. Each seal of your roof will be inspected, small holes or areas of weakening will be patched and larger areas will be documented so that you can take adequate precautions.

Drainage will be checked to make sure that water can run off the roof as quickly as possible. Water on the roof in the winter is always more dangerous than in the summer because perpetual freeze-thaw is one of the leading causes of leaks. Edging will also be checked to make sure it follows correct flat roofing procedures and the products used are still functioning properly.

Removal of Debris and Clearing Drains

Debris buildup on the roof often leads to clogged drains and standing water. Ensuring that debris are removed in the fall, especially if there are many larger trees around the building which can cause leaf buildup, means that your drainage system will work properly and allow water to leave your roof quickly. This is one of the most important things in winter preparation.

Minor Caulking and Sealant Repair

While the caulking and sealant used on roofs is industrial grade, harsh weather and UV rays from the sun cause it to fail faster than the roofing membrane itself. During a roof inspection all of the caulking and sealant is inspected and replaced if necessary to ensure the continued performance of your roofing seals.

Minor Membrane Repair

While not usually a problem for a roof that hasn’t been touched, falling objects, weather, human traffic and other contractors sometimes harm roofing membrane.

Any people involved might not even be aware of the damage but a during a flat roof inspection we look specifically for any area that has sustained damage. Small patches are taken care of immediately, while any larger concerns are documented with repair recommendations for your consideration.

Written Report

A written report including any applicable pictures or video will be submitted to you, giving you an understanding of the current situation of your roof, any repairs performed or recommended. This will give you peace of mind that your roof is in good condition to face the coming temperature fluctuations and extremes.

Winter Maintenance

Usually there is very little to do on a building during the winter. As said previously, repairs are only done in case of emergency because of the limitations of the roofing materials. Snow weight, when deemed an issue can necessitate removal in order to lighten the load of your roof, however most roofs are designed to be able to carry large amounts of snow without failure.

Freeze-thaw can create ice dams on the roof which can become problematic because they prevent water from exiting the roof and ponding water is never a good thing, especially during the winter.

Final Word

Getting ready for the winter should not be a process that causes you stress, but to be stress-free it needs to be done early enough that any necessary repairs are completed before cold weather sets in.

Be sure to remember that it isn’t just what conditions your roofer is willing to work in, but is more dependent on the conditions that the roofing materials will be able to be installed in.

Call Northern Seal today to schedule your roof inspection and discuss any concerns you have regarding winter maintenance!

Why is Solar becoming so popular?

Everywhere you go it seems you are seeing solar installations. They’re cropping up on houses as well as commercial and industrial buildings, but why? Is there something these building owners know that you don’t, or are they just more dedicated to the environment and are therefore willing to take the solar risk?

Environmental Benefits

Firstly, we do know that there are very significant environmental benefits to solar. It is a renewable source of energy that doesn’t deplete our earth’s resources at all. The sun is going to rise each day and shine on your building weather you’re profiting from it or not.

It also doesn’t put harmful emissions into the air like coal power, or produce annoying noise pollution as many wind power operations have proven to do. Solar can be installed on your roof without any negative effects. It is renewable, quiet and clean.

On top of this, flat roof buildings are the perfect place for solar panel installations because the space is there, it is clear and it is pretty much perfect. You don’t have to invest in more land, clear out additional space or significantly alter the existing space.

You will want to make sure that you have a roof that will last for the duration of the solar installation and make sure that all of your electrical equipment will still be easily accessible.

Lastly, as we all know, solar energy projects reduce strain on the power grid making it easier and more environmentally friendly to maintain. Your solar production will be at its highest right when the power consumption is at its highest, on sunny summer days when everyone’s running their cooling systems.

Financial Benefits

The government has realized the benefits to solar energy and is investing significant money each year to encourage building owners to consider this option.

In Ontario we have Feed-in-tariff (or FIT) programs whose goal is to offer compensation to renewable energy producers in order to give those who install projects like solar some price certainty and a long-term contract to instill confidence in their investment.

This is done through the Ontario Power Authority’s Feed-in-Tariff program, launched in 2009 through the Green Energy Act. Any energy produced from your solar installation is first used for your power needs and then the extra is fed back into the grid for your profit.

The sales tax you pay on your solar project can also be decreased or eliminated by government rebates.

As solar projects become a more common thing, we are also seeing them add to building value as people see the potential financial benefit.

Community Benefits

As has already been mentioned, there are numerous benefits to the environment from solar technology. Ontario has also been focusing on using this new field to create jobs in Ontario.

Panel production, installation and research is all going to help provide profitable livings for fellow Ontarians. This is a fast-growing industry and as Ontario keeps up with and leads this movement, we will continue to see it benefit our economy.

Final Word

Solar is the wave of the future. Most people have considered it at some point, either on their own homes or on their commercial building. If you have or are considering it, make sure to go with a knowledgeable flat roofing contractor who knows the ins-and-outs of solar project requirements.

Having worked for a number of years in conjunction with a solar installation company, our General Manager knows how to best prepare a roof for a solar installation and what kind of things to be aware of before, during and after the install.

For more information about what to ask yourself when considering solar, read our “Considering Solar?” article which gives a number of questions you should ask yourself before committing.

Call Northern Seal today to schedule an appointment to discuss any needs your building may have before starting the project.

Considering a solar roof?

Solar projects are becoming more and more common as power costs rise and the government introduces tax and credit incentives to offset the costs of installation.

While it seems to be the wave of the future, many are still wondering what the big deal is, how people choose to make the initial investment and if their investment will bring forth the promised fruits.

Below we look at some things you should consider before installing a solar project.

Building Considerations

Does the roof area get sun?

This seems like an obvious one but is a very legitimate question. Before deciding on a solar project, watch your roof throughout the day, preferably throughout a year. As the sun’s angle changes you may have more shade on your roof area than you had previously believed.

If your building has nothing tall in the nearby surroundings, you can be reasonably sure that this won’t be an issue.

Is the space you have useable?

Some buildings have many projections on the roof (HVAC and other electrical equipment) which can get in the way of a solar installation.

If you aren’t sure, getting a solar installer to come and take a look at the space you have will give you a better idea of what scale of operation is reasonable.

Will the building still meet building code?

Most importantly here is the weight of any solar operation. Each roof has a specific carrying capacity which must support the roofing system, electrical equipment, snow load, and proposed solar project.

If you have a single-ply membrane roof that is mechanically fastened this shouldn’t be a problem, but if your roof is an older tar and gravel or if your roof has rock or paving stone as ballast to hold on the roofing system then you may have to look at lightening the load before adding more weight.

Will your roofing system last the life of your solar project?

Once you install solar panels it becomes much harder to access, maintain and repair a roof. If you have to replace your roof during the life of your solar installation it is much more expensive because you need two crews working, your flat roofers and the solar installers who will be moving solar panels out of the way and then replacing them when the roof has been replaced.

If you have doubts as to your roof lasting the 20-30 year life of your solar project, be sure to speak with a flat roofer who has experience preparing roofing systems for solar projects. Be sure to specify that the roof will be used for a solar installation and he will be able to give advice as to what work needs to be done before the install.

Will a solar system affect the warranty on my roof?

This is something that you want to be sure to talk with your flat roofer about. While solar project installers work on roofs all the time, they don’t understand the roofing materials and the damage they can do to the roofing system if they aren’t careful.

You will need to clarify with your flat roofer what will happen if the roofing system is damaged during the solar install and if the warranty will be affected.

Are there government incentives, rebates or credits available to help reduce the cost?

Here in Ontario, the government, through the Ontario Power Authority, launched a Feed-in Tariff program in 2009 which allows you to enter into a contract to sell your extra energy back into the grid at a fixed price.

Additionally there are rebates to reduce the cost of the sales tax on your solar installation. Be sure to check into any additional incentives, as new programs are introduced to encourage people and businesses to ‘Go Green’.

What is the projected Return of Investment on a solar installation?

To answer this you will have to do some research or talk to a solar installer as there are many types of solar installations and the rate of return on your investment will largely depend on the location and size of your project.

Is financing or rooftop rental feasible?

Many financial lenders are seeing the benefits of solar and will help finance the installation. If you don’t want the hassle of being responsible for the install or maintenance of a solar project it doesn’t take solar off the table for you.

There are solar companies who will rent the roof area from you to install their solar project. While not being as lucrative as installing your own, it comes with financial security and a lot less hassle.

End Note

If considering a solar project for your roof you will want to talk with a few experts, specifically the solar installers and your flat roofer.

These people will be able to help you weigh the advantages and disadvantages as well as help you foresee any difficulties you may have to face.

Having worked for years with a solar installation company, our General Manager knows what is required before and after solar installation.

Call us today to discuss your plans with him.

Environmentally-Friendly roofing options

While people are paying more and more attention to the effects that our actions have on the environment, environmentally friendly roofing options do a lot more than just save nature. Each system is an improvement on past products and comes with its own advantages.

Cool Roofs

Cool roofs are made to not heat up as much as other roofs, heating only 5-14 degrees Celsius above surrounding air temperature. They also improve the efficiency of your insulation and reduce the energy demands of your electric cooling by up to 10 percent on hot days.

Even on days that are not necessarily hot but are sunny, cool roofs provide energy savings. All of the energy savings from reducing demand on your cooling system results in decreased air pollution and greenhouse gasses meaning your roof is more environmentally friendly while saving you money at the same time.

Here at Northern Seal, we almost always install cool roofs when replacing older roofing materials. Our favorite product to work with is TPO (or more correctly, FTPO, Flexible Thermo Polyolefin) which is currently the industry’s leading roofing product. Gross sales of FTPO products in the U.S. currently exceeds all other roofing products combined.

This is because it has no plasticisers and has been made closer to rubber but with better seam, puncture and tear strength. It is 100% recyclable where facilities exist and is one of the safer roofing materials to install both for your flat roofer and your building because it uses a hot air welder instead of open flame welder.

Recyclable Single-Ply membranes

Single-ply membranes are now recyclable where facilities exist, and many manufacturers like Firestone and Duralast will take back their used membranes and recycle them in their own facilities, grinding them down to be used as backing or walkway material.

Solar Projects

Solar projects are an excellent way to reduce strain on the power grid, reduce the cost of your own power and make a little extra money. It is a renewable source of energy that doesn’t contribute to air or noise pollution and solar panels can be installed on your roof without affecting the use of your building.

Solar projects rely on the energy of the sun to produce power that will be used first in your own building and then any extra can be sold to your local energy provider to reduce their need to rely on other, more harmful forms of power.

Additionally, the times that you produce the most power are the times that the strain on the grid is the highest (hot, sunny days), meaning that you feeding into the grid relieves need to rely on more detrimental forms of energy.

Now with the Ontario Power Authority’s feed-in-tariff program solar installations are becoming more and more sure of an investment and are becoming realistic options for more and more people.

Green Roofs

Green roofs, while uncommon, are an excellent way to help the environment. Not only do they help with the insulation of your building, but with more and more paved spaces in cities, water run-off is becoming a bigger and bigger issue for city planners to account for.

While rainwater used to be able to sink into the ground it is now running almost exclusively to sewers and systems are having to manage increasing amounts of water. Green roofs allow rainwater time to sink into the growing medium, usually without excess runoff.

Additionally, green roofs provide habitats for birds and pollinating insects. They can be intensive or extensive, the difference being the use and care you intend to put into the maintenance of the greenery. Intensive green roofs are areas that you maintain with larger plants, essentially a garden on a roof. Extensive green roofs are much lower maintenance and are often left to self-propagate and grow wild after the first planting.

Final Note

Going green is the way of the future. Through cool roofs, solar projects or green roofs you can help our communities to become more sustainable while still obtaining economic benefits.

Here at Northern Seal we work with high quality products that have been tested and proven to be environmentally responsible and the best products for the job. It no longer has to be a sacrifice to go green, you can have it all, the durability and sustainability all while cutting your energy costs.

Call Northern Seal today to discuss how you can implement environmentally friendly roofing options on your building.

Flat Roofs 101

A flat roof is a roof that has very low or no slope (slope is referred to as pitch in roofing terms), being defined as any roof with less than 10 degree pitch.

The American National Roofing Contractors Association defines a low-slope roof (or flat roof) as having 3-in-12 pitch or less, meaning that there is three feet or less of rise over a 12 foot span. Roofs termed ‘dead level’ have no intentional level toward the drains.

Flat Roofing Advantages

Flat roofs are associated with many advantages such as cost effectiveness and use of space. They are a very cost-effective roof shape because all of the space in a building can be used, whereas pitched roofs leave awkward spaces inside of a building.

They also enable to use of space on top if desired, which can have decking installed to make it suitable for foot traffic, or can be used for a solar panel installation or turned into a green roof in order to be more environmentally friendly.

Many people wonder about the cost of flat roofs compared with pitched roofs, but when done properly flat roofs are the cheaper of the two roofing options when considering the space that it grants.

A quality flat roof should last as long as pitched roof, but requires proper maintenance in order to do so. Flat roofing systems commonly range anywhere from 10 to 50 years, so when looking at re-roofing, make sure to find the product that will suit your building’s needs.

Expert Required

One of the important differences between flat and pitched roof installation is that most people are able to install or perform repairs on a pitched roof if inclined to do so, whereas a flat roof requires detailed and specific knowledge of products and processes in order to perform the desired function.

Flat roofing products rely of specific chemical formulas and certain products will simply not work together. Your flat roofer understands the product, their uses and limitations as well as the application process and anything that needs to be done in order to make the product last.

This knowledge and familiarity with products is very difficult for non-flat roofers to obtain, and we recommend using exclusively flat roofers. Since flat roofing products are so different from pitched roofing, your average pitched roofer will simply not have the knowledge required to install or fix a flat roof unless he has significant experience in this part of the industry.

Main Roofing Materials

There are two main schools of roofing, tar based and membrane based.

Tar based roofing is typically tar and gravel or modified bitumen (mod bit) and both rely on successive layers of felt and tar. This is an older style of roofing, usually involving a torch with open flame.

The tar, while not recyclable, is a by-product of petroleum refining and is similar to that used in roads. These roofs can last a long time if maintained properly but the tar tends to degrade rapidly when exposed to UV light and can therefore fail quickly if the gravel or granule-coated top coat is disturbed and not replaced.

Membrane roofing systems are newer systems that have been chemically designed to solve problems in older roofing systems. They are typically single-ply, and strips of membrane material are either solvent, glue or heat-welded together to form a continuous sheet.

The membrane from these roofs is often recyclable where facilities exist and many of them provide energy savings for your building. Leak detection is exceptionally easy on single-ply membrane roofs because there are so few seams to check as places of failure.

Leaks do not run underneath the product before entering the building, so the process of finding and repairing leaks is made simpler. If weight is a consideration, mechanically fastening these roofs can significantly reduce the weight they have to carry, enabling them to be appropriate foundations for both solar and green roof projects.

Maintenance Costs

It is good practice to have a yearly inspection of your flat roof performed by a professional in order to catch any problems arising from wind damage, water damage, seam and caulking delamination and/or foot traffic (if applicable).

You should also have an inspection done after any work on your roof from other contractors including HVAC and mechanical services. While they are experts in their field, these other contractors often have little or no knowledge of flat roofing products and procedures, often resulting in poor or non-existent waterproofing.

As your roof ages you will begin to have additional repairs. Your flat roof should last for about 20 years, so we recommend saving 1/20th the cost of a new roof each year so that by the time your roof needs replacing you will have the money saved up to do so.

As your roof approaches and passes the 20 year mark, you will want to take note of the yearly repair costs. If maintained properly, a roof is often able to last more than 20 years, and you don’t want to replace it prematurely.

We recommend that if you are still spending less on repairs and that 1/20th of a new roof cost, it is still appropriate to invest in the old roof. When the costs of repairs become larger than the yearly price of a roof, it is in your best interest to replace rather than repair.

The Importance of a Warranty

When replacing a roof you should always go with a flat roofing contractor who is willing to give a warranty on his work.

Three to five years is industry average, and a new roof should not have significant problems within this time. If a contractor is not willing to warranty their work, you should be asking yourself why not. If they are confident in their abilities there should be no problem in giving you that peace of mind.

Here at Northern Seal we offer a five year warranty on all new installs, with the option of extending that warranty to ten years through our roof maintenance plan.

Go with someone you can trust, call Northern Seal today for service on your flat roof!

Cool Roofs

Cool roofs are increasingly in demand as they are better for the environment than their counterparts and they save building owners a lot in cooling and energy costs.

We always prefer to install a cool roofing system because the benefits to you far outweigh the slightly higher upfront cost.

What are they?

Cool roofs come in three forms; inherently cool roofs, green planted roofs and coated roofs. These types of roofs reflect a lot more of the energy from the sun (visible, infrared and ultraviolet light) than their counterparts and are able to release the heat that is absorbed at a much higher rate.

This results in lower cooling costs, more stable temperatures and lengthened service life of your roof as well as HVAC systems, which results in savings for you.

Cool roofs do not heat up as much as other roofs, typically heating only 5-14 degrees Celsius above surrounding air temperature. They also improve the efficiency of your insulation and reduce the demand for electric cooling by up to 10 percent on hot days.

Even on days that are not necessarily hot but are sunny, cool roofs provide energy savings. All of the energy savings result in decreased air pollution and greenhouse gasses meaning your roof is more environmentally friendly.

Inherently Cool Roofs

TPO is our roofing membrane of choice, partly because of its ease of use and excellent service record, and partly because it is one of the leading cool roofing membranes.

Inherently cool roofs are made of white or light roofing material which reflects and emits (releases) as much of the sun’s energy as possible. A TPO roof is able to reflect more than 80% of the sun’s rays and emit 70% of the energy that the building does absorb, while asphalt roofs reflect only between 6 and 26% of the sun’s energy.

The ability of TPO to reflect so much more energy significantly decreases the heat transfer to the rest of the building, resulting in lower air conditioning costs.

Green Planted Roofs

A green roof is one that has dirt and vegetation on top of the waterproofing membrane. The layers of a green roof include insulation, waterproofing membrane, drainage, filter mat to prevent erosion of the growing material, growing material (soil) and plants.

They can be either intensive or extensive, the different being that intensive green roofs require a thicker layer of soil to support larger plants which will be cultivated and maintained, while extensive roofs have less soil and are mostly left to grow on their own without as much maintenance.

TPO is one of the top choices of waterproofing membranes to go under green roof projects because it has been manufactured specifically without plasticisers, so you don’t have to worry about plastic breaking down and getting into the soil of your roof.

Coated Roofs

If you are interested in a cool roof but don’t want to replace your roof yet then this is the option for you. A coated roof is one onto which a white roof coating is applied over the existing roof to give it many of the energy efficient characteristics of an inherently cool roof.

These products have reflectivity and emissivity ratings which will let you know what kind of improvement to expect when using the product over different kinds of roofs.

Call Northern Seal today to discuss how to convert your roof to a more energy efficient and money saving cool roof!

How Regular Maintenance Extends the Life of Your Roof

While the importance of regular roof maintenance is a concept that we all understand for cars which have moving parts that all affect each other, it is a concept that not everyone understands for a flat roof.

While the movement is not as noticeable, roofs move and shift with temperature extremes and considering the cost of repairs and re-roofs, regular maintenance can significantly reduce the overall cost of your roof.

Regular Inspections

Just like a car, most roof problems are not immediately visible to look at. Additionally, many people don’t look at their roof regularly and therefore would not notice a problem even if it was noticeable.

Having a roof inspection done at least annually ensures that you have someone knowledgeable checking your roof for all of the common problems. Just like catching a problem early on a car can reduce repair costs (e.g. topping off low oil before it ruins an engine), finding problems on a roof before it leads to a larger issue can prevent extensive damages and repairs.

It is an error to think that you will be aware of all leaks in your roof. There are leaks that go unnoticed because they don’t immediately lead into an often used area of a building, and there are times when small amounts of water seep in through a hole without becoming large enough to reach inside. These leaks are still problems and they are one of the things that regular roof inspections will identify.

Small, unnoticed leaks are often ones that cause the most damage in the end because when left for long periods of time they can deteriorate roof decking or lead to mould, both more extensive problems than a simple roof patch.

Re-roofing a well maintained roof involves simply stripping the old roofing material and putting on a new one, sometimes stripping the old roof is not even required. If the roof was not maintained, however, the job often requires tearing up large sections of water-saturated roof decking or mould.

These larger projects could often have been avoided or at least minimized with regular roof inspections and maintenance.

Regular Maintenance

The products on your roof have been created to keep water out, and when maintained properly they should do the job well. Problems arise however, when they are not maintained and water begins to get under the waterproofing membrane.

Lower levels of roofing products are not made to be wet, in fact, the whole purpose of your roofing membrane is to protect everything underneath it. When water does get through the membrane it significantly reduces the effectiveness of everything underneath.

Especially problematic with older products, water often leads to premature breakdown of roofing materials including the membranes themselves, insulation and decking. Single-ply membranes are not affected by water getting between their layers because they are a single layer.

Older roofing products rely on multiple layers of product (usually 3-4), and are damaged quickly if water is able to get between them. Temperature changes, especially freeze-thaws, cause any cracks and crevices to widen quickly, letting in more water and perpetuating the problem.

Insulation has an R rating which tells how good it is at stopping heat transfer, but that R rating is significantly diminished or eliminated completely when the insulation is wet. Decking quickly becomes soggy and warps when exposed to water, and mould can quickly become an issue and health risk. Maintaining the waterproofing ability of the roofing membrane is essential to the function and life of your roof.

Repair Before the Leak

While it may seem counter-intuitive to some, most leaks can be found before they actually start to leak. Newer roofing membranes should have all of their seals checked yearly, and patches placed on any area where there is a weakening in the seal.

Older roofing products, while not having specific seals, have visual indications that a professional will be able to identify as a weakening or problem area. Repairing these areas before you have any water penetration will significantly reduce the cost of repairs.

We include the cost of many of these smaller repairs and patches in your roof inspection and will avoid larger, more costly repairs later.

Enable Planning

Regular inspections and maintenance on your roof can cut costs of more extensive repairs and help you to plan for the future. Knowing your problem areas and the life expectancy of your roof will allow you to save properly and be ready when the time comes to replace, while regular repairs will make sure that you get the best value out of your existing roof.

To schedule an inspection, repairs or maintenance, or to talk about the necessity of a new roof, call Northern Seal today. We will help you extend the service life of your roof and ensure that you have the information you need to prepare for the future.

When to Repair, When to Re-Roof

One of the hardest questions for a building owner when dealing with a roof is the decision of when to stop investing in an old roof and to instead invest in a new one.

Below are some helpful ways to know when your roof has reached the end of its usefulness and when it is better simply to replace it.

When Expenses Outstrip Savings

We encourage people to take the cost of the roof, divide by 20 and save that much each year toward the day when they need to purchase a new one.

Your average roof should last 20 years so by doing this you will have most of the money you will need for the new purchase once you need to do so, and will avoid the stress of a costly project of having to go into debt to ensure the safety of your building.

As your roof ages, you will start having to spend money on repairs and this amount will typically increase yearly. If the cost of the repairs ever exceeds the amount that you are saving yearly for the new roof you know the time has come to quit investing in the old and look at going new.

New Leaks VS Old Leaks

Another consideration is the age of the existing leaks. New leaks are often best to repair as they have not yet led to extensive damages or chronic problems such as mould. Long-term leaks, leaks that keep coming back or ones that were left a long time before repairing, can be much more costly and extensive repairs.

When left unfixed water from a leak can degrade insulation and cause roof decking to rot. Eventually the roof supports erode causing sagging in the supported materials. When this happens mechanical fasteners such as screws will look like they’re popping upward, but they are simply maintaining their original level while materials around them sink.

This will put pressure on the roofing membrane and can cause more damage as they eventually push and wear through, leading to more areas to repair.

Before a Solar of Green Roof Project

If you intend to change the use of your roof or invest in costly solar or green projects it is usually best to do so on a new roof that you know will last, rather than on an older one which may need maintenance which will disturb the project.

When you’re investing a lot of money into what is on top of your roof it is best to give the project the best chance of success and the least interruption possible. Once there are solar panels or dirt up on the roof, simple repairs become more complex because they involve moving equipment or dirt in order to access the roofing membrane.

In the case of solar this often requires the involvement of both your roofer and solar installer in order to ensure there is no damage to either the roof or solar panel system. By investing in a new roof before the project starts you avoid a lot of unnecessary hassle.

When Getting New Tenants or Selling the Building

Most people don’t like to deal with the unknown, and that includes unforeseen roofing problems. Having a new roof installed on a building before getting new tenants or before selling the building will give those looking into the space confidence that they will not have to deal with unforeseen roofing problems for years to come.

This will often increase the value of your building by more than the cost of the project. If considering selling it is best to get a roof report from your roofer that you can show to potential buyers.

If your roofer has any concerns then you can counsel with your real estate agent as to whether replacing the roof would a financially beneficial before trying to sell.

After Purchasing a Building

It is best to get a good idea as to the condition of the roof before you invest in a building, but even if you have seen a report from the previous owner’s roofer, get your own roof inspection done as soon as you take over the building. This ensures that you are fully aware of any problems or issues with your building and will not be caught off guard later.

It is important not to take their word for it that they had a competent flat roofing contractor do the inspection. Many people don’t understand how different flat roofing is from pitched roofing and therefore bring in anyone who calls themselves a roofer but who may not know the specific requirements of flat roofs or flat roofing materials (which are entirely different from the materials used on pitched roofs).

The Final Word

While it is always a hard decision when to replace your roof, a little knowledge and planning will help you be easy with your decision when the time comes.

Good foresight and information always makes the process easier and regular maintenance and roof inspections will help lengthen the life of your existing roof for as long as possible.

Call Northern Seal today for roof maintenance, inspections or advice on the existing life of your roof. We will work with you to maintain your existing roof or help you plan for when you will need a roof replacement.

Why do Regular Roof Inspections?

Would you buy a car and drive it for years without ever getting the brakes, oil or fluids checked? If you did, no one would be surprised when your car gave out before its time.

This same principle applies to your roof, but as your roof is so much more expensive an investment. It protects the rest of your building, and product or machinery inside, and is therefore very important to have regular inspections so that your roof lasts its expected lifespan.

Catching Damage Early

While some building owners are up on their roofs often, or at least go up for a look from time to time, many roofs are not monitored at all until a problem presents itself through water damage inside the building or a tenants unit.

Catching damage before the leak actually occurs can avoid expensive repairs both to your roof and the inside of the building. There is an old saying: “A stitch in time saves nine”, meaning catching the problem at the beginning can avoid nine times the repairs and expenses later on.

Repairs before a roof has leaked are simple. Repairs afterward often become more complex depending on the length of time the leak has remained and the channels the water has taken to enter a building.

It is often no longer a single patch, but cutting out sometimes extensive sections of damaged roof materials. In some cases where the roof has not been inspected for years, there can be such extensive damage that the best solution is a complete re-roof.

While this is usually only the case for leaks which have been ongoing for a long period of time, it is important to have an inspector check your roof periodically to avoid damage from getting this far.

Extend the Life of your Roof

Would it surprise you to find out that most building owners have to replace their roof before it gets even 80% of their expected lifespan?

Having to replace a roof early wastes valuable years of service life and significantly increases the cost of maintaining your building. Without regular inspections small problems often become large problems which eventually lead to either costly repairs or complete re-roofs.

Your roof, when maintained properly, should last decades but this isn’t possible without regular inspections and repairs. In the long-run, the cost of the problems that occur out of neglect far outweigh the cost of regular roof inspections and maintenance.

Extend your Warranty with Northern Seal

We take pride in our work and are happy to provide a five year warranty on all new installs. This warranty can be extended to a ten year labour warranty by having yearly roof inspections and regular maintenance.

This allows us to catch any problems before they grow, and to perform maintenance which, like a car, will extend the service life of your roof.

The Final Word

Just like you can be tempted to put off or skip an oil change on your car, we all know that the added wear just doesn’t justify the small immediate savings.

Likewise, it is tempting to skip regular inspections and maintenance on a roof for the same reasons, however the result is often the same. Just as the car wears down faster when not maintained, your roof will not achieve its life expectancy if not inspected and maintained regularly.

Call Northern Seal today to book your yearly roof inspection and take the first step toward peace of mind!

What to look for in a Flat Roof Contractor

Your home or building is a valuable asset which you want to keep in top condition. Arguably the most essential part of your building is the roof, it keeps all the rest, the walls, floors, finishing and furnishings safe from the devastating effects of water damage.

To make sure that your roof always maintains its integrity it is essential to have a flat roof contractor who knows what he is doing. The problem that many face is trying to determine which contractor to go with. It’s a big decision with the potential for long-term consequences. So what should you look for in a flat roofer?

Experience in the industry

Ask your roofer how long they have been in the flat roofing industry. Make sure to be specific about flat roofing because pitched roofing is very different and experience there does not necessarily transfer over.

You want to make sure they have years of experience because that experience will have taught them how to deal with different problems and given him an idea of how long different solutions and products will last.

Product Knowledge

Your roofer should have experience with different roofing membranes and understand the advantages and disadvantages of each. They should also be able to explain differences in products, as well as different solutions to problems in a way that is easy for you to understand.

As Einstein said; “You do not really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother”. If your roofer is having troubles explaining roofing options or products, it’s likely because they don’t understand them either!

Willing to offer lower-cost options

While it may be the best long-term solution, you are not always prepared for an expensive re-roof. Your roofer should present you with different repair options and give you an idea of the life expectancy of each.

You may decide that a re-roof is the best option for your scenario, but that’s your decision to make, not your roofers. A good and confident roofer will be able to explain your options and give his recommendations.

As a general guide we say that a roof should last about 20 years, and your yearly maintenance should not cost more than replacing the roof every 20 years.

For example, let’s say your roof will cost $50,000 to replace. Take the cost of a re-roof and divide by 20 and this will give you the cost per year of your new roof. In our example, this works out to $2,500 per year.

Towards the end of your roofs life, if your yearly repairs are below this number, keep investing in the old roof. Once the repairs start costing you more than this it’s probably going to be cheaper to start thinking of roof replacement.

Of course if you’re not prepared to replace yet, there are usually options that can stave off the inevitable while you financially prepare. Your roofer should be able to explain these to you and give you a general idea of how long you have.

Remember though, whatever your roof is protecting is valuable. It’s always better to get the new roof before you have catastrophic failure!

Prompt Response Time for Warranty Concerns

If you can’t get a roofer to come out and take a look at your roof when it needs repairs, how easy do you think it will be to convince them to come out and fix a warranty issue?

You need someone who is going to stand by the work they have done and who is willing to go out of their way to quickly address any issues.

Offers a Five Year Warranty on New Installs

If you’re looking at a roofer who doesn’t provide a warranty on his work (new installs), run! No new roof when properly installed should fail within the first five years and if your roofer is not confident enough in his work to offer you that insurance then you should not have the confidence to let him on your roof.

Here at Northern Seal we offer a standard five year warranty on new installs which covers both parts and labour.

If you choose to take our roof maintenance package, which includes yearly inspections, we will extend the labour portion of the warranty to ten years. That way you can rest assured that your roof will last and that if anything should happen, we’ve got you covered!

After-Hours Service Calls

Everyone knows that leaks don’t wait for convenient times, nor do they wait for office hours. If your roofer doesn’t offer after-hours servicing you need to find someone who will.

Waiting until the next day or for Monday could let substantial amounts of water into your building resulting in extensive damage and repairs. Make sure that you can contact your roofer in case of emergency both during the period of work on your roof and afterwards so that you don’t find yourself combing the internet while water pours into your building.

Final Word

Looking for a competent flat roofing contractor can be a frustrating task, especially when you don’t know anything about roofing yourself. These hints should help you find someone who is right for you, who will put your needs first and who will be available when you need him.

Remember, the cheapest quote may seem good at the time but will be very frustrating when you’re redoing the same work the next year because the roof was installed improperly.

Flat roofing requires specific materials and an understanding of how to install them properly if the roof is going to last its full lifespan. Getting the right flat roofing contractor is an essential investment.

Contact us today and see how we can serve you and your building!

Inspecting Your Flat Roof

While we always recommend yearly roof inspections by an expert, there is a lot of time between each one and a lot can happen from storms to improper servicing.

If you have reason to be worried, or you just want to keep on top of such an important asset, here are a few things that you can check on your own.

General Inspection

First thing to do is take a look around for anything obvious. Is there standing water, scrapes or scuffs in the membrane that wasn’t noted on your last inspection, tree limbs or other debris from a recent storm?

Walk around the whole roof looking at the state of the membrane, especially if you’ve had people working on your roof recently, pay special attention to anywhere they might have walked or carried equipment.

If you have had people working and they used a welder or any other source of heat, it’s a good idea to look specifically for burn marks or areas of melted membrane. We often find that other contractors, not understanding the nature of flat roofs, do significant damage to the roof without realizing or reporting the problem.

Drains, Drains, Drains!

Cleaning drains is the most important thing that a roof owner can do for a flat roof!

When drains get clogged, water sits on the roof for longer and has more time to seep into cracks and crevices. Certain membranes deteriorate faster when there is standing water and the extra weight of the water can cause certain flat roofs to sag and exacerbate the problem.

According to the National Roofing Contractors Association, water should not remain on a flat roof for more than 48 hours after a rain. This should happen naturally if your roof is leveled and the drainage is working properly, but if drains are clogged or if part of the roof has sagged then the water may not clear in this time.

If you are worried that your roof isn’t clearing in time, take a look at it a day after a significant rain. If there is ponding, try to determine the cause. Clear any debris from drains, but if this doesn’t work, or if you notice that the drain is higher than the water level then your roof might have sagged around the drain.

In this case you will need to call your roofing contractor to come and solve the problem. This may include filling the low spots around the existing drain, adding a new drain at the lowest point, or lowering the existing drain.

Perimeter Inspection

Walk the perimeter of the roof looking for places where the flashing has become loose or is no longer covering the top of the membrane. In corners look for cracks or areas where the membrane is pulling away from the building.

Some types of flashing rely on caulking to keep water out. Inspecting the caulking for damage or age, particularly around brick or cinder block walls, is a great way to prevent leaks from developing. As the perimeter is where many leaks occur, this is an area where details are important.


Check all penetrations (things that go through the roof) to make sure they are properly sealed. If there are pipes or wires coming through the building make sure that they have been sealed on all sides. This is especially important if you have had work done on your roof since your last professional inspection.

Many times we have seen penetrations which have only been sealed on the top but are under the water level during a heavy storm! Again, it is always best to have your flat roofer inspect any new work to ensure that it hasn’t affected the performance of the roof, but if that’s not possible then you, at least, should go and inspect any work in close detail and with a watertight roof in mind.

Flag Areas of Concern

If there are things you notice that concern you, flag them with pylons, rocks, or any visible marking so they are easily found later. If you have serious concerns and plan on calling your roofer this will save him time and you money as he is able to find the area quickly.

If you are unsure whether your roofer needs to do a site visit you can always take a picture or video and email him asking his advice.

Do Not Attempt Repairs

One of the biggest mistakes that we see often is building owners or other contractors attempting to fix problems themselves without a firm grasp of flat roofing practices and products.

Before attempting a roof repair be sure to call your flat roofing contractor, even if only for advice. He will be able to tell you the best solution and the appropriate product to use.

Many regular sealants purchased at retail stores are not well suited to roofing applications, and will break down or fail quickly. Your roofer will know what to use and what will aggravate the situation.

Repairs improperly done, either by building owners or other contractors, often lead to more expensive repairs later. Make sure that the repair you discuss with your roofer is going to help, not hurt the situation.

Contact Northern Seal today to schedule your yearly inspection, or to discuss concerns you found during your latest DIY roof inspection.

Effects of Snow & Ice on your Roof.

Here in Ontario we get extreme temperatures from hot summer days to cold winter nights. Not only that, but we get huge temperature fluctuations within a single day and winter storms occasionally dump massive loads of snow.

All of this amounts to very harsh conditions for your flat roof, but with a little attention you can minimize the effects of our northern climate.

Remove Ice Dams

In other articles we have stressed the need to make sure your drains are clear of debris but during the winter time ice can present the same problem.

As your roof sits in the sun it gets hotter than the surrounding air. When the temperatures are not too far below freezing this can cause water to melt and begin to run off the roof, however water doesn’t always make it off.

Whether it be that the drain is in a shadier area or just that it’s cold inside, water can often freeze again in or around the drain resulting in an ice dam which reduces or eliminates the effectiveness of the drain.

When an ice dam forms blocking off a drain it can cause increased water and ice buildup, adding to the weight that the roof has to support. It can also lead to other problems such as freeze-thaw and leaks.

Freeze-thaw is when water on the roof melts and is able to creep into minuscule cracks in the roofing membrane where it freezes again. This is the same process which breaks down large rocks and boulders.

As the water freezes in the tiny cracks it expands, pushing the membrane apart more and leaving more space for water to seep in the next time. Over time this process can cause leaks in the roof.

The longer the water is allowed to sit on the roof because of being dammed off from the drain, the longer it has to get into, expand and eventually seep right through cracks in the membrane.

Removing ice dams means that you ensure that there is a clear path for the water to exit the roof. According to the National Roofing Contractors Association, water should not be on your flat roof for more than 48 hours.

In the winter time this means that water needs to be able to flow toward the drain and off the roof. You won’t be able to keep off the water in the bottom most layer of snow, but as soon as it is free from the snow the water should have a clear path off your roof.

Snow Weight

Snow can be heavy. Wet snow in just below freezing temperatures can weigh up to 50 pounds per cubic foot, a little less than water, weighing in at 62 pounds per cubic foot. That can add up to a lot of extra weight for your roof to handle but with the right products and installation it should be up to the task.

This is one reason that we don’t like to install the less expensive, thinner membranes, as we feel that they just don’t hold up to the demands of our climate. Having a single-ply membrane, mechanically fastened roofing system also reduces the weight that the roof must support, as opposed to a ballasted roof (usually relying on river rock to hold the system down).

Roofs in Ontario are made to be able to support the weight of the largest snow fall in the last 100 years plus 40%, however there are a number of things which can affect this calculation.

If you have roofed over an existing roof the new roof will add weight and put your roof closer to the weight load limit, while replacing a roof with newer, lighter roofing membranes will further distance you from that limit.

Under normal circumstances there should be no fear of a roof collapsing unless significant weight has been added since the initial design of the building. The main concern is that the added weight will cause sagging and ponding on the roof which will need to be repaired in the spring by your flat roofing contractor.

Large Icicles

Not only a safety hazard, but often an indication that something on your roof is amiss, large icicles should be investigated as to their source and regularly removed.

Large icicles which reappear in the same places could be an indication of drainage problems which could cause damage to your roof. Whatever their source, large icicles, especially in highly trafficked areas, are a danger for people beneath them and need to be routinely removed to prevent injury and liability.

Final Note

While roofs in Ontario are made to weather our extreme temperature fluctuations and the weight of snow, it is always good to keep an eye on your roof in the winter time to make sure that it is functioning properly.

Small problems like ice dams can quickly lead to extreme ponding and added weight, and should therefore be dealt with as soon as they occur rather than waiting for leaks, which always indicate more extensive measures will be needed.

Be sure to get your roof inspected by a knowledgeable flat roof contractor at least yearly in order to maintain the integrity of your roof.

Contact Northern Seal today to schedule your yearly roof inspection, make repairs or quote a new roof!