Many Hands…Light Work? Make Sure it’s the Right Roofing Work

The hands of a Royalty crew installing edge detail on a recent commercial roofing project
The hands of a Royalty crew installing edge detail on a recent commercial roofing project

There’s an old adage, “many hands make light work,” but in the roofing business, if those hands don’t know what they’re doing, it can lead to catastrophe down the road. Although it’s possible that there are problems with defective roofing products, the most likely cause of failure is human installation error.

A common belief is that “roofing is easy,” and many may make that claim because they installed shingles to earn spending money during high school or college. However, flat, commercial roofing is an entirely different animal and requires a higher level of knowledge and experience to ensure that the roofing system will perform as intended, immediately after installation and in the future.

All roofing systems can fail prematurely; all can potentially outlive their expected rooftop lives. The difference can ultimately come down to the competency of the contractor. Here are a few things to keep in mind when considering a new roofing system:

  • The contractor must be experienced with:
  1. The type of building that’s getting the roof (restaurants and warehouses have very different roofing needs, for example) and
  2. The system being installed, including whether there are compatibility issues between it and the underlying material. This means using the correct products and installing them according to the manufacturer’s design details and requirements. All commercial roofing manufacturers have explicit specifications for how their products should be installed. Errors + shortcuts = failure!
  • Crew turnover within roofing companies can lead to problems, as new crew members may have little or no experience with the type of system being installed and/or are unfamiliar with the company’s installation practices. The longer the installers have been with the company, the better.
  • The perimeter of the roof is most exposed to wind and must be secured properly. If the edge fails, so will the rest of the roof. In 2007, the Roofing Industry Committee on Weather Issues (RICOWI), after studying roof failures following major wind events, determined that human error was a factor in most of the edge failures on the roofs that were evaluated: poor workmanship, the use of incorrect materials, and following improper procedures. The roof system manufacturer should have specific requirements for attaching edges and perimeters, given the building’s height and location, which are factors that have a bearing on how much wind force hits it.
  • How does the installer handle penetrations (curbs, stacks, etc.) on the roof deck? These are particularly problematic because they change between a horizontal and vertical surface and are most prone to leaks. With most roofing systems, flashings that cover these areas have to be “manufactured” by hand on the rooftop by the installer, creating the potential for future leaks.

Our preferred commercial roofing system is manufactured by Duro-Last, and is prefabricated to fit a roof’s specifications. Custom fabricated stacks and curb flashings eliminate nearly 100% of rooftop labor from these critical roof areas, and help assure a watertight installation.

Royalty is an authorized Platinum level contractor for Duro-Last, created to recognize roofers that annually install high volumes of square footage and consistently receive excellent ratings for installation quality. We credit that to the long-term experience of our roofing crews.

We’ve seen it all in our 30 years of roofing buildings of all types and sizes. If you’re in need of a new roof for your facility, we’d welcome the opportunity to put our hands to work for you.