Roofing Design: Process considerations for smoother installations

All photos courtesy RSS Roofing Services and Solutions

by Ted Kinsella
From a design standpoint, there are many different criteria, situations, and owner temperaments capable of affecting the outcome of a roofing installation. Roofing contractors have unique insight into the real-world factors design professionals should consider in order to make the installation as smooth and hassle-free as possible for everyone involved.

There are multiple ways to approach a new or renovated roofing installation, many of which are determined by parties other than the designer. For example, the owner could be familiar with roofing systems and have specific requirements that need to be met during the new installation. On the other hand, some owners rely on contractors or designers to make recommendations that will best fit their needs. Regardless, it is vital for the designer to interface with the owner and contractor throughout the entire process to avoid confusion or miscommunication.

Overview of roofing process
Prior to installing a new roof, a roofing contractor will first meet with the client and perform an inspection to assess the condition of the roof, documenting any problems or issues that need to be resolved. At this point, a contractor will determine what roofing systems the client has used in the past and whether that system meets the needs of an upcoming project. The owner could also recommend a specific assembly, perhaps the same system previously used on the roof.

After this decision is made, the roof designer or engineer needs to be open to discussions with the contractor. It is helpful for the designer to have previous roofing experience so she or he can make recommendations from a design or engineering standpoint the roofing contractor may not have considered.

To make the bidding process as smooth as possible, designers should only request a bid for one type of system, rather than multiple options. This method avoids confusion and lets the owner evaluate the bidders by the same criteria.

Finally, the designer and roofing contractor must work together to overcome any specific issues arising during the installation process. There are many variables and situations that must be considered beforehand to ensure a smooth, problem-free installation and a high-performance final product.

Working with the building owner
Owners of buildings in need of new or repaired roofs are faced with an overwhelming amount of choices. Terms such as adhered, mechanically attached, ballasted, two-ply, single-ply, and membrane thickness may be outside their comfort zone, while there are also considerations for appearance, weather resistance, and maintenance.

The roof designer or engineer must be prepared to guide the owner through this process to ensure all options are considered and the owner is comfortable with their new or repaired roof. Resolving these issues early in the process is very important to ensuring a smooth installation process.

Working with the roofing contractor
When the specific roofing contractor involved with the project is determined, the designer or engineer should ask about examples of the contractor’s work or previous customer testimonials to get an accurate description of the company’s quality of work and past installations. Another important question for the contractor involves production capabilities and the ability to increase production to meet deadlines if needed. The deadline must be coordinated to present a realistic timeline to the building owner.

This author believes that, prior to the installation process, the most important job of the designer is clearly communicating the roof installation specifications to the contractor while answering any questions or concerns. These specifications
will be the central focus of the contractor during the roofing installation, and must be thoroughly reviewed for quality and accuracy before the installation begins. Submittals including materials used for project and shop drawings that show design and detail information will assist contractor/designer communications. Warranty information from the contractor and manufacturer should also be included to address terms and length of coverage.

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