Preparing Your Commercial Building for El Nino

Forecasters are predicting one of the most intense El Nino weather patterns for this upcoming winter, and heavy rains are expected in large swaths of the West Coast.
The roof is your commercial building’s first line of defense from the elements, including heavy rain and extreme heat. It is also the most vulnerable part of your building.
To make sure it can handle this year’s rains, you should have in place a regular program of inspection, maintenance and repair.
These activities should be part of your planning in order to prolong the useful life of your roof and make sure it does its job in protecting your business. Also, taking care of problems now can prevent leaks from rains that can cause serious long-term damage later.
If it’s been a while since you’ve had your roof inspected, your first priority should be to identify and fix any major problems.
Signs of problems may be apparent even inside the building. Water stains on a ceiling may be a sign of leakage, which could be seeping in from a crack or hole in the roof.
These problems need to be addressed immediately as even the smallest leak can cause damage. Also, if the building has mold or odors inside, this may be a sign of water penetration.
While internal water damage or mold may signal trouble above, it’s also important to visually inspect the roof itself to look for problems that are likely to worsen over time.
You can either do the roof inspection yourself if it’s safe to do so, or hire a professional. The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety recommends the following:

What to look for and fix
• Standing water or ponding on the roof. This can lead to premature aging and deterioration of the cover, which will lead to leaks.
• Bubbles. Bubbles may indicate trapped moisture within the roof cover, which can lead to leaks.
• Gaps or broken roof flashing. Flashing is strips of metal or other impervious material installed around the perimeter of the roof edge where the roof cover meets the wall. It is also installed around objects that protrude from the roof in order to deflect water away from seams and joints.
A gap in the flashing increases the potential for roof cover failure during high winds, and for water intrusion or mold.
• Roof cover tears. Torn roof cover or worn or cracking seams can allow water to enter the building.
• Skylights. Check to be sure they are properly secured. Skylights that are not well sealed and secured around the frame’s edge can leak, which can cause the lights to dislodge and allow for rain and debris to enter the building, especially during high winds.
• Lightning protection system. Check to see if your lightning protection system is loose or detached. This can lead to a tear or puncture in the roof covering, especially during winds. A lightning protection system that has disconnected metal cables or aerials cannot provide the intended protection for the building’s occupants.

Gutter Cleaning Tips
• Prepare the gutters before you clean them. Make sure you take all the debris and gunk out of your gutters. With leaves dropping in the fall and the occasional strong winds, it’s important that you remove all foreign matter.
• Make sure all the spikes connecting the gutters to your building are in good condition. Check that they go through the gutter, fascia board and into the rafter behind it.
• Look for leaks in your gutters and cracked caulking in the seams. Scrape out the old caulking and dry it before using new sealant. Fix all leaks.
• Check that rivets on the downspout are secured. If any are loose, you’ll need to pull them out and replace them.
• Check for rusty areas of gutters. Rust can be sanded and repainted with rust-proof paint.
• Once you’ve done all of the above, have the gutters cleaned with a pressure washer and test them to make sure the water flows unrestricted out through the downspout.