When Do You Need a Commercial Roof Inspection or Survey?

If you are a commercial building owner or a commercial property manager, you may be familiar with the concept of a roof inspection and or a roof survey. Some people may believe that they are the same thing.

Commercial Roof Inspection vs. Survey

The fact is, while they are somewhat related, they are fundamentally different in the scope of work that is involved. While both terms may often be used interchangeably; the fact is, a roof survey is a more detailed effort and requires considerably more work to complete.

Next to discuss is the purpose of each approach. In common is the fact that the report recipient is trying to gain information on the condition of the roofing assets, and trying to achieve a direction on what work may be necessary to resolve a particular problem or problems.

One can think of a roof survey as being a report that documents the design characteristics, measurements, and composition of the roof assemblies on a particular building or series of buildings within the portfolio of the stakeholders.

As part of a comprehensive survey, both destructive and non-destructive testing may be performed to demonstrate conclusions put forth in the report, and to verify conditions in order that items are not left to opinion or conjecture.

Elements of a survey should include, a schematic of the roof itself, including all applicable measurements. Documentation by photographs and diagrams should detail specific elements of the roof assembly such as drains, parapet walls, associated wall finish materials, substrate composition, and relationships to associated building components such as HVAC equipment and roof anchors as examples.

Further testing would identify the type and number of layers of roofing that exist; typically achieved by performing a series of test cuts in strategic areas of the roof, which would then include remedial repair of the test areas.

Related Content: Important Cost Considerations When Installing New Commercial Flat Roofing

A good survey will include an inspection of interior spaces beneath the roof grade to account for elements such as plumbing hookups to drain assemblies, identification of electrical conduits or wiring which may be located beneath the roof deck, and for documenting any evidence of interior damage or liability of damage which has resulted, or which could result from the performance of any remedial roofing work.

A roofing survey can account for logistical details which need to be considered. A prime example is a multi-storey building which would require the use of a crane for disposal and materials transport from the ground to the roof. The location of where the crane may be able to be placed could represent a critical issue; if for example the crane was intended to be placed over an underground parking facility.

One can think of a comprehensive roof survey as a blueprint which depicts facts and information. The survey may then include a table of necessary immediate or future work elements or maintenance elements which can be prioritized, budgeted, and tendered as the case may be.

Roof surveys are usually the bailiwick of engineers that have qualifications in roof forensics. Fieldwork is typically conducted by RRO’s (Registered Roof Observers), whom then have the consulting engineer review and approve all statements in relation to the roof surveys supplied.

Another element of roof surveys, could include thermo-graphic imaging, which is designed to identify areas of heat loss and to pinpoint areas which may be subject to strategic leak repairs.

It is also possible to enlist the services of an experienced commercial roofing contractor whom possess the knowledge and experience to provide similar services. There is an important distinguishing factor however between choosing one type of vendor over another.

An engineering firm that supplies their stamp to the project, is essentially providing the building owner with some degree of legal responsibility for the claims made. Albeit; most agreements contain clauses which serve to limit the engineer’s liability or risk for statements made.

Like trades persons, engineers have varying competency levels like anyone else; but engineers follow a consistent regimen of methodology to achieve their results. They also provide an advantage in terms of familiarity with building code requirements, and mathematical calculation skills as it may pertain to identifying weight loads, or roofing anchor requirements as examples.

Pertaining to the subject of roof inspections; commercial roofing contractors can supply advantages because of their ability to quickly spot elements requiring attention, and can be a speedier way to head off immediate leak perils, or to supply prediction on costs for straight forward agendas such as strategic roof repairs and or complete roof replacements.

Roof inspections are typically not as involved in terms of the documentation necessary to put forth an estimate or to supply options for particular work scopes.

One should not confuse a roof inspection for a request for an estimate when enlisting a contractor.

Roofing contractors that invest their time and resources to investigate a problem, and then communicate results in writing; and or supply photo documentation of their inspection efforts, deserve to be compensated for their efforts.

If one had a plumbing leak, one would expect to pay the plumber from the time of arrival to the time he/she solved the problem for their time, travel, and required materials. The same would be true of an electrician.

An inspection service supplied to and paid for by the client, maybe partially waived if the contractor received a larger scope of work as a result of the initial investigation.

To properly inspect roofing assets includes many items which form the elements of a roof survey.

Inspections pertaining to commercial roofs are typically visual in nature, and can be communicated verbally, or in writing depending on what the client intends. While less comprehensive; roof inspections in many instances are all that may be required to get to the heart of an issue. Surveys while more expensive; can serve the multi-building stakeholder with increased value over the long run.

The typical roof inspection regimen includes; the time necessary to travel to and from the site, and access whatever equipment may be necessary to reach the roof. The inspector will typically diagram the outline of the roof noting characteristics and anomalies discovered by conducting a visual inspection of the roofing membrane, and it’s related flashing components and  roof related appliances. Photos depicting the general condition are also captured.

The final step involves a face to face or electronic meeting with the client to discuss details of the inspection findings, including a written summary of results.

The proof supplied from the inspection results provides the building owner with a good understanding of priorities and options that can be acted upon moving forward. Similarly; conclusion may confirm that the building owner may have time before having to act or address particular roof issues.

This can be especially important for those building owners or facility managers that require time to budget for eventual replacement or strategic repairs and or maintenance.

In summary; one can think of roof surveys as a way to clearly define what is required for the short and long term, for those large or diversified building asset holders. Roof inspections are a summary look at short term management of roofing assets and maintenance requirements.

Related Content: Important Cost Considerations When Installing New Commercial Flat Roofing

Costs for roof inspections and roofing surveys can vary. A building owner/manager should request a written estimate of what elements will be provided for either scenario. It is important to choose a company that has the experience and qualifications to conduct such work.

An inspection which involves about eight hours of work overall; can cost in the order of $800- $1,600.

This breaks down to:

  • Travel to and from the site.
  • Accessibility to the roof
  • The provision of one or two technicians dispatched with a view of Health and Safety protocol; to capture the field information.
  • Study/review of the information by a senior associate
  • Documenting the findings in a written summary /including photos
  • Discussions with the client
  • Liability Insurance /automotive insurance
  • WSIB
  • Indirect costs- such as fuel and equipment

Costs may be higher if required to enlist the services of a licensed engineer.

For Roofing Surveys; cost is based on the magnitude of the project, and the number of participants necessary to conduct the review, along with other factors previously mentioned.

For example; a national distributor having several warehouse locations, and large roofing assets, may  require a time frame of a month or more to complete the field work, with a dedicated team in place.

The sum of either of the services, is that information provides knowledge and control over the situation, and allows the building owner to budget and specify properly, and to avoid wasted expense.

To learn more about roof surveys, inspections and commercial roof services; visit or contact; www.avenueroadroofing.com