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Abode Analysis | Tips and Updates
Rooftop Deck Maintenance
The how-to guide for care and maintenance of your rooftop deck
Regardless of your roofing materials beneath your decking surfaces the mentality for caring your your rooftop deck should be similar to the mentality of caring for your roof. Why? Because your rooftop deck IS your roof (or installed on-it)!
The primary concern for home inspector while inspecting a rooftop deck is the roofing membrane itself and any appurtenances that continue through it. There are many different kinds of roofing materials that can be used under a rooftop deck; TPO (thermal-plastic olefin), Torch-down, galvanized or spantex coated metal-sheets and Rolled roofing are the most common (and are also in order of longest-anticipated-lifespan to shortest). You inspector should help you to identify the anticipated total life-expectancy from new and an observed approximate or exact age, if known.
Regardless of the type or anticipated remaining life-expectancy; maintenance and upkeep are the keys to lesser-headaches.
Observe: As the homeowner, you should inspect your rooftop deck yearly, yourself. Check areas around the deck (if possible) for a sightline on what’s going on beneath the decking surface. Many times the decking surface may be trex-alike (man-made) which show very little wear, but the furring-strips (or attachments under the decking) are made of pressure treated and/or sometimes natural wood. It is important to understand that natural-wood materials beneath the decking surface are likely to be the first area requiring maintenance or replacement because they see a) less sunlight and b) more standing-water exposure. Both conditions yield deterioration to the natural products.
Many roof-top decks are build without easy access to the under-side of the decking surface. Our recommendation: when installing-new or performing maintenance on rooftop-decks; implement an easy-access system. Choose a hatch-design (hinged-access) or use screws instead of nails; making it easier to remove individual boards or sections of boards to clean roofing materials beneath. Remove any organic or inorganic debris which could dam water or keeps it from freely-flowing towards the gutter system on a yearly basis. Ensuring proper drainage from the roof will lessen the chances of a leak due to water sitting/ponding in any given area.
The easiest way to clean under your decking surface is to use a leaf-blower or compressed air – open the decking surface using a hatch or by removing boards. Blast all the debris trapped beneath the deck outwards towards the gutter side of the home. Depending on the surface (non-granular coated surfaces) you may be able to use a power washer. If your unsure of your roofing type; or appropriate methods of removal; contact a local home inspector or roofer for tips & tricks as well as to-do’s and do-no-do’s. While you have the area exposed, use a flashlight and observe as much as the underside as possible, scanning for any imperfections or damage that may lead to more-serious repairs down the road. Remember: roofing-upkeep is always cheaper than fixing water damage caused by lackluster-upkeep.
Use mild, non-bleach detergents to clean moss/mildew/bio-products off roofing systems naturally by changing the PH balance of the water moving across the roofing material. This should also be performed yearly.
Correct: Any damage to the roofing membrane promptly. A common issue we observe is people treating/maintaining their rooftop deck like a deck; when it is in fact: a roof. Moving furniture or installing exterior features in these areas should be done with care and consideration commiserate with a roof. If you damage the surface, you should contact a roofer to evaluate the damage and make corrections to the area with haste. Allowing damage to this area to go untreated will leave the homeowner open to significantly higher risk of leaks and failures.
Keep parapet caps well sealed throughout the years. Regardless of how water-tight the parapet caps appear to be sealed or promises by the builder, we recommend inspecting and touching-up sealant at all abutments, corners or connections-to-other-products, yearly. Remember: the the parapet caps are essentially the roof-section that covers the top of the walls. Proper upkeep and maintenance can save you thousands in repairs throughout the lifetime of the home.
Keep scuppers, gutters and shed-transitions clear of debris. So: you’ve cleaned out the under-side of your deck, awesome! Where has all the debris gone? Into the gutter-system! So keep these areas freely accepting water throughout time also. Backed-up gutters have a high likelihood of causing water damage to your home. An old home-inspector adage here in the PNW is “your house will rot from the gutters inward”. We say this time and time again, and despite popular belief; it’s not because we love the sound of our own voice (though mine is particularly beautiful).
Roof replacement: “yes”, even though you have a rooftop deck, you will still have to replace the roofing products beneath it, eventually. Anticipate and plan accordingly. As you can probably imagine, replacing a roof with a deck over it will cost significantly more money. You’ll have to remove the entire decking system prior to starting the job. This can cost significantly more time and money due to the additional workload. Plan accordingly and plan early to curb the gut-punching estimate you may receive depending on your very-unique set-up. Partner with a licensed roofer who is familiar with working with your specific type of roof. If you call and say “Hi, I have a TPO roof under my roof-top deck that needs to be replaced” and your pro doesn’t immediately say “we can help with that”; it’s best to keep looking for a different professional who’s familiar with your specific type of system.
Placement of potted-plants or roof-top gardens: Always raise your installed features above the surface so you can observe whats going on beneath them. Potted plants should be installed on bricks or concrete lifters to allow drainage beneath the item and allow for the observation of organic matter that’s likely to accumulate beneath. Rooftop gardens should also be raised and cleaned beneath frequently (please note; check with a general contractor/engineer before installing anything significant on a roof to ensure the system has the proper support necessary to accommodate the additional load).
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Here’s to hoping your rubber wash machine hoses don’t burst in the time between reading this article and getting them replaced. On inspections we frequently make this call out …and for good reason. If you’re like most people: you know someones who’s wash machine hoses have burst and flooded a portion of their home. When taking the cost of a home into account, why do we skimp here so frequently?
I recently inspected a home for a client who had an inspector tell her to upgrade to metal braided hoses. Unfortunately she didn’t take his advice. Flash-forward 5 years – I gave her the same advice. She shared her story of learning “the hard way” the devastating effect of a hose burst while she was at work. She insisted she would not be making that mistake again.
For a difference of approximately $10-$15 and an “All-In” price of only about $25; you can nearly eliminate the chance of your hoses bursting. Rubber hoses are rated to about 700psi or so, where as metal braided hoses are commonly rated to 1500psi or greater. In addition, many metal braided hoses come with a 90° angle on one end to relieve the highest pressure area and allow you to push your wash machine closer to the wall. Many metal braided hoses come with a lifetime warranty vs rubber hoses which commonly offer a 1 year warranty. When you’re looking to purchase your next home ask yourself “is it worth the extra few bucks?” – yes, my friend, yes it is.
A great compilation of commonly identified home inspection issues. Thanks to the guys at Structure Tech Home Inspections in Minnesota for making this video.
“Radon in the Seattle area? Will my Seattle area home inspector look for radon gas?” The short answer, probably not.
Lets start with the basics, though. “What is Radon?” Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that is known to cause lung cancer or at very least significantly increase your chances of getting lung cancer. “I’ll smell it or see it wafting about!” you may think, but radon is odorless and invisible. The only way to know for sure if your indoor air quality is being impacted is to have radon testing done to determine your home’s level of exposure. Your Seattle based home inspector may or may not have the type of equipment available at his/her disposal to properly test for radon. “I’ll be sure to have my home tested for radon then!” …but should you?
“How concerned should I be about radon in the Seattle area?” Due to below average levels (nationally speaking), you really shouldn’t be terribly concerned. If you are, by all means get your home tested to ensure it’s not an anomaly. Below is a map of the nation which shows the predicted fraction of homes thought to have radon levels over 4 “picocuries per liter”, shown as pCi/L. The EPA recommends “action” be taken if your home’s radon levels are in excess of 4 pCi/L.
This map gives us a good idea of where the most dangerous areas are. But lets take a closer look at Washington state and furthermore, the Seattle area.
Okay, now we can clearly see that there are areas in Washington that have higher levels of radon. People in these areas should absolutely be investing in radon testing to ensure their home’s air quality is satisfactory (or, much better than satisfactory, if you prefer). Radon mitigation is surprisingly, not terribly expensive. So if you have a problem, either in your water or your soil, get it taken care of to ensure you and your loved ones (or tenants) are not at an elevated risk of exposure.
“Wait! Radon can be in my water as well as my soil?!” Yup! Because the radon is coming up from the ground, there are 2 places that are the most likely source; water & soil. Radon is expelled from your water when it is aspirated or agitated (think: the spraying of a shower, watering the lawn or washing clothes).
“If I have radon in my water, do I also have radon in my soil?” Nope, though, it’s absolutely possible. The presence of soil gas radon does not indicate or foretell the presence of radon in well water (as well as vice versa).
“So now that I know more than I probably ever thought I would about radon, where do I go from here?” That, my friend, is up to you. According to maps provided by the EPA as well as more specified maps in our geographic area we know that there is a low risk of radon in the greater Seattle area. If I were a parent or had a loved with a condition which put him/her at a higher risk due to compromised lung health, I’d look into having my home tested. Here’s a blurb from National Radon Defense
“Professional radon tests are usually faster and more accurate than Do It Yourself tests
Although Do It Yourself-type radon test kits are very accurate, they must be used correctly by the homeowner to avoid false results. It’s important for all family members to follow the testing instructions carefully to ensure accurate readings. Otherwise, you will need to do several Do It Yourself tests before you are confident in the results. Another disadvantage is that you need to mail the detector into the lab and wait for the results.”
In summary, radon testing in the Seattle area is a viable option for someone highly concerned or at higher risk due to compromised lungs. At this time, it is my opinion, based on my understanding of facts stated by the EPA that we (in the Seattle area) have very little to be concerned about with regards to radon gas. Now that you’ve been educated a little on the subject, how will you decide?
Off to a rainy day inspection here in WA. You may think “are inspections on a rainy day effective or limiting”? In fact, it’s the best time for an inspection. Barring heavy, driving rain and gale force winds; a rainy day helps to find leaks that may be otherwise virtually undetectable. A good inspector welcomes the elements as they bring light to issues. In a perfect world, I would love to recreate all 4 seasons during every inspection. While inspecting homes on a beautiful day is still a highly effective way to discover many issues associated with construction/renovation; a rainy day can offer the added benefit of viewing the home while it works to defend you from the elements.
Seattle’s housing market is, in one word: fierce. So here’s Barlow, an Airedale Terrier, just looking to give you a smile along the way. Cheers!
We’re in day two of the Western Washington American Society of Home Inspectors conferences in Shoreline, WA and we’re learning lots! Todays highlight include a couple of hours on each of the following topics:
Water Heaters – Storage Tanks to Tankless systems
Gas Distribution Systems
and Composition and Metal Roof Coverings Inspection
Are you as excited as we are!?
“No!”, you say?
Can’t say I blame you, but I’m sure you’re glad your favorite home inspection team is working hard to ensure we deliver the most correct and up-to-date information to our clients.