How to Inventory Commercial Roofing

Article: No. HICR-KB-6-16.1


Summary:  This article we will provide an overview of options for inventory commercial roofing as part of roofing inspections and assessments. The discussion is intended provide examples of how the inventory is prepared will be important for future data applications and organizing inspection records. There are experienced inspection companies, system suppliers and organizations that provide commercial roofing data and documents. By reviewing how these companies view the roofing data they provide to building owners and property managers can specify the inventory preferences for the roofing data as part of the roof asset management service.


The Author can be reached by e-mail for questions concerning content or the opinions expressed in this article. Please use the Article number for reference.


Building owners that are planning, commercial roofing inspections up to this point may not have considered writing a very detailed specification of the requirements for their roofing inventory.  My intent is to point out a few benefits of a more structured roofing inventory approach.


If you have followed Steven Covey, his approach to management and life includes the suggestion; start with the end in mind.  A common sense approach that helps you prepare for many work activities; including roofing assessments.


To start out, if you have read other articles on this site, you have already picked up on the theme that building owners need to be informed buyers when approached by firms pitching their assessment services. These firms have a business plan that may not be in sync with the goals of your organization.  Here is one example of the comparison, starting with a building manager:


A Building Owner’s Roof Assessment Objective


    1. Establish a Roof Management Plan
      • Organize the buildings; by reporting requirements
      • List Buildings
      • List Roofing Systems (Inventory)
      • Identify Roofing System Type, assembly construction, detail information
      • Make observations of the current defects and current service life remaining
      • Turn observations into recommendations for maintenance, replacement priorities.
      • Allocate funds to extend the service life; lower the annual cost of a roofing year.
      • Maintain master records to update condition information as needed
      • Plan for the next inspection cycle.

      Now consider the differences between roofing service firms. Note their service goals.


      A Roofing Service Company Roof Assessment Objective


        1. Establish a Customer for Roofing Service Revenue
        • Provide them a Roof Management Plan
        • List Buildings, Roofing Systems (Inventory)
        • Make observations to establish replacement priorities.
        • Propose maintenance activities as preventive care.
        • Maintain customer data for annual services


        There is a reason firms offer annual assessment for no cost, or below, market; if you allow them to provide roofing maintenance services.  Since their business may not require detailed as built roofing information; just enough to provide their proposed recommendations.  One reason a building owner should be cautious if very simple roof system descriptions, condition and assessments are used by service firms.


        A building owner; facility manager may have a different view of reusability of assessment data if they are tasked to keep accurate records over multiple years.  Their job is to maintain the building; plan repairs and specify a replacement roofing system type, compare systems, justify budgets and plan replacements.  A roofing system inventory should allow comparing systems, calculate life cycle costs, and repair histories; this level should help justify the cost of services provided by a service provider.


        One organizational method to establish some independence used by building owners is requesting how roofing assessment information is organized and inventoried.  As an example: CSI roofing type information is rarely used by service providers, however the CSI master format, roofing type classifications is the only classification method widely shared between North American Architects, Engineers and Building owners.


        If you find an assessment firm providing you with this level of roofing data organization, then you have some level of independence from proprietary roofing classifications.  As the sample below demonstrates using a combination of industry standards, naming and numbering will allow a consistent accounting of the inventory of roofing systems, even when using multiple service providers. 


        Modified Bituminous

        07 52 00

        ( AP) Modified Bituminous Membrane Roofing

        07 52 13

        ( SBS) Modified Bituminous Membrane Roofing

        07 52 19

        Self-Adhering Modified Bituminous Membrane Roofing

        07 52 19


        Sample:  CSI Numbering use of Modified Bituminous roofing systems where there is a general group noted by 07 52 00 and specific types under this category e.g. (AP)  07 52 13.  The addition of listing the roofing system components; deck type, insulation, attachment, further enhances the as built information.


        In addition to a CSI MF number for each roof system type; listed as (9); additional information should be maintained as required.  This structured approach allows maintaining assessment data that can be reviewed by modern software tools for performance comparisons and replacement planning.


        Commercial Roof System- As Built Data

        Roof System Construction


        Existing System type

        Document the layers of the existing roof system type.

        Core Composition

        The core information is obtained by taking a roof core; the information may also be obtained from "As Built" records.  Layer Type Standard entries are Surfacing, Membrane, Insulation, Vapor retarder, Deck, and Interior Finish. Provide a description of the layer type from the deck up, or surface down. Include the Method of Attachment to the layer.


        Note: Also, details for roof systems on metal or shingle roof sections, where a physical core is not appropriate, should also be documented.

        Core Photos

        Include Core Photos in report to document the roof system.  

        Membrane Defects


        1. Type of Defect

        Defect type (e.g. blisters, bare felts, splits).

        2. Severity

        Severity rating (Minor, Moderate, Major)

        3. Quantity

        The quantity of this defect type

        4. Status

        Outstanding if this defect has yet to be repaired.

        5. Photo

        Photo (s) shows the defect.

        6. Details and Condition

        A  description of the type, cause, size,  additional details

        Roof Top Details


        1. Detail Type

        Perimeter, drain, projection, or equipment.

        2. Description

        A description of the terminating item such as parapet wall, projection, gravel stop, pitch pocket.                                     

        3. Flashing membrane

        Description of the flashing membrane (if applicable).

        4. Flashing metal

        Description of the flashing metal (if applicable).

        5. Photo

        Photo shows construction detail and flashing

        6. Details and conditions

        Details and condition information for each roof top detail that should be documented.

        Moisture Surveys


        1. Type of Survey

        The type of survey performed.                                                        

        2. Date performed

        Date of the survey.

        3. Membrane condition

        Membrane condition (e.g. dry, damp, wet).

        4. Insulation condition

        Insulation condition (e.g. dry, damp, wet).

        5. Survey details

        Additional information about the survey performed, if required

        6. Survey photos

        One or more photos, with a date and description of the findings

        7. Thermographs

        One or more Thermographs, with a date and description             

        8. Historical

        Record  any relevant history , delta of previous moisture surveys



        1. Type of Activity

        Type of activity - e.g. inspection, repair, replacement etc.

        2. Budget Year

        Recommendations to be completed, a specific budget year.

        3. Action Items?

        Recommended activity is one that must be done ASAP in order to eliminate health and safety issues, or to prevent high cost repairs later on.                                               

        4. Allocation

        Budget allocation - e.g. expense or capital.

        5. Urgency

        Urgency - low, moderate, high.

        6. Budget Cost

        Estimate budget amount                                             

        7. Details of Activity

        An explanation of the recommended roofing activity.

        8. Scope of work

        Any reference documents                         

        With the availability of software program that supports CSI master format categories and leading assessment firms providing assessment services based on a non proprietary inventories building owners can maintain data independence for their roofing asset management programs.

        Audience:   Building Owners, Property Managers, Facility Managers, V.P. Construction, Director of Building and Grounds, School Boards, Town Managers, Condo Construction Committees.


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