Tile Talk: Alternative Roof Inspections

The Importance of In-Process Inspections & Documentation

by Richard K. Olson, president & technical director, Tile Roofing Industry Alliance

(Editor’s Note:  Richard K. Olson is president and technical director for the Tile Roofing Industry Alliance.  The association represents industry professionals involved in the manufacturing and installation of concrete and clay tile roofs in the United States and Canada, and works with national, state, and local building officials to develop installation techniques, codes, and standards for better roofing systems.  Olson can be reached at rolson@tileroofing.org.)

The ability to validate the code compliance of roof installations has traditionally come from the inspection process of either the building officials or the contractor/material supplier accessing the roof.  The architecture industry is seeing a significant reduction in on-roof inspections, and there has been an increase in the use of aerial drones, ground-level pictures, and ladder-top inspections.  In general, most inspection requirements now eliminate the ability for people to actually walk the roof, due to liability or safety concerns.  While the use of alternative inspection means a professional can the show details of a roof’s installation, they lack the ability to perform any forensic efforts if the roof is already completed.  Therefore, requesting in-process inspections and documentations can provide valuable compliance assurances at a time when easy correction of application methods can occur. 


         In most cases, the construction contractor will install the sheathing before the roofing professional’s arrival.  The roofing professional will need to inspect visually to make sure the sheathing is properly attached to the truss system prior to installing the underlayment.  There are instances where the alignment of the sheathing creates non-attached panels that may not support the roof assembly or may allow extensive bowing of the roof when completed.


         Each of the steep-slope cladding manufacturers have specific underlayment requirements to comply with both national and local building codes.  Most of these products have brand names and product approval information visible on the product, or at least on the packaging.  Requesting the roofing professional to document with pictures during the installation process can help assure compliance. 


         Today’s architectural demands are placing more soil, vent, and accessory attachments on the roof assembly than ever before, and design professionals need to provide greater detail for how to properly install and flash these penetrations to provide long-term performance.  


         Industry associations are working with the code officials and equipment manufacturers to help develop proper installation guidelines that will prevent damage to the roof assembly.  The roofing professional should be included in the installation to help verify the integrity of the roof system after the accessories have been installed.  


         All of the code-approved roof claddings have formal prescriptive installation guidelines.  The design professional will need to reference or include call-out details to show proper installation and attachment to comply with the local codes and industry/manufacturers recommendations.  

Flashing & Valleys

         Matching the proper valley flashing with the selected roof cladding material is important.  Understanding tributary water, anticipated flows, and jobsite conditions can help determine the selection of the proper design considerations for open or closed valley, single or multiple rib valleys, and the proper use of crickets where needed. 

         Industry associations are helping, via contractor training programs, to raise proper documentation alternatives during installation.  For the design professional, it would be worth the effort to collaborate with the roofing professional to develop a formal field protocol for code-compliance validation.  It can help reduce potential liability and litigation costs should they arise.  In principle, it will improve the overall quality of installations and long-term performance as a roofing assembly.

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