Roof Penetrations Made by Non-roofing Contractors

Posted on December 20, 2016 by kbuchinger

In our last two posts, we have looked at the proper ways for roofing contractors to address different types of penetrations in metal roofing in order to assure that a watertight seal is achieved from the outset, as well as over the life of the roof. But what happens when another contractor, such as a plumber, electrician, or other trade needs to penetrate the roof? How is the watertightness of the roof assured then?

Warranty Control for a Metal Roof

Most metal roofing warranties are very specific about what is included or not included should a roof leak occur. Therefore, the manufacturer’s warranty should be the first thing that is checked for a particular project to determine whether a seemingly innocent bit of work on the roof has the potential for a loss of warranty coverage. Commonly, qualified roofing contractors need to do the work and it needs to be inspected, but in some cases, supervised work may be acceptable too. Either way, any penetration installed by a trade contractor other than a roofing contractor should be fully coordinated with the architect or owner’s representative, the roofing manufacturer’s representative, the general contractor, and the roofing contractor. Once reviewed, there may be several options on how to proceed.

Guided Installation

For a single or simple penetration, say for a single small mechanical or electrical line, it may be possible to simply work with the trade contractor on the location of the penetration, review in advance that the proper materials are being used, and check the quality of the work for watertightness when complete. (Note: following the guidelines in our prior post on Pipe and Flute Penetrations will provide a good checklist of things to cover.) If everything is appropriately done, then it may be possible to have the roofing manufacturer add the new penetration to the list of items covered under the warranty.

Lightning Rod
Lightning Rod Application for Metal Panels

Coordinated Installation

In some cases, numerous penetrations may be required, such as the installation of multiple lightning rods across a roof. In this case, it might be more prudent to consider a coordinated, cooperative effort to allow each trade to do what it does best and keep the warranty in effect. Instead of an electrician being responsible for the roof penetrations and for lightning rods, let him focus on the lightning protection and wiring aspects of the work. But first, bring in a roofing contractor to advise on the proper locations of the lightning rods and to be the one responsible for the watertight seal. Location advice would include things like avoiding valleys, standing seams, or other areas that are difficult to seal or flash around. The electrician could then make the needed lightning rod penetrations in the agreed-upon locations and complete his work. Following right behind, the roofing contractor could install retrofit rubber roof jacks around the lightning rods and assure that they are sealed properly. Alternatively, the roofing contractor could make the penetration and allow the electrician to install the lightning rod, while the roofing contractor installs an appropriate rubber roof jack over or around it. Either way, the two trades need to  review the process ahead of time and be sure that everyone is on board to produce the best results for everyone involved.

Bottom Line: Think Through Penetrations

roof penetrations
Standing Seam Roof Penetration

Standing seam metal roofs have become more complex in recent years, with more and varied types of roof penetrations. This simply magnifies the need for better communication between the design professional, roof manufacturer, general contractor, roofing contractor, and any of the various trades that might be working on the roof.

When everyone takes the time to plan up front and think through their own needs and the options to get there, everyone wins. The architect/owner representative can ensure that his or her clients get a roof that will perform long-term. The roof manufacturer is able to provide expertise that has been gained over a long period of time through working with similar details on roofs all over the country. The roofing contractor can leave the project knowing that the details are long-term and will mean little chance for leak callbacks. Plus, the general contractor and the building owner can quickly resolve any arguments over which trade is responsible for repairing a roof leak.

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