Safety guides and audits to make your job as a safety professional easier

Roof Maintenance

A roof needs to protect the school building from all types of weather, such as rain, sun, and wind. Another important function of the roof is to keep water from getting into the school building. It is a key part of the school building’s waterproofing system. Therefore, the roof and gutters should be kept in good shape.



Gutters need to be kept clean to function properly. Make sure someone regularly cleans out leaves, debris, plant or tree droppings. Clogged gutters or down-spouts will cause water problems if they are left untreated. An inspector should also look at the gutters for pinhole leaks or rusted sections. These can cause them to leak water. Gutter brackets should not be broken or rusted. Down-spout pipes, called leaders, should be intact, with no rust, holes, or broken sections. The rainwater should freely flow through the gutters and into the down-spouts. If not, the gutters may not be aligned correctly. They should slope toward the down-spout. Improper alignment should be corrected quickly. If not, it defeats the purpose of the gutter system. Never allow water from down-spout to pour directly on a roof below. Connect upper storey down spouts to lower level gutters.

Let’s take a closer look at the different types of roofs that are common on school buildings.

Clay Tiled Roofs

clay tiled

There are many issues and common problems that can exist with clay tiled roofs. Here is a look:

  • Tiles cracked or broken by stones or balls thrown up on the roof
  • Tiles that have become loose or fallen out because they were not laid properly or the timber has moved
  • Tiles that have deteriorated because they were either under-burned or poorly made

If any of these issues occur, the tiles should be replaced as soon as possible. You will need to have a maintenance worker get on the roof and lift the surrounding tiles and replace the loose or damaged ones.

Another common problem with clay tiled roofs is the ridge or hip tiles that are set in mortar become loose, causing leaks. To correct this problem, you will need to have a tiler re-lay the loose tiles and set them in place using a 1:1 cement/sand mortar.

These operations can be dangerous, and you must be careful not to damage the other tiles. Make sure you use proper fall protection to prevent drastic falls from the roof as well. Always use ladders to access the roof and crawl boards. The ladders must be fixed over the ridge of the roof to spread the weight of the tiler.

Corrugated Steel Roofs

corrugated steel

There are many issues and common problems that can exist with corrugated steel roofs. Here is a look:

  • Fixing screws or nails that have become loose and can cause leaks
  • Ridge or hip flashings becoming loose
  • Flashings to verges becoming loose
  • Roof sheets rusting

Many things can indicate roof fixings that have become loose. First, there will be damp patches on the ceiling panels. Try tightening or replacing the roofing screws or nails as soon as possible to avoid extensive and costly damage to the ceilings.

There will also be similar indications if ridge, hip, or verge flashings become loose. Tighten or replace the roof screws and nails as soon as possible. Also, if roof nails do have to be removed, use a claw hammer supported on a piece of timber that is shaped to fit into the sheet corrugations. This will spread out the load and stop the sheet damage.

Always make sure to secure fixings to roof sheets through the top of the corrugations. Also, always use roofing screws and plastic washers if they are available. If plastic washers are not available, you can always use roofing nails with a twisted shank and a felt washer under a metal washer.

If corrugated sheet roofs start to rust, their life can be extended by painting them. Before painting, brush off any loose dirt and rust using a steel brush. When galvanized roof sheets are in good condition are painted, use a special self-etching primer to make sure the paint does not peel off over time. However, if the sheets have rusted, make sure you use a red-oxide metal primer with two coats of gloss paint. Using a light-colored paint will reflect the heat.

Fiber-Cement Roofs

The problems associated with fiber-cement roofs are similar to those of the corrugated steel sheet roofs, but there are a few differences.

Replace cracked or broken sheets as soon as possible. To do this, carefully remove the fixings to adjacent sheets before you remove the cracked or broken sheet. When inserting a new sheet, the top corner under the side lap (this will depend on which way the original roof sheets were laid) will have to be joined at the seam before the sheet is laid. Drill new fixing holes in the new sheet below the existing holes in the adjoining sheets.

Roof Structures


You should inspect the roof and ceiling timbers at least once a year. There should be an access panel in each ceiling to allow access into the roof space for inspections and any required repairs.

If you find any timber damaged due to termites, insect attack, or rot caused by roof leaks, take action as soon as possible.

If insects or termites have attacked the timber, but the damage is not extensive, then you will need to clean off the timber and treat it to prevent future insect attacks. Used engine oil is a free or very cheap and effective form of treatment.

If the damage is more extensive, then more drastic measures will need to be taken. It will be somewhat difficult to remove damaged structural timbers, such as rafters or ceiling supports, without removing the roof covering. This would also be very expensive. It might be possible to remove the roof covering just over the damaged timbers, but if not, you will need to deal with the damage exclusively. To do that, prop up the roof or ceiling and either cut the damage parts to one or both sides. Ceiling timbers might require you to fix additional hangers from the roof timbers. Check all fixings of roof trusses or rafters at the tops of walls or columns. Re-fix them, if necessary.

Steel Structures

Many existing school buildings have a roof and supporting structures made of steel beams and columns. For safety reasons, make sure to inspect the steel structures for rust at least once a year. Rub down any rusty sections with carborundum paper, prime the exposed metal with metal primer, and then re-paint with two coats of gloss paint.

Make sure you pay close attention to areas exposed to the rain, such as the ends of beams. Re-paint the entire steel structure every four years.

Fascias, Bargeboards, and Exposed Roof Timbers

There are many external roof timbers that require regular maintenance. These include fascias to the eaves at the bottom of the roof, bargeboards at the ends of the roof, and any exposed structural roof timbers.

These eaves and verge fascias protect the ends of the rafters from the rain and sun and other weather-related damage. Therefore, it is very important to keep them in good shape.

Paint all fascias at intervals not more than every four years. Rub down the timbers with sandpaper and paint them with at least one coat of glossy paint. Punch any protruding nails from the timber and fill the holes with wood filler before painting. Also, prime any timber that is exposed during sanding. You can use good quality wood primer and then re-paint it with two coats of oil paint.

If during the annual inspection, you find rotten timbers, they should be removed and replaced as soon as possible. If only a short section is affected, cut it out and replace it. Treat structural roof timbers with wood preservative.


Before beginning this quiz, we highly recommend you review the module material. This quiz is designed to allow you to self-check your comprehension of the module content, but only focuses on key concepts and ideas.

Read each question carefully. Select the best answer, even if more than one answer seems possible. When done, click on the "Get Quiz Answers" button. If you do not answer all the questions, you will receive an error message.

Good luck!

1. Who should look at the gutters for pinhole leaks or rusted sections?

2. On a corrugated steel roof, why should you use a light-colored paint?

3. How often should someone fully inspect the roof and ceiling timbers?

4. Using _____ can prevent future insect or termite attacks on the roof timbers.

5. Re-paint the entire steel structure every _____.

Have a great day!

Important! You will receive an "error" message unless all questions are answered.