Metal Roofing and Schools: Quality Control

May 15, 2002

The construction of American schools has likely provided
the single greatest source of growth in the metal roofing
industry over the past ten years. The advantages of using
metal roofing for school buildings have proven to be
numerous. When problems occur, however, they can be
troublesome, costly, and sometimes catastrophic.
In the acquisition, installation, and repair of metal roofing,
school districts need to ask the question, “Who is looking
out for our interests and providing quality control?”
School districts all across America are under the assumption
and expectation that their architects and general contractors
are providing quality control in regard to the
overall projects and, by extension, the metal roofing systems.
The architect and general contractor are the primary,
and often the only, entities who are signatory by contract
to the school district.
Faced with a failed metal roof, however, school board
members, directors, superintendents, and staff experience an
epiphany when they realize that neither the general contractor
nor the architect accepts the responsibility or liability
for improper installation of the metal roofing system.
The courts may identify the general contractor as “the construction
expert” and the architect as “the design expert.”
Neither accepts the responsibility of certifying, validating,
or verifying that the installation of the metal roofing system
is in compliance with industry standards, manufacturers’
installation instructions, wind uplift or code requirements,
or proper, long-term waterproofing.
By Robert Stanford, RRO
Figure 1 — Removal of ridge cap metal flashing. Metal roofing closures
are not properly waterproofed, as evidenced by the severe amount of
wind-driven dirt and debris visible in the photograph. This is a source of
water penetration into the building for more than 1,000 l.f. along the
ridgeline of this project. This school project is less than two years old.
May 2002 Interface • 19
In defense of the
architect and general
contractor, neither usually
professes to have
the skills or experience
to qualify as metal roof –
ing experts. Quality
control issues are often
left to the subcontractor/
installer or the manufacturer,
neither of
whom has a contract
with the school district.
Assigning quality control
responsibility to
either the subcontractor
or manufacturer, therefore,
may be tantamount
to putting the
fox in charge of the
School districts
need qualified thirdparty
metal roofing
consultants to act in
their interests and provide
quality control.
There are millions of square feet of improperly installed metal roofing systems currently in place on schools all across America.
Five common causes of metal roofing
failures are:
1. Improper selection of product or profile or
improper building design.
2. Improper waterproofing and
installation details.
3. Lack of skill, training, and experience by
persons installing the roof.
4. Installation that is noncompliant with wind
uplift requirements, contract documents,
and proper waterproofing methods
and procedures.
5. Failure to provide quality control inspections,
direction, and oversight.
All of these problems can lead to leaks, damages,
and lawsuits. Water penetration through an
improperly installed roof system may also contribute
to the dreaded microbial growth and mold
spore proliferation. There are currently hundreds
of civil lawsuits related to mold spore and microbial
growth problems in school buildings, and the
roof is the culprit in many of these.
Installation that does not meet wind uplift
requirements has the potential for overwhelming
liability to the school district. As an example, suppose
there is a “blow-off” of a metal roof. If the
insurance carrier is sagacious enough to ascertain
that the roof was installed in a manner that does
not comply with code or wind uplift standards and
Figure 2 — Close-up view of the metal roofing panel and closure and ridge cap flashing. Water and debris stains are clearly
visible. Areas showing debris are supposed to be watertight.
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20 • Interface May 2002
requirements, he may recognize that as a basis for rejection of
any and all claims related to damages or replacement of the roof,
leaving the school district in a potentially serious financial position.
An infinitely worse possibility is that during the “blow-off”
there is an injury or even death to one or more of the school
children. A roof, installed in a non-compliant manner as outlined
above, then becomes a source of potential civil lawsuits against
the school district. General contractors, architects, sub-contractors,
suppliers, and school districts themselves may be forced
into financial collapse and bankruptcy by “blow-offs” or other
metal roofing failures.
Many of the installation details in use today
were drawn by people who have never installed
any metal roofing. These ambiguous, incomplete
“failure” details (those that will not provide
long-term waterproofing) are routinely reviewed
and approved by architects and general contractors
who are often unfamiliar with metal roofing
and therefore pass the contaminated details on
through the submittal process without realizing
the gravity of their nonperformance.
The photographs illustrating this article
depict graphic examples of “failure” details on
installations of metal roofing systems currently
in place. As of the writing of this article, some
of the projects depicted are not even completed,
yet all work and installation methods, procedures,
and details were approved by the architect,
general contractor, and manufacturer of the
metal roofing systems shown.
The proliferation and issuance of so-called
Warranties” provided by
manufacturers is now in
vogue in the metal roofing
industry. Names such
as “standard,” “silver,”
“gold,” “platinum,” “single
source,” “level I, II, or III”
are all used in describing
warranties offered by
manufacturers. While
providing a profit center
and revenue source to the
manufacturers, many of
the warranties provide little
or no benefit to the
owner. There are common
threads in almost all
of the manufacturers’
• They require the participation
of the installer
for the first two years
after completion and
extend the installer’s
responsibility and liability
for additional two-year incremental periods if any roof
leaks occur within any of the two-year periods. (In
essence, the 20-year Weathertightness Warranty is the
responsibility of the installer, not the manufacturer.)
• They are limited to “leak repair” only and do not contain
provisions for consequential damages caused by roof leaks
or failures.
• The warranties are prepared and drawn by the legal
departments of the manufacturers, not the building owner
or representative.
• They limit warranty coverage to repairs for roof leaks or
Figure 3 — Open gap at standing seam rib at metal roofing panel and metal closure. Wind-driven water and debris easily
penetrate the hundreds of substandard closures on this project.
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May 2002 Interface • 21
failures that relate to improper installation, and they
make the installer liable and responsible for fixing his
own mistakes. (A logical extension is: “Is the school paying
warranty fees so that the manufacturer can tell the
installer to repair what he improperly installed during the
original construction process?”)
• Many of the warranties are filled with caveats and restrictions
imposed upon the school district or building owner.
Such warranty language may include an extensive list of
reasons or causations for voiding the warranty, making
compliance by the school virtually impossible.
• The popular NDL warranties (No Dollar Limit) are in
reality limited to roof or leak repairs. The NDL means
“No Dollar Limit” for roof repairs and does not cover or
include any interior, substrate, or consequential damages
from roof leaks or even total roof failures. (School districts
paying five figure fees for NDL warranties may find
that it cost the installer $100 to repair a roof leak that
caused thousands of dollars in damage to walls, carpet,
computers, electrical or phone lines, furniture, etc.)
• The classic “Catch 22” is the automatic voiding of warranties
if the roof or components are improperly installed.
The school district finds that it has a warranty that is
invalid because the installer did not properly install
the roof.
The solution to these disastrous situations is to prevent them
from occurring. When a school district engages an architect or
general contractor, that same architect or general contractor
should contact the school district in writing, advising it to
engage the services of a qualified metal roofing consultant to
provide quality control for the project. Architects and general
contractors should advise school districts that they are not metal
roofing experts and that they do not provide quality control ser-
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Figure 4 — A portion of the metal roofing panel has been cleaned to illustrate
the severe intrusion of water-borne debris above the ridge cap and closure.
vices related to the inspection and oversight of the installation of
the metal roofing system. Such letters and recommendations
provide multiple benefits — the GC or architect is on record to
the school district as to his recommendations, which, if accepted,
can only benefit the quality of the project and may serve as
powerful testimony to his concern for quality control. The cost
of prevention is much less than the cost of repair.
It is estimated that roofing costs in commercial construction
represent 5% to 10% of the total project cost. However, it is also
estimated that lawsuits related to roof failures represent 70% to
80% of all construction litigation.
Furthermore, since 90% of improper installation procedures
are covered and closed to view upon completion, identifying
problems can be accomplished only by a qualified metal roofing
May 2002 Interface • 23
Figure 5 — View along eave/gutter line of metal roof. The edge is open to water
intrusion under the panels and into the building. Building design is zero overhang
at eave/gutter and brick wall.
Figure 6 — Close-up view of open, unsealed metal roofing panel edges at
eave/gutter and wall connections. This is a total waterproofing failure.
24 • Interface May 2002
consultant or by intrusive and destructive disassembly of the
installed system. The cost of remedial repairs or replacement
of metal roofing systems on occupied buildings can be several
times the cost of the original construction. Structural or interior
damage due to leaking roofs may result in substantial
added costs as well.
It is certainly in the best interest of all parties that the
original installation is the right product, the right profile,
properly installed and waterproofed, and in compliance with
wind uplift and code requirements. Quality control creates a
“win-win” situation for everyone associated with the project.
The advice that your grandfather gave you still
stands…“Do it right the first time.” n
Robert Stanford is President of
Robert Stanford & Associates, Inc.,
Metal Roofing Consultants
(, which provides
consulting services before and
during construction as well as postconstruction
remedial and litigation
support. Mr. Stanford has over 32
years experience in the metal roofing
industry, including 25 years experience
in the installation of metal roofing
systems. He has been engaged as
a metal roofing consultant and has testified as an expert witness
on projects all across the U.S. He has traveled to
Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Korea on consulting and training
assignments. Clients include school districts, USACE (United
States Army Corps of Engineers), attorneys, building owners,
architects, general contractors, surety and bonding companies,
insurance companies, and metal roofing manufacturers
and installers.
More reading:
See “The High Cost of Remedial Repairs on Metal
Roofing…Why?” by Robert Stanford, reprinted in
Interface in September 1998 (also on Stanford’s website,
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An Ohio Court of Appeals recently overturned a lower court ruling that a roofing membrane that failed
was not a “product” under the state’s product liability statute. The Trocal membrane, manufactured by
Dynamit Nobel of America Inc., was installed on a Columbus, Ohio, roof in 1983 and “shattered…(due to a)…
loss of plasticizer component in its formulation, which resulted in a decrease of elasticity” in 1997, according to the building
owner’s insurer, because of “a product defect.” A judge in 1999 ruled for HPG, agreeing that the membrane was a “fixture”
and not a “product,” but that ruling was overturned recently (Federal Insurance co. v. HPG International Inc., 758 N.E. 2d
261 [Ohio app.2001)]. The Appeals ruling said the roof was a product because it was “an object that constitutes tangible
personal property [and] was delivered…and assembled in a combined state.”