importance of checking roof warranties before retrofitting fall protection systems

Retrofitting Systems

It is always better to have fall arrest and tie-back anchors for window washing, suspended maintenance, and fall protection systems installed in the “new construction” phase.  But far too often, builders attempt to save the client money on construction costs without due consideration of retrofit.  There are a number of reasons to avoid retrofitting these systems when at all possible:

  • it is a lot more expensive
  • will require penetrating the roofing assembly and possibly voiding existing warranty
  • intrusive; retrofitting can require gaining access through suites to get on to balconies and terraces
  • construction work during occupancy can disrupt the day to day operation and enjoyment of the building and tenants units
  • reinforcing of the structure may be required
  • cutting open the ceiling in tenants units may be required

Unfortunately, each day buildings require retrofitting of anchor systems for a number of reasons.  They may be very old, the current system may be deficient, or the building may simply have never had a system installed.  When it is decided in these cases that a system will be installed there are some things that must be considered.

The Drawings

Search everywhere you can to try and locate the as built architectural and structural drawings.  If the window washing system manufacturer has full sets of drawings he may not need as much or any access to private suites and terraces thus eliminating the need to inconvenience tenants at the design stage.  Keep in mind, access will still be required to perform the installation and for annual inspections.  Note: If this particular building already has anchors, there is a good chance that a drawing of this anchor system is posted at the roof access point.

Roof Warranty

Check to see if there is an existing warranty in effect on the roof.  If there is, be sure that that roofer does all the patch work for the roof anchor systems installation otherwise the existing warranty may be voided.  If there is no warranty, make sure the roof anchor contractor will provide its own roofing contractor.  It is also worth considering having your anchor system installed at the same time as re-roofing.

Suite Access

If the anchor contractor tells you that suite access is required, make sure that tenants are aware of the exact date the site walkthrough will occur.  This way the roof anchor contractor and building super are not met with any resistance when entering tenants units.

Window Washing or Suspended Maintenance?

One of the most important things to understand is what type of system is being proposed by the anchor contractors.  Clarify if you want window washing only or the ability to suspend swing stages for facade work.  The difference in cost and functionality can be quite significant. Knowledge is power.  At the end of the day knowing and understanding more will serve to save money and headaches from getting quotes to supervising the construction of the job.

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