Tips for Designing and Maintaining Rooftop Walkways

Nine Essential Tips for Designing and Maintaining Rooftop Walkways

Rooftop walkways can be an incredible addition to your building’s design, providing additional space for enjoyable activities, art installations, and more. However, they can lead to dangerous situations if designed or maintained improperly. To ensure your rooftop walkway is safe and visually pleasing while also increasing the value of your property, here are nine essential tips you should follow when designing and maintaining this valuable feature!

Tips for Designing and Maintaining Rooftop Walkways

Working at height doesn’t have to be perilous. While falls from height account for many workplace accidents, a well-designed and -maintained rooftop walkway can reduce accidents and protect building maintenance staff. Here are some essential tips for constructing and maintaining an effective and reliable system of rooftop walkways.

1. Choose your materials carefully.

Many rooftops are, in fact, nothing more than fragile substrates or membranes over the building proper. As such, they have a limited weight capacity. So your walkway material should be relatively lightweight, with a high strength-to-weight ratio. It should also withstand the rigors of all-weather, particularly UV exposure.

2. Test the load-bearing capacity.

As well as being light, rooftop walkways need to bear the weight of foot traffic and potentially bear the weight of large units, such as air conditioners. Any roof walkway system must satisfy the load-bearing requirements in regulation BS EN 516:2006.

This regulation states that walkways should be tested with a load of 1.5Kn over an area of 100mm sq and deflection kept within 15 mm or 1/100 of the span, whichever is lesser. The load is then increased to 2.6 Kn and held for a minute.

3. Ensure safe drainage.

Slips and trips can quickly become falls from a height if they occur on roofs. Being exposed to the weather and rarely inspected, pooling water can become a severe hazard. In addition to being a danger, it can also cause damage to the roof over time.

Design your walkways with drainage in mind, either by utilizing gratings or creating gully channels that lead to the rest of the roof drainage system.

4. Avoid using timber.

While attractive for its many natural virtues, wood is a poor choice of material. This is primarily because wood can become a severe slipping hazard when wet. Design your walkway with non-slip solutions in mind. This can include using spiked or tactile surfaces or fitting anti-slip treads onto otherwise slippery surfaces.

Wood also has the potential to weaken and rot if poorly maintained. As a low-risk inspection area, wooden walkways can potentially deteriorate between inspections, exposing staff to the danger of injury.

5. Check that the fixings don’t damage the roof.

One of the significant reasons for fitting a roof walkway is to protect vulnerable roofs. So take care when choosing the walkway fitting system. If it damages the roof, fitting it is counterproductive, but more importantly, it can compromise a roof’s waterproof membrane.

Ideally, a walkway should enable clamping to the roof profile without piercing the sheeting. This applies to both the walkway and any associated handrails. Some walkways are designed to have the handrails attached as an integral element of the walkway. This prevents the roof sheet from being penetrated.

6. Plot a logical route.

Roof walkways help define a clear, safe path for users. In addition to providing access to everything on the roof, walkways offer easy access up slopes and across pitched roofs. It also encourages users to stay on the path, which is essential for protecting the roof’s integrity.

Manage budgets effectively by planning a route that takes users where they need to go as quickly as possible. This also means that people won’t be on the roof longer than they need to. Engaging stakeholders, such as maintenance crews, can give you valuable insight.

7. Incorporate handrails where required.

If the roofing structure is a fragile substrate, care must be taken to provide adequate protection, especially around roof pitches. Walkways can be fitted with handrails to provide additional safety on narrow or surfaces on gradients in excess of 10 degrees.

8. Employ flexible, seasonal maintenance.

Because most roof walkways are designed to facilitate roof maintenance, it makes sense to ensure that the walkway will not require much maintenance. Having suitable materials will ensure that maintenance can be minimal.

However, when it comes to undertaking maintenance, it’s important to consider seasonal impacts. The spring is an excellent time to check for any damage the winter months may have caused. Check for any apparent signs of slipping hazards and assess the condition of the walkways to ensure nothing has been damaged.

Before the colder weather sets in, ensure any significant maintenance is undertaken. Repairing walkways is much more challenging in colder months. During the winter, you don’t need to do much unless an emergency occurs. After terrible weather, check the integrity of the walkway and the rest of the roof.

A modular walkways system makes removing and replacing individual pieces easy without dismantling other parts of the walkway.

9. Undertake maintenance safely.

While designed to be reliable and robust, accidents do happen. When undertaking roof maintenance, practice safe conduct. Never work alone, and ensure no more than one person’s weight is on a section of the walkway at a time.

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