APPLETON - Appleton firefighters say when they saw the roof collapse in downtown Appleton Monday after two inches of rain fell, it wasn't hard to pinpoint the likely cause.
"Anytime you have a large amount of water on a roof that adds weight to it. A gallon of water weighs about 8 pounds," said Appleton Firefighter Dave Reigles.
Reigles told FOX 11 the roof's design is what's known as low-slope. That means the roof relatively flat, with a rubber membrane that's angled, leading to drains and triangular trusses like these hold the weight, but Reigles told us, if one truss is compromised that's a big problem.
"A lot of times you'll have the ones next to it fail, because they rely on each other to support and carry weight," explained Reigles.
Dan Miller with Security-Luebke Roofing told us flatter roofs come with other risks: waste like leaves and branches get stuck very easily.
"With your low-slope commercial roofs you have problems with a lot of windblown debris that will stay on the roofs. You can get clogged drains, clogged gutters, roof membranes that will crack or fracture," explained Miller.
But looking around the city you'll see a lot of businesses have flat roofs, while homes tend to have peaked or pitched roofs, that's because the benefit of a flatter roof is that it offers more space within the top of the building as opposed to a pitched roof.
"Getting more usable square footage in your facility," added Miller.
So Miller told us to prevent a collapse, once or twice yearly inspections are key.
"A professional get up on your roof and look at your roof system as a whole. Look at your penetrations, your terminations, your drains and recommend any maintenance or care that may be needed," explained Miller.
Then Miller said follow through on any necessary fix ups to avoid a dangerous mess.
According to Miller the average roof lasts about 17 years.
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