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Building Unistrut Rooftop WalkwaysThursday, April 12, 2018

Contractors have long hailed Unistrut framing channel as one of the most versatile building materials on the market.  Building pros choose Unistrut because it is easy to work with, and thanks to the material’s innovative design, time-consuming fabrication steps such as cutting and welding are minimized during most installations.  These same benefits cited by building professionals make Unistrut an even better choice for folks with less building experience than the run-of-the-mill contractor.

Unistrut Rooftop Walkway Standing Seam Roof

The keys to any successful building project are two-fold:  the right materials and an easy-to-follow plan.  By partnering with Unistrut Service Company, you can purchase all of the materials and engineering drawings needed to complete your project.  If all of this sounds too good to be true, think again—a rooftop walkway project completed by one of our clients is case in point.

Walkways are common rooftop fixtures in areas requiring frequent inspection and maintenance.  If you look at the roofs in any industrial park, you’ll see HVAC units, air handling equipment, and pipe rack systems, just to name a few.  Accessing these systems poses a number of challenges, including fall hazards and the potential for roof damage due to pedestrian foot traffic.  Walking directly on the roofing surface can cause punctures and excessive wear on rubber roofs (which typically voids the manufacturer’s warranty on membrane roofing materials) and seam distortion with excessive stress on metal roof panels.Identifying a solution providing safe rooftop access for our client was easy, but the real question centered on who should complete the build.  Finding a local contractor was an option, but in this case, our client's preferred contractor was not available due to a back log of existing projects.  The other option was for the client to take ownership and complete the project by harnessing their facility maintenance personnel.

The specifics of the actual project were pretty simple.   Our client has a standing seam metal roof, and they wanted to ensure that installation would not require any penetration of the roof surface.  This request is fairly common since even well sealed holes are prone to eventual leaks.  Our client also required a skid-resistant walking surface, handrails, and shop drawings to complete their work.Although the infinite adjustability of Unistrut channel eliminates most cutting, this design did call for some cut-to-length material.  We performed this operation in our shop with our programmable production saw and then bundled all of the materials into clearly labeled lots so our customer could easily identify the needed pieces for each walkway section.

Unistrut Rooftop Walkway

The finished 500’ walkway took about a week to complete.  One of the challenges with roof walkways is finding a way to secure the walkway without penetrating the roof surface.  Our non-penetrating design concept used Unistrut S-5 clamps to attach the base of the walkway to the roof.  The clamps created a solid connection to the roof ribs, eliminating the need to drill holes that might cause leaks.  Due to the flexibility of the Unistrut clamping system, walkways can be installed parallel, perpendicular, or diagonally to the rib pattern on a standing seam roof.

Unistrut S5 Clamps

The railings and base framing was constructed using P1000, P1000T, P2346, and P1068.  To ensure a safe walking surface that can stand up to snow and ice build-up, we specified Unistrut Anti-Skid Grating (G11282, G12282 G9128) attached with G714 recessed washers and P3007 Channel Nuts.As is often the case with DIY installation projects, our client did hit a few bumps in the road.  One section of the walkway required re-routing due to structural interferences that were not called out in the client’s original hand-drawn sketches of the rooftop.  Although this set-back might have been a major problem had the walkway been built with other fabricating techniques, the modular nature of Unistrut channel made overcoming the challenges presented by the in-the-field modifications a breeze.By utilizing our Design and Materials Program, our client received everything needed to make this project a success.  The next time your team is contemplating a building project, remember Unistrut Service Company is more than a service center.  By working together, we can create an easy-to-build design that will help meet your rooftop access needs.