— By Steve Smith —
Managing shopping center roofing issues with a post-pandemic budget.
As the retail industry begins to fully reopen and emerge from the pandemic, shopping center owners are busy getting their operations back in full gear. This means bringing back staff, supporting retail tenants, reopening food courts, planning on-site marketing efforts and, most importantly, ensuring all the infrastructure is running properly and in good shape. This will no doubt create costs for shopping center owners and operators — and at a time when budgets are tight and revenue is still on the rebound.
Because it is for the most part out-of-sight-out-of-mind, roofing can often go ignored unless there is a problem, such as a leak. Allocating budget toward roof inspections and preventative maintenance at a time when money is tight can be challenging; however, considering the potential cost of repairing major issues and roof replacement, it can end up saving a shopping center owner a lot of money.
Preventative maintenance is the key to both a healthy roof and a stable budget. The goal is to stop problems before they arise in an effort to avoid costly repairs and replacements. Also, a lot of building owners believe a roof that is relatively new does not need to be maintained. This is untrue; the best way to prolong the life of a roof is to put a preventative maintenance plan in place right away. Manufacturers may also give incentives for properly maintaining the roof, including extending the life of the warranty for up to 10 years.
When problems are caught before irreversible damage sets in, the cost factor is dramatically decreased in the long term. It is often the case that a large fix is beyond the budget constraints of the shopping center owner, which makes it critical to identify any issues as fast as possible. It is also vital to remember that any structural damage caused by unaddressed issues on the roof, depending on the weather, age of the roof and current condition, may further compound an already existing problem.
Two of the biggest mistakes a shopping center owner and/or facility manager can make are neglect and trying to maintain a roof using general maintenance staff. Roofing specialists have been trained to spot intricate problems before they occur. If there are any punctures or holes on the roof, for example, some may be too small for a non-roofing professional to notice and will not get patched to prevent water from entering. Caulking details around penetrations, deterioration, clogged roof drains, end laps, edge metal details and strainers over the top of drains are just a few more examples of problems that often go unnoticed. Roofing professionals are also equipped to give diagnostic recommendations that could benefit the integrity of the shopping center and impact other areas. Restaurants, for example, may require installation of grease containment units, specific exhaust fans and ventilators to prevent the oil from reaching the roof membrane.
Not all roofs are in a good enough condition for preventative maintenance; some roofs may go beyond the limits of preventative work and need replacement or specific repairs that will stabilize the roof and extend its life until budgets permit the necessary replacement. In such cases, a roofing professional can help the shopping center owner prioritize the work that should be done. For example, while all leaks are bad, one that impacts an electrical closet and could cause a fire would be a top priority.
Shopping center facility managers also need to monitor the number of workers that can be on the roof at any given time for repairs of air conditioning, heating, satellite, gutter and grease cleaning and other equipment located on the roof. Many contractors who service shopping centers may not be thinking about the health of the roof and can often cause unintentional damage. It is highly recommended to have a path laid out on the roof for workers to tread on while they service the property. It is also suggested to have anyone who steps foot on the roof to be required to sign in. This is helpful in order to catch carelessness and stop any issues before they get worse.
The bottom line is that regular maintenance by a professional is essential to maximizing the life span of not only the roof but also the shopping center. Proactively identifying problems and needed repairs will go a long way to ensure the health of the roof and avoid major complications and costs. A relatively small amount of money spent on preventative maintenance today can save a tremendous amount of time and money tomorrow.
As shopping center owners navigate the financial challenges caused by the pandemic, they should realize one of the best ways to avoid large roofing replacement costs is through a solid preventative maintenance plan. As tempting as it might be to put such routine maintenance on hold to save money, doing so could easily result in expenses exponentially higher than the cost of proper maintenance. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
— Steve Smith is vice president of Legacy Roofing Services, one of the largest commercial roofing service providers in the United States, managing more than 5 million square feet of roofing every year. The company uses the latest technologies to provide customers with a wide array of installation, repair and maintenance services.