Repair or replace your roof? How about a third option: restore.
By Anthony Vross
The secret to reducing roofing-related costs lies in extending the roof’s useful life. How you get there involves proper timing — not intervening too soon or too late — and objective analysis of the roof’s condition.
More and more, early adopters to a proactive roof asset management philosophy are finding that roof restoration is a favorable option over replacements. They’re finding advantages not only in cost reductions of up to 50%, but in intangibles such as less disruption to the business, less time to complete, less exposure to safety and worker-related risks, and the inclusion of an extended warranty.
Further, newer technology available today in roofing materials combined with scientifically based data analysis tools make roof restorations even more attractive.
Shortcomings of repair. With up to 90% of building repair costs stemming from roofing problems, you obviously want to stay on top of roof issues. Repairing roof leaks should always be your first motivation, but a simple roof leak does not in and of itself mean you need a new roof.
Where the repair-first philosophy falls short, though, is when you’re in a reactive mode. In a typical scenario, you identify a leak and then deploy a technician to fix it. When the repair is being made you should make sure time is taken to examine that entire portion of the roof, and address any other issues that come up. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. You’ve already paid for the labor and the repair materials; take the extra time to repair anything else discovered while the technician is there, and use the best materials your budget can handle. Material is a fraction of the cost of the job, so make the repair with the long term in mind.
The next step is to look at it from a preventive manner. While up there what can be done to prevent the next leak that’s likely to occur? Again, always think in terms of extending the roof’s useful life.
Unwelcome disruptions. When you choose a complete roof replacement, consider the distractions that come with it: unsightly dumpsters, aggravating noise, an unavailability of parking spaces, unwelcome dust and odors, and perhaps even roofing workers coming in and out of the building among your customers.
Too often building owners and facility managers make the decision to do a complete tear-off and replacement without thinking through the alternatives nor the tangible and intangible costs. Instead, they look at the difference in only terms of high and low bids, and consider that the project savings.
Further adding to the issue, roof replacements are often done too soon, before the roof’s useful life has been fully depleted, thus leaving money on the table. The trend in today’s tight economy is to avoid costly replacements; to get the most useful life out of a roof; to stretch building maintenance dollars, avoid heavy expenses and instead divert that investment back into improving your core business.
Get proactive with roof maintenance. Today’s savvy building owners and facility managers are getting proactive with roof maintenance. They’re deploying tools — like scientific testing — that accurately predict the useful life of a roof, avoiding a replacement that’s done too soon. They understand thermal imaging is only telling part of the picture, and roof inspections are highly subjective, often dependent on the knowledge and experience of the particular technician on the job that day.
Utilizing newer technology, building owners and facility managers can now better determine a roof’s true condition, and oftentimes restore a roof, bringing it to like-new condition and extending out the useful life — sometimes with a new warranty as the icing on the cake. Simply stated, restoration extends the service life through timely intervention.
Intervention can mean major repair or restoration. The key is to do it at the right time. Let’s say you have 20 years left on a roof. You may want to intervene with major repairs or restoration at 18 and push the service life out an additional 10 years.
Roofing repair expenses are not linear. A new or restored roof will likely experience zero to minimal maintenance expense in its first 5 or 6 years, or more. Once it gets to 40% to 50% of its useful life, however, you’ll start seeing more issues. Timing your interventions correctly and extending the service life each time will save substantial money in the long term.
A word on warranties. Any time a new roof is installed it should be done with a long term roof system — 20 years-plus. Utilize a system that can be maintained and sustained so that useful life can continuously be extended out. The basis of the system and its materials should allow major repairs or restorations to be easily performed. It should also have good adhesion and elongation properties.
The warranty on the roof might offer some peace of mind, but you have to be careful. From a building maintenance standpoint it’s better to depend on the actual roof or roof repair — not the warranty. Warranties protect the manufacturer sometimes more than the customer. In other words, don’t let a warranty allow you to feel too comfortable about a roof leak or other issue. It’s much easier to maintain a roof than a warranty. Use a roofing contractor you trust. And be timely on repairs.
A numbers game. With the technology available today there’s hardly an excuse to not be more proactive with a roofing maintenance program. Studies show a roof asset management program can save over 40% annually than merely reacting to problems.
Roof maintenance is, indeed, a numbers game, but don’t play it with the cards facing down. Be proactive, know what your numbers are and make informed decisions.
How To Choose a Roofing Contractor
Finding the right roof maintenance service provider can save you lots of money and plenty of hassles. When choosing a roofing contractor, consider:
• 96% of roofing contractors don’t make it past 10 years in business. Pick one that’s been around a long time.
• How knowledgeable are they? There are nine major roof systems but most contractors have experience with only one.
• Consolidate your contractors, increase your peace of mind. Can they service your buildings nationally? Or will you have to negotiate with different contractors in each region?
• Are they ISO certified? Only 12% in the service industry are ISO certified.
• Are their employees drug tested? Bonded? Licensed? Documented?
• Are they well-insured? Should carry $20 million-plus in liability (recent jury awards are in tens of millions of dollars). Most carry $1-3 million.
• Who performs the work? The drug testing, safety score, documenting of workers is meaningless if they subcontract the work.
• Do they use the latest technology? Contractors who use technology are more productive, have lower costs and better maintain their schedules — all saving you budget dollars.
• What’s their response time? 24/7 hotlines? 24-hour emergency service? Anything more than 3 business days on non-emergency calls is unacceptable.
• How do they handle travel time? Look for fixed mileage charges and one-man crews on most time-and-material repairs to save you money.
— Anthony Vross is owner of Simon Roofing, a national provider of innovative commercial roofing solutions for more than 100 years.