By Anthony Vross
From the December 2018 Issue
“When will my building’s roof need to be replaced?” It’s a question that can worry many facility managers since this type of project typically comes with significant cost and disruption to operations. Cost-effective repairs and restorations can often be done to delay a roof replacement until absolutely necessary. Many recent improvements in technology and product development are available to support this approach.
The key to maximizing a roof’s lifespan lies in adopting proactive maintenance practices, performing consistent semi-annual inspections, and intervening in a timely manner with professional repairs and restorations.
But, first things first. Can the roof be repaired?
At some point, every roof will encounter a leak. There are too many factors at play working against it to prevent every leak occurrence, but the more timely fashion in which facility managers deal with any issues, the better off the facility will be in the long term.
All leaks, no matter how big or small, need to be resolved quickly to prevent these evolving into bigger problems that ultimately can cause slip-fall risks, mold growth, damaged equipment or inventory inside a building, insect infestation, higher utility costs, and more.
At the onset of any problem, the first course of action should be to contact a trusted roofing contractor and explain the problem(s). Based on the contractor’s findings, facility managers can then determine the most cost-effective, yet durable solution for their building. Typically, repairs are the lowest cost option and quickest way to resolve a problem, so choosing that as a first course of action falls within the best practice philosophy of extending the useful life of the roof.
Pinpointing Cause Of Roof Leaks
Water penetration from a roof leak is a telltale sign of a compromise in the waterproofing properties of a roof. Four of the most common failure points on a roof are:
- Penetrations (holes in roof to accommodate HVAC components, vent pipes, drains, skylights, roof hatches, antennas, etc.) are typically the weakest points of the roof. These are the most vulnerable spots for water to find its way in, so it stands to reason these must be properly sealed and maintained.
- Seams are located where sheets of roofing material (whether it’s single-ply, metal, built-up, etc.) come together. Fasteners, or even the seams themselves, can separate over time due to normal wear and tear or harsh weather conditions, allowing water to enter the building.
- Ponding water is a situation where water has collected on a roof from rain and has not drained within a couple of days afterwards. If water remains for more than 48 hours on a roof’s surface, it can be a sign of a problem with the roof’s drainage system.
- Membrane failure is another common cause of problems on a roof. Commercial roof membranes can crack, split, tear, or expose open laps for various reasons, and these include changes in temperature, excessive wear, UV penetration, wind, debris, freeze-thaw cycles, and more.
Roof Restoration To Extend System Life
Too often, we hear of roof replacement being performed on a roof that has a remaining useful life, meaning it might have qualified for a restoration. Intervening with a roof restoration at the right time can save as much as half the cost of a complete tear-off and replacement; and this can usually be just as effective at bringing the roof to watertight condition and back under warranty. Also, a restoration process can even be repeated in time, resetting the clock on the warranty and oftentimes allowing facilities to delay having the roof system completely replaced.
In addition to cost savings, restorations result in less disruption to operations and greatly reduce the amount of landfill waste involved in tearing off an old roof system.
Roof Replacement As Last Resort
Still, restorations are only possible for certain roof types and with certain types of damage. If a roof has too much wet insulation, for example, it cannot be restored. Also, some roofs are simply too far gone for restoration consideration.
In those cases where a replacement is deemed the only logical solution, there are many factors to consider, such as climate, building type, and life expectancy of the new roof when determining the best type of roof system. While there have always been many roof replacement systems on the market, current technology enables us to know a lot more about what materials and systems will work best in given climates and geographies.
Rely on a trusted contractor that doesn’t immediately jump to recommending a roof replacement. Look for one that will perform an objective analysis of the roof’s condition to determine feasibility of less costly solutions designed to extend the life of the roof currently in place.
Vross, co-owner of Simon Roofing, has 40 years of experience in the commercial roofing industry within the areas of executive administration, manufacturing, operations, distribution, sales, and marketing. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from Youngstown State University, and serves on the Business Advisory Council for the Williamson College of Business Administration.
Do you have a comment? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below or send an e-mail to the Editor at [email protected]