Tricks Of The Trade: Roofing Research

By B. Kevin Folsom, CEP
Published in the October 2013 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

QWhat is the most important factor you consider when selecting a roofing contractor to service your facility? Is it integrity/trustworthiness; quality of work; pricing; the ability to problem solve; or response time/meeting a deadline? Or do you evaluate depending on the job?

Name withheld by request

AIn my opinion, the roofing industry has become one of the risky areas of facility management as far as getting what you pay for. Most people don’t put a lot of thought into a roof until it leaks, and when it is time to replace it they may look for the cheapest product…and there are many. Many times, competitive bidding exercises are system type/cost selection rather than an “apples to apples” comparison.

While roofing comes in an array of materials, shapes, and sizes, the biggest factor in the quality of a roof is the installation, and almost solely in the detail. This facility component is the most important for protection from the elements and assets within. It’s typically the most expensive component for buildings that are three stories or less.

As a result, the specialized architect has risen in popularity over the last several decades—referred to as waterproofing consultants. There are two kinds of waterproofing consultants:

  1. Manufacturer rep/consultant who typically receives a commission from a manufacturer for specifying their product. They are typically “free” and help with finding and bidding qualified installers, but your material selection will be limited because they are bound to a manufacturer. Their design and supervision will also be bent toward protecting the manufacturer rather than the customer. Careful selection in this area can help, but don’t lose sight of who you are dealing with.
  2. Independent consultants are much like what an architect should be by not having any manufacturer relations or commission tied specifications. It should be based on what is best for the overall application and customer. When designing a building, architects try to do this themselves, but they often fail because the discipline is underestimated and far too complex.

Personally, I never embark on major commercial roofing work without a qualified independent waterproofing consultant. I use them for system selection, design, contractor selection, and project management. The fee is usually around 5% to 8%, but good consultants will definitely pay for themselves by providing “apples to apples” bidding, avoiding change orders, and getting the installation details right.