Sound dangerous?  Of course; that new, shiny, delightful purchase often gives us that false sense of security and we let ourselves think what could go wrong? It shouldn’t break!  How many times does it though?  Going months and years without caring for your roof, is just as dangerous.  Most people forget about their roofs until it leaks or needs replacement.  These reactive approaches are like changing the oil in your car after you have engine problems.  The damage has occurred and an expensive repair may be the only solution or worse yet, you already have to replace, again!

Let us consider some myth’s about roofing:

“It’s just a roof, it should last forever.”  –  There is no perfect roofing system, meaning no roof is completely unaffected by nature’s many forces, such as the sun and its ultra violet rays beating down constantly, gradually breaking down every roof’s components .  The heat creates expansion and then sudden rain showers tear at every part to contract.  Then factor in that many components on a building have differing expansion and contraction ratios, which places stress on these many different components at different rates therefore all working against each other.  Roofs are no longer merely just the skin on top of a building, nor did nor does a roof last forever, including metal roofs.

“I won’t worry about it; I’ll just sell the problem to the next guy.”  –  The next guy may feel the immediate effect (if you’re betting that the next guy is dumb enough to buy it) however, how much was lost to you while waiting for the next guy?  Loss of energy?  Overworked condenser units?  Cheap temporary repairs create havoc!  Multiple layers diminishing property value and much, much more!  What did you really save?

“I’m covered; I have a warranty.”  –  Common misconception; Warranties are not all-inclusive!  Actually, roof warranties may not cover common leaks and may be considered void if proper maintenance is not performed.

“My maintenance person can take care of it.”  –  Does your insurance cover them being on your roof?  Can you afford to compensate them if they get hurt?  Especially if your insurance does not cover them being there in the first place? Scary expensive thought!  Current roofing systems are complex and innovative using rubbers, plastics, modified asphalts and other synthetic materials.  Maintenance people are not trained to understand the complexity of modern roofing systems.  An “in house” repair may do more harm than good by using incompatible materials and compound the problem; the repair could not work and an improper repair also risks voiding your manufacturer’s warranty; therefore requiring the repair to be undone then fixed properly, all at an additional cost to the owner.

“Roof maintenance programs are expensive.”  –  You have a lot invested in your roof system; it is one of the major “assets” of your building.  Major roof manufacturers agree that nothing is more critical to your roof’s long-term cost performance than establishing a program of regular inspections and proper maintenance.  That’s why they require it in their warranties.  Also, failure to perform and document regular roof maintenance can be the basis of your insurance carrier denying any payment even on a legitimate claim – say in the event of hurricane damage (winds, hail, etc.).  A professional roofing contractor can protect your roof system for as little as 1% of its replacement value annually (depending on your roof’s age and complexity).  Also, the I.R.S. rules state that maintenance expenses are considered operating expenses and are therefore deductible in the year they occur.  This can create a significant tax savings over the standard multi-year amortization schedule for repairs.  Consult your tax professional for details.

The importance of considering a full life cycle of your building’s most important element of protection, your roof, starts with proper due diligence by means of selecting a proper roofing system to obtain the best value from the very beginning.  The quantity of roofing systems have increased from around a baker’s dozen in 1970 to more than 500 today.  From coatings, to chemical roofs, to built-up roofs, to modified systems and cool roofs, green roofs, roof membrane assemblies and so on.  So, what works best for your project?  With all the different roofing systems/types available (and there are still plenty more within each group) you can see the complexity to the roof decision making process is truly investing in a significant asset and not just an out of sight out of mind by-product.

The first step to maintaining your roof is having all the proper documentation about your roof; the type of roof assembly, the dates of installation, roof-related correspondences, name of contractor and the name of the manufacturer, just to name a few items.  This information not only keeps you informed of the basics (when, what, where, how), when the time comes to sell, you now have added value to your selling price in order to maximize your investment because you can prove your roof’s history.  Also, paying for repairs to a roof that could have been covered under a warranty is a very common excessive cost to owners.

Next, you should implement a data recording and filing system. It does little good to invest in extensive data collection in the field unless that information can be readily recalled and expanded in subsequent years.

Thirdly, an investigative on-site survey of all the roofs on the property should be performed for your beginning recorded documentation.  This is where a fully dimensioned survey drawing to scale and segmented areas of the roof needs to be completed to show sections that may have elevation changes or furthermore made up of different construction and materials.  This documentation should also include a precise system of coordinates and labels for rooftop equipment, drains, and other discontinuities.  Notes should include information such as size and number of roof drains and scuppers, height of parapet walls and adjacent wall elevations, number of layers of the roofing systems, locations of standing water, and visually evident distresses on a continual basis for continuity of records.

Now you should have all the information necessary to prepare a report on the roof condition and your roof’s priorities.  The purpose of this report is a guide for long-term planning and it should explain the investigation methodology employed, the findings, the prioritized conceptual recommendations, and the probable cost of recommended repairs, restoration or replacements. This report should classify each roof in a category to determine its status; such as, to summarize simply, does the roof at this point just need to be monitored or does the roof have some repairs and maintenance needs or is there a need to restore or replace the roof?   This report will also assist in ensuring that capital is available, as it is best to plan for roof replacements no fewer than five years in advance.

Lastly, there are two types of maintenance programs: break-down maintenance and pro-active maintenance to safeguard your investment.  Most owners do the “break-down” maintenance, which means repairs are only made when it breaks down rather than on a schedule, merely fixing leaks when they occur rather than having a pro-active preventive maintenance program.  Roof leaks usually have secondary effects such as causing deck damage, wet insulation, corrosion, interior damage and perhaps mold.

What a professional roofer should recommend is a “pro-active” maintenance approach, where repairs can be planned for the owner’s convenience.  The owner’s convenience may mean scheduling for optimum seasonal work, plant shutdowns, weekends or school holidays to avoid disruption.  Having a regularly scheduled program for repair and maintenance work can also reduce costs because contractors are able to depend on a certain volume of work and staff accordingly.  And best of all, pro-active maintenance can prevent, if not completely eliminate damages to the interiors.  This would save on the structure getting wet then drying and the cost savings of not having to repair the interiors consistently.

The National Roofing Contractors Association recommends inspecting all roofs twice each year, once after each major season, after the hottest weather and once more after the coldest weather.  It is these weather cycles that induce the most thermal stresses on roofs and manifest the greatest damage.  Roofs should also be inspected after any major weather event, such as high winds or hail.

To sum up, routine maintenance should be performed regularly, thereby correcting deficiencies disclosed by the inspections.  All maintenance and repair work orders and payments should be entered into the client’s database.  A pro-active preventative maintenance program can then save your investment dollars because most leak damages can take time before they are known and seen as an interior stain.  The water must first penetrate the top layer of the roof system, then its underlayment’s, decking and then several inches of insulation before touching the interior drywall.  If a set of eyes can catch obvious issues before all this damage occurs, that cost savings would return monies becoming much less costly and more value added to your properties investment.

Finally, remember the old adage, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”


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