"To reroof or not to reroof, that is the question." With apologies to Shakespeare, the decision faced by Hamlet can pale beside the agony faced by some building owners when confronting a leaking roof. Is a full replacement required? What are viable alternatives? What are the costs involved? Is financing available? How much money am I losing through increased energy consumption and building usage?
While the sophistication of building owners has increased in recent years, many still view the roof as an expensive liability and treat it like a toothache - the professionals are called only when it hurts. There is a growing body of maintenance programs, project financing and marketing tools that can ease the pain for building owners to do the right thing and view their roofing asset in a whole new light. Often, the potential energy savings from a reflective coating can get them to make that all-important phone call.
"This is literally the hottest market in roofing right now," says Clint Garwood, marketing director for Henry Company, about reflective coatings. "You're almost putting a shell on top of the building. And you can easily set up a maintenance program after that to make sure it's performing well."
Elevate the RoofGary Hudspeth, CRC, enjoys saving old roofs. Hudspeth, a roof consultant based in Dallas, has been using a number of high-tech instruments to spot roofs in bad shape, sometimes before the owner even realizes there's a problem. He has flown over the Dallas area with an infrared camera to detect wet insulation and other signs of moisture intrusion. After building owners see Hudspeth's presentation, often they express relief that a problem was addressed early enough to specify a restoration project.
"We try to get to the roof and make the recommendations and repairs before we have to tear it off," he says. "If we can catch them before the roof gets bad ... we can save them $4 a square foot."
Hudspeth, who's been consulting since 1975 and is president of LRW Consultants Inc., typically will specify a coating system from Henry Company, Karnak Corp. or APOC. He began offering his restoration program soon after the Texas State Legislature passed an energy bill in 2001 that called for R-values of 20 for any new or replacement roofs on buildings with air conditioning. Since his system is not considered a replacement, he offers breathing room for clients who need a watertight roof but can't take the plunge for a whole new system.
There are several area roofing contractors that are approved by the preferred manufacturers, and his specification calls for a 10-year warranty, two of which include the contractor's workmanship. The typical job will include two plies of polyester felt with an asphalt emulsion, plus a white elastomeric coating applied at 3 gallons per 100 square feet. The pristine white coating, red drains and yellow walk pads combine for a striking look that Hudspeth calls "our signature."
The final inspection may be the first time an owner has ever seen his roof, but Hudspeth believes making a strong first impression is important. He makes sure that all roofing contractors understand the importance of painting nearly all visible elements. Of course, poor performance will sour the owner's view on any roof, despite the aesthetic value, and included in his restoration program are inspections twice a year with photos and a written report. This keeps the owner apprised of any maintenance conditions like clogged drains or damage caused by other trades. The colorful spaghetti walk pads manufactured by Western Plastics Inc. not only mitigate mechanical damage, but they make a statement that the roof is clean as new-fallen snow and is supposed to remain that way.
Hudspeth is exploring roof-cleaning services to address dirt and algae issues. He says that the roof can be cleaned and repaired after 10 years, then recoated to qualify for another five-year warranty, allowing plenty of time to make arrangements for the eventual reroofing job.
Another bonus is the reflectivity of a white coating reduces energy consumption and can qualify for a variety of rating programs, including Energy Star and LEED. According to Hudspeth, white is a popular rooftop color in the Lone Star state. When it comes time for a replacement, he likes to specify a white-surfaced modified bitumen and is particularly taken with DerbiBright, the first modified bitumen membrane to have a factory-applied white coating. He notes that how a roof looks is important because it can interest the owner enough to take action when needed.
"We can't make them do something, but we try to get them to carry the plan forward," he says. "Part of it's perception - they feel like they've got a good roof."
Maintaining a RelationshipMaintenance programs give roofing contractors an advantage when there's damage or the roof needs replacement. Manufacturers use training and preferred programs to also develop corporate bonds. Bringing all three parties together is the strategy being employed by material suppliers to strengthen their presence along the decision-making chain. Some, like Henry Maintenance Service of the Henry Company, offer training, roof inspections and marketing assistance. The idea is to partner more closely with contractors to present the best solutions to the end user.
"We help roofing contractors get involved with maintenance programs," says Clint Garwood of Henry Company, based in Huntington Park, Calif. "Part of that is discussing what the markup is and the cost to the client."
Henry Company and the contractor hope to act as proactive partners who can conduct a cost-benefit analysis of the roof that can save energy and give the accountants something to cheer about. While Garwood is careful not to offer tax advice, his inspection teams can generate a lot of information about the roof and what it's going to cost today and tomorrow.
This commitment to overall service can also be seen in the company's building envelope systems. When Henry Company purchased Monsey Bakor in 1998, it presented an opportunity to offer building owners barriers from top to bottom. From below-grade waterproofing up the walls to the roofing system, Garwood says that his company can tie all three elements together to provide peak energy efficiency, waterproofing integrity and single-source liability. Considering how much coordination there is among trades, it can be a dream come true to handle all the waterproofing, since roofing contractors often get the blame for any leak, no matter where it shows up. Many of these opportunities are geared for new construction projects, but a leaking roof can mean deterioration in other areas, and those companies offering the entire package can ensure that they are the one subcontractor who's on the job from start to finish.
"Roofing contractors are taking their waterproofing skills and looking at other parts of the building," he says, adding that this concept was a big thrust during the 2006 International Roofing Expo in Las Vegas. "We talked to them about how to integrate a roofing membrane into a wall system."
Under One RoofFor many building owners, the biggest obstacle to putting a new roof on a building is money. The indifferent building owner who neglects his roof often does not have the ability to pay for its replacement. That's where financing can help. There have been some modest offerings in the past, but a new program by Johns Manville is designed to finance the installation of roofing systems. Interest in the CapitalGuard program began soon after JM was acquired in 2000 by the Berkshire Hathaway, the massive holding company run by the legendary Warren Buffet. Longevity and performance are the hallmarks of Berkshire Hathaway (the company outperformed the S&P 500 all but three times from 1965 to 1998), and those are valuable traits to bank on in any industry. A.J. Maijala, manager of CapitalGuard for JM, says that the Berkshire Hathaway reputation for combining great products with solid financial instruments is reassuring to customers.
"That is why the program is of such value to the owner," he says. "We try to bundle Johns Manville material and the contractor and the financing into one package."
Maijala claims JM is the only one offering such an expansive financing program, with some loans lasting as long as seven years. CapitalGuard was launched in January 2004 after a pilot program, offering no dollar limit warranties with durations of 10, 15 and 20 years. There are annual inspections and database tracking of roof performance to keep everyone abreast of the roof's condition. Of course, it's tough to pull a roof job, so Maijala says that his company scrutinizes the financial condition of property owners just like a bank would.
"Contractors appreciate the program because they're paid every two weeks during the project," says Dave Wells, project manager. "From a contractor's perspective, I think that's a big deal."
A similar program will fund the project from start to finish, and if the building owner pays the bill within 30 days of the job's completion, there is no interest charge. Available only to Peak Advantage Contractors, CapitalGuard represents value-added products that bring contractors and customers together. Through inspections, maintenance and repairs, roofing contractors can develop solid relationships with owners and become involved before the trouble begins. Many properties are being snapped by real estate investment trusts that have the resources and the desire to protect their assets. Addressing their needs is a strategy that can have long-term beneficial effects for both owners and contractors.
"I think the mindset is there," says Maijala. "We're establishing a relationship with the real estate owner, and we have also brought in the Johns Manville contractor to do the work." He adds, "Bankers do not have the relationship with contractors that we do."