Building owners and facility managers are now, more than ever, looking for ways to cut costs and save money. However, if they are taking an “out of sight, out of mind” approach to roof maintenance, they could miss an excellent opportunity to ensure one of their largest investments provides long-term dividends.
According to a study conducted in 2003 by The Roofing Industry Alliance for Progress, the average life expectancy of a low-slope roof is 17 years. As an installer, you should determine the building owner’s realistic expectation of roof life and if he is willing to invest in the proven benefits of proactive maintenance.
Whether you are bidding for new construction or re-roof projects, educating the client that service and maintenance considerations need to be factored in during the project’s initial design will help demonstrate to clients how to stretch their roofing investment for each and every dollar. A proactive maintenance program, along with understanding the “ins and outs” of different warranty policies, will help building owners do their part to extend their roof life as long as possible.
Proactive maintenance programs address each owner’s individual needs and typically include twice yearly inspections, documentation of roof conditions and the maintenance/repair work itself. Be aware that what is common roofing knowledge to you is not always the case for building owners. For example, leaks and water seepage typically do not occur until after the roofing system or insulation has worn down or there has been deck damage. Make sure your clients fully understand the composition of their roofing systems and always advise them on the proper maintenance and service needed to ensure the system performs as expected. Stress that the earlier you catch the warning signs of a leak, the fewer items they will need to have repaired.
To save money, most building owners wait until obvious problems are apparent before conducting maintenance. This type of reactive maintenance will, in fact, increase roof life-cycle costs. Spot repairs made during a proactive maintenance visit are far less costly than replacing membranes, insulation and decking if a leak occurs down the road.
Proactive maintenance helps identify potential problem-causing areas, thus decreasing life-cycle costs. According to data gathered in a 15-year alliance between Firestone Building Products and ProLogis, a global provider of distribution facilities, with a proactive maintenance schedule in place, the average life-cycle cost is 14 cents per square foot. The average reactive maintenance life-cycle costs are 25 cents per square foot. a roofing system with proactive maintenance can have an average roof life of 21 years compared to 13 years with a reactive maintenance program, depending on the roofing system and building type.
Setting up a proactive maintenance schedule should be based on the environmental conditions surrounding the building. Working with the building owner’s target roof life goal, your firm can set up a proactive maintenance and service schedule on a quarterly, semi-annual or annual basis. It’s also important to recommend maintenance checks be done immediately after severe storms involving high winds, heavy snowfalls, hail and downpours.
For an edge in today’s market, contracting firms should offer competitive maintenance/service and roof assessment programs along with a contractor warranty. Providing maintenance packages for roofing systems your firm installed is a great way to start. Use your knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of those systems to demonstrate your advantage over other maintenance professionals. According to the National Roofing Contractors Association, providing a thorough visual examination of the roofing system, flashing, insulation and related components will help set a high bar for your company’s maintenance and service program.
Roof assessment programs take the proactive maintenance programs to the next level by providing the building owner with additional information to help make informed economic decisions about roof assets with life cycle cost analysis and other budgeting tools.
It is imperative that your firm offers a contractor warranty to stay competitive, too. Taking the time to clarify the difference between your warranty coverage versus the manufacturer’s warranty coverage will allow building owners to learn about the broad array of services your firm offers. Also, take time to emphasize ways your company’s warranty can help supplement the manufacturer’s warranty, including materials. As always, insist that building owners read and, more importantly, understand the terms, conditions and limitations of their warranties.
Many manufacturers’ warranties typically define periodic inspections and maintenance as “owner responsibilities.” These responsibilities can include items such as a limited time frame in which to notify the manufacturer of any leaks, payment of non-warranted repairs, providing roof access and the removal of overburdens on the system.
Not all types of damage to the roofing system are covered by a manufacturer’s warranty. Cuts and punctures are typically not covered by standard warranties. Many incidents occur during construction when other trade installers (HVAC or other items) are working on the roof. Encourage building owners or specifiers to insist a protective layer is laid down over the roofing system before work by other trades begins. Also, impress upon building owners not to take on maintenance on their own by using non-specified materials to seal and patch leaks themselves, unless it is an emergency to protect property. Often, “temporary fixes” will end up costing them more in the future.
Proactive roof maintenance and assessment programs, combined with strong warranty coverage, make good business sense for building owners and facility managers, because they can protect their property, save them money and help maximize their roofing investments. And, offer you another way to generate revenue and establish long-term relationships with your clients.
SIDEBAR: Maintenance ChecklistWhen conducting a maintenance check, consider the following as a general guideline:
• Conduct checkups twice a year.
• Start inside the building and search for water stains along ceiling tiles or walls; these stains may indicate a leak.
• Check the roof for surface damage, such as open seams that can lead to leakage. On the rooftop, look for areas of ponding water, accumulation of water puddles occurring on the low-lying areas on the roofs, and remove if practical. These accumulations can cause fungus growth, which may damage the roofing membrane. In colder climates, the ponding water can turn into ice, thus expanding and contracting when the ice melts and damaging the membrane. This condition can shorten a roof life by 1-5 years.
• If there are water stains on the outer perimeter walls, check for loose fasteners and lack of compression at termination bars.
• Periodically inspect areas subjected to high foot traffic, drainage areas and details that usually require specific maintenance, such as pitch pockets, caulking on metal counterflashings and termination bars, metal coping joints, and edge flashing at gutters.