I was still a kid in the roofing biz when non-destructive testing of low-slope roofing systems began to gain some widespread popularity. There were all types of devices ranging from simple, handheld moisture meters to conductance systems to infrared systems. In other words, the idea of surveying an existing membrane as to the condition under it is not new but has gradually gained wide acceptance among roofing professionals, both contractors and consultants.
Last year, Roofing Contractor editor Chris King and I penned separate features on FLIR (Forward looking infrared). FLIR is an imaging technology that senses infrared radiation according to Wikipedia. Chris focused on the equipment and I took a ride in a helicopter used by roofing contractor David Welch to fly missions surveying flat roofs in and around Atlanta, Ga. You have not seen these features yet, but you will soon. The vagaries of the market have left tons of editorial unpublished in 2009, but that is another blog. This one is not about opportunities lost, but some that are still emerging.
What prompts the notice for the non-destructive testing of roofing systems is twofold. One, in an economy where businesses must conserve every dollar they can, performing a survey can identify the specific areas of the roof that are in need of replacement. The entire re-roof may be required, but may be postponed to a time when it fits more neatly in the budget. Second, and this is still developing somewhat, there will be stimulus money available for studying the entire building envelope in this manner. Not just the roof, but entire homes and buildings may be surveyed to determine where energy is being lost.
David Welch has planned for some time to put his infrared investment to use performing energy surveys for homeowners. As a contractor in a market that has been blessed (or cursed, depending on which side of the roof you are on) with a lot of storm activity over the past year, this project may stay on hold for a while. I believe, however, surveying homes for energy efficiency may ultimately be the bigger part of his FLIR enterprise.
If you are considering looking into this kind of investment, be warned that it is not for the faint of checkbook. David sunk a cool half-million dollars into his outfit (included a new helicopter … you have to read the story when it comes out to get all the details). You can get into the business pretty good with less than a fifth of that, but it does require a lot of time spent training and is certainly not going to pay instant profits. It may, however, be worth looking into if you are looking for ways to diversify and add more value to your existing client base.
If you would like to see the several features on FLIR, drop me a line and I will make sure and let you know when they hit the print and Web versions of Roofing Contractor: rickdamato@yahoo