How to Maximize a Roof’s Lifespan While Minimizing Expenses for Property Managers

How to Maximize a Roof’s Lifespan While Minimizing Expenses for Property Managers

The roof of a commercial or industrial facility could easily fall under the heading “out of sight, out of mind.” For property managers and owners, however, the roof represents a substantial investment and is an indispensable part of the building’s safety and functionality. A proactive approach that includes a consistent maintenance program will extend the lifespan of the roof, minimize expenses associated with damage and repairs, and protect the building, its occupants and its contents.

In 2010, I was an Engineer Technician with CH2MHill at the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA).  I was responsible for over 450 buildings and 3.5 million square feet of roofing.  When I first took over this responsibility, there was no maintenance program in place. In the first season, there were 60-70 leaks. Resolving these incidents without sufficient maintenance protocols in place was inefficient, disruptive and destructive. To remedy this, I implemented a semi-annual inspection and maintenance plan.

With the new program in place, my team established the history of each roof and pinpointed each leak. Every roof had its own folder to make information easy to locate and update. We prioritized the roofs and addressed each leak, as well as any other issues and damage, and implemented a five-year re-roof plan accordingly.

Initially, the plan was a lot of work to implement but it definitely paid off. In 2015, there were only six leaks — an outstanding improvement, due in large part to the ongoing maintenance program. In addition to dramatically reducing the number of leaks, we reduced our maintenance expenses significantly and kept our clients dry.

How to Implement Your Own Roof Maintenance Plan

The best time to implement a roof maintenance plan is when a new roof is installed. Starting with a clean slate, so to speak, makes it easier to track when something changes, breaks or wears out. Plus, you will have a complete record for the life of the roof. When the roof does get replaced, any ongoing concerns that resulted from design or installation flaws can be addressed.

With a new roof or an existing roof, begin your maintenance plan by compiling the relevant documentation:

  • As-builts (current roof plans)
  • System type
  • Age of the roof or installation date
  • Warranty information (Typically a one-year labor warranty is included.  If anything arises during this time, have the contractor fix the issue, if applicable.)

For existing roofs, compile a roof history documenting any known problems, such as reports of water intrusion, and repairs.

Conduct a Thorough Roof Inspection

Regular inspections are the best way to prevent small problems from becoming big problems. Wear and tear as a result of natural aging is to be expected, however catching issues early will minimize expenses and extend the life of the roof.

With each inspection, be aware of the following details and record the information for future comparisons:

  • Your impression of the surface conditions when you initially get to the roof
  • Debris on the roof or in drains (the roof should be free of debris)
  • Condition of gutters and downspouts (do any need to be repaired or replaced?)
  • Areas of ponding water
  • Penetrations through the roof, such as clamping rings and sealants
  • Pitch pans topped off with sealant
  • Parapet walls and metal coping
  • Expansion joints
  • Physical damage from weather or from other causes

Keep People Off Your Roof

In addition to regularly monitoring the items mentioned above, don’t allow anyone, such as HVAC technicians and cable company employees, on the roof without your consent and knowledge. Use a sign-in and sign-out log for access so the roof is monitored and access to the roof is restricted. This also provides security. For example, homeowners may want access to an apartment complex roof to install satellite dishes, barbecues or lawn chairs — not a good idea. Access and exposure to the roof should be minimized in order to ensure a long lifespan.

Maintenance Equals Sustainment

Following a  consistent plan over the expected roof system lifespan will extend the service life of the roof. When the time comes to install a new roof, you may not need to remove the entire system because the board insulation may be intact, dry and suitable for a recover. Though you may need to increase the roof system insulation R-value per code upgrades by adding insulation boards to the existing system, you will still save money by utilizing the existing materials and production time for the roof project.

For more information on how to manage and maintain your roof effectively, contact Pie Consulting & Engineering today.

Darren Bautista, RRO

About the Author

As a Specialist/RRO within the Forensic Department at Pie Consulting & Engineering Darren provides a team-oriented approach and over 28 years of experience in the roofing, building envelope, and construction industries. Darren is dedicated to strengthening and maintaining roofing industry standards, designs, and the building envelope in order to achieve a waterproof environment, manageable maintenance programs, and a full life cycle of the building envelope assembly for building owners.