Spring is approaching: temperatures are on the rise and people are switching out their winter coats for raincoats and umbrellas. But if you’re a facility or maintenance manager, you know that April showers, don’t just bring May flowers. They also bring roof leaks, which can lead to roof failure.
How roof failure occurs
Roof failure does not occur instantly. Rather, it occurs gradually as the result of ignored repairs, foot traffic, weather, sunlight, chemical contaminants, and more. Nearly half of all roofs fail before reaching their suggested service lives. When roofs fail, they can cause extensive (and expensive) damage to your building’s interior.
How do you prevent roof failure?
Once your roof fails you have two options: recover or replace. But how do you know when you need to take these measures? Complete twice-year inspections:
- One in the spring (hint this is coming up) to check for snow/ice damage
- One in the fall to check for sun damage
These inspections should identify any problems that can contribute to roof failure such as membrane movements, split seams, alligatoring, flashing lifts, and water leaks. Your inspection should check interiors, roof height and construction, core samples, and more. Check out this article for a complete list of the recommended inspection areas. If your technicians do not have the skills to complete roof inspections, you should have the inspections outsourced.
Tracking roof inspections over time should give you an idea of your roof’s rate of deterioration. If your roof has only deteriorated in certain areas, you can schedule roof repairs. However, if your roof’s deterioration is showing signs of accelerating and/or you’re having to make more and more roof repairs, your roof may need to be recovered or even replaced soon (even if it has some time left on its projected service life).
If your inspection uncovers a problem, you have three options:
- Repair the existing roof
- Recover the roof: Leave the existing roof in place and install a new roof over it
- Remove and replace the existing roof
How FMX can help: With a CMMS like FMX, you can schedule and assign these inspections to your staff or outside vendors and provide them with a checklist of inspection tasks to complete. You can set up automatic notifications to remind yourself and others about upcoming inspections. FMX can also help you track the information recorded in these inspections.
Repairing your existing roof
If you encounter some problems during your inspection, don’t wait to repair them. Failing to make important roof repairs can lead to unplanned expenses, risk to occupants, potential building code violations, and even premature roof failure. Disrepair can also allow water to leak through the outer coating, which can cause water damage to insulation, roof decking, and interior spaces. In contrast, prompt roof repair enables you to use funds more efficiently and improve your roof’s performance.
How FMX can help: With FMX, you can easily create and assign work orders for these repairs. Your technicians will automatically know when they’ve been assigned to a work order. You can also use FMX to record how a roof repair was resolved, track the repairs made on the roof previously, and track repair costs.
Recovering your existing roof
Let’s say that your rate of deterioration has increased but you haven’t had a major problem yet, and you don’t quite have the funds to replace the whole roof just yet. There is a middle ground between repair and replace: recovering. Recovering refers to placing a new roof over an existing roof.
Recovering is often a lower-cost option than replacement because the old roof is not removed when the new roof is installed. Likewise, recovering a roof is often a less time-intensive project.
Unfortunately, managers often choose to recover even if their roof really needs to be replaced because of the reasons above. When considering recovering you should ask yourself the following questions:
- Is 40 percent or more of the roof insulation wet?
- Can the building support the additional weight of a second roof?
- Do you have more than one roof currently in place? (Building codes typically only allow for two roofs.)
- Will your insurance go up more if you recover than if you replace?
If the answer to any of these questions is yes, it may be safer and more cost-effective to replace your roof instead of recovering it.
Replacing your roof
Even with frequent inspections, many managers often wait to replace their roofs until they have a major problem such as a membrane failure or major leak. Or worse, they wait until their roofs have already failed, to start the replacement process. As I mentioned above, roof replacement schedules should be informed by your roof’s rate of deterioration. Once your roof starts deteriorating at a faster rate, you should start making strides to replace it.
There are some benefits to replacing a roof a little earlier. Replacing before failure allows you to pick the time for the replacement that works best for your department. It also gives you enough time to do your homework. You should:
- Get feedback from upper management on budget constraints and any future expansion or building plans
- Gather the building’s construction and repair history
- Gather the roof’s leak history, including the location, severity, frequency, etc.
- Determine the necessary structural tolerance, site-access requirements, and safety requirements for your new roof.
- Determine whether the new roof you’re considering will perform well on the required slope, and whether slope needs to be added for drainage.
- Consider the warranty: Is the warranty issued by the manufacturer or the installer? Does the warranty cover labor? etc.
Choosing a contractor
Once you’ve decided on a roof manufacturer, make sure you pick the right contractor to install it. For example, don't just choose the contractor based on cost:
- Choose a contractor who has an installer certification: Most roof manufacturers certify companies to install their products. These contractors’ employees are more likely to receive the training they need to properly install the roof.
- Check references: If a contractor is worth their salt, they’ll have several references for the type of roof you’re installing. Don’t be shy about asking for and contacting these references.
When to replace/recover
Most managers replace/recover roofs in the summer. However, spring and fall might actually be more appropriate. Spring and fall typically have milder temperatures which are less stressful for roofing materials. Replacing/recovering in the spring or fall is likely more cost-effective as well because there is typically less demand for roofing materials in the spring and fall.
How FMX can help
I’ve mentioned how FMX can help you schedule and record inspections and track important information about repairs. But FMX can also help you plan and justify your roof-replacement/recovering projects. FMX enables you to view the cost of your roof repairs over time by tracking your labor hours/costs and inventory expenses for each of your roof-related work orders. This information will allow you to make data-driven decisions about when it is time to do more than repair. Once you’ve determined that it’s time for a larger project, FMX can help you get it on your schedule. With FMX, you can create preventive maintenance tasks days, weeks, months, even years in advance and assign them to outside vendors. FMX also enables you to measure the success of your replacement/recovering projects by tracking the total cost of your project. You can then compare this number to the total cost of your roofing repairs over time.
Allison is a product marketing manager at Facilities Management eXpress. When she’s not writing marketing content, she is likely hiking with her dog or cooking delicious Italian food.