How to Set Up Successful Roof Management Program
As winter approaches and erratic weather patterns become more frequent, owners and managers may want to be proactive in keeping their apartment building roofs in the best shape possible. Harsh weather conditions, such as heavy rain or snow, strong winds, and extreme temperatures, can cause substantial damage to a building's roof, says Robert W. Lyons, executive vice president of a roofing company and member of the roofing industry for over 25 years.
Unfortunately, many owners and managers worry about their roof only after these conditions cause damage, such as leaks. This reactive approach can lead to premature roof failure and costly interior damage.
You can prevent these problems by setting up a roof management program that includes basic preventive and remedial maintenance. We will tell you the benefits of a roof management program, three steps to include in your program, and what information gathered through your program should be kept on record.
Benefits of Roof Management
A roof management program that includes basic preventive and remedial maintenance should prevent problems from occurring and address small problems before they become serious. The benefits of a roof management program include:
Stronger, longer-lasting roof. Generally, a roof maintains its strength and lasts longer with basic preventive and remedial maintenance. Too many owners have false impressions of their roof's durability. Others rely too heavily on their roof's extended warranties.
This reliance is misplaced, because, although in some cases a roof may be “guaranteed” to last for 20 years, roof manufacturers assume that owners will properly maintain their roofs during that time.
In fact, some manufacturers will void a roof warranty if the owner does not perform routine roof maintenance.
Fewer resident complaints. A roof management program will reduce the number of leaks and therefore should reduce the number of tenant complaints about damage to their property caused by leaks.
Fewer indoor air quality problems. Roof leaks are a major contributor to mold buildup, which can lead to indoor air quality problems. A successful roof management program will help prevent leaks, which, in turn, will help prevent resulting mold buildup and related cleanup costs.
Cost savings. A roof management program can help eliminate costly major repairs or even costlier roof replacement down the road. It is almost always cheaper to repair and maintain an item than it is to rebuild or replace it.
Elimination of lawsuits. A roof management program can eliminate two types of costly lawsuits:
> Slip-and-fall lawsuits. If a roof leak leads to wet floors in your building, and a visitor or resident slips and falls on the wet floor, she could sue you, and you could be ordered to pay damages.
> Lease violation lawsuits. A leaking roof may make an apartment unfit to live in. If the problem is bad enough, it may cause an owner to break the implied warranty of habitability in residential leases. The owner is responsible for repairing and maintaining an apartment in a habitable condition, and must ensure that the apartment complies with state and local building and health codes.
Three Steps to Include in Program
Here are three essential steps to include in your roof management program.
Step #1: Inspect roof regularly. Almost every roof failure is predictable. Roofs often show signs of aging, deterioration, and other problems long before weaknesses and defects develop into leaks. Regularly inspecting your roof will help you identify potential problems and address them before they become more serious.
When to inspect. You should inspect your roof at the following times:
> Spring and fall. Most roof damage occurs during the winter. A fall inspection is important, to identify and fix any roof damage before the harsh winter weather begins. And an inspection in the spring is essential, to evaluate the extent of winter damage and to plan any necessary repairs that will take place during the spring and summer.
> After any major weather event. Major weather events, such as blizzards, strong winds, or heavy rain or snow, can cause substantial damage to your roof. Inspecting your roof after such an event can help you manage problems before they become serious.
Who should inspect the roof? If no one on your staff is qualified to inspect your roof, consider hiring a roofing contractor or consultant. If you do this, get recommendations for a qualified contractor or consultant from your roof's manufacturer, other owners and managers, or from industry associations such as the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) or the Roof Consultants Institute (RCI).
Step #2: Analyze inspection results. Once you have inspected your roof, you need to analyze the results of that inspection to determine your roof's overall condition. You can then decide what routine maintenance needs to be done, what repairs should be made, and whether you need to replace all or part of the roof. Those discussions should be based partly on necessity and partly on your financial considerations. You should prioritize and decide what you can afford to do and what you must do.
Step #3: Select qualified contractor. Once you have decided what repairs to make, you need to hire a qualified contractor to do the work. Generally, you should solicit competitive bids for the job from several contractors.
Also, get recommendations from other owners or managers, or from trade associations. But check with your roof's manufacturer before you hire a contractor. Some manufacturers require you to use a contractor that's certified to work on their type of roof, to preserve your roof's warranty.
Keep and Record Roof-Related Information
You will gather a lot of important information about your roof and its maintenance history through your roof management program. You should keep the following information because some of it could help you defend yourself in a lawsuit:
Roof's leak history, including where leaks occurred, when they were reported, and when, how, and by whom they were repaired;
Roof warranty information, including the warranty expiration date and any special requirements needed to maintain the warranty;
Roof work done by HVAC contractors or other subcontractors, including where and when it was done, and the condition of the roof both before and after the work.
This information is important because contractors, if not properly supervised while working on your roof, can damage it. And that damage may not be immediately noticeable. If a leak later develops, you will be able to determine whether a contractor caused the leak, and if so, to seek reimbursement from him for that damage.