Making a Case for Roof Maintenance

Problem Prevention Is Your Best Value

by Lynn Picone — Under tough economic pressures and uncertainty, it is imperative for building owners and managers to spend wisely and manage their facilities assets properly. The ultimate goal should be to achieve maximum roof service life at the least possible cost. For this reason, roof maintenance — in conjunction with modern life-cycle assessment techniques — has never been more appropriate.

An “out of sight, out of mind” attitude toward roofing systems is dangerous. It’s also poor asset management. Too many building owners and managers have been burned by premature roof failure. When water leaks into a building, hard assets, corporate profits — and reputations — start taking a beating.

When it comes to roofing, we frequently believe that if our roofs are not leaking, we don’t need to bother with them. However, this attitude does not jive with reality. Here are a few facts*:

  • More than 80 percent of all roofs are replaced prematurely.
  • The average building owner will spend more than $127,500 on roofing over the life of the building.
  • The average cost of a new commercial roof is more than $42,500 (10,000 sq. ft. average)
  • Repairs, maintenance and/or roof restoration costs thousands of dollars less than roof replacement.
  • Roof maintenance programs are tax deductible.
  • Roof maintenance programs typically cost about one to three percent per year of the estimated total replacement costs (maintenance cost depends on coverage).
  • A roof maintenance program can save up to 50 percent over the life of a 30-year roof compared to replacing it every 15-20 years.
  • A roof can leak for days, weeks, or months before it is noticed inside the building.

If a building owner or manager starts out with a problematic roof, the situation typically goes downhill, often creating a maintenance nightmare.

So let’s assume we are starting out with a reasonably good roofing installation as part of a new construction process or a complete tear-off and reroofing. One goal is to immediately — from year one — have a preventive program to ensure maximum service life of the roof. Maintenance is a responsibility of ownership. It is required in most roofing manufacturers’ warranties. Also, No Dollar Limit (NDL) warranties don’t cover problems related to a lack of maintenance. If water backs up in a leaf-clogged roof drain, the service call can cost as much as $300.

Most commercial roofing contractors offer maintenance services. Property owners and managers should look for roofing contracting firms that run separate, dedicated roof maintenance divisions staffed by their most experienced craftspeople. The bare-bones components of a maintenance package should consist of the following:

  • Visual roof inspections —including an on-site, 50-point inspection regimen.
  • Photographic, digital and/or written documentation of the roof conditions.
  • Quotes for recommended work.
  • Repairs for deficient conditions.
  • Routine maintenance – as needed.

“As long as the cost of maintenance is less than 1.6 percent of the initial cost of the new roof, the cost of the maintained roof—on an annual basis—will be less than the unmaintained roof,” says Peter Kalinger, technical director of the Canadian Roofing Contractors Association. Maintenance programs are also available for existing roof systems after a thorough roof audit is conducted by the roofing contractor.

“Based on a 15-year industry study, a proactive maintenance program lowered the average life-cycle cost of a roof to $0.14 per square foot,” says Dan Rheaume of Raynproof Roofing in Seattle, Wash.

A “reactive” maintenance program — where the contractor is called in only after problems are discovered — costs $0.25 per square foot, according to Rheaume. Finally, the study showed that roofs with proactive maintenance programs can last 21 years, compared to only 13 years with a reactive program.

In conclusion, the building operating and management industry needs to adopt a proactive roof maintenance protocol to get the maximum service lives from roofing systems, and to reduce the collateral damage caused by leaking roofs at their facilities.

*Sources: “GAF Certified Maintenance Professional (CMP) Program Manual,” January 2012; RoofCare 2009, Association of Physical Plant Administrators, Alexandria, VA.

About the Author: Lynn Picone is a senior product manager at GAF and a 20-year veteran of the roofing industry. She has held various positions in technical services, contractor programs and Marketing

BOMA Magazine is the official magazine of the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) International. It is a leading source for the latest news, issues and trends affecting the commercial real estate industry.