Back to Basics is an article series that highlights important, but possibly overlooked, information facilities management professionals should know.
As buildings age, facilities professionals must decide whether they want to continue making repairs to roofs, restore an existing roof, or purchase a new roof. Before making this decision, facilities professionals should consult with someone who specializes in roofing repairs and replacements for the type of building they manage.
There are three main ways that facilities professionals can fix a roof:
- Repair: Fix minor problems, leaks, and cracks.
- Restore: Address the overall condition of the roof by adding a new roof system on top of the original roof that has good insulation and no moisture.
- Replace: This is necessary in cases of damage to roof decking that results in rusting.
Factors to Consider in Roof Assessment
Whether facilities professionals decide to repair, restore, or replace their roofs, key factors need to be considered to determine the best course of action: aesthetic versus structural damage, the location of damage, timing and weather, the extent of damage, the age of the roof, owner-occupancy outlook, and costs.
Aesthetic vs. Structural Damages
Facilities professionals should check to see if there is aesthetic damage or structural damage. Moisture condensation could make it look like there is a leak when there really isn’t one. However, according to the North Carolina Roofing Design Guidelines and Policies book, if moisture cannot be removed in a repair, then the roof must be replaced. Minor aesthetic damage can be repaired, while major aesthetic damage can only be fixed through roof restoration. Structural damage, such as problematic leaky roofs or ones that affect the building’s structural integrity, would require replacement.
Location of Damage
If the roof’s damage is over critical areas to business operations or over expensive pieces of equipment, roof restoration would be cheaper than a new roof. If damages are too severe, a new roof would be necessary. Repairing is not a good solution if the same part of the roof keeps having problems.
Timing and Weather
Facility professionals should consider making only simple roof repairs during periods when the building is used the most, and repairs should not be done during inclement weather unless there is an emergency. Complete roof replacements and roof restorations should be delayed until there is good weather and the building is used the least. For example, summer businesses targeting tourists should consider roof replacements and restorations before Memorial Day or after Labor Day. Roof replacements do take longer than restorations.
Extent of Damage
If roof damage is minimal or only affects a small area of the roof, facilities professionals should consider repairs, as they would be cheaper. The National Park Service says that repairs are possible if the damage affects less than 20% of the entire roof. If there is extensive damage or it affects a large portion of the roof, however, roof restoration or replacement should be considered, and roofs with the most damage should be replaced, not restored.
Age of Roof
Depending on the types of materials used, roofs can last anywhere from 15 to 100 years. While asphalt roll roofing lasts the shortest amount of time, slate and cement roofing can last 50 to 100 years. Although a roof replacement or restoration could help increase curb appeal, it might not be necessary if the roof is not old. But restoration is the better option if the original roof is in satisfactory condition.
Owner Occupancy Outlook
Facilities professionals should consider roof repairs rather than a roof replacement if the facility owner is thinking about selling the building, as it might be difficult to recoup the cost of a new roof in the sale of the building. However, if the facility owner plans to own the building over a long period of time, roof restoration or replacement could be considered a long-term solution.
While a new roof is more costly than restoring or repairing an existing roof, environmentally friendly features in a new roof may enable facilities management professionals to get tax credits. Therefore, over the long haul, replacing the roof might actually be cheaper than restoring or repairing a problematic roof. A comprehensive cost-benefit analysis should be performed by facilities professionals, in conjunction with property owners, to determine both short-term and long-term issues in repairing, restoring, or replacing their roofs.
Out of all of these, the most important factor that facilities professionals should look at when determining a solution to their roofing problems are specifics regarding damage to the current roof structure.