Keeping the Cap on Your Roof Expenses

Keeping the Cap on Your Roof Expenses

By Ed Williams, RRC / Published September 2019

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For those who have read my previous articles in this publication, you know the importance of reserves for large capital expenses has been discussed. I don’t know of anything that gets association owners more upset than being faced with a large, unexpected special assessment. Let’s talk for a few minutes about how to avoid special assessments in roofing.

     For instance, your association put a new roof on your building(s) 10 years ago, and, hopefully, your board of directors set up reserves to cover the cost of replacing it in 20 years. Did you base your reserve amount on what the roof cost when you put it on 10 years ago? How is the roof doing; is it going to last 20 years? The problem is that many think that because they have a new roof with a 20-year warranty, nothing needs to be done to the roof for 20 years. Unfortunately, that is not always true. You are responsible to clean out drains or fix a puncture made by an AC contractor. There are several items that can cause a 20-year roof to fail prematurely. This is rarely covered by your warranty from the manufacturer.

     There are many factors that can affect your reserves on roofing, premature failure being one of them. An increase in prices for oil, steel, and aluminum can also raise the cost of the new roof. For that reason, it is important to review the reserves every five years. Someone doing a reserve study would first look at the roof to be sure that it is going to last the planned amount of time. Then they would look at the cost now and what it is anticipated to be in the future for making recommendations on the reserve amount. This is not only true for roofing, but it can be true for paving and exterior building envelope concerns as well.

Photo by David Herring

     As has been said before, annual inspections of the roof are critical to ensuring that it lasts the maximum amount of time that it can. Many 20-year roofs may even last longer than 20 years, with new technology now in the marketplace. For instance, if you’re doing an inspection in the 18th year of the 20-year roof, the inspector may indicate that the roof may last another two to five years. However, if the roof is beginning to blister and deteriorate, then soon the only option you will have will be to tear it off. If we can catch it before the surface deteriorates too badly, there are options such as silicone coatings that can extend the life of the roof 10, 15, or 20 years. The cost of this is a fraction of what tearing off and installing the new roof would be. Again, annual inspections can keep you ahead of the game.

    The roofing industry is facing historic labor shortages and volatile material pricing. Manufacturers are researching new products every day, and some of these will make their way to the marketplace in the form of more efficient and labor-friendly materials. This is another reason to have regular updates on your reserves. You may find that there is something on the market now that will not require the amount of money that you currently are planning to reserve for roof replacement.

     For these and other reasons, it is important to have the roof inspected at least annually by a qualified professional. This will ensure that the roof lasts its intended life. At the same time, a qualified professional should be analyzing your reserves at least every five years.

     The good news is that if you do everything right with annual inspections and reserve studies on a regular basis, you might find out that with the new technology, you have too much in reserves. That money could be transferred to other projects that you may or may not be funding reserves for.

     As mentioned above, this article is primarily about roofing. However, most of it can relate to paving, exterior walls, concrete balconies, and almost any other major expense that you can expect in condominium associations.

Ed Williams, RRC

Ed Williams Registered Roof Consultant

Ed Williams Registered Roof Consultant is based in Florida and specializes in commercial and multi-unit structures—new or existing construction. Services include roof design, roof surveys, reroofing supervision as well as roof asset management. Ed Williams is a registered roof consultant with more than 40 years in the industry. For more information, call (772) 335-5832, email, or visit