Who’s in Charge of the Roof?

Who’s in Charge of the Roof?

By Gregg Wallick / Published June 2021

Photo by iStockphoto.com/

Replacing the roof on your property can be one of the single most costly and disruptive decisions any building owner or manager must ever make. The numerous options and opinions can be confusing, if not overwhelming.

     There is plenty of information published regarding specific products or systems you can install on your property; however, little is ever mentioned regarding repairing and restoring versus replacing your roof. The following is a brief overview of what would be required to properly understand the alternatives facing a facility manager or building owner.

Start with a Plan

     It is understood from the start that your roof will eventually need to be replaced. When you replace your roof, it should not be a surprise to the responsible parties. The roof is a major part of most buildings and is under constant attack by intense sun, torrential rain, and high gusts of wind, all contributing to the wear and tear that will eventually cause your roof to be replaced. You need to look at your roof as a depreciating asset; consideration should be given to maintaining this asset and its inevitable replacement.

Your roof should be designed so water can drain off, and in such a way that it is able to withstand the expansion and constriction of the building as a system. In theory this sounds relatively simple, however, attention must be focused on the small components of the system to ensure maximum usefulness is achieved. Roofs rarely fail all at once; small parts wear out and, if left unattended, can cause total failure of the roof system.

Hurricane Prevention

     The optimum thing to do before hurricane season is to have your roof inspected by a professional to determine if it’s ready for the season. The professional will ensure flashing conditions are sealed and the perimeter attachment is up to code requirements.  After that, you can regularly perform due diligence by keeping your roof clear of debris by cleaning gutters and drains.

Preventive and Predictive Restoration

     Those who have a roof warranty should read the fine print that requires routine maintenance and has exclusion of responsibility for areas that connect to your roof system. There are constant encounters with clients who think their roof warranty is one of those “bumper-to-bumper” programs, when it excludes almost everything that will leak.

     Do not rely on your warranty to keep your building dry or ensure total satisfaction with your roof system. It has been my experience that most roof warranties are used as marketing tools and are never even examined until a problem occurs.

     A good roof inspection and restoration program should include all the following items:

  1. All historical information regarding the roof and all components included in the system.
  2. All previously performed restoration and repairs.
  3. Roof access control. Only qualified parties who understand the system should be allowed on the roof. A significant number of roof complaints are related to damage by other trades, such as A/C repairs, electrical concerns, etc.
  4. Warranty information.
  5. Date of last inspection and areas of concern.

     Most roofs will be in decent condition, but almost every roof will require minor repairs. Some roofs will require significant repairs. If your roof is leaking, serious damage has already been done. Your roof insulation, if exposed to a leak, will lose most of its effectiveness. Your decking system could become questionable if exposed over any significant period. The damage to interior space usually requires extensive restoration to match undamaged areas.

Roof Systems

     Considering that very few buildings are ever the same, every property presents its own unique considerations. The selection of your roof system should incorporate the following considerations: access, deck, slope, weight, traffic, local weather conditions, wind zone, codes, insurance, and budget constraints.

     Commercial roof systems fall into two categories: Asphalt Based or modified bitumen, or single-ply systems. Both have several sub-categories.

     Asphalt Based or Modified Bitumen—The concept behind this system is a combination of multiple layers of protective covering. This system is the most forgiving to workmanship errors in the short run due to the multiple layers of material. These systems are very good in areas that have extensive foot traffic or equipment maintenance requirements.

Photo by iStockphoto.com/LesPalenik

     Asphalt based or modified bitumen roofs have been installed for over 100 years and, if assembled properly, provide outstanding performance.

     Single-Ply—This roof has been referred to as a “roof on a roll,” and these products have been in the U.S. market since the mid-1970s. There are several systems made from materials such as rubber, PVC, KEE, and TPO. These systems are often less expensive to install than asphalt based or modified bitumen systems.

     The single-ply systems are less forgiving to foot traffic and equipment maintenance than asphalt based or modified bitumen and can be punctured easier.

     TPO single-ply roof systems are the most used and tend to be slightly less expensive. PVC and KEE systems are considered premium products that will last longer than the TPO systems for a premium price.

     Both asphalt-based or modified bitumen and single-ply offer advantages and disadvantages. The proper roof systems should be selected and designed by a qualified contractor or consultant who understands the building use, owner’s expectations concerning the roof’s expected life, and budget constraints. 

Selecting a Contractor

     The most important decision you will make regarding your roof is the selection of a contractor. Everything involved in your roofing project will be influenced by your contractor. Your installer will control the success or failure of your project. Even the best products, when improperly installed, will leak. A good contractor can install a good roof with marginal materials.

     Do not allow price to be the sole determining factor when selecting your contractor. A lower price can always be obtained at the owner’s expense in the long run. When selecting your contractor, you should consider the following items:

  1. How long has the contractor been in business?
  2. Does the contractor have a stable financial background?
  3. Can the contractor provide you with a list of current and past references?
  4. Does the contractor have adequate insurance coverage?
  5. Could the contractor bond the job if required, and what would it cost?
  6. Could the contractor provide continued maintenance as required after the completion of the project?
  7. What does the project management team look like?
  8. Does the contractor self-perform the work, or sub-contract out the labor?

     Prequalifying your contractor prior to bidding is the most important decision in your roof selection process. You should only work with proven contractors.

     Your roof protects all the other assets of your building. This includes furniture, equipment, inventories, fixtures, and tenant relationships. You are protecting the majority of a building’s net worth with the roof system.  A deliberate process to manage your roof expenses and roof inspection program could reduce your overall roofing costs and make your job much more pleasurable. 

Gregg Wallick

President/CEO, Best Roofing, Ft. Lauderdale

     A second-generation roofing contractor, President and CEO, Gregg Wallick’s knowledge and passion for the industry is the driving force behind Best Roofing’s outstanding reputation and success. In 2018, Best Roofing was named “Commercial Roofing Contractor of the Year” by Roofing Contractor magazine. He has served as the past director of the National Roofing Contractors Association and retains numerous licenses in the roofing field. For more information, call (888) 723-BEST (2378) or visit www.bestroofing.net.