Al Dresden

Roofs are an enigma. What are they? How do they work, and why are they so expensive? Building Owners and managers need to understand and make decisions about roofs that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Owners and mangers are often faced with different types of roofing decisions including systems and insulation that will solve the owner;s problems at a so-called reasonable rate. Some systems can be expensed, while others are amortized over a number of years. What is interesting about the latter, is that most roofs do not last as long as the amortization period.

Hopefully, this article will alert you on what to expect when deciding if a new roof is feasible.

The first step to be accomplished is to budget sufficient capital to cover any unforeseen expenses which will prevent going back to the ownership for additional funds once the project has started. This can be accomplished by contacting a roofing contractor and asking for an estimated cost for a new roof. You may ask this individual to inspect the property and submit a proposal. Ince received, you should add 10% for inflation and use this figure for your budget for the following year. Now the dilemma begins…

What did you budget for? --a new roof, of course. But, what does a "new roof" mean? Does the amount placed into your budget include a complete removal and replacement of the old roof or is a new roof being placed over the existing? If the latter, then two questions need to be answered

1. Is the original roof dry or wet?
2. Is the structural deck strong enough to withstand the added weight? What must be considered are the new snow loads, wind loads, and insurance requirements

. If the budget does include removal of the old system, then several other questions arise:
1. Does the new roof meet local codes, such as BOCA?
2. Is your area subject to an energy code?
3. Does your insurance company require an underwriters Laboratories (UL) or Factory Mutual (FM) approved system?
4. IS this roof used as a storage or promenade area?
5. IS there serviceable equipment of this roof?
6. IS the new roof subject to physical abuse?
7. IS the building in a high wind area or is it subjected to unusual weather conditions?

These questions are interesting, and you may be quite surprised with the answers that you will receive.

Now that you have answered all of these questions, the next step is to choose the correct system and contractor. This is usually accomplished by looking in the phone book and calling three (3) roofing contractors or contacting a material manufacturers' filed representative. As the parade of salespeople and contractors enter your office, they lay an array of highly technical systems on your desk that have been "tried on building like yours all over the world". Here are some of the items that you will be seeing and attempting to understand: EPDM, PVC, CSPE, BUR and others all claiming to be able to solve your problems. One contractor/salesman tells you that he/she just replaced a roof that failed and it was a (put your own letter here). And, if yo choose that system, this, too, is doomed to fail. To the individual who is trained in these systems, these types of statements are utter nonsense. All systems have their place, and the place needs to be analyzed as to where, how, and what is going to occur on this roof. Items that need to be answered are:

1. Fire Rating - Has this assembly (not sheet) been tested and passed to achieve a Class "A" rating as performed by Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Northbrook, IL?

2. Winds - Does this system meet the guidelines of Factory Mutual (FM)? This is extremely important, especially if ownership is insured by one of these companies.

3. Abuse- How much foot traffic will this roof be subject to? Will there be a need for work and walk pads? How much control does management have over foot traffic or workmen who must utilize the roof as a means of transportation?

4. Safety - Are any of these roof systems slippery when they get wet? What happens if a workman falls and injures him or herself? What type of liability does ownership have?

5. Maintenance- New equipment is placed on the roof and old equipment is removed. Systems do require repair and/or maintenance. Can this be accomplished with little difficulty or must you find a contractor who is fully trained in these systems? Remember, this is not covered by warranty

. 6. Warranties- Know what they say, what they cover, and that liability both the installer and material manufacturer have. Remember, the individuals who write your lease agreements also write the warranties.

7. Installing contractor - Find out who he or she does business with and check their references. In most cases this is the company that will stand behind any problems that can occur. In addition, find out how this contractor plans to perform this work. What inconveniences will affect your tenants?

8. Environmental Issues- Are there any with the existing roof or the roof to be installed? Will there be an odor from the system that will get into the building and result in inconvenience to your tenants?

Once the above questions have been answered; and you've selected the exact system to be applies by a reliable contractor, you would assume you are ready to solicit bids. Unfortunately, the need, cost, and type of insulation requires further investigation. If you are upgrading to receive a better "R" rating on the insulation, do you need a dewpoint analysis? The worst occurrence is condensation without he building due to the new insulation causing the dewpoint to change resulting in it now falling in the wrong area. Can you imagine telling ownership that they spend hundreds of thousands of dollars only to fund out that waited is entering, not from rain or snow, but from the new dewpoint caused by the increase in the insulation value? However, this potential situation must be weighted when you consider increasing insulation that can lower energy costs.

Another area of consideration is, should the new roof be black, graveled, ballasted, colored, or granulated? These also have an affect on what your overall goal is for this new roof.

Now that you have completed all of the research, interviewed every contractor, and material representative, talked to your insurance carrier, and have put together a realistic budget for this new, long-lasting, energy efficient roof system , you are disheartened to discover that ownership does not have the money to obtain the new roof system that is best and most efficient for this building. For budgetary reasons, when doing your research, look to alternatives that you can utilize to satisfy many of the goals that were formulated when this project commenced.

In summary, this process takes time and energy. Unless you have a large staff that can help organize, interview, and coordinate this information, it is quite possible that tenant needs, leases, monthly reports, and other management duties will be neglected or ignored. Therefore, it appears that you either have to burn the midnight oil or hire someone to perform this work for you. This means hiring a consultant who is fully trained, to perform this work. Prior to choosing a consultant, make sure that they completely understand what is required, the goals of ownership and management, and approximately how much money you wish to spend (common response "as little as possible"). The individual must examine the roof, structure, walls, parapets, and all other areas that could allow water to enter. In addition, samples need to be taken from the roof and flashings so that a determination can be made if any of these materials contain asbestos. If there is more that one roof, samples need to be taken from all roofing areas. Once this has been determined and budgets are approved, a bidding document needs to be generated. Never sign a roofers proposal sheet. This document is very important, especially if problems arise and legal action is required

. Regardless of the amount of research done; who the contractor is; who the manufacturer or warranting company is, quality control monitoring is essential to assure yourself that value is being received for money spent

. An enigma is created whenever major roof repairs are scheduled. There is always uncertainty when large sums of money are being spent. Some owners wasted hundred s of thousands of dollars in roof systems that were inoperable for the condition s present of these roofs. For building owners, and/or managers, it is important to find a contractor to perform all of the preliminary work on the existing roof, the new system, and one that can apply it in a correct manner with little or no inconvenience to your tenants. A roofing project requires many facets including asset management, leasing and other tenant improvements. The question that always arises is "Do you have the staff to research, interview, and decide on the various situations that need to be tackled when a roof is recovered, recoated, repaired or replaced?" If the staff is not available or has the expertise to perform this research, there the answer is simple- hire a qualified roof consultant. Once this occurs, your enigma will be solved.

Al Dresden,
President S.A.Alsan & Associates
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