Don’t Be a Re-Roof Victim!

June 24, 2011

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There's a phrase we often use at Best Roofing - "Don't be a Re-Roof Victim." We use it in our marketing materials, it's how we approach certain projects, we teach it in our Commercial Roofing classes, and to be honest, it's really a standard principal that has enabled us to build and maintain our client relationships.  In today's post I'm going to discuss what "Don't be a Re-roof victim" really means.

Every roof has a life cycle- some are longer than others due to various factors- (that's a future post), but with every roofing system there is what we at Best Roofing call, "the window of restorability,"   which is a small window  that falls right before the need to Re-Roof your building, the most costly and disruptive option.  Repair and restoration is the most cost effective roofing operation vs a total re-roof. Typically, a roof restoration is approximately 50- 70% LESS than the cost of installing a new roof. Let’s step through the process and examine some ways to make sound roofing decisions that can save you time and money.

Conduct a Forensic Roof Inspection by a Qualified Roofing Contractor
At Best Roofing we start with a visual inspection of the roof.  A visual inspection can give clues to the overall condition of the roof – a soft area underfoot is an indication of saturated insulation. Rusted deck seen from inside the building may help locate the worst areas of deck deterioration. Ponding water could be the result of a sagging structural deck. An experienced eye will quickly spot membrane problems without any sophisticated equipment. As part of our initial roof analysis we then take a core cut of your roof- all the way down to the structural deck level. A core cut helps determine the condition of the structural deck, the insulation and the membrane.   Steel decks rust, wood decks rot and concrete decks spall and crack. Deck deterioration is greatly accelerated if there is water trapped in insulation sitting on top of the deck.  If there is wet insulation, it must be located and removed. After your roof has been inspected and tested,  we provide you with a roof plan that identifies problems on the roof as well as cost estimates on potentially the following:

  • Cost to remove and replace the entire roof
  • Cost to remove and replace only the wet insulation areas
  • A unit cost to remove and replace deteriorated decking & smallest unit replaced
  • Cost to make repairs to the roof membrane
  • Cost to restore roof with solvent or emulsion based coating

Finding problem areas on a roof

The Decision Making Process
The decision making portion of the process is where all the factors which might impact the business should be  considered. Questions to consider might be:

  • How long do I expect to be in this building? 2 years, 5 years or 100?
  • Are there plans to expand the building in the near future?
  • What time of year will the work be done?

Other things to consider are safety, building codes, noise and traffic.  Break the comparison down in cost per year of expected life. Do not use warranties in this exercise. Consult trusted roofing contractors, architects and consultants to get a realistic idea of life expectancy for each system considered. Warranties are typically issued based on national models and marketing impact, which means they don’t necessarily reflect expected life.

A successful restoration requires three essential steps...

1) Preparation: removal of all trash, vacuum loose gravel, sweep and blow dust from smooth surfaced roof membranes, pressure clean tile, etc. The surface must be clean.

Cleaning the Area


2) Repair & Reinforce: some typical repairs we perform include...

  • Fix the leaks – splits, blisters, punctures, ridges, loose edges of felts all must be repaired. The most critical of these are splits since splits will let the greatest quantity of water into the building.
  • Replace any wet insulation with insulation of like kind and quality per the roof plan developed during the fact finding phase.
  • If bad decking is encountered, replace decking equal to the existing in strength, profile and size configurations.
  • Reseal perimeters with mastic and polyester mats appropriate to the coating being used.
  • Seal around vent pipes with high grade, modified mastics.
  • Replace any rusted flashings and duct work.
  • Water test the drains – make sure they are not clogged.
  • Reseal around drain flanges, retap ring clamping holes and replace cracked clamping rings and baskets.
  • Add drains in low areas if severe ponding exists.
  • Remove unused HVAC units, fans, vent pipes, drains, pitch pans, and equipment supports. Get that extra weight off the roof.
  • Replace cracked sky lights or redeck and close in the opening.
  • Fix roof hatch doors and ladders and install walk pads where the current traffic patterns are found.


Fixing leaks- performing the repairs


3) Re-coating the surface of the Roof
Coatings are not a cure-all. There are amazing coatings available today that when applied to an acceptable substrate will add 10 to 15 years to the existing roof membrane.

Applying coating

What coatings will not do:

  • They will not fix splits;
  • They will not substitute for a sound roof membrane.

What coatings will do:

  • They will close up small punctures that may have been missed in the major repair operation.
  • They will add years to the life of the membrane by acting as an extra layer of UV protection.
  • They will act as an adhesive if the roof is re-graveled.
  • On smooth surfaced roof membranes white coatings will greatly reduce the surface temperature compared to black surfaces or gravel.

Your professional roofing contractor should help you decide which coating option is best suited to your roof type. Years ago coating options were limited to static aluminums and black colored materials. Most were subject to rapid deterioration with natural weathering. Solvent based black asphalt coatings provided short term waterproofing solutions. The newest versions are highly rubberized and blended with compatible asphalt. Aluminum coatings are now available in polymer modified versions that will expand and contract with temperature changes that occur every day. Roofs expand when heated and contract when cooled. This cycling occurs on a daily cycle from day to night; weather induced from clear skies to cloudy with chilling rain and seasonally winter to summer. White surfacing materials are tough, durable, and able to retain color, in addition to being elastomeric. The world of roof coating options has improved dramatically in less than 20 years.

The advantages of a repair and coating project:
1) Financial – Totally deductible in year work is done. No need to amortize cost over 39 years according to current IRS law.
2) There are no lateral pathways for water to travel
3) There is minimal noise and disruption to the business
4) Fast – less work than a tear off and reroof
5) Less dust and debris in the building – critical in plants and processing facilities
6) The quality of the coatings and mastics has greatly improved

Completed project roof restoration

Completed project roof restoration


And finally...Maintenance Maintenance Maintenance...
All systems at the very least need to have drains and gutters checked yearly to make sure they are not stopped with debris at the strainer or in the drain pipe. Most roofs are exposed to damage by repair trades, storms and vandalism.  Pitch pans if not eliminated need periodic resealing. Metal copings loosen in the wind and expansion joint covers need regular maintenance. Keep traffic on your roof to a minimum- always have your building maintenance folks escort any tradesmen that need access to your roof.

Coming soon we'll be posting a recently completed tile restoration process and looking at that case study.