Three Ways To Make A Roof Last Longer

Occasionally, we come across articles that we feel will be beneficial to our readers. John D’Annunzio has written a series of articles for FacilitiesNet discussing factors that determine roof longevity. Below is a brief description and link to each article.

Part 1: Proper Design Improves Roof Longevity

This first article discusses key components to proper design that include wind uplift calculations, drainage design, thermal factors, perimeter edge design, and existing building conditions. It also discusses the selection of materials and systems that are compatible with existing building conditions. Proper design should always focus on providing a long-term roofing system.

Part 2: Focus On Roofing Materials And Workmanship To Improve Longevity

The second installment explains that not all roof materials are the same and not all materials are suitable for all buildings. Applied materials should be new, free of all excess moisture, and manufactured in compliance with ASTM standards. Proper material storage at the project site is also required.

In addition, the roof is one of the only major building components that is partially or fully constructed on-site. A large percentage of premature roof failures occur due to improper workmanship.

Part 3: How Weather And Maintenance Impact Roof Longevity

Finally, the third article describes how applications of roofing materials in conditions not suitable to the material’s constraints (too hot, too cold, in wet weather) will contribute to premature failure.

No matter the roof type, all roofs require a certain level of attention. Roofs are exposed to the elements 24 hours a day, every day of the year. One of the most important reasons to implement an annual roof maintenance program is to extend the service life of the existing roof system.

Selecting A Commercial Roofing System

Building owners, roofing contractors, and specifiers have many options when deciding which commercial roofing system is best for a specific project. When selecting a roofing system, there are many issues to investigate. A thorough investigation will assure you that your investment is the best long-term roofing decision.

1. History/Longevity:

How long has the roof product been on the market under one owner? Proven longevity is critical when selecting a roofing system or manufacturer.

2. Cost:

Up-front cost is often perceived as the key factor in choosing a roofing system. However, the life cycle cost is the more important financial aspect that needs to be investigated. Considerations should include: tear-off, maintenance expenses, energy savings, additional warranty cost, and fast, non-disruptive installations.

3. Installing Contractors:

The long-term success of any roofing system ultimately falls on the installing roofing contractor and their application quality. Building owners and specifiers need to investigate the roofing contractor thoroughly. Roofing contractors should be trained and authorized by the manufacturer to ensure that quality is kept at the highest level.

4. Warranty:

Roofing system warranties can occasionally be confusing. Many times, manufacturers don’t have a published warranty and in some situations, the manufacturer or roofing product has been on the market less than 10 years, with warranties ranging from 10-20 years.

Features you may want to consider for a commercial warranty are:

  • Exclusions for consequential damages
  • Additional cost for the warranty
  • Exclusions for ponding water
  • Whether it’s a “repair or replace” warranty
  • Whether the warranty is transferable

5. Type of Building Design:

The roofing system should be flexible and able to be designed to meet the needs of virtually any type of structure. Determine if the roofing system can be designed for:

  • Dead level, low-sloped, or steep-sloped roofs
  • Buildings that cannot handle additional weight
  • All types of decks
  • Retrofit applications
  • Small roofs to large facilities
  • The strictest wind or fire code requirements
  • Metal buildings

6. Prefabrication:

Prefabrication is very important when choosing a roofing system as it allows the manufacturer to construct a portion of the roof in ideal factory conditions. Many commercial roofs are completely “manufactured” by an installer on top of a building where heat, humidity, cold, wind, and poor labor decisions will affect the roof’s long-term performance.

7. A Complete System Supplier:

With respect to commercial roofing systems, it is important to select one that has single-source accountability. It is important to have complete system warranty coverage, not just a warranty for the materials supplied by the manufacturer.

8. Company Support:

Contractors especially should investigate this issue to make sure the company supplying and warranting the roofing system is a complete service provider. These support services should be provided to all contractors:

  • Sales
  • Marketing
  • Engineering
  • Quality Assurance
  • Manufacturing

9. Rooftop Environment:

  • Is there a lot of foot traffic on the roof?
  • Are there numerous penetrations on the roof?
  • Any rooftop emissions?
  • Are there extreme variations in the expansion and contraction of the building?

Each of these issues needs to be addressed when choosing a roofing system to purchase or install. Make sure that the roofing system you choose for your commercial application has the sales, marketing, quality assurance, engineering staff, and reputation to meet your needs.

Warranty Considerations

Twenty-, thirty-, and even fifty-year warranties – the range of commercial roofing warranties available has increased significantly over the past few years. Does that mean a longer coverage period is automatically better?

Of course, you want a warranty that covers a reasonable period of time. Roofing systems are expensive. If the roof should fail, you should know whether the manufacturer will stand behind it.

However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that a longer warranty is the one to choose. You need to evaluate the conditions the warranty covers and the steps you’re required to take to ensure that it remains in force. Some longer manufacturers’ warranties sound good, but as they say, the devil is in the details.

As a starting point, you’ll want to know whether the roofing installation must pass an inspection, often conducted by the manufacturer or an independent third part, before the manufacturer will issue the warranty. There is nothing wrong with having a newly installed roof inspected. However, you should know before the installation process begins if this is required in order to activate the warranty.

Some manufacturers require the building owner to conduct regular roofing inspections, and then to submit reports showing that the roof has passed the inspections. Virtually all manufacturers require roofing inspections and extra payments for warranty protection beyond the standard coverage period.

Other warranties require an initial payment from the building owner. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with this, it helps to know this before you decide to use that manufacturer’s product.

Many warranties limit the amount to be paid if the roof fails. For instance, they may cover the replacement materials needed, but not the labor required to install the new roofing system. Contrary to conventional wisdom, many warranties do not cover the damage a building’s contents might sustain due to a roof failure.

In addition, damage caused by “acts of God,” such as hail storms or hurricanes, may not be covered under the warranty.

Building owners should also know whether they can transfer ownership of the roofing warranty if they sell their building.

Before purchasing a roofing system, building owners should be sure that the warranty offers a reasonable amount of coverage for a reasonable period of time. When the choice is between a highly restrictive longer warranty, and a shorter one that offers better coverage, the shorter warranty probably will be a better value.