October 21, 2021
Essential Guide to Commercial Roofing for Facility Managers
Taking care of your building’s commercial roofing is just one of many responsibilities that facility managers have. As with all of your other duties, you want to ensure that you do your best to maintain the roofing, both to extend its life and to keep people on the property safe.
You don’t have to feel overwhelmed by the idea of handling your commercial roofing projects. The following information will ensure you know how to care for the roof, including managing a variety of roof-related projects.
What Is the History of Commercial Roofs?
As a facility manager, you need to know the history of your building’s roof. At the same time, putting your current roof in the context of historical commercial roofs can be enlightening.
Brief History of Residential and Commercial Roofing
In the earliest days of human history, people used a variety of roofing materials. Depending on their location and environment, options included rocks, clay, grass or sod, wood, and animal parts. Specific examples include animal skin in the American plains, palm fronds in tropical areas, and mud and straw in parts of Africa.
Architects in China have used clay tiles for about 5,000 years, but tiles weren’t popular in Europe until the Ancient Roman and Greek civilizations. Thatch started becoming a common roofing material in the 700s. It remained popular for a thousand years in some areas, while others used baked clay.
Asphalt shingles are a much more recent development, having been created in the 1920s. Metal roofs have also been historically popular, but only among the wealthy due to their historically high cost. Over the years, asphalt shingles have evolved. Now, there are many more roofing options, including living roofs with gardens.
Your Roof’s History
In terms of your commercial roof’s history, there are a few crucial things you should know as the facility manager. They include:
- Installation date
- Any major (or minor) repairs over the years
- Materials used
- Record of previous maintenance and inspections
Each of these will influence the various decisions you make regarding the roof, including its maintenance schedule and when to replace it.
What Type of Material Is the Commercial Roof Made From?
It is also important that you know the type of material that your commercial roofing is made from. There are several choice materials, each of which has its pros and cons. The required maintenance and other decisions will be strongly influenced by the material.
Asphalt Rolled Roof
This is a common choice for buildings that have low-slope roofs. It features the same materials as asphalt shingles and is among the easiest to install as well as the least expensive.
To counter those benefits, an asphalt roof typically only lasts around ten years. It is not efficient and requires more repairs and maintenance than other roofing materials.
Built-up Roofing (BUR) Membrane
This is a roof made of tar and gravel, created in several layers. It is flexible, as you can adjust the number of layers. It is among the strongest and cheapest options.
EPDM (Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer) or Rubber Roofing
This type of commercial roofing is among the most affordable options. It is also lightweight and easy to install. These roofs tend to last up to 20 years and don’t scratch or scuff. They also withstand UV rays well.
However, this type of roofing is not aesthetically pleasing. It is usually black, which means it heats up and forces your building’s air conditioning to work harder. It is also prone to punctures.
These are very eco-friendly and manage to protect the building while also boosting energy efficiency and drainage.
Metal roofs can be made of a long list of materials, such as time, stainless steel, metal tile sheets, corrugated galvanized steel, and copper. They are at risk of rusting without the proper protective layers, but they look nice and are fire-resistant.
Modified Bitumen Roofs
These roofs are made of layers with reinforced roof fabrics that feature bitumen. They are simple to maintain and have good tensile strength. This makes them good for properties with a lot of roof activity.
PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride)
These roofs feature a layer of polyester reinforcing between two layers of PVC material. They are flexible and UV-stable. They also have a long lifespan and resist fire, wind, chemicals, and moisture.
On the other hand, these roofs are a more expensive option and may shrink over time. Repairing this material is also challenging.
SPF (Spray Polyurethane Foam)
The spray used to make these roofs expands around 30 times while it dries and converts from a liquid to a solid in just seconds. These roofs are energy efficient and have the ability to last over 40 years. They also provide excellent sealing and great tensile strength.
Installing this type of roofing requires a great deal of care. This means commercial roofing professionals need special training to apply it, and mistakes during installation can make it much less effective.
TPO (Thermoplastic Polyolefin)
This is another affordable type of commercial roofing. It is also white, reducing the buildup of heat and potentially lowering your HVAC costs. There are several installation options, and it resists corrosion and algae growth.
However, the quality can vary significantly, so it is crucial to get it from a reputable manufacturer. It is also not fire-resistant.
Who Will Be Accessing the Property’s Roof?
As you think about your commercial roofing, you need to consider who will be accessing it. After all, a roof that also serves as a break area will have a lot of foot traffic that you need to account for. By contrast, if a roof is only accessed for maintenance, you may use different materials.
At the very least, you will need to occasionally have roofers or someone else access the roof to inspect and maintain it. The exact requirements for this maintenance will depend on the roof type, so take that into consideration.
Many commercial properties also choose to put bulky machinery, like air conditioning units, on the rooftop where they can be out of the way. Some of the equipment you may need to accommodate on your roof includes HVAC pumps, HVAC ducts, pipes, electrical cables, and elevator equipment.
The bottom line is that if your roof will have regular weight or traffic on it, it needs to be strong enough to handle it.
You will also likely need to implement some safety features, such as guard rails around the edges, especially if people have access to the roof.
Schedule Regular Commercial Roofing Inspections
One of the most important things you can do to care for your commercial roofing is to schedule regular inspections. This has a few important benefits.
Spot Potential Issues
The most important advantage of having regular commercial roofing inspections is that it gives you a chance to spot small issues or even potential issues before they get worse.
This is critical for several reasons. First of all, smaller issues tend to be easier and quicker to repair. This can reduce the amount of downtime necessary as well as how long your roof is not in peak condition. Regular inspection and repair of minor issues also save money in the long term.
As mentioned, savings come directly from spotting issues early. That is because smaller repairs tend to be significantly more affordable to fix than larger ones. At the very least, you will likely have lower labor costs. In most cases, the costs of materials may also be less.
There’s also the fact that spotting the issue early prevents the problem from getting bad enough to require a roof replacement. That’s particularly important, as replacements are very expensive.
Help With Insurance Claims
Having regular inspections of your commercial roofing is also smart from an insurance perspective.
Essentially, if your roof is inspected regularly if it gets damaged in a storm or other covered incident, you will have proof that it was in good shape before that incident. This will not only ensure that your claim gets covered but will also save you valuable time. After all, you won’t have to waste time trying to prove the cause of the damage to the insurance company. A reputable roofing contractor will document their findings as well as provide photos, which can further defend your claim.
It is very common for roof warranties to require regular inspections to keep the warranty valid. This means that without regular inspections, you could void the warranty and be on the hook for expensive costs that should be covered. This applies to maintenance as well.
Keeps Everyone Safe
Roof inspections are also important from a safety perspective. Anyone who has to go up to the roof will feel safe doing so if it is inspected regularly. Additionally, those inside the building will feel safe and protected knowing that the building’s roof is being well-maintained.
Regular inspections of the roof also help you protect the facility from liability. This goes hand in hand with safety. If you don’t inspect the roof and someone gets injured due to a safety risk that could have been prevented, you could be held liable. By contrast, if an unexpected issue occurs and hurts someone but you regularly have professionals inspect the roof, you are likely to be fine. You would be able to prove that you had done everything in your power to keep the roof safe.
Enable You Plan to Ahead (Especially for Roof Aging)
Another important aspect of roof inspections is their ability to help you make better-informed plans for the roof and other building maintenance. Most importantly, during an inspection, your contractor will look for evidence that your roof is aging and will need to be replaced soon.
This will give you time to plan the roof replacement instead of waiting until a failure that requires an immediate replacement. A thorough inspection also enables you to budget for the replacement and plan the ideal timing so that it doesn’t happen while other major repairs are also taking place on the property.
Create Relationships With a Commercial Roofing Company
On top of everything else, having regular roofing inspections establishes a working relationship with a roofing company. This saves you the hassle of finding one if you have an emergency.
It also makes them more likely to prioritize you after natural disasters or severe storms that affect multiple buildings in the area.
The Basics of Commercial Roofing Inspections
With the reasons to perform regular roofing inspections in mind, the question is how often you need them.
The general recommendation is to have two inspections each year. One would be in the spring and another in the fall. This timing means that your roof is inspected right before the most intense seasons of the year. Try to plan the inspections, so you have enough time before those seasons to fix any issues that arise during the inspection.
You should always have a professional complete the roofing inspection for you. Since you don’t have the same level of knowledge and experience as them, you are likely to miss important warning signs accidentally. Additionally, you may be less likely to understand the impact of these warning signs. As an example, roofing professionals know what cracks are harmless, which require immediate repairs, and which should be monitored.
Conduct Regular Commercial Roofing Preventative Maintenance Plans
Many of the benefits of commercial roofing inspections overlap with the benefits you’ll notice with a maintenance plan, but there are also some unique benefits.
Extend the Roof’s Life
Preventative maintenance does wonders in terms of extending the lifespan of your commercial roof. That is because maintenance reduces the stress on the roof’s materials, helping them last longer.
Like inspections, regular maintenance lets you spot potential issues before they get worse. This can prevent an issue that would otherwise require you to replace the roof.
Improve Building’s Efficiency
When your property’s roof is in good shape, it will also have improved efficiency. That is because your roof is an important component for overall ventilation and moisture prevention within the building.
Overall, when your roof is in good condition, you may notice lower bills for cooling and heating.
Improves Worker Productivity
No matter the type of commercial property you manage, having a roof that is in good shape should increase productivity. After all, people will work more effectively if they don’t have to worry about leaks or the roof collapsing.
Fix Before Replacing Commercial Building Roof
As mentioned, one of the reasons that commercial roofing maintenance and inspections are so important is that they help you avoid the need to replace the structure. However, there will be times when making repairs simply doesn’t keep the roof in good enough condition, and you need to replace it.
The best way to tell if it is time to replace the roof is to ask a professional roofing contractor. Having a contractor you trust, someone who won’t try to upsell you is crucial for this. You will also want to consider a few important factors to decide if you should fix or replace it.
Degree of Damage
One of the most important questions is the degree of damage to the roof. If the issues are minor, then repairs are likely enough. If, however, there is damage across the entire roof, it may make more sense to replace it.
History of Damage
You also want to think about the roof’s history of damage, especially the type of damage in question and its location. In other words, if you keep having to deal with leaks in the same spot over and over again, you may be spending more on repairs over time than you would on replacement.
Future Property Plans
Think about the future plans of the property as well.
For example, if you know the owner wants to sell the property soon, it may be in their best interests to replace the roof to make the property more appealing and salable.
Or if you know there are other major repairs coming up, you may want to do these, as this lets you save the budget for the other projects.
You also want to compare the cost of repairs to the cost of replacement. Factor in whether the problem is likely to reoccur and, if so, how frequently.
How to Manage a Commercial Roofing Installation Project
Facility managers should keep a few factors in mind when managing commercial roofing installation projects.
Choose the Right Roofing Contractors
Start by choosing the right contractors. Make sure they have experience with your type of roofing and project, are licensed and insured, and have good reviews and references, which they should provide.
Choose the Right Materials and Roofing Style
Weigh the pros and cons of various materials and roofing styles to figure out which one makes the most sense for your property. Your contractor should be able to help with this.
Create a Realistic Timeline
You also need to work with the roofers to create a realistic timeline, so you know how long the project will last.
Create a Realistic Budget
The contractors can also help you develop a realistic budget. Be sure to account for unexpected expenses or obstacles, such as weather.
Branded Group is Here to Help with Your Commercial Roofing Needs
The insights provided above offer facility managers valuable knowledge in managing their commercial roofing. Partnering with a trusted roofing company, like Branded Group, a leading facility management company, can simplify this process further. From proper installation and maintenance to expert advice, we’re here to streamline your roofing journey. Secure the longevity and reliability of your roofing systems by scheduling a consultation with Branded Group today.