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When a commercial roof is damaged, even slightly, the potential for disaster is great. Tenants can be inconvenienced, water damage can cause rot and, if left unchecked over time, mold can result costing many times the cost of the simple repair.  Water leaks can also result in legal claims from tenants if their work is damaged.

For all of the challenges of inspecting and repairing roof damages, improper or shoddy repairs can be an even worse nightmare for a building owner or manager. When improperly trained service technicians “fix” an issue of a commercial roof in a slipshod manner, a bad condition can get worse over time! It is for these reasons that savvy building managers and owners call a licensed, reputable commercial roofing contractor to repair even minor problems.

DK Haney Roofing Approaches the Repair Problems Differently

According to Christopher Castillo, Service Foreman for DK Haney Roofingthere are several common issues associated with commercial roofs that he and his service professionals deal with each week.

“Leaks resulting from cold welds are very common,” Castillo said. “Most commercial roofs have a thermoplastic membrane and its seams are typically heat-fused (welded) to form a continuous membrane. The ‘lap’ seams can also be fused with solvents instead of heat and can be as strong as the rest of the membrane. The most common thermoplastic membranes are PVC (polyvinyl chloride) and TPO (thermoplastic polyolefin). If the weld is done improperly, a leak in the membrane can occur and this requires patching before water damage can occur. This problem with cold welds usually occurs around AC pipes and drains. If this membrane is manufactuDuroby Duro-Last it is easy and inexpensive to patch because they have a special design to accommodate pipes and corners.

“Another common repair problem involves punctures resulting from debris often left behind by other contractors. Typically, we see punctures that are caused by an HVAC tech leaving screws on the roof after repairing heating and cooling equipment. If someone accidentally steps on these objects, a puncture can result and this can cause a water leak in the roof. It’s amazing how much damage a puncture from one, small screw can cause.”

Big Problems Can Result from Small Issues

At one time or another, most building managers have learned the very expensive lesson of putting off making repairs for what seemed like a small roofing issue. Unfortunately, big problems can result from small damages.

“Very small punctures or damage can result in serious problems such as rotted decking,” Castillo said. “If any water gets underneath the roof’s membrane, over time, it will rot the wood decking. I have actually seen roofs cave in after a couple of years decking rot. In many cases, the building manager or owner didn’t even recognize what was occurring before the major damage happened.

“Over time, a rotted deck can also lead to mold and mildew in the building. This requires very specialized, and expensive technicians and equipment to remediate.

“Having regular inspections by professional roofing contractors will also discover drain blockage that can cause standing water on the roof. In my time as a repair specialist for DK Haney, I have seen something as simple as water bottles or other trash, which were left by other workers, clogging up a drain and keeping the water from draining off the roof (especially a flat roof.) If there is even a small puncture in the roof’s membrane, this standing water will cause deck damage over time.”

The DK Haney Approach to Commercial Roofing is Different

Christopher Castillo minces no words when he explains how the DK Haney approach is different from other roofing contractors – large or small.

“We worry about the customer and not just the money,” he said. “We firmly believe that if we give the customer the best service – including thorough inspections and attention to detail on repairs – the money will take care of itself.

“When we’re up on that roof – checking for water-proofing and membrane damage and also picking up debris and cleaning drains – we think of that roof as OURS. And we take care of it like it like it was!”

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Installing, repairing or replacing a roof on a commercial building located in a storm-prone area is challenging at best and can be financially ruinous at worst. High winds from tornadoes and hurricanes, batterings from hail storms, massive snowfall and frequent heavy rain deluges can all wreak havoc on the roof of any building – residential or commercial. However financial liabilities are much greater from roof damage to those building used for business and industry.

Because of these liabilities, it is extremely important for commercial property managers and building owners to carefully consider all of the ramifications of hiring a commercial roofing contractor. While it is tempting to hire the lowest bidder after making a cursory review of a roofing contractor’s estimate, this is a serious mistake. Shoddy work, water and mold damage to the building, expensive repairs and even lawsuits can result.

Before signing a contract with any commercial roofing contractor, there are at least five questions to ask. The answers to these questions will help to inform the building owners/managers on proper hiring procedure and prevent, or at least greatly reduce, the likelihood of a failed roof.


#1 Ask About the Basics

In a time when almost every business has an online trail, it is surprising that many building owners and managers fail to undertake the necessary due diligence when installing a new or replacing a commercial roof.

Dustin K.Haney, president and CEO of DK Haney Roofingnotes, “Every professional roofing contractor should be able to answer these basic questions affirmatively:

  • Are they licensed and bonded?
  • Can they show a federal tax identification number?
  • Do they have a permanent address?
  • Do they have an insurance certificate, and is their coverage for liability and worker’s comp current?

“Recently, the National Association of Roofing Contractors completed a study on roof failure. They found that the number one cause for this failure lies in the installation of the roof. We have worked hard to increase the professionalism of our team. We are more than just ‘roofers.’ We are skilled, qualified specialists in roofing installation. We have project managers on the job site to ensure that the crew is doing work correctly to the specifications of the products. Finally, we have an extensive post-installation inspection process. There’s a huge difference between our approach and having a group of untrained laborers putting a roof on!”


#2 What Materials Will be Used on the Job?

Storm prone areas present a special challenge for roofing materials. In many cases, a building owner will assume that his or her job is being completed with the appropriate roofing materials, when, in fact, it is not. When this happens, the roof and entire building are vulnerable. It is a case of the proverbial “accident waiting to happen.”

Without well-tested, quality roofing materials designed to withstand hail, high winds, rain and snow, no amount of good intentions or construction craftsmanship can overcome poor quality membranes and other materials. Quality roofing materials will also have extensive, detailed warranties that a building owner should ask to review before the contract is signed.

“We use the Duro-Last, single ply, PVC (Poly-vinyl chloride) roofing membrane,” said Haney. “It is ideal for any flat or low-sloped application. With an under-laminate material, such as one-inch Iso-Board or a one-half-inch HD (high-density) board or a DensDeck board, the roof will hold up against hail and rain better than any other roofing material.”


#3 What is the Safety Record of the Roofing Contractor?

According to the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety IBHS,  job site safety is among the most important aspects of selecting a reputable roofing contractor. The organization notes that contractors should have:

  • Verification of a designated qualified safety representative who is charged with the responsibility of safety management for the project and will be on site throughout the project.
  • Written safety plans for the work to be conducted, including compliance with all Occupational Safety & Health Administration requirements for roof work and fall protection.

“The on-the-job safety of our employees is paramount to us because they are our family,” Haney said. “We want them to come home every night. There are also legal ramifications for both the contractor and the building owner.

“Worker safety is also driving the trend in most states where all employees must be covered by the contractor’s worker’s comp policy. This is aggressively ‘policed’ by state and federal authorities. In some states (Texas is not included) if an employee is found to be uncovered, the owner of the roofing contractor can be arrested.

“Many commercial building owners are unaware that if a worker is injured on a job and the roofing contractor does not have a current worker’s comp policy, the contractor AND the building’s owner can be sued for damages to the worker.”


#4 Ask for a Statement of Work

A reputable commercial roofing contractor will insist on offering a detailed statement of work for every job undertaken. This protects both the building owner and the contractor. It also demonstrates that the contractor has a clear understanding of the purpose, services, scope and objectives of the roofing project. This article offers several important elements of this agreement:

  • Statement of Work, Legal Terms and Conditions
  • Project schedule to show the duration of major activities, critical elements and milestones necessary to complete the work.
  • Detailed manufacturer specifications of the roof cover system to be installed, including testing information or nationally-recognized approvals that the system may have received, such as from Miami-Dade, Florida Product Approvals, Texas Department of Insurance, UL and FM Approvals
  • Site utilization diagram showing construction activities being contained within the property.
  • A plan for addressing quality control, methodology for coordination of materials delivery, temporary storage and installation.
  • A plan for bad weather that may alter the project schedule, along with an emergency plan for locations subject to severe weather during the installation period. This should include securing or removal of any loose materials on the site.

#5 Ask for and Review at Least Three References for Previous Roofing Jobs

Often, evaluation of business references can be tricky. For example, it is assumed that if a contractor offers the names and contacts of previous commercial roofing jobs, he is confident that the customers will offer positive comments about the work completed. There could be many reasons for this positive review of the previous work – some legitimate and some not.

While there is no harm in a building owner following up with the references offered by the roofing contractor, having some different, more probing questions might clarify the business relationship. For example:

  1. Were there any challenges on your job and, if so, what were they and how did the roofing contractor handle them?
  2. Was the work completed on schedule and on budget? If not, what were the reasons for this?
  3. Would you use this company for another roofing project? If not, why?

It is also a good idea to ask the roofing contractor to give you the addresses of four or five projects that they have completed in the area. After these are offered, follow up phone calls to the building management office with questions about the roofing job are appropriate.


Before the Storm Hits

“We are highly focused on prolonging the life cycle of a roof,” Haney said. “When this is done, the annual costs of maintaining a commercial roof can be lowered. As for managing the roof asset prior to a storm, it is important for a building owner to be proactive. They should never wait for a weather forecast to announce an impending storm before taking action.

“Long before the storm hits, there should have been a full inspection of the roof, with any minor maintenance completed – fasteners secured, caulking tight. When a storm is imminent, our customers are confident that they have done everything possible to have it secure and this work is documented on our web-based software.

“Even if there are major damages, we can pull up their warranty information, video of their roof showing its condition and EVERY detail about the history of that roof. This process expedites the repairs from any storm damage.”

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Commercial property managers and owners are feeling financial pressure from several factors. Energy costs continue to spiral upwards, greater inventory makes competition for tenants even more fierce, and the costs for labor and construction materials needed for repairs and maintenance are rising. Savvy property managers have long ago realized that third factor – controlling maintenance costs – is the most profitable place to focus attention. This is especially true if the commercial building is one of a group being managed.

While it is tempting to reduce the frequency of roof inspections for purposes of maintenance, in the hopes of avoiding learning any “bad news,” this strategy can ultimately be very expensive. According to this commercial property management journal, “Owners and facility managers who react to problems as they occur, pay an average of 25¢ per square foot annually for maintenance. While owners and managers who inspect and repair routinely (proactively) – before problems happen – spend an average of only 14¢ per square foot annually.

“Plus, proactively maintained roofs last an average of 21 years compared to an average lifespan of 13 years for reactive maintenance. The longer you can extend your roof’s life before replacement, the more your overall savings increase and your life-cycle costs decrease.”


Why Proactive is Superior to Reactive Roof Maintenance

This difference of proactive versus reactive roof maintenance begs the question: Why? Fixing a leaky roof is fixing a leak. Right? Wrong.

Will Riley, of DK Haney Roofing, explains the reasons for cost savings of this proactive approach.

“The problems are much smaller when they are caught earlier,” Riley said. “With regular inspections and maintenance, the owner or manager is dealing with issues – leaks or tears – before they have time to spread and become larger issues.

“For example, a proactive approach to roof maintenance will discover standing water on a flat roof – most likely resulting from a drainage clog – before this moisture can wear away a part of the roof membrane. Fixing a drainage problem is much less expensive than replacing a membrane.

“Plus, with a proactive approach, roof damage from other building trades can be mitigated. For example, if an HVAC technician inadvertently leaves several screws from the AC unit on the roof and then steps on these screws when he is cleaning up, holes in the roof can occur. When we inspect a roof, we are looking for things like this.

“Finally, one of the biggest challenges for commercial roofs is the deterioration of the caulking. When this happens, the roof membrane can also be damaged. Caulking is relatively inexpensive to replace, whereas a new membrane is not.”

How Often Should a Commercial Roof Be Inspected?

The age of the building helps roofing professionals such as DK Haney to determine the frequency of inspections in a proactive maintenance program.

“On a new building, one that is less than five years old, we recommend an inspection occur once each year,” Riley said. “Older building require more frequent inspection because of the caulking and possible re-flashing issues. With these older structures, we suggest at least two maintenance inspections each year and more if storms have caused potential damage.

“We have formulated our charges for inspection to encourage building managers to take the proactive approach to roof maintenance. There is no charge for the first inspection. This is our way to showing our commitment to the preservation of the roof and allows us an opportunity to level-set on its conditions. For subsequent inspections, we tailor a ‘not to exceed’ pricing structure, which meets the objectives of the building owners.”


What This Means for Multiple Property Owners

As the building management journal article above notes, proactive roof maintenance can add 5 to 8 years to the life of a commercial roof. This is a substantial savings to owners of multiple buildings.

“Using a proactive maintenance over as few as three buildings can result in enough cost-savings to pay for an entirely new roof,” said Riley. “We save our customers a great deal of money by aggregating the costs for materials and labor in one visit, rather than several. Our crew fixes the problem that needs immediate repair, makes a thorough inspection of the roof and fixes any unforeseen issues, while they are there.”

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The days of a bunch of guys piling into a truck and heading off to a construction site with little or no planning for the job are long gone. Technology has arrived in the building trades, and nowhere is this more obvious than in commercial roofing contracting.

DK Haney Roofing uses an innovative, web-based software system to manage every aspect of their business.

“I think it’s important to note that we don’t just use this custom software to drive our business,” said Will Riley, the director of business development for DK Haney Roofing. “Our software was developed to enhance the way we serve our customers, and it has enabled us to grow quickly. Sure, most everything we do for our customers could be done manually, but our system allows us to consistently deliver the best service every time.

“Because of our use of technology, we have been able to successfully focus on client retention. This has allowed us to have long-term relationships with our customers.”

Using Technology in the Inspection of Commercial Roofs

According to Roofing magazine, “Commercial roofs should be inspected at least twice a year, typically in the spring and fall. Roof inspections are also advised after major weather events, though contractors may already be deluged with repair requests. 

“The most important task we perform for our clients is gathering data,” Riley said. “Typically, construction is a ‘clipboard’ industry. Employees take their pens and pencils out to a job site, make measurements, take notes, take this data back to the office, generate a bid and send it back to the customer. That’s the norm within the industry.

“Our approach is different.

“Every roof we step on is an opportunity for us to take ownership of that roof. Our focus becomes gathering as much of the data as possible about that roof. This involves using technology to leverage that effort.

“For example, our trained specialists all use mobile devices as a kind of ‘barcode scanner.’ These experts use these devices to scan in data about that roof. They take photos of a deficiency, an open penetration or leak, and with one keystroke this data is loaded directly into our system under the customer’s profile. This data includes the severity level of the problem, the description, price and its location.

“We also capture observations and video of the site, grade the roof and calculate its life-expectancy. From all of this collected data, we put together a recommendation for this roof, and this is permanently stored in our web-based system. This allows the customer to log-in and get current information on/about this roof in real time.

“This process, based on technology, allows us to find the facts, present them and, together with the client, ascertain what the next steps are.”

How DK Haney Uses Technology for Service

Many commercial building owners and managers rely on DK Haney Roofing to fix problems that might lead to leaks. Some of the most common sources of roof leaks include:

• Cracks in or around flashings and penetrations
• Breaks in and around gutterways and drains
• Poor drainage or debris-clogged drainage systems
• Storm damage, tree branches, ice dams, etc.
• Incidental damage by other trades during construction or maintenance
• Excessive foot traffic at rooftop access points and around HVAC units and other rooftop infrastructure
• Old or deteriorating roofing materials

For service calls, computer and web technology are extremely important.

“Whenever our roof specialists are requested to deal with a service issue – such as a roof leak – we keep everyone involved apprised of the status of this call,” Riley said. “We start by tracking our team’s arrival and notifying the building manager, who is often in a different city or state, that we are on the way.

“Once we arrive, we check in using our mobile devices to notify all concerned that we are on the location and working on the problem. We document the ‘before’ and ‘after’ descriptions of the job with photographs. Once the issue is corrected, we check out with the building representative who is on site, by presenting the findings and repairs and having the building rep sign-off on the job. This is then fed into our system for billing and future reference. When the customer invoice is generated, it includes the service call summary, which explains everything that was done.

“Our service techs are really the ‘rock stars’ of our company. While everyone at DK Haney is trained to make inspections and gather this data, our service team can inspect AND make repairs on the site. I like to think of them as our ‘Swiss Army Knives.’ This saves our customers a great deal of time and expense.”

Expediting Warranty Claims by Using Technology

DK Haney is known for its use of such building materials as Duro-Last. These products are some of the best in the industry, but devastating storms can cause any roofing material to be damaged. This is when adequate documentation for a manufacturer’s warranty is critical.

“From the time any roof is installed, we are constantly monitoring the life cycle of that roof,” Riley said. “This is because we’re not really interested in selling the customer just one job. If possible, we want to have a customer for the life of the building.

“In order for a roof to be warranty compliant, it must be inspected at least once a year. Our team makes in-person inspections at least two times a year or after storms. We document the status of the roof and store this data in our system. If a manufacturer ever audits that building to see if the roof has had regular inspections, it is easy for the building owner to retrieve that proof.

“Our status as a ‘Platinum Duro-Last’ contractor is also a big benefit to our customers. This allows us to forgo the time-consuming process for filing a warranty claim, which can take from two to three weeks to complete.

“Our customers simply call us, we check to see if the problem is covered by the manufacturer’s warranty. If it is, we complete the repairs and submit the costs for this directly to Duro-Last. In addition to having a roof that is repaired on a timely basis, the customer does not have to deal with the hassle of processing the manufacturer’s warranty claim.

“Finally, we close out a project by having a drone fly-by in order to document the completed work. This allows the building owner additional proof for insurance and warranty claims. Plus, it’s a great way for us to record our finished product, of which we are very proud!”