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.”