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  • Writer's pictureCenterlineRoofing

Roofing Maintenance, Dollars and Sense.

So often, we hear statements concerning the anticipated payback related to the proper maintenance of consumer goods versus the ultimate cost of replacement. FRAM Oil Filters utilized the saying, “You can pay me now, or you can pay me later,” which attempted to show the differential costs of an oil change versus an engine replacement. While a telling example as it draws a comparison between “doing nothing” and “doing something,” it deals in the realm of catastrophe. Regularly maintaining your vehicle clearly pays long-term benefits, while object negligence can result in functioning failure. A building envelope and specifically a roofing system is no different. Take care of it, and it will last longer. Neglect it, and the costs could be catastrophic.

Preventive Maintenance For Roofing

If there is one thing every facility owner can agree upon, it is that they all want to get the most out of their commercial roofing system. The single, most cost-effective way to maximize roof performance and life cycle longevity is to adopt a proactive approach towards preventive maintenance. Preventive maintenance minimizes the total and annualized cost of ownership of roofing systems through regularly scheduled inspections and periodic repairs of common problematic components. In addition, the application of protective, reflective coatings can extend performance life when properly planned and incorporated into the overall roof maintenance program.

Remaining diligent in these basic maintenance practices allows for an organized approach to roof asset management, and leads to a responsible, timely preparation of long-term capital expenditures. After all, you would not go years without changing your car’s oil or rotating its tires and not expect your vehicle’s performance to suffer, so why would your roof be any different?

Inspections are recommended at least twice per year—once in the spring and once in the fall. A local roofing professional should be retained to inspect and repair any flashings and penetrations with gaps or tears, as well as cut and seal any blisters or splits where water can infiltrate the roof system. Even something as seemingly simple as routine cleaning of drains and downspouts can prevent small headaches from compounding into exponentially costly problems.

In conjunction with basic repairs, applying a reflective coating is an excellent preventive maintenance measure to combat the toll that the elements take on a roof. The sun’s ultraviolet rays are particularly damaging due to their ability to dry out roofs, which inevitably leads to cracking and splitting. Once this has occurred, it is only a matter of time before moisture penetrates those cracks and leaks appear. Enough of those leaks can cause a structural failure and collapse of the roofing system. Reflective coatings not only protect, but in Southern climates, they can also save facility managers money by keeping the building cool and reducing energy costs. There are a multitude of reflective coating options to consider when determining which is the best value and fit for the climate and specific roof.

Facility managers should consider that spending a little bit today will go a long way in saving a tremendous amount of time and money tomorrow. And the initial cost of a roof is only a portion of the total cost of ownership over its service life. Preventive maintenance for roofs should be considered an investment.

What Are The Real Costs?

Using RSMeans cost construction estimating data as a benchmark for discussion general costs for regular maintenance can be established. Consider a hypothetical roof for the purposes of comparison. Our hypothetical roof (HR) will be nondescript in nature but will have an installed cost of $10 per square foot (SF). The area of our HR will be 20,000 square feet. So our day one installed cost would be $200,000.

Now let’s consider three maintenance plans over an expected service life of 25 years.

Certified Roof Inspection

Plan 1: Do Nothing.

It is well understood that an unmaintained roof will not last as expected. Our original roof had an expected service life of 20 years. But, as an example, this neglect has cut the roof life in half. So in Year 10, a replacement roof must be installed to keep the building dry. But this roof will likely no longer cost $10/SF considering an inflation rate of approximately 5%; this installation will now run about $16/SF. Not learning the lesson, we decided to neglect roof number two, and 10 years later, we are faced with another costly replacement; this time, the bill would escalate to $27.30/SF.

The simple result is that out of pocket expense for this plan is in excess of $1 million for this 20,000 square roof system.

Plan 2: Do the minimum.

Even doing minimum maintenance has a net benefit. This includes an annual inspection; making any obvious repairs to flashing or details, and repairing large blisters or any field defects where necessary. Taking the HR, perform minimal annual maintenance (less than 1% per year or approximately $0.13/SF, based on pricing from RS Means). Through annual maintenance and repair, the life of the HR can be extended.

Assuming that the roof will now last 15 years prior to a need for replacement, we can calculate that the replacement roof in Year 15 will now cost $21.20/SF, and with continued minimal maintenance, the owner will still have five years left of this minimally maintained roof at Year 25. The out-of-pocket is in excess of $740K.

Plan 3: Have a corrective proactive maintenance plan.

We can see a much longer expected performance life through attention and proper repair and maintenance. For the purposes of calculations, consider proper maintenance to cost approximately 2% annually ($4,000); let’s take the plan one step further and do a complete restoration in Year 15 at the approximate cost of $8.45/SF ($170K). This keeps the existing roof in place and extends the life of the roof (and likely the warranty) to Year 25. Spending in excess of $100K on maintenance, and 170K on a full restoration, at Year 25 the out-of-pocket will be $570K.

Complete restoration would involve replacement and repair of failing flashing; repair of any leaking details; and removal and replacement of small (less than 10%) of damaged roofing and insulation. Then the system would be resurfaced with a high-performance waterproofing liquid applied system. This system may or may not require or include reinforcement.

Indeed, maintenance has other benefits, including reducing waste, improving the building environment, and avoiding extensive internal damages due to leaks. But one must consider the overall life cycle cost as an important real benefit from maintenance.

The chart below describes the actual life cycle calculation. This life cycle model uses a Net Present Value (NPV) analysis to account for all expected expenditures and savings, net of taxes, throughout the analysis period. Each expenditure is adjusted for inflation then discounted back to the NPV by the Weighted Average Cost of Capital (WACC) based upon the market segment or industry. The WACC is the required rate of return on investment. The final result of this model allows facility executives to evaluate each option based upon today’s total costs of ownership, a more equal comparison.

Cost Of Roof Maintenance

It is ultimately the responsibility of the building owner, their roofing partners, and their staff to determine the best overall plan for their facility. But considering the value of the building, the individuals and materials that occupy it, the potential payback, the potential liability exposures, annual roofing maintenance, and restoration to extend the service life is the best course of action.


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