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Proactive Strategies for Prolonging Commercial Roof Lifespan and Reducing Risks

Commercial roofs are essential assets, protecting buildings and businesses from the elements. If mismanaged, however, they can present a significant risk to lifecycle costs for a building, as well as occupant comfort and productivity.  Poor design, poor installation, wear and tear, weather damage, improper maintenance, rooftop equipment issues, and structural problems all pose threats to roof health and lifespan.

The lifecycle cost and the ROI of a building investment vary dramatically based on how the roof is managed. It is possible to have a roof that pays for itself and adds to your asset value.

While the methods are many, the concepts are few. Those that practice proactive management and predictive budgeting are the proverbial turtles that win the race. Reactive, high-cost approaches are the way of the frustrated, tired, and demoralized hare. We see both, and we would like to share some approaches with you that can save you time, money, and risk.

1. Perform Regular Inspections

Knowing where your roof stands and how it is trending is the starting point for management.

 “What gets measured gets managed”
- Peter Drucker

Conducting routine inspections by qualified professionals is crucial. Regular inspections also help identify potential issues early on, allowing for timely repairs and maintenance. Focus on detecting signs of damage, such as leaks, cracks, or membrane deterioration.

2. Schedule Maintenance

As the proverb goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.

Establish a comprehensive maintenance schedule tailored to the specific needs of your commercial roof. This may include cleaning debris, resealing seams, repairing damaged areas, and clearing drains and gutters. Regular upkeep prevents minor issues from escalating into major problems.

3. Ensure Proper Drainage

Poor drainage is a common cause of roof problems, including leaks and water damage. Untold thousands have been wasted due to a simple clogged drain - seriously, we have seen a 5-cent plastic bag cause a roof collapse costing multiple millions to address. Ensure that your commercial roof has adequate drainage systems in place and that these are kept clean. Keep the roof itself clean so that loose debris are not blown onto drains.

4. Address Environmental Factors

Consider environmental factors such as tree branches, nearby construction, or industrial pollutants that may pose risks to your commercial roof. Take proactive measures to mitigate these risks, such as trimming overhanging branches or installing protective barriers.

5. Stay Proactive with Repairs

Address any identified issues promptly to prevent them from worsening over time. Delaying repairs can lead to extensive damage and costly repairs down the line. Whether it’s repairing a small leak or replacing damaged roofing materials, taking swift action is essential for preserving the integrity of your commercial roof.

6. Document and Track Maintenance

Maintain detailed records of all inspections, maintenance activities, and repairs performed on your commercial roof. This documentation helps track the roof’s condition over time, identify recurring issues, and plan future maintenance efforts effectively. This, and # 5 together are also critical if you have a warranty on your roof. Too many owners are not able to capture value under their warranties simply because they have not performed the owner’s obligations to keep their warranties in force. 

7. Establish Predictive Budgets 

Roofs typically fall into management stages. You should know what management approach you are taking, for how long, and how much you should expect to spend during that stage. Further, you should know how much you expect to spend during the next stage. Managed in this way, roof life can be extended well past warranted estimates, costs can be reduce, and you can look like a superstar to your colleagues, superiors, and clients. 

8. Engage a Roof Consultant for Annual or Bi-Annual Inspection 

Engaging a roof consultant to assess the quality of the maintenance you are paying may not only save you money, but also inform your budgeting. Consultants can provide unbiased, expert advice, perform thorough assessments, and recommend tailored solutions to extend the lifespan of your commercial roof while minimizing risks. The right consultant will also maintain key records on the roof, help you negotiate with manufacturers and contractors, and serve as an advocate. 

In short, prioritizing regular maintenance, quality materials, and safety protocols can ultimately lead to significant cost savings and long-term durability for commercial roofing systems and create opportunities for value capture. 

These items are the low hanging fruit. By implementing these strategies, building owners and managers extend the lifespan of their commercial roofs, reduce the likelihood of costly repairs, and protect for their valuable investments. Dialing in these fundamentals also opens you up for opportunities for incredible value capture: aligning re-roofs and big spends with lease renewals, buying low and selling high at acquisition and disposition, and having long runways to set aside value-enhancing budgets for energy upgrades, solar, or daylighting. 


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