How Do I Know When to Reroof?

June 20, 2019

Don’t let time get away from you. Somewhere in the life of your facility’s roof(s), there is an ideal time for replacement. Most roof systems have an average life span of 14 to 16 years. Allowing your roofing assets to deteriorate beyond repairs or roof recovery could result in thousands of dollars difference in the cost of the eventual roofing project. If you time it right, you might be able to recover the existing roof. Let it go too long? A total tear-off is likely. Lack of action can lead to a much larger future capital investment.

Part of a roof asset management program is predicting an expected inventory wear-out date. Roof systems do not last forever. If you have multiple roofs on your campus, document the condition of that inventory. It’s no different than machinery and other building equipment. Your roof is a physical asset, too. Plan for its maintenance and replacement.

Roofs that Last Longer

Some roofs last more than 16 years. It isn’t luck or magic that makes them outlive the average. There are three main reasons: 1) the roof was built with additional performance features, 2) you’ve been performing regular preventive roof maintenance and timely repairs, and 3) the original installation was quality workmanship.

Roofs need to be built stronger in order to last longer. Any of the following attributes will help extend roof life:

Roofs that Fail Prematurely

Just like regular maintenance improves roof life, the adverse is also true. You can install a high-performance roof system and without maintenance, in 10 years, neglecting small issues like caulking and sealants (which aren’t covered under warranty) will compromise the entire system.

Water is your roof’s nemesis. Ponding water and water infiltration that isn’t addressed lead to long-lasting damage. Roof leaks that are promptly fixed are rarely a problem. It’s water that enters and is trapped in your roof system that is especially destructive. It can corrode a metal deck, rust fasteners, and ruin insulation. None of these things are easy fixes.

Signs It’s Time for a New Roof

Consider a new roof when the existing one is beyond fixing. You cannot dry out wet insulation. You cannot patch a patch. And you cannot ignore a corroded deck. There is only one fix: replacement.

Another good indicator are your expenses. If your repair budget is shot because you’re repairing the roof more often or at a greater cost, it might be time to re-evaluate roof budgets, actual life cycle, and roof ownership costs. When doing a cost analysis, don’t forget to include safety losses, productivity losses, and – if you’re in the manufacturing business – product loss.

How to Make a Case for a New Roof

Lean on your roofing contractor for help. They can evaluate if a warranty claim is advised (or when the warranty term will lapse) and explain when the condition of the roof is such that you need to start budgeting for reroof or recover.

Evaluate the historical expense trend. Factor in costs like slip and fall accidents, lost productivity, indoor air quality testing, product recalls, etc. Use financial data to illustrate the impact the existing roof is having on the business.

Present a deliverable. When decision makers aren’t on the roof to see the wear, it can be hard to understand the urgency for replacement. Show pictures of drains and other conditions to justify your request.

Consider the cost of deferring capital improvements; it has spiked. If you know replacement is inevitable in the next few years, be aware that material prices are increasing, and the labor pool is shrinking. The sooner you complete the project, the lower your costs will be. You know what the price of your new roof will be this year; neither you nor your roofing contractor knows what it will cost next year.

Present budgets and proposals early to your purchasing and procurement team as tax depreciation laws have changed. As reported by the National Roofing Legal Resource Center in January 2018, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act expanded the definition of qualified real property eligible for full expensing under Section 179 of the tax code to include improvements to nonresidential roofs. This applies to properties placed in service in taxable years beginning Dec. 31, 2017.