The Basics of Roof Maintenance Budgeting

October 18, 2019

If it’s your job to budget for roof maintenance and repairs, you’ve got two challenges ahead of you – arriving at hard numbers and selling your projected expenses to the people in charge of the money. Here’s some advice on how to tackle both.

Justify the expense.

It costs less to be proactive than reactive.

Lack of roof maintenance can lead to a much larger future capital investment. 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. By taking a proactive approach to roof maintenance, you can catch problems when they’re small enough to fix easily and economically.

When minor defects are left unattended long enough, they can become so large that a capital investment or facility shut-down is necessary. “It’s literally pennies per the square foot for proactive maintenance. If a customer calls us out for a reactive emergency leak, it could be a couple thousand dollars for one square foot patch. There is no comparison,” says J. J. Longerbeam, Vice President Service, D. C. Taylor Co., Cedar Rapids, IA. “And if you let it go too long, you could be looking at complete deck replacement, all new insulation, and a major roof replacement project.”

Regular maintenance means longer roof life.

The best way to ensure the optimum performance of your roof for longer is a routine of general preventive maintenance. Insufficient or infrequent maintenance can reduce the life of your roof by as much as half.

Yearly maintenance facilitates long-term forecasting.

In year 15 of a roof, a facilities professional should know that they’re going to have a capital investment soon. Regular maintenance and a roof asset management plan help forecast future roofing-related spending. It will be far easier to secure capital for a large reroofing project, if projected budgets and a history of past service activities can be presented. Additionally, the money requested will be less if regular maintenance is performed according to the plan; after all, it is much more economical to recover a dry roof than tear off an old wet one.

Gather the numbers.                  

Use historical data.

Review invoices from past maintenance services as a baseline and to more easily predict roofing expenditures for the coming year. Likewise, look through shared reports that include the scope of work and pricing for roofing services; this data can be instrumental when trying to obtain funding.

Lean on your roofing contractor for help.

Your roofing contractor can help you determine a maintenance plan for each facility or roof area and provide a proposal for the costs of yearly maintenance. Their expertise is invaluable. They can use their extensive knowledge of roof systems at a similar age, with the same amount of traffic, geographic weather conditions, etc. to help you better predict roof performance and needed maintenance. Get a set price and lock it in with a contract for five years of roof maintenance.

Illustrate the need.

Run a cost analysis.

Compare the costs of proactive general preventive maintenance vs. reactive repairs. Your roofing contractor can supply past invoices to help demonstrate the dramatic difference in price.  As you’re evaluating the historical expense trend, don’t forget to factor in costs like slip and fall accidents, lost productivity, indoor air quality testing, product recalls, etc. Use financial data to illustrate the impact deferred roof maintenance is having on the business.

Use photos.

Numbers only tell one side of the story, though; pictures tell another. When financial decision makers aren’t on the roof to see the wear, it can be hard to understand the need for maintenance and repairs. Show pictures of drains clogged with environmental debris and other conditions to justify your request.

Get in front of the decision-making team.

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.