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The value of roof maintenance

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What is roof maintenance? Do roofs really need maintenance? Is it really effective?

These are good questions, and 10 years ago I would not have been able to answer them. A project that has opened my eyes to the value of roof maintenance is one my company took over in 1998.

The project consisted of performing twice-yearly maintenance on a large homeowners association in the Del Mar area of San Diego. This town house development consisted of 237 individual units. The existing roof system on these buildings is a built-up hot asphalt and gravel roof. Prior to this I was involved in "tuning up" roof systems -- basically resealing all penetrations, cleaning out drains, resealing wall corners, HVAC base flashings and so on. Usually a tune-up only occurred once every several years, if that.

This project in Del Mar was different. We were contracted to go out in the spring and fall and perform the same tune-up work twice a year.

A recent review with this HOA revealed interesting data from the eight-year period. We responded to 47 leak calls the first year we were on site. Last year, in 2006, they had two leaks.

We have systematically re-roofed areas of this HOA every year also. To date, we have re-roofed approximately 40 percent of this complex that was built back in the early 1970s. With no maintenance, the first round of roofs lasted on average of 14 years. With maintenance, the roofs are lasting on average of 20 years, nearly a 50 percent increase in the life of the roof.

At this point you may be asking yourself: 14 to 20 years is great, but does the cost of the maintenance override the cost of re-roofing? Good question. The total cost of the maintenance over a 20-year period is approximately 10 percent of the cost of re-roofing. It doesn't even come close!

The maintenance cost is not considered a capital improvement and is deductible the year it is performed. In most cases, it is covered under the CAM in your lease. So for 10 percent of the cost of re-roofing, a building the owner gets 50 percent longer roof life and the property manager doesn't have to budget re-roofing as often.

Another great advantage to roof maintenance is a drastic reduction in leak calls. In my case study, the client went from 47 leaks down to two. That's 45 less angry, frustrated tenants calling the property manager each year. That's not needing to pay the roofer to come out and repair 45 different leaks. That's 45 less wet ceilings, 45 less wet carpets, 45 less chances of developing mold and ruining electronic equipment.

Another reason to perform semi-annual roof maintenance is to preserve the roofing manufacturer's warranty. In most cases, roofing manufacturers require semi-annual roof maintenance to maintain their warranty. Don't give the manufacturer an out in the event you have major roof problems.

Roof maintenance can be a great value to a property manager and owner by extending the life of the roof and greatly reducing leak calls and damage as the roof ages. To learn more about roof maintenance, talk to a commercial roofing professional.

Sawaya is general manager of ARC Roofing.

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