Analyze Cost and Replacement Options
When was the last time you hired a contractor? When was the last time you checked construction material costs? You are in for a shock. With a shortage in skilled workers, supply chain uncertainty, and inflationary pressure on petroleum products (shingles, underlayment, etc.), just finding a contractor willing to commit to a schedule or budget will be a challenge.
Whether your community has a single roof or multiple buildings, your annual inspection by a qualified roofing consultant or engineer should provide a reasonably accurate roof surface replacement schedule. Often, a roof surface is one of the most expensive components in a building to replace. This makes the decision to resurface a roof a difficult one for building owners and managers. The temptation is to postpone the inevitable for one more year. A roof can be nursed along year after year, but this is likely to prove to be a false economy.
In the long term, it makes economic sense to replace a roof surface earlier rather than later. If the life of a roof is extended much beyond its useful life, maintenance costs are likely to increase beyond prorated replacement costs. There is also the danger water penetration (some of which may not be visible) will cause damage to the underlying structure or other building components. The reduction in insulation value of wet insulation and the resulting increases in heating and cooling costs are other factors that contribute to making roof replacement a good economic decision. Finally, the liability of a major failure must be considered.
Thus, roof problems are among the most frequent areas of concerns for condo associations. Here are a few helpful thoughts about roofs for your association:
Surface materials have been improved.
- Shingles: These consist of a composite base (asphalt, fiberglass, etc.) and sand wearing surface. They are relatively easy to install and moderately priced. The thickness (weight) generally defines the likely service life. In other words, a thicker shingle will last longer. The weight is given as pounds per square (100 square feet equals one square).
- Membrane roofs: These have become the primary way to cover flat roofs within the last 20 years. Membrane roofs are typically somewhat more expensive than the other alternatives for flat roofs. However, they generally last longer and have fewer maintenance problems.
- Metal roofs: Metal roofs are becoming more common in northern New England. There are a variety of reasonably good products on the market. Metal roofs are used on sloped surfaces. A successful metal roof is very dependent on good workmanship. Unskilled hands installing a metal roof will almost always lead to problems.
Flashing is at least as important as the surface.
The roof is a system that includes the sheathing, underlayment, flashing, and the roof surfacing. If you are having problems with your roof, it is important to understand there are several different components involved.
The roof flashing is as often the cause of leaks as the roof surfacing. Repairing flashing requires skill. Caulking flashing leaks is not adequate. If there is a flashing problem, the only effective repair usually requires installing new flashing. That work, to be successful, must be done by someone specifically trained and experienced with flashing work.
Workmanship makes the difference.
Roof problems are more frequently the result of poor workmanship than material deficiencies. While there have been some defective roof materials, our experience inspecting thousands of buildings in New England has shown us that workmanship is more commonly the problem. When you select a roofer, you should check their references.
Five steps to a better installation.
- When you evaluate your existing roof, make sure you have an independent consultant. If you ask a roofer to evaluate your roof, it is very likely the conclusion will be the roof needs to be replaced very soon.
- When you decide to install a new roof, you should prepare a detailed set of construction documents. The documents should:
- Define exactly how you expect things to be done, what is the scope of the project, what materials are to be used, and what is the intended schedule for completion.
- Be very specific about the materials to be used.
- Be very specific about how waste material is to be handled.
- Retain the services of a consultant to prepare the construction documents and to monitor the work while it is underway. As an association, you need someone knowledgeable about the construction industry who does not have any direct interest in your project other than serving your best interests.
- You should choose time proven materials. You should not experiment with untested products and/or installation techniques.
- You should make sure there is a three-to-five-year guarantee against problems with both material deficiencies and workmanship backed with a bond.
Roofs are expensive and disruptive to install. Diagnosing problems objectively is difficult. You should always work with a good, independent consulting engineer or roofing consultant. That person can help evaluate problems, prepare construction documents for repair or replacement, and monitor the work to be sure it is done well. Using a consultant also means that the officers of the association are less vulnerable to liability from the owners.