With the COVID-19 pandemic impacting budgets, decreasing productivity, and even closing facilities, it is understandable that much needed maintenance to the infrastructure of your manufacturing facilities is put off and pushed into the future. Further, many employees, facility management teams included, have been called to work remotely, yet buildings must continue to be maintained. As a result, facility managers have been forced to get creative and resourceful in the new ways they’re performing roofing maintenance. At minimum, it is about keeping cost low and preventing leak damage. It’s also about prioritizing the most significant issues on your roof and having a number of options to address them.
It seems the new normal for many facility managers includes challenges like capital spending freezes, skeleton maintenance crews, inexperienced employees from other departments being tasked with facility upkeep, limited access to buildings and more.
Growth, surplus and savings are always a good thing. But the prospect of “maintaining” in this difficult economic climate may lead to a pleasant discovery: maintaining your roof — your building’s largest asset — can lead to cost savings, which is a valued interest to all manufacturing businesses.
The unfortunate fact is, however, that a roof typically does not last its designed life. This occurs for three reasons: improper design, workmanship and most notably, owner neglect. Currently, the average cost of leak repair is more than $900, not to mention the cost of the resulting interior damage, interruption to your operation, the potential for a slip and fall accident, or even the loss of your business’s reputation.
Neglect does not need to be the norm right now; a proactive, maintenance approach limits unexpected costs such as structural damage, and costly emergency repairs. Here are some tips that may help maintain and extend the life of your roof.
- Check your drains. One of the more pressing matters for roofing maintenance is to ensure drains and gutters are clear and allowing water to move freely into the leaders. All roofs should also have the proper slope to drain and flow in to a clean, unobstructed pipe/line. This doesn’t have to be monitored daily or even weekly, but identify a trusted person to check for — and clear —debris following major weather events. Clogged drains can cause water to back up and ultimately find its way into the building. This can cause saturated insulation and damaged inventory and equipment inside the facility if left unaddressed.
- Outsource an occasional walk-through. When the building is dark and the facility team is forced to work remotely, some have taken steps to hire their roofing vendor to proactively perform “quick inspections” to see what they can’t see for themselves. The peace of mind knowing there’s not a major leak damaging inventory or equipment inside the building can be well worth the expense of an occasional service call during the stay-at-home orders. These inspections are recommended at least twice yearly, and after any severe storms. A record of all inspection and maintenance activities should be maintained, including a listing of the date and time of each activity as well as the identification of the parties performing the activity.
- Should you experience a leak check for the obvious: clogged roof drains, loose counter flashings, broken skylights, open grills or vents, broken water pipes. Some conditions resulting in leakage include heavy or light rain, wind direction, temperature and time of day that the leak occurs are all-important clues to tracing roof leaks. Remember, whether the leak stops shortly after each rain or continues to drip until the roof is dry, there may still be damage. If you are prepared with the facts, the diagnosis and repair of the leak can proceed more rapidly.
- Repair now. Save major interventions for later. There are many repair and restoration solutions that can bring a roof back to watertight condition — and back under warranty — much more economically than a replacement. Those options also work best in times like these when capital spending may be frozen and only emergency work is being authorized until the economy comes back and stabilizes.
- All metal work, including counter-flashings, drains, skylights, equipment curbs and supports, and other rooftop accessories should be properly maintained at all times. Particular attention should be paid to sealants at joints in metal work and flashings. If cracking or shrinkage is observed, the joint sealant should be removed and replaced with new sealant.
- Support employees who are working out of position. Many businesses are closed to customers, but some are working with fewer employees. Less staff on-site often means new, temporary assignments in maintenance, janitorial and troubleshooting roles. Normal channels for reporting roof leaks or water intrusion may not be in place anymore, so it’s important to ensure clearly communicated, easy-to-understand processes and central reporting portals or phone numbers for making issues known.
- Be mindful when accessing the roof. If a building does experience a leak that requires attention, it would be best for the roof technician to gain access to the roof without having to go through the building to avoid contact with employees and/or building contamination. The roof is designed to be a waterproofing membrane and not a traffic surface. Roof traffic other than periodic traffic to maintain rooftop equipment and conduct periodic inspections should be prohibited. In any areas where periodic roof traffic may be required to service rooftop equipment or to facilitate inspection of the roof, protective walkways should be installed.
- Eye in the sky. It’s not a foreign concept for facility managers to work remotely as a normal course of business. Some in that position have installed cameras to observe roofing assets from afar.
- Vendors helping vendors. A facility manager should ask vendors of other services who need to be in the building with keeping an eye out for major issues in other disciplines. For example, the pest control person who’s there during the day and the HVAC Company who’s on-site later in the evening can point out roof leaks or water intrusion issues if they spot it.
There is on average a $0.11 per foot cost savings on a roof that has been well maintained. Further, the life of a well maintained roof is on average 21 years as opposed to 13 years for a roof poorly maintained.
Businesses can excel during unprecedented and uncertain times by maintaining a quality roof maintenance program incorporating these vital aspects:
- Aerial Image with dimensions and square footage
- Roof composition
- List of roof prioritized deficiencies (urgent or remedial)
- Photos and locations of the deficiencies
- Suggested causes of the deficiencies
- A description of the recommended repair with cost
- Budgets that can be laid out over 3-5 year time period
- Costs for replacement with like system
- Budget matrix with Repair vs. Replacement analysis
A roof asset management program can save your company thousands of dollars. Some proactive steps can ensure your roof lasts is designed life, preventing interruption to operations, injuries or worse.
CEI Michigan is an MMA Premium Associate Member and have been an MMA member company since August 2020. Visit online: ceigroupllc.com.
CEI Michigan is a family-owned and operated roofing and architectural metal company operated by the Cook family for over 50 years. To learn more, contact Marc Jordan at 517-548-0039, ext. 132, or firstname.lastname@example.org.