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How to Get the Most From Your Roofing Budget: Repair, Replace, or Recover?

During the Great Recession, if you’re like most facility managers and owners, you’ve been saving money anywhere you possible could. Because of this, you have been putting off reroofing and have been patching as best you can to make it just one more year. Finally, you have money in the budget to reroof. But should you? How do you know when it is really time to reroof? How do you proceed? Which way do you go — do you tear off the whole thing down to the deck and start fresh or do you re-cover what is already there or do you do something entirely different? Ultimately, the question is when it comes to getting the most from your roofing budget, do you repair, replace or re-cover?

The first question to ask yourself is whether you really need a new roof. Generally, if your roof needed replacing before the recession, it still needs replacing now, and probably even more so. However, if you have managed to stretch the roof’s life the past few years, there may be some left in the old roof. So the first step is evaluate it, and RAMCON can assist you at no-cost to you.

Look at your roof to evaluate the condition. Are there widespread leaks or leaks that just cannot be found? Start by walking around the interior and keeping an eye out for water stains. If you have not been constantly changing out ceiling tiles, the location and size of water stains will help analyze the frequency and pattern of the leakage. It may be that the stains are showing that your leaks are really at your windows, not your roof. If that is the case, you have just saved yourself the cost of reroofing.

Next, take a walk around the perimeter of your building. If you can see all the way to the top of the building (which may not be possible on a downtown high-rise) check to see if there is water staining on the walls. This may show that you have wall problems, not roofing issues.

Then tour the roof itself. Look at the membrane. Is it cracking or blistering? Can you see the fiberglass or polyester reinforcing? Is the surface breaking down? Are the seams loose or open? These are good clues that the roof has aged to the end of its life.

Walk the perimeter of the roof and around mechanical equipment and other penetrations. Are the flashings from the membrane up the vertical sides intact? Are they loose, cracked, absent, punctured, missing surfacing, or otherwise deteriorated? Now examine the metal accessories and penetration flashings. These are items like goose necks, vent pipes, equipment stands, duct stands, ventilator fans, metal edges, copings on parapets, etc. Look carefully at the way they were waterproofed. Is the sealant used intact (regardless of whether it is roofing cement, asphalt, pourable sealer or liquid applied materials) or has it shrunk, cracked or peeled from the, penetration? Are the metal accessories (such as gravel stops, curbs, hoods, ducts, counter flashings, copings, goosenecks, etc.) corroded, punctured, missing, or otherwise deteriorated?

Roof damage generally starts at these perimeter and penetration details. If you notice widespread problems with flashings then this is  also a good clue that the roof is in poor condition. RAMCON can assist, or perform this survey for you, at no-expense to you. If you find you do have these problems, they won’t get better on their own. Your best solution is to call RAMCON to determine the best solution to identify the source and take corrective action to solve it the right way.

Let’s Say Your Roof Is Deteriorated and Needs A Re-Roof
Once you have found that you really do need to reroof, you have another decision to make. There are two ways to proceed — re-covering the roof or tearing it off and replacing it. Be aware that code may mandate a tear-off and replacement. Florida Building Code requires that a roof be torn off if there are two roof systems already in place. Also, for safety reasons, decks that corrode, disintegrate, or rot require a tear off if there is any doubt about the deck condition. Sometimes it is also possible that your insurance carrier may require replacement.

Re-covering is installing a new roof system without removing the existing one. Re-covering has some definite advantages. For one thing, you save the cost and mess of tear-off. This is a special advantage for buildings with limited access for trash removal. What’s more, the building does not get exposed to the weather during reroofing. This is a large consideration for buildings that are absolutely critical to be dry at all times. Another benefit is that you contribute less debris to the landfill. Finally, you can add new insulation to the existing insulation and increase your roof’s R-value.

But there are also some disadvantages. With a re-cover, you won’t know the condition of the deck below the roof and whether or not it is in safe condition. You still need to tear out any wet roofing as wet materials will contribute to premature failure of the new roof.

Another issue to be aware of is that adding height to the roof elevation may interfere with overflow scupper drainage, or be higher than door thresholds or wall flashings, causing leakage that you didn’t have before. The new roof has to be very carefully designed to be sure that the drainage and flashing heights are not compromised by the new roof (although RAMCON will do this for you).

RAMCON performs a Thermal IR moisture survey before we install a re-cover system. Generally speaking, if your roof is more than about 25 percent wet or deteriorated substrate, you have reached the point of diminishing returns, where the cost of taking out the wet areas and patching in new dry materials wipes out the economic advantage of the re-cover.

As you move forward on your roofing projects, use your resources at RAMCON. We’ll assist you in fully documenting the conditions, providing code and performance reviews and design the right system or repair for both you needs and budget.